I dare say that the Boss Pocket GT is the first of its kind: it’s a combination of multi-effects and a Bluetooth remote control for YouTube, designed to make our practice sessions more profitable. Yes, it does have some similarities to the Spark Amp App functionalities, but that falls into a completely different category as a “smart” amp.
So this is the picture: You have some free time to enjoy playing a few songs or backing tracks, and you sit down in your bedroom with your smartphone and the Boss Pocket GT. You connect your guitar and headphones to the Boss Pocket GT, and it will receive the music from the YouTube videos you play on your phone via Bluetooth.
From that moment on, the Pocket GT will be the “remote control” to “Play”, “Stop”, make loops of a section to practice it several times, and program preset changes associated with the timestamps of the video you want. And, of course, tweak and memorize our sounds with many guitar amps and effects to choose from, taken from the Boss GT-1.
It works via Bluetooth and has an internal battery, and we will only need the guitar cable and headphones. At first glance, it doesn’t sound bad, does it?
Bottom Line Up Top: Boss has made a very practical, small device that pairs well with your practice sessions and with good connectivity. It has the Boss GT-1 sounds but doesn’t wholly compare to a full-fledged effects pedalboard. If that’s what you want, you would instead get the actual GT-1 or a Positive Grid Spark Amp with its app for more or less the same price point.
Boss GT Pocket Review
Construction and Sturdiness
The Boss Pocket GT is made out of plastic, all in black and with a 7-segment digit display, which together with its size reminds me of a normal pedal. I do prefer sturdier builds, though, as my gear gets put through a lot of wear and tear.
The layout of the controls is quite correct, but I can’t help but have the feeling that a product like this, tailored to the use of Youtube and practice, could have had less of the nineties look.
Just having chosen a more jovial color than black would have subtracted some of the 1996 CD player aesthetic. But the look is really the least of it since what will really mark the potential of the unit are its features and what it is capable of doing.
Ease of Use
Although we knew that this is a product designed from its conception to be paired with our smartphone, with a laptop in an OS environment (that is, a Macbook), it worked. However, there are some differences, such as that the desktop version of the Boss Tone Studio app must be controlled by connecting via traditional cable and not by Bluetooth.
Overall, you are able to do everything it is supposed to do, although some physical controls on the unit (e.g., “fast forward”) don’t do the expected function on this desktop version of the application.
On the other hand, on an iPhone, everything works perfectly (I guess it’s just a matter of them checking the desktop version a bit more); you can really see the potential of the Pocket GT. It just works. You copy the links to the YouTube videos you want to use for practice and paste them into the Pocket GT app. From there, the application recognizes them (with title included) and shows them to us on a screen of its own interface, where we can add bookmarks.
These markers can be used for more than one thing: to quickly access certain points in the video, to make A-B loops between two of them or – and this is the best of all – to make Pocket GT change presets automatically when passing through certain markers. You can play Metallica’s “One” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and not even have to worry about stepping on a foot pedal to change the sound. Talk about having a sound tech guiding your performance.
The not-so-good part? Maybe it would have been nice if the Pocket GT was a pedal in itself and had a little room for improvisation on these things. Or to control the transport functions (Play/Stop/Other) with the feet. And another: that the Pocket GT’s transport functions work while we’re watching videos in the app itself, but if we simply open YouTube, only Play/Stop will work.
Back to the interesting features: the Pocket GT has a traditional auxiliary connection (in case we can’t or don’t want to use Bluetooth streaming) that will allow us to play music to practice to, and even remove the voice or lead guitar with the “Center Cancel” function. Boss already warns us that it will work better or worse depending on the mix of the song, but it’s pretty good.
In most general rock and pop tracks, it will do a decent job in removing the lead guitar track and leaving the rest of the instruments pretty much intact – just what we needed to ruin with our own interpretation!
The Boss Pocket GT can also be a USB audio interface, but it doesn’t record anything on its own. That means that if we want to record what we’re playing, we’ll have to connect it via USB cable to a computer and use a DAW to make the Pocket GT the audio interface. I can’t help but think how interesting it would have been to record directly into the unit itself somehow, to capture the most spontaneous moments without setting up the stop.
The part dedicated to sound editing is divided into two sections: the physical one (where we can control some basic parameters, and the Tone Studio app, which is frankly very complete. In fact, the whole family of Katana and GT products enjoys this flexibility of effect editing, which is really good in the whole Boss family.
So, we’re really getting a lot more sounds than meets the eye; it even has quite specific harmonizers and effects, revealing an attention to detail that is to be welcomed.
The Pocket GT is a complete multi-effects with all the sounds of the Boss GT-1. Indeed, I expected much less for the type of product it is, and we would have even accepted willingly that it only had about 4 or 5 amps, 4 or 5 primary effects and some reverbs and delays. But no, Boss has really included everything.
Logically, the sounds are at the somewhat “flimsier” end than the flagships of the brand at the moment (GT-1000 and GT-1000 Core), but they are enough to practice decently. The dynamics of some of them are a bit less natural, but fortunately, there are quite a few amp models, so what one lacks, the next one can cover.
The effects are pretty correct and can help to give a dash of extra realism to the sounds we try to emulate. And as you can probably tell, we can save our own presets and make our own sound libraries with the help of the application.
Pros and Cons
- Lightweight and compact enough to carry around for practising even when you’re on the road.
- Connectivity: Forget about cables, and just use your phone
- Sounds: You’re not getting the top of the pops, but they are based of the GT-1 Engine.
- Interesting new features for improving your playing. It also depends on what you’re used to, but it could open new doors for your usual routine.
- The Center cancel function works really well.
- Price. I find it too expensive for what it is, having other great options on the market already.
- Plastic instead of metal makes me wonder how good the durability will be.
- Functions like slowing down or pitch shifting could have been included.
- Making it a pedalboard option or even giving the option of purchasing separate pedals for tweaking things would have been huge.
Other Options You Might Want to Consider
Being the Boss GT Pocket as it is, a new kind of music tech all of its own, traditional pedal effects and amps still have their place. And for this, I can outline three other very good options that will give the Boss GT Pocket a hard time getting the general markets attention:
In terms of performance and basic features, the Spark is already a great amp. Even if you are not interested in downloading the Positive Grid app and simply plug in your guitar, bass, or ukelele, you can use the physical control to set up a sound you like and you’re set.
But if you do download the app, you get many more features that really extend Spark’s value to elevate it above almost any other amp in its price range (and beyond). In this sense, it’s comparable to the GT Pocket, but I personally think it has better value than the Boss option.
The app has a number of features: The “Smart Jam” function, which effectively listens to you play and can then creates auto-generated bass and drum tracks to accompany it. It’s a very cool feature that ensures you won’t have to try and find generic backing or accompaniment tracks for when you’re just looking to jam and create some interesting compositions.
There’s also an automatic chord feature for when you’re not looking to create your own stuff, but are looking to master your existing favourite song.
The Boss GT-1 is one of the most affordable and best value for money pedalboards on the market. The Japanese brand has been manufacturing analogue and digital effect pedals for decades and stands out for its professionalism and good work.
The Boss GT-1 is the most compact of the Boss pedalboards and although it is also the cheapest (after the Pocket GT), it is based on the technology of the GT-100, which means that there is a leap in quality, more focused on home use or for those who need something very simple.
On the outside, the case is metal and looks sturdy, although the bottom is plastic, so it’s not as rugged as the more stage-oriented pedalboards, but more so than the Pocket GT. The display looks great and is surrounded by three wheels used to operate parameters plus buttons to navigate menus and effect selection buttons.
The screen is monochrome with backlighting and looks very good, and the only downside is that the LEDs of the buttons shine so bright that they make it hard to read the screen sometimes (nothing that is not solved by covering them with your hand or with some tape).
If you’re super exquisite or need very specific high-quality sounding effects, look at the next option. But if you need “normal” sounds from clean, bluesy, rock, to hi-gain, with a little work you can cover almost any style and with a quality that suffices for live performances.
Although this is a hefty amount more than the Boss GT Pocket, it is a heavyweight effects pedalboard. One of the best on the market, Among its pros, special mention must be made to the infinity of effects and its great emulation quality, the loading speed of each preset (it doesn’t need a DSP as powerful as the new Neural for example), the successful sound behind each amp and how compact it is.
You can go gigging with it, going straight to the mixing desk and forgetting about those heads that weigh a ton. Naturally, the sound level that the same amp models can give you in other systems such as Kemper or Axe-FX is lower, but as far as modulation is concerned, it is even above its two main competitors in the market. Another significant pro to take into account is the excellent customer service they have.
FAQs about Boss Pocket GT
Question: Can you use Bluetooth headphones with the GT Pocket?
Answer: Unless I am mistaken, the Bluetooth connection is already being used connecting the pedal to your phone, so you couldn’t then pair another device to your phone. There might be firmware updates further along that allow this, though.
Question: Are Boss pedals the best?
Answer: Boss pedals are known for their robust enclosures, though this doesn’t seem to go in line with the GT Pocket.
Question: What are the most popular Boss pedals?
Answer: Their Loop pedals, the RC version, and Delay and classic overdrive are an entry-level industry-standard still nowadays.
Question: Is Boss owned by Roland?
Answer: Boss is, indeed, a division of Roland Corporation, the Japanese music tech giant.
Boss Pocket GT – Final Thoughts
It’s the same for every pioneering product: Being the first has its disadvantages. You may not design something perfect the first time, and it may need several tries to be perfected, but that leaves an open door for your competitors to take advantage and quickly copy what you have done, correcting where you failed. That’s how thankless it is to be the first one to jump into the pool.
I’m not sure if we could consider this a first of its kind when you take Positive Grid’s Spark Amp into consideration and how they have also integrated digital platforms into the device, but everything is definitely travelling in the right direction.
Fortunately, this is not the first time for Boss, and they have already started with a product that is not far from what they were looking for. It really serves as a “companion” for our YouTube practices, offering us a complete multi-effects that doesn’t sound bad at all and remote control that will help us get the most out of our sessions.
And the commitment to working without cables (except for the guitar jack and headphones) is another good thing, as is the “Center Cancel” function, which works quite reasonably well.
All in all, this is a good first step in a family of products much more coordinated with YouTube, which is arguably the go-to tool for learning guitar, but it still needs quite a few improvements. Fortunately, a few could come to fruition with new firmware updates, so we don’t rule out seeing them at some point. That, and a slightly lower price, given the form factor and that most of its innovations are just intelligent functions and programming.