Boss RC-1 Loop Station Review

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Rating

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Summary

Pros: Stereo recording, simple operation, cool loop-length indicator.
Cons: Only stores one loop at a time.
Overall: An awesome choice if you want something simple. If you want more features like multiple memory slots and built-in drum-patterns, you will have to look elsewhere.

Full Review

For a while there, it seemed like Boss and Digitech were competing to make the most complicated looper on the planet. Stripped-down, simple-to-use looper pedals are becoming more common, however, with options like the Ditto, JamMan Express XT, Nano 360, and the Wally offering back-to-basics functionality. Boss isn’t a complete stranger to this game, having released the RC-2 and RC-3 – which were stompbox-sized, but still had plenty of features. With the RC-1, Boss has ventured further into minimalist territory. But in this crowded market of back-to-basics loopers, does the RC-1 really stand out from the competition?

Straightforward Features

The big selling-point for the RC-1 is its user-friendliness, and on first looking at it most people would agree that it’s about as basic as you can get for a looper. Measuring 5 and 1/8 inches front to back, 2 and 7/8 inches wide and standing at 2 and 3/8 inches tall, there’s hardly even space for an array of dials and buttons. Boss has opted for just one pedal and one dial, to handle your looping functions and adjust your loop’s volume level, respectively. For the core operation, its one tap to record, another to overdub and another to playback what you’ve recorded. To stop playback, you press the pedal twice, and to clear what you’ve recorded, you hold the pedal for two seconds or more.

There is also an undo/redo function, which works through the same pedal. This is an invaluable option when you’re looping (unless your playing is always perfect), but it’s yet to be confirmed how this operation will work in practice. It’s likely to be that you have to stop playback before holding down the pedal to completely clear your recording, meaning that the same action during playback could be used for the undo/redo function. However, you can also buy an additional footswitch if you want easier access to the undo/redo and stop functions.

One of the most notable additions to the RC-1 is the “loop indicator,” which consists of a ring of LED lights (24 in total) on the upper right of the pedal that give you some at-a-glance information about what’s going on with your loop. Red lights only mean you’re recording, red and green means overdubbing and green means playback. Once the RC-1 knows the length of your phrase (on the overdub and playback run-throughs), the indicator shows you how long is left in your loop, ticking down gradually so you can tell when you’re approaching the restart part. This is a little gimmicky, but the effect is actually quite good – it’s aesthetically pleasing and genuinely gives you useful information in a very intuitive format.

Boss RC-1 ReviewFor memory, you have 12 minutes of stereo recording time. This is pretty good in comparison to the Ditto, for instance, which only offered five minutes, but absolutely pathetic when you look at Boss’ most comparable recent looper, the RC-3. This had three hours of stereo recording time. Granted, you’d have to pay a little more to get one, but in this age of cheap data storage devices, it’s hardly too much to ask to get a looper with more memory than you’d need. 12 minutes is still a lot of time when you consider the fact that you can have unlimited overdubs, but would it really have been that much more expensive to make it longer?

Probably not, but it would be fairly redundant as things stand. You have just one memory location in the RC-1, and that’s not so much a separate storage space – it’s just the last thing you recorded and didn’t clear (although it does retain the memory after the pedal is switched off). With that in mind, 12 minutes will be more than you could ever realistically use, but it could have been so much better with just a few usable memory slots. The Electro Harmonix Nano 360 only has half the memory capacity, but it has 11 different memory locations.

The RC-1 has stereo 1/4 inch ins and outs, allowing you the core connectivity options you’ll need as a guitarist in stereo format but allowing for little else. The only other jack on the unit is for the optional footswitch. You don’t need tons of ins and outs for an entry-level looper, and the stereo option is a plus-point, but this is still a fairly limited offering. You can plug in a synthesizer or hook up two amps, say, if you actually want to, but you can’t play along to audio from an auxiliary source, a much more in-demand feature you can get with the RC-3.

There is also a spot for a power supply, but you won’t receive one when you order the RC-1. Instead, they’re persisting with the ridiculous idea that anybody wants to keep a pedal powered up using batteries alone. One 9 volt alkaline battery gives you four and a half hours of use, according to Boss, but obviously this pales in comparison to the unlimited usage time you could get if they decided to provide a power supply.

Does it Really Stand Out?

The run-through of the features has been fairly critical, but it goes without saying that the RC-1 will have the same build and sound quality musicians have come to expect from Boss. Similarly, stripped down loopers like this are popular because they cut right to the core functions for players who are new to looping or who don’t care about all the extra bells and whistles. It sets itself a pretty simple task, but it must be conceded that it seems to have accomplished it pretty well. You get everything you need plus stereo ins and outs and a cool display style.

When you stack up what it has to offer against other options, though, the positivity starts to unravel a little. Despite the smaller memory capacity, the Electro Harmonix Nano 360 has memory slots, a fundamental element of looper pedals lacking in the RC-1, which renders the 12 minutes of looping time necessary only for composers of the grandest prog-rock epics ever conceived. The most damning comparison is with Boss’ own RC-3, though. It may be a little bit more expensive, but in addition to everything you get with the RC-1 (apart from the display), your memory capacity is increased by 15 times, you get 99 slots to store your loops, a USB connection, auxiliary input and rhythm backing, all in a stomp-box sized pedal.

We’ll withhold some judgment until the RC-1 is released and we get to play around with the pedal itself, but it really seems like Boss is holding just a little bit too much back here. If you only want something simple to use in your bedroom or for the occasional jam session, then you won’t be disappointed. Really, though, the pedal doesn’t really have anything on offer for dedicated loopers, or – perhaps more importantly – much to offer new converts after the initial exploration into the world of looping with its core functions. When you get used to looping and you want to start storing your creations or jamming along to rhythm or backing tracks, will you still be happy you didn’t spend the extra for an RC-3?

Conclusion

The RC-1 looks like a suitable looper for anybody just wanting something to mess around with at home, especially if it’s your first time trying out a looper, but before you buy, think about whether you’re likely to want something more in future. If you think you’ll want to do more looping, it’s worth looking at the slightly bigger, stompbox style models. They have more functions and larger capacities, and are still affordable. If you’re just looking for an extra little toy to have fun with, the RC-1 looks great, but if you want to really get into looping, it seems best to look elsewhere.

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Amazon: Boss RC-1 Loop Station
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Boss RC-1 Loop Station Demo

Boss RC-1 Loop Station Review4.5Peter2017-04-29 00:43:19For a while there, it seemed like Boss and Digitech were competing to make the most complicated looper on the planet. Stripped-down, simple-to-use looper pedals are becoming more common, however, with options like the Ditto, JamMan Express XT, Nano 360, and the Wally offering back-to-basics functionality. Boss isn’t a complete stranger to this game, having released the RC-2 and RC-3 – which were stompbox-sized, but still had plenty of features. With the RC-1, Boss has ventured further into minimalist territory. Check Amazon Price…

24 thoughts on “Boss RC-1 Loop Station Review

  1. I have not tried it yet but can say as an extremely experienced looper who owns RC-2, RC-3, RC-50 and a few other companies loopers that the simplicity is not a defect but a definite advantage. I am a jazz musician who would never dream of using backing tracks – therefore I never ever use any of the memory locations in any loopers because I play live and have done hundreds of looping gigs as a solo artist on guitar, bass and piano. Because I do not use presets or backing tracks and none of them allow you you to store while you are performing large memories are immaterial. Most audiences do not have the patience for loops longer than a mine or two anyway. The real feature about this RC-1 that may make it a game changer is loop length progress indicator – knowing here you are in the loop when you are a live improvising performer could be extraordinarily valuable. Far far more valuable than memory or presets or reverse or any of the other useless to me features. I will go and get one right way to see if the progress indicator works. And by the way loopers with under a minute do not have enough memory for all but the most basic musical structures and are more suited for layering ambiances than for playing songs. I have tried many many times to use the 40 second and under loopers and they are too limiting to have an A section and a B section which means you have to play very simply musical forms consisting of a single section and not a long one at that. This looper looks like it may be real winner specifically because it eliminates many features that are not needed and adds one that is badly needed and also drops the price. I may get several of them. And a note on stereo. It is very very important but for an un-obvious reason. Almost no sound systems in clubs are stereo and even if they are they do not have the even coverage to make good use of it. Most performers are always playing in mono and most guitars only have one output. So why is stereo such a big deal. Two great reasons: 1) I plug two different sources into the two channels like lice and guitar or guitar and piano or bass and something. This allows me to send bass to a bass amp and the guitar to a guitar amp. Trust me revel on bass sucks really badly not to mention the average guitar amp can not hand bass decently anyway. Two independent channels are great to have and when you use a mixer you can chose which part to listen to and balance them and when you put a stereo looper in the effects loop then you basically are getting a second synchronized part to widen your palette. And there is another fantastic reason why stereo loopers are very very useful. Mono guitar in gets you two outputs! So you can use two different amps, or an amp and a recorder, or any two different signal chains. Even if you are not looping getting a second output on an instrument can be very useful/ Sorry for the rant but the reviewer seemed to feel this product is no big deal because it lacking a lot of feature that are completely useless to me as a jazzer and keeps the top three great ones, more than a minute of memory, stereo, no presets to have the wrong loop set on and a new missing one – loop progress indication. This may turn out to be more useful for a live performer who does not play with backing tracks (for which you do not need a looper anyway – use your phone), tun any prior looper and I own most of them. Thanks for listening.

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    Feedback: 178 positive, 3 negative
    • Hey Howard, I really appreciate your rant and agree with you on 90% of it. It seemed like Boss and Digitech were in this weird competition for years to see which one could record the longest loop and pack in the most features. Do we really need to record 3+ hour loops? I certainly don’t. And I certainly don’t want to have to email tech support to do things like getting a built-in metronome not to auto-start over jam tracks (an RC-50 issue). As far as I remember, the Ditto was the looper that brought looping back down to earth and got back to basics: five minute loops, great sound quality, one dial, and one footswitch. It was a huge success and the other manufacturers obviously jumped on the bandwagon with slight modifications. The RC-1 appears to be the Boss iteration. For me, the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction and I find myself wanting a few more features. Then again, I’m probably way too into loopers! It sounds like this one is just right for you though. Let me know what you think when you’ve had a chance to get your hands on one. Cheers

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      Feedback: 19 positive, 4 negative
    • Excellent review, from my own experience I would completely agree to most of your points, especially in a live context. To me, the only important thing missing here is the elusive feedback level button for that ultimate psychedelic fade out stack, which featured uniquely on the venerable PDS 2020 – but then this is almost impossible to find on any present day looping pedal!

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      Feedback: 2 positive, 1 negative
  2. This seems to me like a great simple looper. I was reading the manual online, and it has another great feature: you can set the “stop mode” to either stop playing immediately after the double tap, or to stop when the loop reaches the end. Awesome!

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    Feedback: 25 positive
  3. I just ordered one after reading Howard’s comments. I’m an acoustic guitar player, but I recently bought my first electric guitar…I eventually will get serious about playing it, but for now.. I want to explore the forum of home recording and practicing alone, since I don’t have anyone to play with. I also just bought a DR880 drum machine. I think the RC-1 will round things out.

    In summary, Howard please update us on what you think of the RC-1 after you’ve had a chance to play with it a bit.

    Nikos

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    Feedback: 4 positive, 2 negative
    • Hi Nikos,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m curious to know how you will get the DR880 drum machine to sync with the looper pedal. For example, you can create drum loops with the DR880, then try to time it perfectly with the RC-1, but I imagine that if your timing is even a fraction of a second off, that gap in the timing will get larger every time the loop starts over and eventually sound pretty badly. Alternatively, you could try to record the beats directly into the RC-1 and use that as the base of your loop. Although this will solve the syncing issue, I’m curious to know how effective this will work (if this is your plan). If it was me, I would try a looper with midi sync so that the DR880 would set the loop time for the looper. I don’t have a DR880 though, so I’m not sure if there is a MIDI out connection. FYI, the Pigtronix Infinity Looper has midi sync. Let me know your thoughts on this if you don’t mind. Thanks!

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      Feedback: 8 positive
  4. Just bought one.It s perfect for me.I play live and the use of memory slot sounds like cheating to me,i am not a DJ, and you could let someone make your back track.The loop is long enought for two background pass , loop display is very usefull. Very efficient for working your instrument AND playing live , cause the loops you use are made on the spot, live.

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    Feedback: 16 positive, 1 negative
  5. can it use for input microphone? or just a guitar.

    (sorry for my english)

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    Feedback: 4 positive
  6. I am very new to looping, so if anyone can help me out on this one scenario, I’d appreciate it. For the song Crazy Little Thing Called Love, the solo is played over the bridge progression. I want to record the bridge progression the first time through, then play it back the next time I get to the bridge so I can play the solo over it.
    I have the FS-5U footswitch and have tried changing the record and stop modes, but I can’t find the most efficient way to do this. It seems like too much pedal stomping and I end up erasing the loop or getting all out of whack timing-wise with the song.

    Is there a way to just record and not end up in playback or overdub mode? Or is this pedal just not capable of what I want? If so, can anyone recommend something that can?

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    Feedback: 1 negative
    • For that pedal, I would leave it in the default stop mode which requires you to double-tap the pedal to stop the recording after you finish your first run through the bridge. Then tap it again to initiate playback when the bridge comes up again so that you can do your solo. I agree that timing a double tap can take quite a bit of practice before it gets built into your muscle memory and feels natural. It might be easier to choose a pedal like the Ditto X2 that has a dedicated stop button so you only have to stomp once.

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      Feedback: 3 positive
  7. Ok, I just exchanged my old Christmas Tree RC-50 for this little looper. The local shop offered a very reasonable price for the old flashy machine and boy, I did feel some relief at leaving it with them. First observations on the RC-1:

    * Yes, it does tight loops, no gaps or latency, it has all the essential functions and it sounds just fine.
    * The led indicator is effective. A visual cue of the loop status really helps.
    * It runs on one battery for several hours. That’s great. I’m not aware of other loopers doing that.
    * It has a safe boot, where you can set overdub/playback order and stop modes. Very cool.
    * There’s another undocumented setting that appears to change the way the led indicator works. Er, did I miss something?
    * As almost all other pedals: no feedback level / hold mode. Will manufacturers EVER wake up?

    Quirks, oddities and features
    If overdub mode has been used at any point, the only way to clear the loop is Stop first, then Clear. In a live setting, you NEED an external pedal for clearing the loop. If you just press and hold the RC-1 pedal, it will playback for 2 seconds before finally clearing memory. The only other way around this is using Rec/Play/Overdub mode and clear the loop during the first playback.
    The external pedal on the contrary appears to always stop AND clear the loop. There’s some logic to this, since you can use the RC-1 to stop without clearing. Compared to the RC-50, these are extremely minor complications 🙂

    Some more thoughts
    The “mono to stereo”-feature suggested by Howard above does not seem to work in this case: the stereo channels are separate.
    The original reviewer proposed that 12 minutes recording time without memory slots is a waste of precious capacity. After I toyed happily with this nice, simple but effective tool for a while, a lightbulb went off over my head. This is one looper, where you *never ever* have to worry if your loop will be long enough – everybody will be fast asleep by the time you get to the end. Since you want to concentrate on playing, that is worth something in itself.

    All in all I’m happy with this little bugger. There’s a very good chance it’s going to see a lot more real use than it’s ultra-complex bells-and-whistles-laden and slightly buggy predecessor.

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    Feedback: 14 positive
    • Ok, the external stop/erase issue has been cleared up. Apparently, my generic footswitch had the polarity – whether the switch is ON or OFF when pressed – inverted. Clever guys at Roland Corp 🙂 So I bit the bullet and bought an FSU5 to get it working properly. The upside is, that one gets the one touch ERASE function as a kind of bonus setting.

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      Feedback: 1 positive, 1 negative
    • Correction – the stop and erase function with the just the RC-1 pedal does in fact work. One has to double tap and immediately hold after the second tap – playback will stop right away and the loop will be erased two seconds later. If one stops and releases first, then the loop can not be erased without prior playback. Naturally, this is still an error-prone procedure, so using an external pedal is the safe way to go in live settings. While this is not clearly explained in the manual, one has to conclude that all in all Roland engineers have done their homework very well indeed.

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      Feedback: 6 positive
  8. Hi!
    I want to replace my old RC-20XL with a much simpler unit and a better sounding unit (RC 20 does affect the sound!). I’m hesitating between this boss RC1 and a TC Ditto. Ditto seems to have the best sound quality (is it noticeable?), but I like the LED on the Boss and the switch seems more reliable. What about the sound quality on this boss unit?
    Can you use the 2 stereo inputs and the mono output?
    Thanks!

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  9. Second things first: stereo channels are separate, period. No mixing of any kind there. Quality-wise, mixing stereo to mono is something that you wouldn’t want to do anyway.

    Sound quality of the Boss pedal is very much ok. You WILL experience (small) differences in sound with or without pedals connected, no matter what. First, there’s varying impedance matching, which influences the frequency response of entire signal chains generally and passive or piëzo elements in particular. Secondly, there’s the capacity of the cables used for connecting the stuff. This can quickly become a problem with “true bypass” pedals. Roland has a nice litte story on this subject http://www.roland.co.uk/blog/the-truth-about-true-bypass-and-buffered-guitar-pedals/

    I do not believe tiny differences in sampling techniques play a role of any significance here. Run-of-the-Mill ADDA converters have become practically indistinguishable in performance. To these ears, Roland pedals sound very clean and natural.

    So the simple fact is: *anything* you change in your setup will change frequency response and other factors, however slightly. In a sense, that’s only logical – you’re trying to change your sound, right? My personal approach to diminishing unwanted effects is threefold:

    * KISS – use as few gadgets as possible. Try playing acoustic jazz wih a plain amp, it’s loads of fun.
    * Use a well chosen preamp before your effect chain to minimize impact on passive elements and piëzo pickups.
    * Disconnect the tone knob(s) on an electric guitar – these always leak some current, costing you tons of precious high frequencies!

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    Feedback: 3 positive
  10. Hello – does this looper work for acoustic guitar, or is it for electronic guitar only? I am trying to find out for someone else, but I am myself no musican. Maybe looper generally only work for electric guitar?

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    Feedback: 1 positive
    • Christa, You can use a loop pedal for any instrument that plugs into it via a typical instrument cable. They aren’t for guitarists alone.

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      Feedback: 1 positive
  11. I couldn’t synchronize the compass music after pressing the pedal, there is 1 second delay
    Do you know what is the cause of my problem?
    I try several time to pressing the pedal as soon finish the music with my guitar, but the playback starter with 1 second
    Is the unit problem?

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  12. I agree with Howard here about the fact that the RC-1’s lack of features would be an advantage. I am a solo acoustic player and use an RC-3, three or four gigs a week, I love it, but do on the odd occasion hit the external pedal twice, which auto starts the Drum machine…. Doh ! The display showing where you are in a loop would be invaluable for me, as I also layer more than one source through my pedal, I use a Foot stomp pedal for kick drum through the 2nd channel and into my digital desk, I then run my acoustic guitar through an octave effect into the other section and replay this when I am playing an instrumental which comes from the balanced out of my LR Baggs Venue DI into its own independent channel, The result is a super warm, syrupy sound that blows peoples minds as to what is possible with one guitar and a loop pedal, Oh yeah, and I have a tonne of fun too. Musical regards to you all.

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    Feedback: 2 positive

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