The tiny GFX-1 from 2007 (apparently) is obviously a budget unit with mostly mediocre amp models and average-to-lame effects. However, the box does include a few major surprises.
Simply put, the GFX-1 contains one of the best Peavey 5150 emulations I've ever encountered. Just set the unit to ”PVY DRV” and experiment with gain levels. The GFX-1 is worth getting for this preamp setting alone. The 5150 model here is extraordinarily smooth and tube-like, when pushed to high gain at least. Part of the equation must be in the rather tasty oversampling 20-bit converters in the unit. The other part may be in decent humbuckers. Your mileage can, and will, vary.
The included Mesa-Boogie amp model is also impressive enough to overshadow the one in the more pro-friendly Boss GX-700. What is left are also a decent Marshall emulation and two clean preamps, both of which didn't grab my attention. The unit can also function as a distortion box before an actual amp, providing four different and decent overdrives in addition to the preamps.
Build and Effects
Once upon a time the GFX-1 was available in vibrant red and, apparently, purple. Prince would've loved one, I bet. The unit feels sturdy with its full-metal casing. The knobs and buttons seem also durable enough, although the four footswitches are a bit on the petite side.
You do need the manual to navigate the unintuitive and minimalistic user interface in the GFX-1. You only get a two-digit screen to work with, after all.
While its good the unit features one, the EQ is a pain to use. It also tends to sound either harsh or dull on most settings. However, an elegant contour-option helps to shape these EQ curves. There's not a lot of character or complexity here as is often the case with budget units. The included Zoom Noise Reduction (ZNR) negates the need for a shelving high frequency EQ and works beautifully in its intended function as well.
The only usable modulation effect in the GFX-1 is the doubler. Both the chorus and phaser sound cheesy. The reverbs on offer are sterile at best, and should only be used if nothing else is available. Even then I'd personally stay dry and without budget reverbs. Longer decay settings in particular sound very lifeless coming from this unit.
Is it worth ten bucks?
Cheap and cheerful it is, but fans of Van Halen and the Peavey 5150 amplifier should look into the GFX-1 at a garage sale of their choosing. In addition, the Mesa preamp in the unit is also usable, making this piece of metal a joyful little addition to your tone arsenal.