Boss RC-30 Loop Station Pedal Review
October 18, 2011
Boss has been a major player in the looping- pedal game for years. The company sponsors the annual Loop Station World Championship, and their flagship RC-50 is regarded as one of the Cadillacs of looping pedals. And the new RC-300 ranks among the most formidable looping machines ever made. Boss has also consistently made more accessibly priced and compact loopers, and the new twin-pedal RC-30, which replaces the popular RC-20XL, adds new functionality and greater recording capability—up to 3 hours and 99 phrases—that tops the old RC-20XL’s 16 minutes and 11 phrases by a significant margin.
As you might expect, given the number of features on the RC-30, the control panel is fairly packed. On the left, you’ll find the Loop FX selector section, with Type and On/Off buttons and a list of five effects with Status indicator lights. To the right are the unit’s Select buttons, Status indicator lights, and faders for tracks 1 and 2. Furthest right is the Memory section, which includes an LED screen, buttons for scrolling (up and down) and for Write and Delete. Two Level knobs, Mic and Rhythm (with three corresponding buttons labeled Type, On/Off, and Tap Tempo), round out the control panel.
The RC-30’s two footswitches are located on the bottom portion of the pedal. Its input and output jacks are located on the rear panel, and they consist of an XLR input with an on/off switch for phantom power, an aux input, stereo inputs and outputs, an external footswitch jack, a USB input, and a DC input. The RC-30 can also be powered with the six included 9V batteries.
Effects to Boot
The RC-30 has five built-in effects—Bend Down, Step Phaser, Sweep Filter, Tempo Delay, and Lo-Fi. These effects sound pretty cool (I particularly liked the Step Phaser) and the time-based effects automatically sync up to the tempo, which is a big plus. In general, though, the effects are pretty bare bones and you can’t control any of the effect parameters. In one situation, the delay level was kind of high for my taste and a minor tweak would have made it perfect, but I was stuck with it. It’s still nice to have built-in effects though, especially if your sound isn’t heavily reliant on them and you just want an occasional smattering for color.
Keep it in Time
A tricky thing with looping can be getting your loops to start and stop exactly in time. Needless to say, doing so is vital, because unless you’re working in a more experimental, improvised context, an ill-timed loop can derail a whole tune. Normal recording mode, where you manually press the pedal to start and stop a loop section, is the unit’s default setting. But the RC-30 also offers a few recording modes that are nearly foolproof ways to get in time. Auto recording starts recording when the RC-30 hears you playing, and Count-in recording (which I found the easiest to use) will start recording after a one-measure count in. The RC-30 also provides 10 simple built-in rhythms you can use as timing guides.
Having two separate tracks is a neat feature, though the tracks are not as independent as you might expect, as they both have to be the same length. You can’t loop, say, a four-measure rhythm guitar phrase, and record an endless solo over it. You’d have to record the rhythm part consecutively as many times as you’ll need for the soloing track. Still, the potential for thick, texture-rich tracks is remarkable once you master this function.
Unless you’re a hardcore looper who bases a whole performance on loops, the RC-30 likely has what you need to explore the many textures and compositional possibilities looping brings to the table. The loops sound great, there’s no noise or signal loss to speak of, the effects (if limited) can add extra color, and getting in sync is a breeze. Boss’ extensive experience with looping is also apparent in the RC-30’s intuitive interface and the way it tackles some of the most common looping challenges. And if you plan to investigate looping as a way of expanding your sonic repertoire, you can’t go wrong with this very capable unit.
you’re looking for a whole lot of loopage for the buck.
you need MIDI for live looping.
Street $299 - Roland Corp. - bossus.com
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