Boss RC-505 Loop Station Review

Editor’s Rating
Rating

Boss RC-505 Loop Station Sale Price
Amazon: Boss RC-505 Loop Station
Newegg: Boss RC-505 Loop Station

Summary

Pros: Five, independently-controlled tracks, intuitive controls, helpful features like Loop Quantize and plenty of effects ensure that this table-top, hand-operated unit has ample to offer vocalists.
Cons: For guitarists, the difficulty in hands-free control really limits what the pedal offers, meaning the only way to use it on the fly is to periodically stop and mess around with the buttons and dials.
Overall: A great looper overall, but it’s really a unit designed for vocalists, beatboxers, keyboardists and synth players as opposed to guitarists. If you play the six-string, it’s better to look elsewhere.

Full Review

Loopers are traditionally a plaything for guitarists. Boss has played their part in establishing this status quo, putting out numerous looper pedals of varying sizes from the RC-3 style stompboxes through to the behemoth options like the latest flagship, the RC-300. For beatboxers like Dub FX, this meant the only option was to use the supplied mic jacks and use the guitarist-centric pedals their own way. With the RC-505, Boss has thrown out the rule book and made something specifically for beatboxers, synth players, keyboard players and singers looking to enter the world of looping. The RC-505 is a hand-operated, tabletop looper pedal; potentially opening up a new era in the domain of the looper. But is it worth the substantial investment for a guitarist, or is the pedal only worth consideration if you happen to build your beats with your vocal chords?

The Features

The biggest selling-point of the RC-505 is the tabletop intent, which leaves the unit feeling altogether small and borderline flimsy in comparison to the beefcake units you’d ordinarily get for the price. Weighing just over three pounds and measuring 16 and a half by 8 and a third inches, it’s pretty unassuming for a looper with the power to support five independent tracks. Anybody familiar with Boss’ product line will instantly notice how the design is tailored for hands-on operation; the soft touch-buttons controlling record/play/overdub for each of the tracks in place of the rugged, metallic pedals guitarists will be used to are immediately noticeable.

In addition – as you may expect – there are many smaller buttons on the unit to control things like stopping (and clearing), undoing and redoing operations, editing parameters and tapping out tempos. Previously, small controls like this would be the bane of the live musician, making it a delicate procedure virtually impossible to perform under the glare of stage lighting and the numbing effects of a few cans of beer, but beatboxers and singers at least have their hands free to do things like that.

The RC-505 records in CD-quality audio, and has sufficient memory for three hours worth of loop recordings. Along with this, you get access to a wide complement of effects and a total of 85 rhythm backings to choose from – with some options with odd-measure beats. There are also plenty of connections available at the back, with an XLR input with phantom power, stereo ins and outs, MIDI ins and outs, a 3.5mm stereo aux input, a headphone output and a USB port for connecting up to a computer.

Blowing the three simultaneous tracks available on the RC-300 out of the water, the RC-505 has the capacity to handle five tracks at any one time. Each of these has a dedicated record/play/overdub button, a stop button, a sliding fader control and an “Edit” key. These take up the majority of the real-estate space on the unit, but offer excellent control over the five tracks if you happen to have your hands free while playing. You can control everything individually, as if you have a chain of five stompbox-size loopers right in front of you. It’s also easy to set a playback mode (such as one-shot, loop or reverse) and assign a unique tempo to the track (aided by Boss’ standard Loop Quantize, time-keeping feature). You can also start and stop all of the tracks simultaneously – with the option to set the specific tracks this action affects.

The wide range of effects on the unit can be applied universally to the input signal or applied to specific tracks, and the specific settings you choose are saved along with your loops in the phrase memory location. Many of the options are specifically designed for vocalists, such as the “Vocoder,” “Vocal Distortion” and “Robot” effects, but there are plenty of standards that are great for use with a guitar, such as phasers, delays and a guitar to bass effect, which is great for creating a whole-band feel with just your guitar. The Input FX and Track FX controls have three buttons to activate and deactivate the effects and each has a dedicated knob which can be used to tweak parameters on the fly.

How it Works In-Use

The RC-505 is undoubtedly expertly-designed for singers, beatboxers and anybody else who will largely have their hands free during a performance. For guitarists, however, there are several niggling issues which arise from the tabletop intent of the device. In comparison to the ordinary Boss loopers, it’s virtually toy-like, with plastic construction where you might be expecting a rugged metal chassis. It’s technically possible to operate the basic controls with your feet, but it doesn’t really feel like the sort of thing you’d feel comfortable stomping on.

You can attach external control pedals or use a MIDI controller, but setting either up isn’t the simplest of procedures. For an external pedal, the operations you choose are only assigned to one “target” track at a time. This might seem like an expected limitation, but the process for switching the target track effectively requires stooping over and getting your hands figuratively dirty in order to, say, start recording onto another of the five tracks.

Although many beatboxers will be happy to create their own rhythmic backings, the ones included on the RC-505 could be better, and many users suggest using an external drum machine to handle the backing beat with higher quality. Otherwise, though, the operation of the unit and the features included on it are ideal for the main target audience. The huge array of possibilities opened up by the five tracks, ability to apply unique settings to each track and the individual faders mean that creating looper-driven songs is completely within the realms of possibility, and the user-friendly design (particularly for anybody familiar with what Boss offers) makes it extremely easy too.

As a guitarist, you’ll probably find the RC-505 a little lacking though. The only thing is that the limitations pretty much all come from the overall intent of the looper as a tool for vocal performers or keyboard/synth players, so it isn’t so much that Boss has done something wrong, it’s just that the RC-505 isn’t for everybody. The difficulty in operating the unit hands-free means that for guitarists, you could get about as much live functionality out of a mid-size unit like the RC-30.

Overall

The RC-505 takes the multi-track improvement from the RC-300 and goes a few steps further. If you’re a budding beatbox looper or a singer looking for some creative accompaniment, the RC-505 could well be the gigging companion you’ve been looking for. As a guitarist, though, the abundance of hand-operated controls and the relatively poor hands-free functionality really does hold the unit back.

Compare Prices

Amazon: Boss RC-505 Loop Station
Newegg: Boss RC-505 Loop Station

Boss RC-505 Loop Station Demo

Boss RC-505 Loop Station Review4Peter2016-03-12 06:37:39Loopers are traditionally a plaything for guitarists. Boss has played their part in establishing this status quo, putting out numerous looper pedals of varying sizes from the RC-3 style stompboxes through to the behemoth options like the latest flagship, the RC-300. For beatboxers like Dub FX, this meant the only option was to use the supplied mic jacks and use the guitarist-centric pedals their own way. With the RC-505, Boss has thrown out the rule book and made something specifically for beatboxers, synth players, keyboard players and singers looking to enter the world of looping. Check Amazon Price…

13 thoughts on “Boss RC-505 Loop Station Review

  1. sounds great. Re the midi, could you use it to sync to another looper ( with midi of course )

    Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

    Feedback: 3 positive, 2 negative
    • Hey Andrew,

      As far as I know it is possible to connect the 505 to another 505. I don’t exactly know if that automatically means you can succesfully connect it to other loop stations, but I find that a lot of loop pedals and loop stations do not have a midi connector.

      Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

      Feedback: 4 positive, 1 negative
  2. “a delicate procedure virtually impossible to perform under the glare of stage lighting and the numbing effects of a few cans of beer, but beatboxers and singers at least have their hands free to do things like that.”

    Have you seen an accordion? There’s like 300 buttons each the size of a pea. how about a monome? Ever see a wicked fast performer on a midi controller? One key to performing decently is to know your gear well enough to barely have the need to look at it.

    This review is odd in that it’s criticizing a device for what it’s designed to be and do. It’s a tabletop looper for primarily non-guitar stuff. That’s like being annoyed with a boat for not being a car.

    Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

    Feedback: 79 positive, 4 negative
  3. Pretty sure you can get an fs 6 to use as a pedal for guitars to be able to use.

    Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

    Feedback: 6 positive, 1 negative
  4. I’m looking for that kind of loop station but that can be triggered by foot pedals and that doesn’t need to be linked to a laptop, that has a memory card like the rc-505 above so you can play live with your guitar and trigger the beats you need? Do you know where I can find this?
    Thanks,
    JF

    Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

  5. This review is not very useful if you aren’t a guitarist. Yes, we all know that there are a lot of pedals out there designed for affecting guitar signals. This device is not intended for that use. It’s for making loop-based music on the fly with whatever instruments you want! Would’ve loved to read more about what this machine CAN do instead of how it’s different from something you were expecting and how sad that makes you.

    Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

    Feedback: 15 positive, 1 negative
  6. my instruments (keybds, ewi, voice, guitar) now run through a mixer. how would I integrate the 505 into this? thanks

    Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

    • The RC-505 is kind of like its own mixer and is not really designed to work with another mixer so that each loop can be individually mixed in the other mixer. For example, for inputs, you can only connect two instruments and a mic. You could set up a switcher on one of these lines, but you still have the problem of outputs. There are only two output jacks that are intended to run to your monitors or amp. Here is a link to the manual with an illustration of the back panel on page 6: http://lib.roland.co.jp/support/en/manuals/res/63052373/RC-505_e02_W.pdf. If your mixer has separate outputs, maybe you could set up the 505 downstream. You might want to check out the EHX 45000 and just use that for mixing and looping: http://looperpedalreviews.com/electro-harmonix-45000-review/

      Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

      Feedback: 1 positive
    • I do exactly this, keys, guitar, vocal and samples (drum and other)

      This is what I do. Everything goes into my mixing desk and runs stereo out to the stereo in of the 505. I then run the left and right outs of the 505 into two separate channels of the desk. In this way panning becomes track selection, so say for example I want my music bed to return to one channel on the desk and vocals and samples to return to the other I just pan all instruments left and vocals right (and samples right when not triggering drums)

      Works a treat, but you forgo stereo panning on the 505

      The other way is to just run everything from one channel on the desk to one channel on the 505 and use all the mixing capabilities in the box.

      Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

      Feedback: 2 positive
      • Hey bud. Could you give me some advice? I’m looking into some solutions for a complicated looping rig, and I think this box may work for me if I do something similar to what you did.

        I want to loop 3 guitar tracks, a live drum track, and a vocal track. Do you assign an input to each track? For exp: loop 1-3 would be instrument input, 4 would be aux (drum machine), and 5 mix?

        As far as outputs go, I would love to send 1-3 to a guitar amp, and 4 + 5 to a PA. Is this possible?

        Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

        Feedback: 1 positive
  7. Would I be able to control this with a Keith McMillan Softstep controllers? Would it connect trough Midi or the CTL 1,2/EXP? Are there other looper stations with onboard effects that you know of? Thanks, Mark.

    Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

Leave a Reply