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Fishman TriplePlay Vs Roland GR-55: Which Is Better?

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If you’re interested in the Fishman TriplePlay vs Roland GR-55 and which is a better guitar synth, you’ve come to the right post!

Although I don’t (yet) own either of these synths, I’ve been researching them to possibly buy one, one day.

So how do these synths differ?

Although they have many differences, TriplePlay products require a module or computer to work while the Roland GR-55 is a standalone device.

I’ll unpack more of their similarities and differences in the following sections.

Understanding Guitar Synths

Guitar synths have been a thing since the 1980s. Although the technology behind it is the same as with keyboards, it’s a bit more complicated. In short, you can use a guitar as a MIDI controller. However, it took a lot of trial-and-error and perfecting to make it work.

To those not familiar with the concept, MIDI is just a fancy acronym for a technical standard. In short, MIDI carries information about notes that you’re playing. This includes pitch, volume, panning, duration, and even vibrato.

In order for this whole thing to work, you need a controller and a module. Although the controller is usually a piano or keyboard, a guitar, or a guitar-like instrument, can serve as a controller. Meanwhile, a module is where all processing happens.

So the controller picks up what you’re playing and translates it into digital information. The module does all the sound-shaping magic. To make it work, you’ll also need a specialized MIDI pickup.

MIDI has a lot of uses. You can convert the MIDI information you play on a guitar into almost any instrument sound.

When we’re talking about guitar synths, there are a few things to clarify. A guitar synth can refer to:

  • Guitar-like MIDI controller
  • Guitar-like controller and a module in one device
  • An external processing unit (module) that works with a MIDI pickup

The most common variant these days includes a MIDI pickup and a processing unit. It’s also pretty common to have a MIDI pickup on a guitar and do all the processing through your personal computer.

There are also synth pedals that do regular audio signal processing. However, these aren’t regular synths as they don’t use MIDI technology. One such example is Boss’ SY-1.

Fishman TriplePlay Vs Roland GR-55

I wanted to clarify this before elaborating on the specific differences between the Fishman TriplePlay and Roland GR-55. They serve the same purpose but aren’t exactly the same. Let’s get into it.

Fishman TriplePlay

Fishman’s TriplePlay actually encompasses three different products. First, there is the Wireless TriplePlay model. This model has a MIDI pickup and an additional unit that goes on your guitar. Using a wireless USB dongle, you connect directly to your computer. From there, you do all the processing and everything else.

Then there is the TriplePlay Connect. It works the same way, only it’s a wired version. You just need a USB-C cable to connect to your computer.

And finally, there is the TriplePlay FC-1 foot controller. It’s designed to work with either of these two. It’s not a processing module itself, it’s just an advanced controller. This means that it doesn’t create any sounds on its own. It just allows you to work with different processing modules or a computer. Additionally, you also have expression pedal connectivity.

Combining TriplePlay Wireless and TriplePlay FC-1 is pretty common. However, you’d also need another processing unit to work with it. Fishman also provides easy-to-use software for this. You can use it as standalone software or a DAW plugin.

This piece of software makes it super flexible. Nonetheless, you can also use any other VST or MIDI-supported software. You can also record MIDI tracks and then process them at your will.

Here’s a more detailed look into the FC-1 and how it works with the Wireless pickup unit.

What is cool about TriplePlay is that it gives you a lot of freedom. It’s suitable for either a beginner or an advanced player. But it shows its full potential with a more complex rig with one or more modules. So I’d generally classify it as a pro-oriented product.

Roland GR-55

Roland’s GR-55, on the other hand, is a bit of a different deal. This is a processing unit that works with a MIDI pickup. Most commonly, guitar players use Roland’s GK-3 with it.

At a first glance, it’s very similar to your average Boss multi-effects unit. However, it’s more than just that. What’s interesting is that it has MIDI processing capability, as well as Roland’s COSM modeling technology.

In a way, it’s a fusion of your conventional guitar signal processing and MIDI technology. Roland’s GK units come with an output that blends the signal of your regular and MIDI pickups. You can use both or one of these at the same time.

This demo below shows how you can use GR-55 with a regular magnetic pickup. Just bear in mind that this makes it way less versatile.

Of course, GR-55 has different outputs. You can connect it to your computer through USB, guitar amp, headphones, or a PA system.

In short, it’s a fully capable processing unit that works with MIDI technology. It can even blend your guitar pickup and MIDI signal and put both through its output.

It’s an all-in-one device that, in most cases, bypasses the need for computers or modules. Just plug your MIDI-equipped guitar in it and you’re good to go.

Here’s a detailed overview of GR-55 by Alex Hutchings:

Fishman TriplePlay Vs Roland GR-55: How Do They Compare?

Fishman’s TriplePlay and Rolan GR-55 are two completely different systems. Both rely on MIDI technology and both can do so much.

However, TriplePlay pickup and FC-1 foot controller do nothing on their own. They require a module or a computer. TriplePlay also includes specialized software that can help you get all the sound presets that you need. You can also use them as controllers for other modules or software plugins.

Meanwhile, GR-55 is a standalone device. You can just simply plug it directly into a PA system and you’re good to go. It even comes with presets that sound like guitar amps. So it’s a more practical all-around solution for those who need a gig-ready option.

Fishman’s TriplePlay systems are awesome for more complex rigs. They enable you to fully customize your setup. However, bear in mind that this is a more expensive option. You’ll need a computer or modules to make it all work.  

Fishman TriplePlay Vs Roland GR-55: Conclusion

I hope this article has clarified some of the differences between these devices.

And as usual, feel free to message me in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!

2 Responses

  1. Great webpage Harrison. I’ve been looking at the two systems with much the same conclusions as you!

    There are some things I’m wondering about

    (1) On the face of it, for live gigs the GR55 seems better, as the sounds are there with no need for a computer or synth module, but are the tracking and latency better on the TriplePlay and are they really an issue on either device?

    (2) I currently use a GT100. Away from the actual synth sounds, do you know if the GR55 guitar effects are any good (I mean actual guitar not simulations)?

    (3) If I need to keep the GT100 for guitar sounds I’m thinking of using midi to change GR55 patches, to avoid tap dancing and floor space. This article explains the necessary midi mapping – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s69-PPTzVwE – but do you know if the GT100 assigns can also send midi info to the GR55? For example, I don’t use the looping function so I use that to bring in effects while in a patch.

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    1. Hey Rick! Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Latency on TriplePlay or any MIDI pickup shouldn’t be much of an issue. Sure, it’s not as perfect as a conventional pickup, but it’s just below 10ms at the end which isn’t noticeable. I’ve seen some people complain about either latency or pickup not being fast enough to pick up all the notes in faster legato runs. But the cleaner you play, the chances are that you’ll get a better result.

      This is perfectly normal for MIDI pickups since the vibrations need to travel to the pickup and it needs to “translate” it all to digital information. I’m not exactly the fastest player so I haven’t noticed any issues.

      2. GR-55 also has effects which, in my opinion, sound pretty great. However, you need to bear in mind that GR-55 is a MIDI/synth processor, meaning that it processes everything as MIDI information. From my experience, something like GT-100 is just slightly better for conventional guitar tones and effects.

      3. This is a great question but it may not be that simple to answer. I prefer to use a unit like GR-55 on its own. To be honest, I haven’t had experience connecting GT-100, or anything similar, with guitar synth units. So I’m not 100% qualified to confirm this. However, I’ve seen that it’s possible and that some players use the guitar out from GR-55 right into GT-100’s main input. You could also technically run GR-55 into the “return” of GT-100’s effects loop.

      This, however, means that you can’t send your processed signal from GT-100 to GR-55. The MIDI out on GT-100 can be utilized to send signals for switching. Essentially, you’d use it as a more complex footswitch for your amp or anything else.

      Again, I’d rather prefer using one or the other. Something like an A/B switch and then use them separately.

      I hope this cleared things up. I also remember watching the video guide that you saw and I think the guy explained it better than I could for this particular issue. Let me know if you have more questions.

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