GA-FC Impressions

The Boss GA-FC gives you foot switch access to:
  • Select any of the TAE's 10 Rigs
  • Turn on and off most of the TAE's built-in effects
  • Tap in the delay time for the delay effect
  • Remotely switch channels on your amp using the "amp ctl" feature
  • Add expression pedals to control the TAE's volume prior to its effects (so you can preserve delay and reverb tails) or just before the speaker and line outputs
I view the GA-FC Foot Controller as essential for using the Tube Amp Expander in a live situation. For recording, you could live without it but it does provide a few capabilities that aren't possible from the front panel without it (tap-tempo, turning on/off individual effects, pre-effects volume). I have to say that one button access to all Rigs and effects on/off is very handy though, even in a recording situation.

The unit is very nicely made with a stout chassis and sturdy buttons. It requires a 2-conductor cable with 1/4" TRS plugs, which Boss handily includes with the GA-FC. Quality-wise, the cable is not up to the same standard as the controller and the TAE itself. I'll use it until it fails and then upgrade to a higher quality cable.

Boss uses this same foot controller with several other of their amps and it comes labeled for one of these other products. So Boss includes some stickers with the TAE that has the correct labeling. It's kind of a cheesy way to do it, but the stickers are a lot more rugged than is typical and they're very easy to install. It's truly a do-it-once-and-forget-about-it kind of thing.

Used with the TAE, the GA-FC has two modes – Rig mode and Effect mode. You switch between the two modes with a short press of the right-most button labeled "RIG".

In Rig mode, you use the other 5 buttons to select Rigs 1-5 or Rigs 6-10 and toggle between these two banks with a long press of the RIG button. The LED indicator above the RIG button tells you which bank you're selecting from – it lights up when selecting between Rigs 1-5, and it blinks slowly when selecting between Rigs 6-10. One key but subtle point: The GA-FC has to be in Rig mode to select between banks. A long press from within Effect mode will merely switch to Rig mode without changing banks. That confused the heck out of me until I figured out what was going on.

You know you're in Effect mode because the RIG LED light will be completely off (no blinking). In Effect mode, you use the 5 other buttons to turn on and off the FX loop, delay, reverb, solo/EQ, and amp control features of the TAE. They all have a dedicated switch except for reverb – you have to press the FX loop and Delay buttons simultaneously to switch reverb on and off. Fortunately the buttons are spaced well to accomplish this fat-foot maneuver while not causing you to hit two buttons when you don't actually want to. It works well for me anyway.

Switching between Rigs occurs quickly but there is a brief moment of silence, which is obviously not ideal. It's short enough that in a live band situation, I don't think anybody (including the player) would actually notice. But you'll definitely notice it when you're playing by yourself. In the case of recording, I would normally just record each track requiring a Rig change separately. But that little silence gap might be an issue for somebody who wanted to record all their parts in one pass.

There are two expression pedal inputs on the back of the GA-FC to control volume pre-effects or pre-output. I can't imagine there are many people who would want to have two pedals to control the volume both ways. I think it would be far more useful to have one expression pedal input for volume (assignable in the Editor to pre-effects or pre-output), and the other assignable to various effects parameters. Controlling things like delay time (for spaceship effects), delay effect level, reverb effect level, and parametric EQ frequency controls would be powerful and a much better way to exploit the two expression pedal inputs provided by the GA-FC.

A couple of things I don't like about the foot controller behavior:
  • When you use the GA-FC to change Rigs, the front panel Rig knob is going to be pointed to the wrong Rig. There's no way to avoid this because the knob pointer is physical hardware and there's no way for Boss to change it when you press a footswitch. If you switch Rigs using the front panel knob, the GA-FC will track the change correctly and switch to the proper indicator light.
  • The one effect that cannot be switched with the GA-FC is the compressor. That’s a real shame. That would actually be very useful to me. I wished they’d added it as a two-button press like they did with the reverb.
For me, these are fairly minor complaints in light of the capabilities the GA-FC does give you. But they are worth pointing out because there's always somebody out there for whom one or more of these limitations are showstoppers.

When you combine the GA-FC foot switching capabilities with the MIDI output capabilities, the TAE is a pretty powerful control center from which you can control your amp, TAE effects, external effects, and any other MIDI devices you'd like to integrate into your switching setup. That's a another post for another day though...