Price paid: A$ 450
Purchased from: New Zealand Rockshops
Ease of Use — 10
It is as easy as a stompbox to use. You can use the preset sound banks by simultaneously pressing the 2nd and 3rd foot switch. You will need separate (FS5 I think) foot switches to get through the banks unless you want to use the arrows keys near the LCD screen. You can also write your own patches, but I wouldn't bother as there is a noticeable delay when switching from one patch to the next.
I've never used the presets or the write function. I've always seen it as a collection of stompboxes. With that in mind, the manual was irrelevant. I can't speak for later models, but I never thought the point of the ME series was amp modelling and layers of menus. If you see one cheap or get given one, It will do everything you need.
Sound — 8
I've had mine since Nov 2004. Even after moving on to tube amps, single effects and such It's always been a vital part of my setup. It's best when put in front of an clean amp but will rob a little sustain from the distortion channels and mess with the reverb/delays. I currently use in in my bedroom with headphones which sounds pretty good. It's perfect for silent practice, travelling and when you require portability. I've used it in hotels, the back of a car plugged into a 12v socket and also for small gigs where I may need unusual effects for particular songs. It will also go directly into a PA systen which means I don't have to carry a spare amp to gigs.
To be honest, the modulation/delay/comp/reverb effects stand up really well today, especially run through an effects loop. The wah is a bit shrill, but the detuner is really good for Rage against the machine solos! As for the distortions, of course they are not as good as an amp, but through a clean channel, the scream and OD1 appeal to me the most. It's not a bit noisy or scratchy.
I would most recommend this to a beginner getting to know what effects they will use the most. It will make a 10w practice amp sound brilliant and it has all of the wonderful features listed above. The fact I still use it is testament to how good it is.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I'm still using it... 12 years later. The metal chassis is tough. The foot switches are very sturdy. I've even taken a toenail off catching it on the edge. I lost a knob 10 years ago and have put plenty of scratches/dents in it from busking. It has never missed a beat. Boss stuff is usually bulletproof. I wouldn't worry about buying a secondhand one. It'll probably outlive you. Of course I would use it without a backup. The flake finish has faded a bit and has chips in it, but all of the writing on it is as clear as the day i bought it.
Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing for 14 years and my playing tastes have changed from hair metal, fusion and funk R&B over the years. I've since bought amps and effects that reflect that. You can however, make a decent fist out of any sound you like, bar perhaps High gain metal. The MT2 distortion is very fizzy and buzzy. To get around this I used to use the RAT or GUV distortion with the PHASER effect with all knobs turned down. Try it!
Yes, I would get one again if it was stolen. I love the simplicity of it. Turn knobs and see what happens. I hate nothing about it, but a parametric EQ section would have made it a 10/10. Very small gripe. Also, it will chew batteries but I find the Toshiba regular batteries seem to last the longest.
My favourite feature is the input output section. You can stereo split into 2 amps, Use headphones, orplug into the aux with a phone/computer using the 3.5mm jack to run backing tracks through your amp/phones.
I researched this product for 9 months and got one off the first shipment into NZ. The COSM tech was new in '04 and blew away the ZOOM and DigiTech stuff. It was the stompbox style simplicity that got me as I was playing through a Laney 10w solid state amp at the time.