ME-80 Guitar Multiple Effects review by Boss

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  • Ease of Use: 10
  • Sound: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.8 (8 votes)
Boss: ME-80 Guitar Multiple Effects
2

Price paid: $ 399

Purchased from: Online

Ease of Use — 10
After using a Boss ME-10 for probably 20 years, I finally decided to upgrade, and this is a good one.

PROs:

+1) After doing a ton of programming on the ME-10, with buttons, menus, and a data wheel, I now have a box with all the knobs laid out in front of me. If I ever need to tweak a sound, or come up with one from scratch, it's easier than ever; go to Manual, turn on the modules you want, set them to taste, and hit the WRITE button.

+2) Amp modeling section works great and provides a HUGE range of sounds; heavily weighted toward the rock/metal/distortion world, probably more than I will ever use, but it's great to have all those flavors available.

+3) All the other sections each provide a WIDE range of effects, with lots of variability so you can find exactly the sound you want. (3a Nice to have tremolo after all this time; 3b Besides the dedicated Delay module, 2 of the other modules also provide a basic delay, all usable at the same time, which is very handy to have)

+4) The on-board expression pedal is an excellent addition, after using the ME-10 where I had to buy and connect one externally.

+5) The FX connected to the control pedal are useful and fun; some I have not found a use for just yet, but give me time. Includes 8va up or down, FREEZE, and Wah, among others. When you're not using one of those, it functions as a volume pedal; excellent design!

+6) If you're using it where you don't want to string another AC adapter, it works on 6 AA batteries. Sweetwater/Boss informed me that battery life is about 7 hours with ordinary alkaline batteries, and my testing agrees. And since I use higher capacity rechargeable NiMH AA batteries, my battery life will probably be much better.

+7) The ability to switch to Manual and switch each of the FX individually is a HUGE PLUS.

+8) Built-in Tuner and Built-in 38 second looper; both are accessible with the onboard foot switches. ME-10 had a tuner, but I had to bend over or connect an external footswitch.

+9) INCREDIBLY REASONABLE PRICE. I recall my ME-10 costing almost double what this thing goes for.

CONs:

-1) The expression pedal is a bit small, so depending on the size of your foot (and shoe or boot), it may take some getting used to. I'm managing...

I think that's the worst CON I can think of, for me. Several people have told me they think the (FILL IN THE BLANK) "sounds better", but I have a hard time believing that there could be that much difference between the SOUND QUALITY of the various multi-FX boards (Zoom, Line 6, DigiTech, etc); I would not hesitate to use this box in any setting, recording or live. For me the choice came down to flexibility, variety of sounds, and ease of navigation, both when programming, and when playing.

Sound — 10
A lot of old-school guitarists will turn tail and run at the sight of a multi-effects unit. But multi-effect fear isn't altogether irrational, because, let's face it, a lot of multi-effect pedals and rack units are bears to work with, especially when time is short and you just want to plug in and play.

With the new ME-80, however, Boss clearly prioritized ease of use, and this surprisingly utilitarian, powerful, and portable unit is relatively simple to operate, a lot of fun, and great for home demo studios, small, informal gigs, and even unorthodox tinkerers who like the straightest possible line to the most possible sounds.

Tough, Easy to Toss Around

The ME-80 is built for moving from place to place fast, and while it's not super-light, it's sturdy as hell, with an almost entirely metal enclosure and chassis. Apart from the knobs and switches, there's very little plastic.

You can also power the ME-80 with six AA batteries, which means you can pick it up and move from room to room, or go from jamming through headphones in the kitchen to blasting through your amp - all with the uncomplicated glee of a kid toting around his battery-powered keyboard. If you're a busker, play pub gigs, or perform at the farmer's market, this kind of portability can be invaluable.

The addition of USB connectivity maximizes the creative potential of the ME-80 too. Once you've downloaded the ME-80 software, you can literally be writing a riff with the device in the backyard and capture the same sounds on your DAW up in your office a few minutes later.

Obviously, the ME-80 isn't the first multi-effect unit or modeler to deliver portability and connectivity. Devices like Line 6's POD and Boss' own GT-100 have similar capabilities, and the ranks of tablet- and smartphone-based guitar interfaces seem to grow daily. But the ME-80 offers an interface that's much more familiar and intuitive to the typical stompbox user, and arguably, a whole lot more fun to play with than other devices.

Reliability & Durability — 10
For starters, the ME-80's interface is basically a little hive of stompboxes. Each of the four footswitches closest to the guitarist is a bypass switch dedicated to one of four effects groups: compression and FX1 (which includes a ring modulator and acoustic simulator among others), overdrive and distortion, modulation, and delay (which also includes a looper). Three footswitches above and to the left of the four main effect switches activate a preamp simulation section, an EQ/FX2 section (which also includes a second phaser, delay, and looper), and a reverb control.

Each effects group has a dedicated set of knobs, including one that selects a specific amp or effect type. To the right of the footswitches, there's an expression pedal for operating pedal effects (wah, talk box, Whammy-style octave up and down functions, and more). You can also use the pedal as an expression pedal to control modulation rates and delay level. The two leftmost pedals in the top row also let you select presets when in "memory" mode, which is activated by the upper right switch. There's a raft of cool factory presets. But creating your own is a straightforward, three-step process.

Sound Horizons

The sounds inside the ME-80 range from really good to passable, depending on the effect or amp. Some voices, sounds, and effects - the "tweed" amp, the delays, and the tremolo effect - have a warm, organic quality and relatively natural dynamic response. Others - heavy phase settings, the ring mod, and most of the heavy distortions - more readily betray their digital roots.

The effects typically put function before freak-out potential: There's few deep, ambient space verbs and fractured delay sounds to be found here. Still, with a bit of tinkering and an adventurous spirit you can create a lot of unusual, recording-worthy textures, and the right pairings can make the ME-80 sound very lush.

Ratings

Pros:

Super portable. Tons of sounds. Easy to use. Nice sounding delays and modulation effects.

Cons:

Some effects and high-gain distortions have a digital edge.

Mating the rotary effect and the spacious and spacey "tera echo" delay along with a sustain-heavy compressor and a Vox-like combo-amp simulation generates an expansive, swirling, sci-fi/psychedelic tapestry. The "harmonist" (which can be set for thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths or an octave above and below) and a little boost and tape echo will make you sound like Duane and Dickey without the expense and hassle of a second guitarist.

There are some peculiarities to get used to on the ME-80. For one thing, you have to keep effect levels for modulation and delay effects uniform with OD and comp effects if you're using more than one effect. For example, if you're about to launch into the Uni-Vibe segment of raging Hendrix solo and the "uni-v" effect level is too low, you'll experience a highly anti-climatic signal cut for the whole effects chain rather than for just the selected effect level. This type of signal cut might makes sense when you're trying to keep a hot fuzz in check, but it makes less sense for other effects. The workaround is to create a preset. But if you prefer to play without them you have to be careful about effect balance.

The Verdict

The features covered here represent just a fraction of what the ME-80 can do. And while the ME-80 is not without limitations (most often these are fair tradeoffs for simplicity), it's a smart, streamlined way of getting a lot of sounds for very little dough.

Some sounds, like the delays, combo, and tweed amp voices are a real pleasure to use and have a relatively organic feel. Others - most notably the high-gain distortions - exhibit a more digital edge and lack the touch and reactivity of the genuine article. The unit definitely sounds best when paired with a tube amp with a neutral EQ setting. But cleaner sounds are effective with a good PA when you use the internal speaker simulator and dial up a sweetening EQ that massages highs and mids.

The real magic of the ME-80 is it's ability to deliver so many reasonably convincing sounds in a sturdy package you can power with a pack of AAs or DC adaptor. That means a wealth of possibilities for remote performance and production. If all you have is a set of headphones, you can practice anywhere. Hook the ME-80 up to a battery-powered amp and you can play for the rest of the world at any location - say, jams on a mountaintop - with all the functionality of a traditional, familiar pedalboard.

Overall Impression — 9
I love this thing. I originally purchased the Line 6 HD500X, but it took me two days to get a sound out of it. I was finally able to do that by putting the manual down and just started pushing buttons and twisting knobs. It came alive. Obviously, I didn't know what I was doing, but got overwhelmed and sent it back. I am sure the HD500X is a great piece of gear, and superior in some ways. But I found the Boss ME-80 to be easier to navigate. Got it working right away. I use it as an addition to the plug ins I have in Logic. It seems to get better sustain then the plug-ins. It gives me every thing I need: clean/dirty and the basic, most common effects one would here in music: wah, chorus, phase, flanger, reverb, some octave effects. The presets are pretty cool on their own but you can use manual mode to create your own. And I prefer a knob based setup over a menu driven setup. It is odd that it didn't come with a power adapter (sold separately for $30.00). Maybe the people at Boss feel some folks are ok with batteries and it allows them to keep the price of the unit at $300.00. Batteries might come in handy on gigs though. I am predominately a bassist who plays guitar for home recording, so I did not want to mess with stomp boxes. And truth be told, the average fan/club patron/audience attendee will never be able to tell the difference between a multiefects unit and stomp boxes. (My opinion) It's cool that you can connect via USB but I just plug it directly in to my Edirol Interface, on a Mac Tower, using both GarageBand and Logic. Overall: great purchase for the price. Just received a Boss ME-80 from Sweetwater on Saturday morning.

Use to own a GT-6 & GT-8... Hated them both... Not user friendly. Also owned a Boss ME-50 & I just gave it away to a friend. I was not expecting much outta this pedal... BOY WAS I WRONG! SUPER EASY TO USE & the tones sounds REALLY good. As usual if you really crank the Distortion tones, you start getting the "Digital" vibe. The Modulation & Delay tones are superb... THEY REALLY SOUND GOOD. I have not "built" any patches yet & I have yet to go to The Boss Tone Library. Currently just using it in the manual mode, I haven't even read the owners manual yet. Ran it into the front a 100 watt Marshall DSL... UN-FRIGGIN-BELIEVABLE!

The Compressed clean tones were superb & the Distortion tones was very robust. Gotta say this: I was not expecting much & this unit completely blew me away. The only bad thing: AC adapter was not included... EPIC FAIL for Boss. The adapter cost $25. If I'm spending $300 on a pedal, it damn well better have an AC adapter included. Besides that, this is an very powerful tool for any musician looking for cool tones on the fly. My advice... Buy the Boss ME-80 & prepare to be blown away! (it's that good)

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    mcarol
    These are going for $200 now on the used internet market places. Excellent deal, highly recommended. Having all the little knobs just like the real pedals, THAT is what makes this multi rock!
    10minc466609
    Just a quick question. I noticed that it has an audio input. I wanna know if I'm gonna be able to do to the following. Can I plug in my phone, play some music and use a headphone to play along and not disturb anyone? I mean, will the song's volume be loud enough? Basicly I wanna use it in my office to practice without bothering everyone else on lunch time.
    Panos94
    Yep, it has separate inputs/outputs for that, one Aux In and one Rec Out/Phones. Sorry for the late reply.