Boss RC-300 Loop Station Review
- Pros: The Boss RC-300 Loop Station is the complete package. Pros include three individually customizable and controllable tracks, ample memory, USB connectivity, built-in effects, and an expression pedal.
- Cons: Additional footswitches are still required for full hands-free operation and there are a few irritating factory settings.
- Overall: The Boss RC-300 Loop Station is a near-perfect looper pedal. It offers musicians a multitude of options and effects, plenty of rhythm support and useful tools.
The Boss RC-300 Loop Station is the new “flagship” looper from Boss. Being hailed as the second coming before it was even released, the Boss RC-300 has a lot to live up to. Not only was it’s predecessor, the RC-50 Loop Station, loaded with features, Digitech’s competing looper pedal, the JamMan Delay, is similarly large and loaded with cool features. With such stiff competition, the RC-300 Loop Station has to deliver something very special to stand out from the crowd.
While all Boss loopers are branded with the name “Loop Station,” the RC-300 epitomizes that term. The first thing most people will notice about the RC-300 is its massive stature. The unit is just over 21 inches wide and over nine inches from front to back. Needless to say, you’ll need to budge your other pedals out of the way a bit to fit it in. The loop station has a rugged metal construction, houses a total of eight foot pedals, and has a built-in expression pedal to help you shape your sound.
The RC-300 Loop Station is stuffed with familiar looper pedal features, including one-shot, sample-like play, reverse playback, tempo-shifting functions, auxiliary inputs, different stop modes, rhythm tracks and undo/redo functionality. Like the Boss RC-50 Loop Station, the Boss RC-300 features different outputs for subs and guitar amps, meaning you can have your bass thumping out of a bass stack instead of your guitar amp. It also features the standard 99 internal memory locations, with three tracks stored in each.
The RC-300 Loop Station’s internal memory offers enough space for 3 hours of recording. This improves on the RC-50 more than sevenfold, and the RC-300 can also be connected to your computer via a USB cable. You can literally export your entire loop collection to your computer, infinitely increasing the amount of loops you can store. Essentially, you will never run out of memory because you can always add another external hard drive to your rig.
Although the Boss RC-50 offered 3 tracks, there was only one “Record/Play/Overdub” pedal, and three separate pedals to select a track. Switching tracks therefore required pressing the track pedal and then hitting record. The RC-300 Loop Station has made it easier to switch between tracks by giving each one a dedicated “Record/Play/Overdub” and “Stop” pedal. This means you can record onto track one, then hit the pedal for track two and start recording onto it straight away. Live musicians can use this to switch between song sections more easily. There is also a single pedal you can use to start and stop playback of all three tracks simultaneously.
Additionally, the unit has a transpose function, allowing you to alter the pitch of recordings without changing the tempo. This is altered in half-steps, up to an octave in either direction. There is also a specific effect to turn your guitar into a bass, vital for one-man-band playing. Boss, well aware that looping is no longer the sole realm of guitarists, has also included a few vocal effects to make you sound more masculine, feminine or even robotic. Each of these effects can also be altered to your liking. To see what you can do with just your voice and a loop station, check out the artist Dub FX.
The RC-300′s expression pedal makes altering the main value of your effects possible on the fly. For example, if you have delay activated, you can switch on the effect by pressing the expression pedal, and switch it off by bringing it up. So if you want one particular lick to echo and nothing else, you can do that. This not only means you can choose when the effect is active, you can also bring it in gradually during a performance if you like.
The effects on the RC-300 Loop Station can also be set up for use with any of the three available tracks. This means that if you want a delay on your vocals and not on the guitar, you can assign the effect to the vocal track. When you activate the effect, it will only be applied to the specified track. Depending on how you split up tracks for your songs, you can add wild pitch bends to a lead part without affecting the rhythm. You can also apply the effects to all tracks, if you prefer.
Jamming with the Loop Station
The RC-300 Loop Station comes stocked with a full complement of rhythm backing tracks. To give you an idea of the variety, there are 23 available rhythmic backings available for 4/4 time, including rock, funk, swing, R & B and conga and maracas. Because 4/4 timing is so common, this is the largest selection. There are also 17 different time signatures, however, each with close to 10 rhythm backing tracks. Boss therefore caters to people wanting to record in unusual time signatures like 13/8 or 5/4. To include a rhythm backing, you have to tap out or select a tempo prior to recording, and set the time signature whenever you are diverting from a 4/4 rhythm. The range of different backing tracks means you always have several options, regardless of the time signature.
The inclusion of 3 tracks on the RC-300 Loop Station has prompted Boss to improve the already impressive time synchronization features. In addition to ensuring that your overdubs stay in time with the original recordings, the unit can also make sure your 3 tracks fit together properly. The RC-300 arranges your 3 tracks so that they all start at the same time as the longest track, and ensures they all sync up properly. Anybody experienced in looping will know that keeping one track in time without assistance can be difficult, so having three tracks only compounds the issue. If you are an expert, or an experimental musical nutcase, you can turn this function off. You can even have it on for two tracks and off for the third, if you like.
Even with all the improvements Boss has made over the RC-50, it’s still important to note the benefits of the loop station’s basic functions. For example, the “Undo/Redo” function is a life-saver when you make a live mistake, and can also be used to bring new elements of a track in or take them out at will. The three available stop modes (immediate, end of the current loop and fade) mean that you can choose how to finish your track. Reverse play is useful for anybody looking to create strange audio effects or trying to encode satanic messages into their tracks. There are so many new functions that these can’t all be discussed in detail, but they all provide different options and benefits to the looper.
The actual operation of the pedal can be done largely hands-free. It is possible to create a three track loop with multiple overdubs on each only using the foot pedals. This is obviously a massive advantage for live players, and the ability to bring in and take out different tracks at will makes the RC-300 Loop Station suitable for complex, hands-free composition. Furthermore, with a little setup beforehand, you can assign an effect to each track and bring it in with the expression pedal.
Despite the multitude of pedals on the unit, some things still require your fingers to operate. Setting an effect to a specific track requires using the track’s designated “Edit” function, and the faders for each can only be operated by hand (unless you have very nimble feet). Essentially, more complex tasks must be done by hand, such as selecting a specific rhythm track and setting time signature. Thankfully, the options that require you to stoop over and operate the control panel can all be set prior to a performance or between songs. Although this will result in some silence, at least it isn’t mid-track.
Some minor problems still exist with the RC-300 Loop Station, but the spectacular array of features more than make up for them. Most players, for example, will have to edit the order of the “Record/Play/Overdub” pedal’s functions. From the factory, the first press will record, and the second goes straight to overdubbing. This can be changed so it goes to playback before overdubbing, but it is a somewhat annoying default setting because most players want to listen to the phrase back before adding overdubs. Likewise, there is an automatic fade in and out applied to the beginning and end of loops, which can clip some content right at the beginning and end of your recordings. This was included to reduce unwanted noise, but can be irritating in some cases.
Overall, the RC-300 Loop Station has everything a looper could really need. It can be used for complex compositions, seamless live performances, as a reliable practice tool, or to create your own distinctive brand of musical weirdness. The options for output mean that you can get a real full band sound, and the huge memory means that you can store more than enough data on it at once. The unit makes several improvements on the RC-50 Loop Station, and includes a more varied effects system than the JamMan Delay. Ultimately, this looper gives you a lot to play with and very little to complain about.
Boss RC-300 Loop Station Demo
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