The Boss RC-1 is the latest in the extensive range of Boss “Loop Stations”, and also the simplest: it sports one level knob (the level of the “looped material”) and an innovative loop visual display. An optional two pedal switch such as the FS-6 or FS-7 can be used to add “undo” and “stop” functions otherwise obtained by respectively pressing the main switch for two seconds and twice rapidly.
No multiple memory presets or USB interfaces, those are reserved for the more sophisticated Boss loopers (RC-3, RC-30, RC300, etc.). The RC-1 is designed to be simple and it’s a lot of fun. The audio quality is top notch and it is stereo. Without further ado, here is a little video I have recorded (the signal chain is stereo using my Marshall JMP-1 preamp):
TC Electronic has done it again! Last year, they brought to the world the concept of “Toneprints”: pedals that could be “reconfigured” to sound like other pedals by uploading new profiles from your computer. Then they improved on the system by allowing musicians to upload toneprints directly from their phone to their pedals through their guitar pickups.
I have reviewed and demoed the Flashback Delay and like a lot of other guys (and girls), it got me thinking about how this pedal could be even better. It seems TC Electronic has been thinking about it too and the result is the Flashback X4 which is like a Flashback Delay on steroids. It has absolutely killer tones and is packed with control options: 4 footswitches, MIDI input and thru to integrate into complex systems and expression pedal input to control several parameters.
It also comes with a lot of different delay modes and a few are new compared to the original Flashback: the 2290 + Modulation mode justifies the price of the pedal in itself, it’s properly amazing. There is also a Roland Space Echo simulation as well as a tube delay simulation, and others that I will list later. As always, I have prepared a video demo and without further ado, here it is:
Presets and 4 Toneprints
The Flashback X4 is fairly big, kind of like 4 Flashback delays put together. It comes with its own power supply but can also be powered by a regular BOSS style adapter. The Gator 8 supply that comes with my pedal board could power it without issues.
The X4 has got 5 big rotary knobs: Delay, Level, Feedback, Mode and Looper level. The first three are the usual suspects found in a delay pedal. The second one selects the mode while the last one is dedicated to the looper mode. A mini switch toggles between delay and looper mode. Before you ask, the delay can stay on when you switch to looper mode, and that’s really cool. Another toggle switch allows for straight repetitions, 8th or dotted eighth (A.K.A. the U2 delay). It’s got mono and stereo inputs and outputs but can operate in mono of course.
Foot switches and Control Options
The 4 foot switches have different functions whether the X4 is in delay mode or looper mode:
In delay mode the first three are for switching between different presets. To memorize the current delay settings into one of the three presets, just hold a footswitch down for a few seconds. Very handy to keep three of your favorite delay settings. The fourth switch is a Tap Tempo switch which will set the delay time according to how fast you tap on it.
In Looper mode, the first footswitch activates/deactivates the recording, the second one plays/pauses the current loop, the third one plays the current loop once and the fourth one acts as an undo/redo pedal for the last recording
Using the expression pedal input, you can control the delay time, feedback level or delay level. There is also a MIDI in and a MIDI thru, handy for tempo synchronization with other MIDI devices (or a sequencer) as well as preset selection.
Because TC is full of surprises, you will find two small switches (aka “dip” switches) if you remove the back-plate of the X4. You can use those to go from “Tru Bypass” to “Buffered Bypass” or even have no dry signal at all.
The Flashback X4 offers the following delay modes, each with its own “tone” profile:
Tape: a tape delay effect, really well done, you can hear the flutter of the tape
Tube: a tube based echo tone
Space: a Roland Space Echo simulation, ah reminds me of the 80s!
Analog: an analog delay simulation where repetitions are distinctively darker than the direct signal
Analog + modulation: same as the previous one but enhanced by some chorus-y modulation
Reverse: the classic “Hendrix” effect where the delayed signal is played backwards. It might sound like a gimmick but it is actually quite effective to get a thick tone (see my video demo above)
Dynamic: in this mode, the delay is only heard when you stop playing. The idea is that if you play a fast lick, you might not want the delay to interfere. It might seems strange but it can be really useful.
2290: no need to present what was TC’s flagship rack delay unit used by The Edge or Robben Ford. It’s very clean and digital (but in a good way)
2290 + mod: same as the previous one but enhanced by a gorgeous chorus, I absolutely love this mode
Slap: a mode dedicated to Slap Echos (or Slapback delays). It’s a short delay loved by country guitarists but also by early rock guitarists to fatten their tone. It’s still effective today and I love this mode too
Lofi: it’s a mode where the repetitions are really dirty if this is your kind of thing.
4 toneprints: there are four toneprint settings for which you can download “profiles” through your phone or from the TC Electronic Website.
The looper mode is highly effective thanks to the four footswitches. Press the left one and recording begins, press again and what you have just recorded will start looping. You can press again (and again) on “record” to layer recordings. It you don’t like your last recording, just press the fourth footswitch in order to undo it.
The second switch will stop the loop and let it resume whereas the third switch will play the loop just once (quite handy to do a nice ending for instance).
All about tone
What struck me when I plugged the X4 is the sound quality: it is outstanding. Not just “clean digital” in a cold way but really hi-fi in a good way. It totally respects the tone of your guitar and your amp, adding a beautiful effect to it. To me, the control capabilities, the presets or the four footswitches are really cool bonuses but really, the tones coming out of this delay are enough to justify owning it. DId I mention I could play with the 2290+Mod for ever?
So what’s next for TC Electronic? I don’t know but it sure will be exciting!
I had wanted a looper for a while so when my girlfriend took me on a tour of Sydney’s guitar stores to pick my own birthday gift, I thought the brand new Boss RC-30 fit the bill nicely. Here is a review featuring the obligatory video demos of this great little machine.
Housed in the same red twin pedal case at its predecessor the RC-20, the RC-30 improves in most areas:
Longer recording time, 3h in total (it was apparently about 15 min on the RC-20)
USB port to copy loops in as well as out of the RC-30 (in 16 bit, 44.1 kHz Wave format)
99 memory presets to store your loops and recall them at will
Two independent recording tracks boasting each its own volume slider
Effects: those are not “traditional” effects such as reverb and delays but are more “crazy DJ” types of effects such as step phaser, lo-fi or tempo delay. My favorite is “Bend Down” which is a bit of a mad whammy all the way down effect. It is featured in several of the videos accompanying this post
The RC-30 is stereo all the way with 2 input and 2 output jacks. An extra XLR input with phantom power makes it even more versatile as it can accept pretty much any microphone. So the RC-30 is not only for guitarists but pretty much for any musician or vocalist.
Note that Boss also offers the RC-3, a single switch compact pedal looper which does not have all the bells and whistles of the RC-30 (one track, no effects, no XLR input) but keeps the 99 memory phrases and the USB port.
The most basic use of the RC-30 is as follows:
Place it at the end of your effect chain or in the loop of your amp. You could of course place it in the middle of your effect chain but the effects placed after will then not be part of the recordings.
Hit the left pedal once to start recording
Hit the left pedal again to stop recording
At this stage the RC-30 plays your recording in a loop and is placed in overdub mode which means anything you play will be recorded on top on that first recording. The number of layers is only limited by the memory (3h total!).
To get out of overdub mode, you have to press the left pedal again. What you have recorded so far will keep on looping so that you can play on top of it but nothing will be recorded anymore.
If you want to go past this basic ‘looper’ use, you’ll have to know that each footswitch has three functions depending on wether you press it once, twice rapidly or hold it for 2 seconds. The RC-30 can be complimented by an external FS-5U or FS-6U footswitch. In the latter case, the two extra switches give you another 6 functions. So that’s a total of twelve!
The built-in footswitches cover the basics: recording, overdubbing, activation of effects, playing, stopping. The FS-6U facilitates some of those but its purchase is in my opinion justified by its ability to go up or down the 99 memory phrases. You can store say a verse and a chorus in two of the 99 memory phrases and go from one to the other by holding each of the footswitches of the FS-6U. I was a bit disappointed this functionnality was not available on the RC-30 itself.
Here is a video where I try to show a bit of the RC-30 “footwork” (I had not owned the machine for long at this stage and you can see I get a bit confused by all those switches towards the end):
Tempo and built-in rythm guide
When you use the “basic” looping mode, the beginning and the end of your first loop are determined by when you press the recording switch. In this case, the “tempo” is defined by the length of the loop.
You can decide instead to use one of the integrated “rhythm guides” which are basic drum patterns. There are only 10 to choose from so it is definitely not a full fledge drum machine, think of it more as a metronome. When the rythm guide is activated, the looping will follow its tempo. The right pedal of the RC-30 can be used to “tap” the tempo as I show in my first video.
Heaps of fun
If you don’t already have a looper, let me tell you, it is a lot of fun. It is a great tool for practicing your timing and improvisation, just record a bunch of chords and play over them. It is also a great songwriting tool as you don’t always need to fire up your super duper complicated recording software to work on some ideas. Finally, it can be a great gigging partner.
It’s hard to fault the RC-30, the audio quality is definitely top notch and it is very responsive. It is more complicated to use than a 3 knob distortion pedal but it is also a lot more sophisticated. The footwork does take some time to get used to but it is worth it in the end. Last piece of advice, don’t hesitate to read the manual, it will get you up to speed quicker than by just experimenting.
To conclude, here are another two videos, the first one is a grungy improv on a famous set of chords…
…and the second one is more atmospheric:
(UPDATED: this is a new version of this video with a less muffled overall sound)
The chain used for the videos was: 1978 Telecaster (stock pickups) -> Morley Pro Wah -> Analogman TS9 -> Pro Co RAT 2 -> Boss LS-2 used as clean boost -> Boss CH-1 -> TC Electronic Flashback Delay -> Marshall JMP-1 set very clean with a Monte Allum modded Boss CS-3 compressor in the FX loop -> straight into a Boss Micro-BR recorder. I have used some of the recorder’s reverb.