RJM Mastermind PBCRJM Music Technology is best known for rack switching devices, and players from Beck to Billie Joe Armstrong to John Petrucci all use the company’s high-end systems. The new, U.S.A.-built Mastermind PBC, however, shrinks RJM’s rack mount technology into a compact format designed to fit on a pedalboard and be more accessibly priced to players without Learjet budgets.
The Mastermind PBC is ostensibly a control station for your pedals, but it can do much more than that—certainly more than we can cover in this review. The unit features 10 loops with insert points in between groups, which offers copious routing options. You can even run some pedals straight into the amp and others through your amp’s effects loop.
RJM clearly considered just about every scenario pedal junkies are likely to face. So the Mastermind PBC offers simple solutions for the most common problems. While the unit is true bypass, there are three switchable buffers that can be saved as part of any given preset. The last four loops, meanwhile, have an internal mixer so you can route pedals in series or parallel. The Mastermind PBC can also be configured for a stereo setup or for A/B routing to different amps. I took advantage of the latter option and connected one end to my shimmery clean blackface Fender Deluxe Reverb and the other to my Mesa/Boogie Trem-O-Verb. It was a pairing made in heaven.
There is room to store up to 768 presets so it’s very unlikely you’ll run out of space. The readout is sizeable but not too huge—the right balance of compact and easy on the eyes. There’s even a built-in tuner (although there’s no dedicated tuner out on the back panel). Other standout features are USB connectivity, a flash storage option, and PBC Editor (for use on a Mac or PC). One of my biggest gripes with anything multi-effects related is scrolling through screens to adjust every little parameter. The PBC Editor gives you much more control over the Mastermind’s internal control parameters.
Though downloading and hooking up the editor is easy, it’s not immediately intuitive. It took a little bit of time to get my bearings, and I think many guitarists coming from a world of analog pedals will have the same experience. Successfully navigating the editor comes with a significant payoff, however. The level of control is astounding, especially if you use MIDI capable pedals like the Strymon TimeLine or Mobius, or the Line 6 M series. The sound sculpting potential opened up by the editor and the seamless way it will interface with MIDI pedals is enormous.
At $999 street, the Mastermind PBC is the priciest switcher in our roundup, but there’s little sticker shock when you realize how much it can do and the exponential way in which it expands the possibilities of your rig. It’s perfectly suited for a professional touring musician. But the sound shaping possibilities and the excellent MIDI and digital workstation interfacing options could just as easily make it the centerpiece of a home recording rig.