Purchased from: Gamlins Music Center, Cardiff
Sound — 8
I usually plug either a Fender Strat-o-ma-caster via a wah pedal into the ME-50. This then goes out to TWO amps (Marshall, of course) which allows panning and rotary effects to be use effectively. The guitar you use, however, is of no consequence, since compression, noise supression and tone modification can give you practicaly any tone you require. A cheap acoustic, if well mic'd up can sound like a Les Paul. The effects on the ME-50 are substantial to ay the least. Taking the Distortion section as an example, 11 tried and tested workhorses of the distortion world (including 5 Boss pedals, the Big Muff Pi and Marshall tube amp style distortion) are available. These individual effects can then be altered through the tone and bass controls and then just turn them up to get the desired effect. Any kind of distortion can be created using this unit. Delay is comprehensive and allows numerous layering possibilities. The expression pedal can create many interesting sounds and includes two different Wah sounds and a bizzare effect called a Ring-modulator. I can also be used as an Octave or Volume pedal. However it cannot be all of these at the same time, so you need to make a choice... Modulation includes Chorus, Phaser and Flanger, as well as panning, which fades the signal from left to right. This is most useful with two amplifiers as the sound fades from one channel to the other, rather than traditional sweeping volume controls. The only real problem arises if you want to use both Phaser and Chorus for example, which is not possible. In short, any sound can be created using this device. Any artist's sound can be replicated and you don't have to spend hours programming the damn thing. I'm only giving the unit 4 in this section because on occasion, people may want to use two efefcts at once which they cannot, although this almost never happens and so what I really mean is 4.75.
Overall Impression — 8
If, like me, you like to play many different styles, the ME-50 can provide many different sounds and without buying many different boxes. The tone is completely editable in every way and so there is no real need to extraneous boxes. I compared this unit, before I bought it, to many DigiTech, Boss and Zoom units and this is the only device I could plug into and get good sounds from straight away. It's very easy to use which is why I chose it over any other Multi-effects unit. Within hours I had the memory system sussed out and had the bass, clean and Overdrive sounds from Seven Nation Army stored and was playing the song over, and over, and over, and... That all said, there are a few problems with the ME-50. The Reverb is a little lacking and I feel the unit would benefit from a 2-digit display to more clearly show, for example, what note you are playing when using the tuner. Also, the lack of an included power supply seems a little cheeky as this purchase made my wallet look like it had been on slim-fast. However, although it has it's shortcomings, the Boss ME-50 is definately the most comprehensive, yet uncomplicated Multi-effects unit I have ever used. Oh, yeah. I wish it came in more colours...
Reliability & Durability — 10
I would not expect this sturdy unit to ever be substantially damaged and I am happy to jump all over it without fearing it not working the next day. It is the imoveable object to my size-11's (UK sizes, mind) irresistable force. I have also never experienced any power failures due to pulling out the cord, as a thoughtful hook holds the cable in place. Batteries or a power supply are required and a power supply is not included which lets the unit down slightly but they are easily acquired. This unit practically sings, "Stand by Me" it's so damn dependable.
Ease of Use — 10
Multi-effects units scare me. I can never get a good sound from them and the batteries always die when I finally do, so I have to start building up my tone from scratch which can take a fair amount of time. Seperate stompboxes have the advantage of being able to show you how they are set up through the position of the dials and so the Boss ME-50 also has a total of 20 dials which allow your tone to be created quickly and effortlessly. Effectively, what you are left with is a chain of about 8 stomp-boxes. Tone Modify, Compression, Noise Supression and Reverb are all available along the top of the unit. Below, the three stomp-box style switches control the seperate Distortion, Modulation and Delay. Finally, and expresion pedal provides Wah, Octave and Volume services depending on how you set the associated dial. The manual is very efficient and can teach how to use extraneous features such as the tuner easily and also explains how to save your patches in straight-forward English. The ME-50 can be used in conjunction with two Boss footswitches which allow the user to change between different memory banks much faster. The memory system can perform very well without these devices. The ten banks can store 3 patches each so you can store three different sounds in a bank and then switch between those three sounds within that song. If there are more than three tones required for a particular song, then things get a little more complicated, and you would need to press either the small black buttons or buy an aditional footswitch. Oh, and the tuner is easy to activate by standing on the Distortion and Modulation pedals simultaneously. The sound cuts out and you can tune without anyone noticing... nice feature.