Compact pedal offers great introduction to looping
As far as pedal revolutions go, looping takes some beating. There are pedals of all shapes and sizes, which offer all kinds of added functionality and effects. Yet there has also been a wild simplification of the looper, which has resulted in pedals like the TC Electronic Ditto and this new pedal, the Boss RC-1.
Boss has previous here. Its famous RC-20 kickstarted things, offering guitarists a simple yet fully-featured way of dipping their toes into the world of looping. For some it became the best, most intuitive practice tool they’d ever used, enabling them to record their own backing tracks in real time before practicing their solos over the top. For others, it became the mainstay of experimental live-looping sets, where entire tunes could be devised and managed with just a few taps on the pedal.
As more and more musicians cottoned on to the sonic potential offered by the RC20, Boss stepped in with a smaller, more simplified version – the RC-2 – an expanded RC-20XL and a multitrack, MIDI controlled beast called the RC-50. These were wildly popular pedals, which were superseded by updated versions (RC-3, RC-30 and RC-300) which brought the tech further into the here and now with longer recording times and USB connectivity so you could either load samples/loops onto the pedal to play over, or take audio files off if you had created something usable for the studio.
Yet Boss decided, perhaps spurred on by the popularity of TC’s simple yet effective Ditto range, that there was still space at the very entry level of the market. As a result, we have the Boss RC-1, which takes out all the backing tracks, USB connections and otherwise and makes it a straight up, easy to use looper which even your nan could get the hang of. And all for a very tempting low price. Here’s our Boss RC-1 review to help show exactly what this exciting little box can do.
Built to last
The first thing you notice when you take it out the box is that, unlike the Ditto, it is the same size as any standard Boss compact. For some, the Ditto was just too small, and could easily be knocked or moved if it wasn’t gaffered down. The RC-1 overcomes that with Boss’ usual flair for sturdy design, giving you peace of mind that it won’t shatter if you get a bit too enthusiastic.
The front of the pedal takes simplification ever further, but with a neat trick up its sleeve which aces even its bigger brother, the RC-3. There’s just one knob, which controls the volume level of the recorded audio, and next to it is a rather cool LED ring, which serves two purposes. One is to let you know when you are recording, overdubbing or just playing along, and the other is that it features a novel countdown device whereby the lights effectively count down towards the end of the loop. This is superb for players who lose themselves in long ambient washes but then forget how long they’ve been recording the loop for… Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The clear red and green LEDs also lend themselves to the stage environment, where you’ll be able to see at a moment’s notice exactly where you are in the context of the wider loop.
In terms of connectivity, there are the same 1/4″ jack inputs and outputs as the RC-3. This means you can have mono/stereo inputs feeding the audio into the pedal, with mono/stereo outputs sending the signal out to the amp or PA. The mono output also acts as the power-on, meaning as long as you aren’t plugged into this when you’re not using it, then you won’t be drawing any power or wasting the battery. A third 1/4″ input allows you to connect an external footswitch to the pedal to control the stop and undo features. These can be controlled using just the main pedal, but you’ll enjoy greater control connecting the extra footswitch.
In total, the RC-1 can record up to 12 minutes of audio which doesn’t sound a lot, especially when you consider even your phone can carry north of 500 albums these days, but for these purposes it is fine. You see, that 12 minutes is broken down so you might lay down a simple chord structure which takes 30 seconds, then add some soloing, which adds another 30 seconds, leaving you 11 minutes to dub and overdub extra sounds to your heart’s content. Due to the fact you can’t store patches or phrases on the unit, it’s not meant for storing an entire live set’s worth of material. There are other units in the Boss range which serve that purpose extremely well, so consider this another tool altogether.
Audio quality is superb, as you’d expect from Boss, and the pedal runs off a single 9v battery if required making it a real option for buskers and open mic nights. You can also run it using a standard Boss 9v power supply, which isn’t included.
If you’re keen to explore the world of looping but haven’t wanted to commit to the ‘bigger’ pedals, the Boss RC-1 is the perfect opportunity for you. Consider it a gateway drug to stronger forms of looping. As a training ground to learn the basics, e.g. timing and structure, there aren’t many better options on the market.