Boss RC-3 Loop Station Review

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Rating

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Summary

Pros: 3 hours of recording, 99 memory slots, stereo I/O, and a compact body.
Cons: Only 10 built-in drum patterns, some noise complaints, noticeable gap when switching between phrases (UPDATE: This issue was fixed by a firmware update); 16 bit recording.
Overall: Boss’s new compact looper pedal for 2011 packs a huge punch for such a small package. With 3 hours of recording and 99 memory slots, you won’t outgrow this pedal anytime soon.

Full Review

The Boss RC-3 Loop Station is a compact looper pedal from Boss released in 2011, and replacing the older Boss RC-2 Loop Station as Boss’s top-o-the-line compact looper. The new and improved RC-3 Loop Station is powerfully equipped yet conveniently housed in a compact housing for musicians with an already crowded pedal board.
Boss RC-3 Loop Station

3 Hours of Stereo Recording

First of the improvements over the RC-2 Loop Station is that the RC-3 Loop Station gives musicians up to 3 hours of stereo recording time, as opposed to the RC-2, which only permitted up to 16 minutes of mono recording. That’s a heck of an improvement! Now you can load hours of your favorite backing tracks into 99 different slots. This allows you to jam to your heart’s content without getting bored, and prevents you from having to stop and load new jam tracks over and over again – just keep the creativity flowing. By the way, the Boss RC-3 is USB 2.0 compatible for quick loading.

Pre-Set Drum Tracks

One drawback to the Boss RC-3 Loop Station is that it only provides 10 drum tracks. If you’re the kind of musician who wants a large selection of drum beats for spontaneous inspiration, this may not be the pedal for you. This pedal is better suited to musicians who want to play along with jam tracks. Keep in mind that you can load pre-recorded jam tracks with your own drum beats so, with a little effort, the 10 preset drum tracks won’t necessarily stop you from getting the most out of this little pedal. The ten preset rhythms are in a variety of styles, including Rock, Pop, Funk, Shuffle, R&B, and Latin.

Inputs and Outputs

Guitarists who want to incorporate external stereo effects devices will be excited about the true stereo I/O. This is a big improvement over the RC-2 Loop Station, and let’s Boss compete with Digitech’s JamMan Stereo. Keep in mind that this pedal does add a bit of noise, so if you’re a real audio purist, you might want to spend a bit more money for a cleaner overall sound. If you’re just practicing at home, a little noise isn’t the worst thing, and it’s not all that noticeable.

Boss RC-3 Loop Station Control Panel

Boss RC-3 Loop Station Control Panel

When using the RC-3 Loop Station for recording, there are two options. You can choose the Auto Recording feature, which starts the recording the moment you begin playing your guitar, or as soon as you start a connected audio player like an external drum machine or CD player. Alternatively, Count-In mode gives you one-bar of rhythm before recording starts.  Like most looper pedals, you can Undo/Redo as you go.

A dedicated knob lets you adjust the volume of the rhythm, and you can set the tempo incrementally or via tap tempo. You can also specify the time signature. When you save a phrase, the rhythm type and time signature will also be saved. In addition to recording your guitar or bass performances and turning them into playable loops, you can also record other external stereo audio sources via the RC-3’s AUX IN. If you have an external drum machine, you can make new loops on the fly, or grab loops from your MP3 tracks and start jamming over them.

Beware that, as with the Boss RC-30 Loop Station, there is a noticeable 1/4 second gap when switching between phrases (UPDATE: This issue has been fixed by Boss by a firmware update). While this may not bother most bedroom musicians, it’s certainly not suited for studio recording. Ironically, this was not a problem with Boss’s older RC-2 Loop Station and RC-20XL Loop Station. The Boss RC-300 Loop Station didn’t seem to develop this problem, but is significantly larger and more expensive than the RC-3.

Conclusion

The RC-3 Loop Station is Boss’s most compact looper in the RC-3x series, which also includes the larger RC-30 Loop Station and the massive RC-300 Loop Station. Overall, the Boss RC-3 Loop Station improves Boss’s compact looping pedal technology by leaps and bounds, and is a solid option to compete with Digitech’s rival compact pedal, the JamMan Solo.

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Boss RC-3 Loop Station Demo Video

Boss RC-3 Loop Station Review4Peter2016-03-12 07:03:59The Boss RC-3 Loop Station is the new compact looper pedal from Boss for 2011, replacing the older Boss RC-2 Loop Station as Boss’s top-o-the-line compact looper. The new and improved RC-3 is powerfully equipped yet conveniently housed in a compact pedal for musician’s with an already crowded pedal board. Check Amazon Price…

38 thoughts on “Boss RC-3 Loop Station Review

  1. this rc 3 is not much good when you play lead over recorded material it drowns it out.and you you add distortion to your guitar it also distorts the drums garbage

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    Feedback: 14 positive, 52 negative
    • The order of your pedals is wrong. Effects should be before the loop. Otherwise, you’re just adding effects to the recorded sound. It’s not the pedal.

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      Feedback: 2 positive, 1 negative
  2. Is there any way of knowing if/when Boss will or can release a firmware update that can overcome the phrase-lag problem with this pedal?

    I received this pedal as a present, and was unaware that there would be such a serious time-lag when switching from one memory bank to another.

    This flaw makes it impossible to use this pedal in a live context to go between the parts of a song (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) by smoothly switching from memory bank to memory bank.

    This seems like a big problem.

    Rating
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    Feedback: 23 positive, 2 negative
  3. I wrote to Boss about the phrase-lag problem and received the following response:

    “We are aware of gap between phrase change but unfortunately are not aware at this time of any procedures to change this. For best live application with no gap in phrase change, we highly recommend the BOSS RC-300 with (3) “Phrase Pedals” you can use in “Multi-Layering” mode and “Single Phrase” mode for changing from a part to another part of your song as needed. The RC-300 features also tones of great “PRE and POST” BOSS quality FX and an expression pedal for multiple assignements.”

    The RC-300 is also significantly more expensive than the RC-3. And therefor this isn’t much of a solution for most people.

    Why did Boss release this “update” of the RC-2 if it has this major of a design flaw?

    It still seems like a big problem.

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    Feedback: 18 positive, 2 negative
    • **************UPDATE******************

      Boss released a firmware update a while ago that fixes the “time-lag” problem that occurred when switching from one memory bank to another.

      The 1.30 firmware update fixed this issue. They are now up to firmware update 1.40.

      So if you were like me, and were very disappointed about this “time-lag” problem, then you should definitely update the firmware on your RC-3!

      Follow the instructions on the Boss website completely, and you shouldn’t have any trouble 1) finding out what firmware version is on your pedal and then 2) if necessary, updating it to the latest version.

      http://www.roland.com/support/article/?q=downloads&p=RC-3&id=62081892

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      Feedback: 21 positive, 1 negative
      • I am having trouble updating my pedal from version 1.2 to the new 1.4 software. I follow all the steps and it keeps giving me the “E4” message (error) after i press the Write button. I don’t know what im doing wrong. Any help will be appreciated!

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        Feedback: 1 positive, 1 negative
        • Hey dude, it’s because you’re copying and pasting the new update files into the wrong directory. Make sure you copy them into the FIRST directory, the same one that includes the “ROLAND” folder. The update files should be right under “ROLAND”

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          Feedback: 15 positive
  4. I didn’t like this pedal at all…it the bypass totally kills the tone. Boss usually has decent buffers but this one made my gigging board (even my board at home which has short leads) sound dead like I turned my tone knob nearly all the way down.

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    Feedback: 7 positive, 2 negative
  5. The phrase-lag problem or “gap between phrase change” sounds like a fatal flaw. I have two questions:
    1) What exactly is a phrase change gap?
    2) Does this prevent live multi-loop performances? In other words, is there a gap between two different layers of recorded instruments (a fatal flaw)?

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    • Think of a phrase like a sentence that you write with notes. Once you play a phrase on your guitar, you can play it back as a loop. Once this bottom layer is recorded, you can layer more notes on top of your looping phrase, which is called “overdubbing.” One you have a nice background loop, you can solo over the top of it, which is great practice, and what a lot of beginners use a looper for.

      If you want to start using a looper for live performances and build more complex songs, you’ll naturally want to build multiple loops into your songs and be able to switch back-and-forth between them seamlessly. For example, you could record one loop for the intro portion of your song, and have another looped phrase pre-recorded for the chorus portion of your song. This works a lot better when you have a looper with at least two pedals so that you can tap a pedal to switch between phrases, such as when you are shifting from the intro portion of your song to the chorus. The RC-3 isn’t really designed for this since it only has one pedal, though you can buy the additional footswitches.

      With both the RC-3 and RC-30, there is a fraction of a second gap when you are switching between phrases. It would be noticeable in a live performance or elsewhere, so if switching between phrases is something you want to do with your looper, you should look at pedals other than the RC-3 or RC-30. In my opinion, the gap would “prevent” you from seamlessly shifting between different loops within the same song. You can do it with the gap, it just won’t be seamless and you might cringe a bit. Hope that helps.

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      Feedback: 27 positive
  6. My guestion is if you want to to use a phrase to record a ‘say’ rythym guitar backing track for a complete song then the delay would not be a problem? Could you not use the looper as a single track for 3 hours of precorded rythym guitar?

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    • Yeah, if you’re not switching between phrases and just want to pre-record a 3-hour backing track, you won’t have the gap issue.

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  7. Hi. Just one very important thing for me when playing live that WAS on the old rc2 that’s missing in the rc3 is the blinking tempo light when you stop the rc3 after you have recorded a riff. This was very helpful for me when playing live on stage for when i record the first stanza and loop it one the 2nd stanza and then stop it then play live guitar on the chorus. Sometimes when i play 2 choruses and a bridge and then call up my recorded loop again i tend to get out of the tempo a little bit. On the rc2 even when you stop the loop to play choruses and bridges, the blinking light keeps on. Its very helpful coz the blinking light (even when stopped) reminds you what tempo you are in.

    Also, theres no way of telling if you have something temporarily recorded on the pedal. Very important when im about to play the next song on stage and im ready to record a loop for that song and forgot i still have the previous song looped in there. On the rc2, with that blinking light, it tells you you still have the previous loop in there. fyi: im not talking about the written/saved banks with the number and dot beside it.

    I hope im wrong. I hope i havent just figured it out. Pls help if theres another way around this. If its not on the rc3 i hope there will be a firmware update for it soon. Its very important to me.
    Thanks!

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    Feedback: 8 positive
  8. What get’s on my nerves with this pedal, is that the Tempo isn’t BPM related. Therefore the following problems:
    1.) If a WAV file is downloaded to the pedal, then it’s not possible to synchronise a drum beat.
    2.) If I upload a file from the pedal to a sequencing program, then it’s also not possible to give in a tempo to synchronise the sequencer.
    3.) It’s also not easy to synchronise a number of phases.
    4.) The Tap Tempo seems to be slower than the actual tempo being tapped in.
    Conclusion:
    If I want to use this for live use, then I will have to record the complete song into a single phrase.
    It would have been useful if the Tempo was quantised to BPM integers i.e. 100 BPM or 86 BPM.
    Otherwise, as a beginners looper it is very good and easy to use and the sound quality is great.

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    Feedback: 10 positive
  9. I just purchased this pedal on the strength of the reviews but my first conclusion is the manual is very “UNSPECIFIC” on the simple task of “punching in and punching out” the overdub once you have a first “recording” down in memory. Once you hit the pedal when your first pass is done (“recording” as the manual calls it) and save that first pass, the light indicators tell you are now overdubbing (?????). If you hit the pedal again, it goes into a playback mode. I for one, want to be able to listen totally to my first pass to make sure it is repeating correctly before I begin to overdub but this doesn’t appear to allow you to do that (punch in for the overdub) after you are satisfied with the first pass.
    Like I mentioned, I just purchased this and have about an hour into the pedal and was hoping to get some feedback into my issues. BTW, I am using the “normal recording” mode when laying down the passes..

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    Feedback: 2 positive
    • The manual explains a procedure for manually reprogramming the pedal-stomp order from record>overdub>play to record>play>overdub. Page 19.

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      Feedback: 5 positive
  10. Does this have an “auto start”? I want something that would only start recording when I start playing.

    Thanks!

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    Feedback: 1 negative
    • Yes, the RC-3 has an auto record mode that will detect when you start playing. You can also put it in count mode which will give you one bar of rhythm before the recording starts.

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      Feedback: 3 positive, 1 negative
  11. Hi
    how loud is the pedal switch? I want to loop live hand drums and percussion using a mic and pre-amp. I tried the jamman express but the pedal is so clunky that the mic keeps picking up the switch noise as part of the loop and then loops the noise!
    May be I should look at the RC-300 too
    thanks

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    Feedback: 2 positive
  12. Hi,

    What is the best type of amp to use with the RC30? I only have €100 to spend (around $120). Is it possible to get something half decent for this price? Ill only be using the loop station for practicing at home..

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    • You can use the RC30 with any amp. I can’t recommend any amps for around $120, though. You might check out the spider series by Line 6, but I would recommend to save up for a decent tube amp. I’ve been using a Tone King Imperial lately. If you’re going to eventually go for a head and cabinets, a Fender Bassman head is a good place to start…

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      Feedback: 2 positive
  13. My clean rhythm changes when I change to lead tones with gain for overdubbing. It’s a new Blackstar 40 and does it through the front or effects loop, using amp foot switch or front panel switch. Any ideas?

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    • Use the clean channel on your amp and use an overdrive pedal for your lead. That way your rhythm (and any drum patterns) will stay clean, while you can dirty up your lead.

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      Feedback: 4 positive
  14. Hi I find that I get bad feedback while trying to record over a loop and the quality of the recording and volume isnt as good as on the presets. I can crank the presets up really loud and play lead over it no problem but with the recoded loops its as touchy as, any suggestions. Im using a small berenger mixer and berenger speaker at home. I thought about using a feedback suppressor in the guitar sound hole but otherwise at a loss.

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  15. The manual says that when you’re using a mono source, like a guitar or bass, to connect it to INPUT A. That’s clear. But, what if I want to overdub using two mono sources: an electric guitar and an electric bass…?
    Can I keep one instrument plugged into INPUT A and the other into INPUT B and avoid the need to unplug-the guitar, plug-in-the-bass, unplug-the-bass, plug-in-the-guitar while I’m building a loop?(Even when you watch the Pro reviewers do it on YouTube, they don’t look very happy about it.)
    And, yes, a Boss AB-Y pedal is probably in my future!

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    Feedback: 3 negative
  16. Hi there, how do I fix when appears EF (further overdubbing is not possible)……’cause it won’t let me keep working) Thanx!!

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    Feedback: 1 positive
    • Re-save the phrase by pressing the ‘Write’ button while playback is stopped.

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  17. I have a line 6 spider 4 amp with built in effects. I was hoping to record clean simple chords with the RC-3 and improvise over them with effects driven notes. Almost like a tape recorder. However when I play the chords back it will change to the effects mode. Is their a way to make this work ?? Seems so simple. Apparently I am really dumb !

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    • Actually, I see that question come up again and again, so you’re not alone. The short answer is that you need to use effects pedals. Leave your Spider 4 amp on the clean channel to record your backing track into your looper and set it looping. Then, when you start to solo, you dirty up your tone with an overdrive pedal, etc., but you’re amp will still be on the clean channel the whole time so that the backing track coming from your looper stays clean. If you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll get some emails with tips on setting up your signal chain.

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      Feedback: 6 positive
      • Thanks so much Peter for taking the time to get back to me!
        I had a feeling I would be spending more $$ lol

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  18. Just got this RC-3 pedal and trying to figure it all out but I’m stumped right off the bat. I plug my guitar into input A, amp into output A, all volume nobs are turned up on guitar, amp and pedal BUT I’m not hearing my guitar through the amp while recording (only the drum tempo) and on playback I can hear the guitar through the amp but only slightly even with the volume cranked. What am I doing wrong?

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    Feedback: 1 negative
  19. Loopers work best through the effects loop. You can record clean rhythms and play distorted leads. If you don’t have an effects loop then use effects like so. Guitar, distortion pedals, chorus, delays etc loop station clean channel on amp.

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    Feedback: 1 positive
  20. I´m having a trouble with the pedal RC-3, when I insert the jack cable on output (mono) the pedal doesn’t turn on, the light don´t show, it don´t record, don´t make loops and no lights on. What can i do??

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  21. Does anyone know how i would plug the rc-3 into a Fender Twin combo amp while also using a Boss gt-8 in the four cable system? I want to be able to switch effects between loops without changing the sound of the current loop.

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  22. louder pedal than I ever wanted…so much noise created from this pedal even when your guitar isn’t plugged in.

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  23. Does anybody know if it’s possible to modify the RC3 in order to get all the rythm tracks contained in the RC2?

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