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Boomerang Musical Products Boomerang III Phrase Sampler Pedal Review

Boomerang Musical Products Boomerang III Phrase Sampler Pedal Review

Download Example 1 Lead over looped section, which is switched to reverse and then Octave-down function in the fadeout. Clip recorded with Fender Jaguar and Vox Pathfinder. A looper

Download Example 1
Lead over looped section, which is switched to reverse and then Octave-down function in the fadeout.
Clip recorded with Fender Jaguar and Vox Pathfinder.
A looper is one of the most powerful tools available for expanding your sound and exploring technique. A good one can be an enormous asset in performance, allowing you to create and replay textures and rhythm parts that free you to solo and improvise. Loopers are also handy for developing hooks to spice up chord progressions or learning how to solo over tricky changes.

The Boomerang has been one of the most popular, prominent, and capable loopers available since the first version debuted in 1995. It’s been the choice of guitar visionaries from Adrian Belew to Daniel Lanois (see Premier Guitar, August 2010). And in its latest incarnation—the Boomerang III reviewed here—it’s evolved into an even more powerful and versatile musical device. The III is brimming with new features, including play modes for synchronized and freestyle looping, stutter start loops (that can approximate an effect like a DJ scratch), functions for facilitating drone loops, and the capacity to stack loops at half speed. But even in more straightforward applications, the Boomerang III is a formidable tool for exploring uncharted musical territory.

On the Bridge
With it’s flashing lights and array of knobs and footswitches, the Texas-made Boomerang looks and feels like a control module from the command deck of the Starship Enterprise. In addition to six knobs for Decay, Volume, Vol 2, 3, and 4, and Fade time, there are three footswitches for triggering loops, and two additional Bonus buttons for activating additional functions. There’s also a “Clock” Display that tells you what functions are assigned to the Bonus buttons at any given time. It also tells you the values assigned to the Decay, Volume, Vol 2, 3, and 4, and Fade Time knobs—a critical function given that the knobs will turn endlessly like scroll knobs, and there are no simple 1-10 values printed adjacent to the individual controls.

The Bonus buttons open doors to a wealth of functions. At their most basic, they are used to erase, stack, and redo or undo loops. But they can be assigned other functions, including everything from fades to reverse loops and octave drops. Lights of dim or bright yellow or green indicate which functions can be activated with a tap or hold. For example, a dim yellow light will be illuminated next to the Stack indicator while a brighter adjacent light will be illuminated next to the Erase indicator. This means a tap of the yellow Bonus button will erase a loop and holding the button will stack additional sounds on top of that loop.

The Boomerang III offers guitarists four playing styles. Serial mode will play loops seamlessly in any sequence you select. Serial Sync enables you to record a master loop over which Serial loops will play in sequence. Sync, which is the mode most neophyte loopers are familiar with, enables you to play all three loops simultaneously— though the Boomerang will automatically sync their respective start points. In Free play, you’re at liberty to introduce any loop at any time to create odd, clashing, or loosely interwoven parts—a killer mode for improvising experimentalists.

Flying the Boomerang
The first thing you’ll notice about the Boomerang is that it sounds great—as in almost totally transparent. It records at a 48 kHz sample rate, so you don’t sacrifice a bit of your guitar’s tone or suffer signal loss—a beautiful thing when you’re stacking complex parts.

I explored the Boomerang III’s stacking capability and Serial modes, as well as a number of special effects, using a Fender Jaguar, an Eastwood Warren Ellis tenor, and Vox Pathfinder—two guitars and an amp with clear tones that are great for probing the wide-open spaces the Boomerang inevitably unveils.

In Serial mode, I was able to play rhythm and lead guitarist for the duration of a whole song by dedicating verse, chorus, and bridge parts to each of the three loops, activating them with a tap of their respective switch, and then soloing or playing melodic hooks over each. It’s remarkable how well this mode can supplement practice and improvised jam sessions if you’re in a band. I was able to create the basic structures for two songs that my own ensemble has been tinkering with in the studio and work through dozens of potential melodies and lead sections. If you’re a songwriter, the Serial mode alone makes the Boomerang a creative tool that’s potentially worth its weight in gold.

Stacking additional parts on loops is exceptionally easy. Just hold the yellow Bonus button for 1/2 second and you’re stacking. Hold it for 1/2 second to turn stacking off. I created an arpeggio loop on Loop 1 with two taps of the footswitch, then hit the yellow Bonus button to play a second sequence of volume swells that lay over the top. And from that simple, two-layer loop, I must have practiced scales and various lead phrases for a solid hour. If you ever find yourself in a situation where practice feels ordinary, this pedal can, quite literally, create a whole new environment to inspire you.

Assigning functions like the Reverse and Octave functions is a breeze too. You just hold the Bonus Assign button until the green light in the center of the Clock display glows green. At that point twisting the Hold and Tap knobs will illuminate a bright or dim light next to the function you’ve selected to activate with a hold or tap.

For the purposes of my test, I assigned the Reverse function to a tap of the Green Bonus button and an octave drop to a Hold of the Green Bonus button, while keeping the Yellow Bonus button dedicated to Stack and Erase functions. Again, a simple arpeggiated chord pattern became a whole galaxy of textures that challenged my lead vocabulary as I switched between swirling, psychedelic reverse passages and half-time, dropped-octave sections that invited lyrical slow-bend techniques, and then back to standard looped mode. If you gravitate toward the simplest song structures, you might find these functions (and the ease with which you can program and switch between them) less inspiring than I did. But if you’re a soloist or songwriter that’s prompted by unusual textures and twists, the Boomerang III’s deeper functions and effects can lead you into very interesting territory with very little effort.

The Verdict
Even for an experienced looper familiar with say, a Jam Man or Boss Loop Station, the Boomerang III demands a little bit of study in order to operate it seamlessly and unearth its unique features. It also takes a good bit of practice—and timing—to put some of the more complex functions into practice. But the Boomerang III is deep in functionality and will reward the time you devote to unlocking its secrets. You can really expand the possibilities of a small group in live situations. And as a compositional tool, the Boomerang III can take the place of hours of jamming with bandmates when you’re looking for a lead hook to go over an established chord progression. Sturdy, built to last, and brimming with surprises, the Boomerang III is a pedal that’s likely to pay for itself dozens of times over and has the potential to inspire more real creation than all your other pedals combined—if you’re willing to do a little homework.
Buy if...
you’re thrilled by the notion of new paths to practice and song creation and aren’t technology averse.
Skip if...
the footswitch on your overdrive is already one switch too many.

Street $469 - Boomerang Musical Products -