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Roland's V-Guitar system may have offended some of the guitar purists but there is no denying that it expands acoustic possibilities well beyond what is possible with a traditional guitar and amp setup. The GR-D V-Guitar distortion brings this increased level of control to one the most famous guitar pedal effects of them all.


Putting aside the cynics who believe that "they don't build them like they used to", the sheer cost of getting involved with Rolands V-guitar setup may be enough to put many off. Aside from the cost of the physical unit, V-Guitar requires the use of a guitar equipped with a divided pickup, such as Roland's GK-3, and its 13-pin connection (not cheap in itself).


Luckily, these issues, that may have been a deciding factor to many possible V-guitar users, are laid to rest with the 'Distortion thanks to itself self-contained design (built into a rugged Boss pedal no-less). 


It has a divided-pickup guitar input, but also has a pair of standard jack inputs, plus outputs to connect to an amp or pedals. If you're using a standard guitar, you simply connect it to the L (mono) input and use the jack outputs for either stereo or mono operation. Roland does point out, though, that you won't be able to enjoy the full potential of the GRs using a conventional guitar, since the signal from each string can't be processed individually.


If you are using a GK pickup, there's also a Guitar Out socket, so you can send the normal clean pickup signals of the GK-compatible guitar to another device - perhaps an effects unit, the output of which can then be connected to the GR pedal's jack inputs in a send/ return scenario, if desired.


The pedal features four different sounds that you can select and tweak manually. Besides this manual mode, you also get four user memories that store and recall any sound you create, regardless of how the knobs are physically set. These are cycled with a single button or accessed by the patch up and down buttons if you're using the pedal with a GK pickup.


The GR-D offers four effects types: VG Distortion 1, VG Distortion 2, Poly Distortion and Synth. There are gain, Color and tone knobs, the functions of which change depending on the selected effect. For the distortion effects, the gain and tone knobs offer what you'd expect - adjusting the amount of distortion and brightening the sound respectively - but for the Synth sound their functions adjust the synth waveform and the synth's filter cut-off frequency. The Color knob does something different for each effect, and the right-hand footswitch offers a useful boost to the sound for soloing.


With a conventional guitar, you get four different distortion effects, covering a wide range of sounds that go beyond the 'overdriven amp' style. It's obvious this isn't a conventional distortion pedal - noise is absent when not playing, even with loads of gain, and there's a nice individual string clarity.


Using a divided pickup with its 'humbucker for each string' configuration and plugging in via the 13-pin connection with a Roland GK-3-equipped Yamaha Pacifica, though, it's clear the pedal is optimised for this type of operation.


String clarity is more pronounced, with separate distortion processing for each string eliminating the atonal harmonic artefacts of mono distortion - this is most apparent in the case of Poly Distortion, which is derived from the polyphonic distortion in Roland's early guitar synths, and designed to deliver distortion while letting chords ring and resonate.





VG Distortion 2 has an octaver effect that you don't hear with a conventional pickup, but the most acute sonic difference between using conventional and divided pickups comes when selecting the Synth sound.


This sounds like a proper analogue synth, complete with filter squelch, and raises the pitch an octave with the solo switch engaged. With a normal guitar, it sounds like a weird fuzzy distortion, with the solo switch simply making it louder. Overall, you get four different, focused sounds using the divided pickup, but your usual guitar will still give you a useful range of unusual distortion voices.


We do like the idea that Roland has equipped this pedal to make some part of its VG and GR sounds available to anyone playing a regular guitar. However, that is not the primary focus here - while this pedal can certainly add something a little different to your tonal palette and still fit into your basic pedal setup, their full sonic potential is not realised in this way.


What's more, it's a lot pricier than conventional stompboxes, and although that probably reflects the fact that it's filled with more expensive electronic gubbins than most, you'd have to have a good listen and think very hard about adding it to your 'board.


With a divided pickup though, buying this pedal makes much more sense. This pedal really does respond differently and provide a deeper, more stunning range of effects if you're using a GK pickup.


Not only will you will get optimum use out of it in that scenario but it offers an ideal opportunity to buy into the V-Guitar world for a lot less than shelling out for a VG-99. It could be a worthwhile buy if you already have a guitar fitted with a GK pickup or are thinking of adding one to your guitar and dipping your toe in the VG/GR water.


If you fancy getting your hands on the Roland GR-D V-Guitar or perhaps a whole V-guitar system then you will always be able to find the cheapest prices on  your musical instruments at is the UK and Europes No.1 musical instrument price comparison site that allows you to source guitars, keyboards, drumkits and accessories (as well as a wide range of professional DJ and studio gear) at the lowest UK prices. At you can compare guitar prices, compare keyboard prices, compare amp prices and compare drum prices all in one place. is the leading musical instrument price comparison site.


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