There’s more than one way to turn a guitar into a synthesizer. But Boss and Roland have always gone for the most elaborate and complicated approach. While the new SY-1000 can be played simply by plugging in a guitar or bass via a standard 1/4-inch instrument jack, it really shines when connected via Roland’s proprietary GK pickup. Unlike a lot of other guitar synth pedals, the GK pickup system allows for polyphonic tracking of notes on a guitar without the use of MIDI, which can be a little unreliable. The SY-1000 builds on the tech in the SY-300 which turns your guitar licks into everything from a gnarly synth lead to a rich pad, or even a thick Leslie-like organ.
Inside this $1,000 pedal are three different types of synths engines that you can control with a guitar, plus simulations of 13 different guitar types, 11 different basses and 31 different amps. Not to mention over 150 effects taken from the high-end GT-1000 multi-effects pedal. And you can combine up to three voices at a time to create richly layered sounds and even dial in a bit of your dry guitar to keep things from getting too alien. Plus, you can connect it to your computer over USB and capture audio directly from the pedal, or control it using MIDI over USB for even more fine-tuned tweaking of your sound.
Perhaps most exciting though, for fans of vintage gear, is the fact that the SY-1000 include a recreation of the legendary Roland GR-300 analog guitar synth from the early ’80s.
All told there are 10 different oscillator types on board, plus six filter types, two LFOs and a 16-step sequencer that can control the pitch, envelope or filter. It’s more controls and options than a lot of standalone synthesizer in this price range offer. Though, how much you get out of the SY-1000 will ultimately depend on how well you can navigate the guitar/synth divide. Which, frankly, isn’t always easy.