BOSS RC-30 Loop Station Review
As a guitar teacher, I highly recommend every guitarist buy a looper pedal. As I mentioned in the Must Have Guitar Pedals post, looper pedals are incredibly versatile devices that you will never grow out of. There are plenty of different looper pedals available so read through this review to get an idea of the features available in the Boss RC-30 Loop Station. Then after reading this review check out my Ultimate Guide to Looper Pedals to see alternatives and other features that you might want in a looper pedal.
RC-30 Loop Station Features
The BOSS RC-30 Loop Station can be thought of as the middle range looper pedal out of BOSS’ RC range. The RC-3 is a small single footswitch looper and the RC-300 is a massive full feature pedalboard with almost every possible feature you could imagine in a looper. The RC-30 finds a good middle ground between the two extremes and should suit a large range of guitarists. Here are the main features worth talking about:
Two pedal switches
The number of footswitches is very important for a looper pedal as it affects how easily you can control the loops while playing. For example, the BOSS RC-3 and the Ditto both have only one footswitch. This means to record, play, overdub, stop, etc. can only be accomplished with one switch.
As explained in the Ditto review, having one footswitch is fine for basic recording and overdubbing, but it limits more advanced uses of a looper pedal. With the RC-30’s two pedals, you have a lot more flexibility which makes this an excellent pedal when playing live.
For example, with the RC-30 the left pedal controls the recording/overdubbing/playback modes as well as undo and loop fx features. The right pedal allows you to stop playback or change the tempo or switch between different tracks. One of the complaints some people have with the Ditto is that it’s hard to stop the playback on time as it requires a double-tap on the switch. With the RC-30 you simply tap the right switch once. It’s hard to emphasize how useful a second footswitch is until you’ve tried a looper with only one footswitch.
It’s also possible to connect an external footswitch which can give you even greater control over different functions. So if at any point you feel limited by the two footswitches, you can connect an external one to give you more flexibility.
Twin Stereo Loops with Dedicated Volume Faders
This is a nice feature as you can use it for a traditional verse-chorus type song. The RC-30 allows you to create and layer two loops that can easily be switched back and forth during a live performance. As the RC-30 has stereo inputs and outputs, both loops can be in stereo. The two twin loops have individual volume faders so you can ensure both loops match in volume.
This feature means you could record one loop for one section of your song (eg: verse), then record another loop for another section (eg: chorus) then switch back and forth as you like during playback. It’s a feature that isn’t available on single pedal loopers.
Up to three hours of loops
There are 99 onboard memory phrases available to store your loops. The total memory allows up to three hours of recording which is huge. I can’t imagine ever needing that much time. You could even use this pedal as a way to quickly record any riff ideas you come up with and you wouldn’t need to worry about running out of memory.
Important: when the RC-30 was first released, there was an issue that caused a short delay when changing between phrases. The delay rendered the RC-30 useless for a lot of live performers. Fortunately, since then, a firmware update has corrected this issue. The USB connection allows you to update the firmware and I highly recommend you do so if you buy an RC-30 to avoid this issue.
The USB connection allows you to not only update the device’s firmware, but you can import and export your loops in WAV 44.1 kHz 16-bit stereo format. As the RC-30 doesn’t use an SD card it’s a good idea to use USB to backup your loops.
Some looper pedals have built in effects such as reverse and half-speed playback. The RC-30 actually doesn’t have either effect but has five different effects you probably wouldn’t expect on a looper: Bend Down, Step Phaser, Sweep Filter, Tempo Delay, Lo-Fi. Changing between effects is simple and you can even turn the effects on or off using your feet. Of course, you shouldn’t buy a looper pedal for the effects built in, but it’s a nice extra if you’re looking for something a little different for creativity purposes.
As mentioned the RC-30 allows stereo inputs and outputs so you can easily connect this to other stereo effect pedals to maintain a stereo signal. In addition to guitar input, you can connect a microphone from the XLR input. The RC-30 can provide phantom power to a microphone input which is a handy feature. There is a microphone level knob along with a peak indicator. There is an AUX in for MP3 players and an external footswitch. The footswitch input allows you to connect one or two footswitches to the RC-30 which greatly increases your control over your loops.
Having this option available means if you ever decide in the future you want to have more control over your loops, instead of buying a more expensive looper such as the RC-300, you can simply connect an extra footswitch to the RC-30.
The RC-30 has a built in rhythm library of ten different rhythm patterns. A dedicated knob allows you to control the rhythm’s volume and you can easily set the tempo with the tap button. Not only is this feature useful for jamming situations, but it helps you keep your loops in time. You can set between 4/4 or 3/4 time and there is also a count-in feature that will count out one measure before recording. Alternatively, the auto recording feature will start recording as soon as you start playing.
Ease of use
Like any pedal, as the complexity increases, there’s normally a bigger learning curve. The Ditto was incredibly easy to use as it only has a few basic features. As the BOSS RC-30 Loop Station has far more features, it is also more complicated. So keep this in mind if you buy it – it will take a little while to get used to it and to learn all the settings.
Now, most people hate hearing this but I recommend reading the manual if you buy the RC-30. Most of the complaints I’ve read were from people who didn’t understand that they can actually change some settings. For example, the default setting is: press the left pedal (1) to begin recording the loop, then press it again (2) to complete the loop. At this point, the pedal will automatically enter overdub mode which means it will continue to record your playing and overdub it over the original loop. To enter playback mode you need to press the left pedal again (3). To stop playback you hit the right pedal.
For many people, this switching order isn’t ideal because you probably don’t want to immediately go into overdub mode after you finish the first recording of the loop. A quick look at the manual reveals that you can change the switching order. The alternative option is (1) recording, (2) playback, (3) overdub. I highly recommend this switching order instead of the default option as it gives you more control over when to overdub over your loop.
After I changed the switching order it was really easy to start, overdub, undo, stop and any other function with the pedal switches. The rhythm count in was a great way to prepare myself for recording loops where I wanted the timing to be spot on. Having the rhythm guide was an excellent way to stay on tempo and generally a great jamming tool. Saving the loops to memory was simple.
I experimented with the twin loop abilities and found it surprisingly useful. You simply select one of the two tracks and record your loop, then select the other track and record in that track as well. Once you have both tracks saved for a memory slot, you can play either one back at a time using the right pedal (hold down for 2 secs) to switch between them or you can play both of them simultaneously (select both tracks by pressing both buttons at the same time).
The Ditto records 24-bit and by comparison the RC-30 records in 16-bit. So there is a big difference in the difference between the two but there’s a lot of debate over whether people can really hear the difference between 16 and 24-bit audio. So I’m going to sit that argument out and just say the RC-30 sounds fine to me and I didn’t feel at any point that the quality of the audio was less than the Ditto. As a side note, I’m always surprised when I hear guitarists complain about 16-bit pedals ruining their sound quality only to see they have some big dirty fuzz pedal or cheap pedal mashing up their tone.
The only point I was a bit disappointed with the sound was the effects. I’ve used other effects built into loopers such as reverse and half-speed and I always found them to be gimmicky. How often do you really want to play your loops in reverse? That’s why I was a bit happier to see different effects on the RC-30. The Bend Down effect has that gimmicky feel and the Step Phaser is something I’ll never ever use. On the other hand, I liked the Sweep Filter and the Tempo Delay because they sync up with the tempo of your loop. While the quality won’t compete against a standalone delay pedal or sweep filter, it’s handy if you want something different. The Lo-Fi effect could be useful at times but at no point was I blown away in the quality of the effects.
One point to keep in mind is the placement of your looper in your signal chain. For example, if you place it at the beginning of your signal chain then run a distortion pedal after it, of course it will sound fine when playing guitar, but when you turn on the Rhythm Guide, the rhythm will also be affected by the distortion and will sound rubbish. So consider your signal chain and if you plan on using the Rhythm Guide, make sure you have a relatively clean signal after the RC-30. For example, if you use your amp to get a dirty sound, you might want to place the RC-30 in the amp’s effects loop.
It’s a BOSS pedal. That means it has that tank like construction you would expect from a BOSS pedal. Of course, this also means you need to use the right BOSS power supply (PSA type) so keep that in mind. Alternatively, I highly recommend considering a power supply source such as the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus.
The only issue worth mentioning is that if the firmware of your unit hasn’t been updated to version 1.3 yet, you will experience a short silence when switching between phrases. You will see negative reviews complaining about this, but BOSS have fixed it in firmware 1.3 so update yours (current version is 1.4 as of the time of review).
While I love the simplicity of the Ditto, the RC-30 delivers a lot of great features the Ditto lacks. The twin loop feature brings looping to a new level as you can play around with two different loops on the fly. The Rhythm Guide is an excellent feature that I regularly use with my students and provides you with a great way to jam on your own and create perfectly timed loops (auto-quantized loops while rhythm is playing). I’m very impressed with the RC-30 and am very keen to try out the massive RC-300.
- Twin stereo loops give you much more flexibility compared to one loop
- Plenty of space to save loops
- Two pedals allow for easy use
- Switching between tracks on the fly isn’t ideal (having to hold down for 2 secs)
- Default switching (record, overdub, playback) isn’t the best choice (can be changed)
- A glitch will be present unless the unit is at firmware version 1.3 or higher
Who is it for?
Gigging musicians – I wouldn’t recommending gigging with a one footswitch looper such as the Ditto as it won’t give you the control you need in a live situation. Having the two pedal switches allows you to easily stop playback instantly as well as control changing between tracks. It’s not a massive monster like the RC-300 but it still contains great features
Who isn’t it for?
Beginners/Casual guitarists – if you only need something basic or cheap, the Ditto will suit you better. The RC-30 is quite expensive compared to the Ditto so you need to ask yourself what you want out of a looper pedal. Do you want to be able to save loops, switch between tracks on the fly, add effects and tweak other controls? Or do you just want to have a simple looping tool for jamming or practice? The RC-30 will still do everything you want, but if you only need something basic it’s a bit overkill.
How to get the most out of the RC-30 Loop Station
If you’re just starting out with looper pedals, check out this lesson for exercises and examples. These simple exercises will give you practice setting up a loop and ending it at the right time.
Once you feel confident setting up basic loops, you can start to experiment with recording chord progressions, riffs, melodies, etc.
Alternatives to the RC-30 Loop Station
There are plenty of looper pedals available and a wide range of features. My guide to the Best Looper Pedals gives a thorough look at alternatives and can help you decide what type of looper is best for you. Here are some other loopers to check out to give you an idea on the overall range of pedals available: