Review: Boss RC-505 Loop Station
Now non-guitarists have a dedicated Loop Station – We take a look at the Boss RC-505
Musical history is littered with examples of gear being used in ways that it wasn’t intended, and changing the musical landscape as a result. Damaged amps and torn speaker cloths resulted in distorted guitar tones, the Roland TB-303 Bass Synth (intended as an accompaniment for guitarists and rejected because of it’s unrealistic sound and unusual sequencer) defined acid house and dance music for decades.
The Loop Station pedal was one such bit of gear. Though intended for use by guitarists, other musicians made it their own. Percussionists, vocalists, beatboxers and many other instrumentalists found the Looper inspirational.
Now, Roland has developed a device aimed purely at this type of user. Here, we take a look at the Boss RC-505…
Lights, (Camera), Action…?
The Boss RC-505 differs from previous Loop Station models in that it is not a stomp box-style design. Instead, the surprisingly compact unit is designed for use on a desktop. Footswitches are replaced with large, rubber, LED lit buttons, with individual track faders.
The construction of the RC-505 is more lightweight than the pedal-oriented predecessors, but still incredibly robust, upholding Roland’s impressive reputation for premium build quality. Buttons are solid but tactile, and faders have the kind of easy play and movement that DJs with a taste for cuts and fades will enjoy.
The front panel of the new Looper seems notably busier than previous models. When people see a control panel with lots of buttons and controls, there is a tendency to assume that it is complicated. In fact, the opposite is usually true. A lot of controls will typically mean that every function has a dedicated physical control. Compare this to something that has only a few buttons and a menu system- far more complicated….
Switching the unit on delivers the kind of light display that makes KITT from Knightrider seem like the uninspiring offspring of an old car and a cheap digital watch.
The strength of previous Loop Stations has always been their ease of use: Plug in, play, overdub, repeat- it really is that simple. I’m glad to report that the RC-505 is equally well designed, despite having 5 independent stereo tracks.
Each track has a play/ record button, stop button, edit button and also a fader. Several preset ‘phrase memories’ are included. These comprise a selection of pre-made loops and samples, designed to be used together with appropriate settings. These are an excellent way learn how to find your way around the unit.
Hitting the play button will start the loop playing. Hitting it again will change the LED from green to amber, and switch the track into record mode. A master tempo will keep things locked in time (should you wish), and loops can be set to synchronise to this, start in time or start immediately.
Like all loop Stations, the track will continue to loop and overdub whilst in record mode. Pressing the play button again switches back to play mode seamlessly.
Track lengths can be set in three ways:
- AUTO– This will set all lengths to the same value, which is set by the first track recorded with the ‘Auto’ setting.
- FREE – This is set by the length of the performers recording
- Specified (dictated by a note length symbol or bar number) – A user-set length that can be anything from a semi-quaver to many bars in length.
To ensure that you play or perform in time, a rhythm guide is featured. This is like a mini-drum machine, which plays drum patterns at the set master tempo.
In use, the Boss RC-505 is remarkably intuitive. Having only played around with the preset phrase memories for 10 minutes, or so, I was able to find my way around and was soon recording, overdubbing, and changing the settings of the available tracks. All without looking at the manual. Impressive stuff…
This intuitive design extends to the RC-505’s effects units. Three input effects and three track effects units feature. The input effects allow the performer to record through them, committing the effect to the resulting loop. The output effects can be switched on or off, according to taste. The current effect in use is dependent on the effect button highlighted.
One input and one track are available simultaneously. However, the three FX select buttons for each type (input or track) mean that speedy FX changes for live performances are a breeze.
Switching the effects on or off for a particular track is simple. Hit track FX button A, B or C, and the ‘edit’ buttons will most likely start to flash on some tracks. This indicates that the FX are switched for that track. Hit the edit button when it flashes to switch it off on that track. Large parameter control knobs above each of the FX units allow for hands on control of selected parameters (filter cutoff, delay wet/dry, etc). Very handy indeed…
The effects are all of premium quality, as we generally expect from Boss and Roland. It should be noted that this is an area that clearly indicates the RC-505 is not really pitched at guitarists.
Though packed with plenty of superb and interesting effects for performances (beat repeat, slicer, synth and more) along with familiar staples (reverb, chorus, delays), there are few guitar-specific effects. So, there are no guitar overdrives, or anything of that kind here (the very useful guitar-to-bass is as close as it gets). There is an instrument input, however, along with the phantom-powered microphone input.
For those working with vocals or other instruments, however, the RC-505 is a real joy to work with. In no time, you’ll be taking bits of recorded audio and warping them beyond all recognition.
With five tracks and up to 3hrs recording time, there’s plenty of power under the hood, too.
For many, the Boss RC-505 will be the product they’ve been waiting for. Now, they no longer have to compromise their performance because their gear was never really designed for how they choose to use it.
With superb construction, effects, and most of all, a user interface that is as intuitive as you’re likely to come across, Boss has scored itself another winner.
I haven’t time to mention features such as the ‘halo’ LEDs that sit around the play buttons, which can be assigned to play position, level or status for each track. Nor have I mentioned the USB connection, which can be used for backup or Audio/ MIDI connectivity.
What it all amounts to is a unit that provides all of the tools for live loop performers, with a design that invites them to express themselves with ease.
Buy the Boss RC-505 Loop Station online here. Alternatively, call our stores or customer service team (01925 582420) for more information.