RC-3 Loop Station Review

manufacturer: Boss date: 01/21/2014 category: Guitar Effects
Boss: RC-3 Loop Station
Boss' successor to the hugely popular RC-2 offers a whole lot more in the same convenient compact format at a nice price. The RC-3 Loop Station is jam-packed with features, sounds fantastic, and is ready to loop until your mind melts.
 Ease of Use: 8.8
 Sound: 9.8
 Reliability & Durability: 9.3
 Overall Impression: 9.5
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overall: 9
RC-3 Loop Station Featured review by: UG Team, on january 21, 2014
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 199

Ease of Use: The RC-3 is an ambitious accomplishment that offers tons of features in a diminutive platform. There's a bit of a learning curve to mastering such functionality via limited controls, but operating the RC-3 Loop Station eases up with focus and practice.

On the surface, it's a standard Boss compact stompbox with a single footpad pedal switch, a dual-level Output knob for Rhythm and Loop levels, five buttons, a double-digit LED display, stereo 1/4" input and output jacks, and a Stop/Memory Shift input jack for an external footswitch (not included). Red and green lights indicate record and play modes. Both together signifies Overdub mode. Up and Down buttons under the LED display incrementally select phrase or accompaniment rhythms. Just to their right, Rhythm On/Off and Tap Tempo do the obvious. The Write/Delete button above them performs those functions.

On the top panel there is an Aux In mini jack handy for MP3 connectivity, a USB jack to import and export audio files from a computer (16-bit/44.1kHz WAV files up to 1.7GB), and a DC In jack for a Boss PSA adaptor (not included). A 9-volt battery is easily accessible via a thumbscrew in the usual Boss spot under the footpad.

Of course, the footpad pedal switch is the focus as it controls all on-the-fly aspects of looping, unless you engage automatic recording. That cool feature starts recording the moment you begin playing your guitar, or as soon as you start a connected audio player. Count-in mode gives you one bar of rhythm before recording starts. Normal recording operation starts with a press of the pedal switch. Press it again to stop recording and start playback. At that point the RC-3 automatically enters overdub mode, so you can keep layering, or, press the pedal switch again to enter play mode. If at any point you want to undo an overdub, press and hold the pedal switch. When you're looped out, press the pedal switch twice to stop playback. Press and hold it to clear. Assigning all that functionality to one footswitch is the inherent drawback of looping on a compact pedal. Make an operational mistake, and things can get, well, loopy.

Boss offers a solution on the RC-3 via the Stop/Memory Shift input. I'd recommend performers purchase a Boss FS-5U external footswitch or a Boss FS-6 dual external footswitch to stop loops because double-clicking the onboard pedal switch while you're actively playing a rhythmic part can be challenging. I'd also put forth the proposition that the expanding the RC-3's functionality via an external footswitch is actually an advantage over larger loopers because you can snake an external footswitch around your performance area until you find just the right nook or cranny to position it for optimal operation, rather than being stuck with a twin or larger sized pedal on your board or in your space that isn't as flexible. I didn't have either of the recommended Boss footswitches onhand, but I did have a little footswitch around that worked for setting tap tempo and clearing loops. If I had the FS-6 or two FS-5Us, I would have been able to stop a loop via a single click on one pedal, and use the other to scroll up and down through the RC-3's 99 memory slots instead of having to bend over and do it by hand. // 8

Sound: The RC-3 sounds sweet. I played lots of loops stacked with significant but not silly numbers of overdubs, and to my ears I got accurate replications of whatever I fed the machine. I had a blast firing up a funky "Moves Like Jagger" style riff layered with multiple overdubs that sounded as a clean as a digital multi-track recording.

The RC-3's onboard Rhythm Guide offers ten "real drum" sounds ranging from a simple hi hat cymbal click track, to four-on-the-floor house beats and Latin percussion rhythms. I found the tones and grooves to be serviceable, although I don't think Questlove needs to worry about losing any work. It was nice to have independent control of the rhythm track's volume because I preferred it in the background. I appreciated being able to tap out the tempo of a loop ahead of time, and it was cool to adjust the tempo of a saved loop without affecting its pitch. The tone stayed solid as long as I kept within a reasonable range of original tempo. I was really knocked out about how the RC-3 automatically "understood" the loop tempos I fed it from a Godin Montreal Premiere and into a 1983 Fender Super Champ. It was awesome to play whatever I wanted first and then fool around with the rhythm track accompaniment.

Things got really interesting when I started experimenting with the RC-3's stereo capability. Obviously you can input a stereo signal via instrument or imported audio file and the RC-3 will shoot it out that way to a pair of guitar amps, or whatever combination of amp or PA speakers you prefer. But what I found extraordinary was the Loop Station's flexibility handling two mono signals independently. I chunked out a staccato guitar groove via Input A and Output A into the Champ, and then pumped out a deep foundation on a Squire 5-string bass through Input B and Output B into an MXR Bass D/I+ and a QSC K10 powered speaker. Each mono loop stayed on its own path, which was like having two independent loopers. Excited, I saved that and then placed a Boss TU-3 Stage Tuner at the end of each signal chain. Then I was able to mute either signal via the Stage Tuner, which essentially gave me independent on/off control of the two mono loop "mixes." Next I unplugged the bass and tried adding vocals through that chain. I sent the signal from a Sennheiser e835 Evolution Series microphone through an XLR cable and a 1/4" adaptor into Input B on the RC-3, and it sounded great. Finally, I turned on the rhythm sound and settled on the concrete Rock 1 beat. The rhythm emanated in stereo through both outputs. I had expanded my sound into a full-blown band! // 10

Reliability & Durability: The RC-3 never malfunctioned while I tested it. I ran it using a 9-volt battery. The RC-3's durability appeared to be on par with Boss' other digital stomboxes, but the RC-3 offers far more features than most, which would logically equate to more possible malfunctions. I'd treat it with a little more tender loving care than the average stompbox. // 9

Overall Impression: The looper is perhaps the most exhilarating stompbox innovation of modern times, and the RC-3 Loop Station represents a giant loop forward for the compact class. For loop enthusiasts, the crux of a purchase always comes down to how much a given pedal can do well at a given size and price. The RC-3 is outstanding under such scrutiny. Boss has been pushing phrase sampling boundaries for many years, and the venerable manufacturer keeps learning how to incorporate features formerly found in its larger looping pedals into a compact platform. The RC-3 is an incredibly powerful practice tool for all skill levels. Players wishing to integrate loops with their bands onstage or in the studio might want to look into larger loopers including Boss' twin-sized RC-30 Loop Station and the big daddy RC-300 Loop Station. Those looking to simply throw down a loop here or there might find even the little RC-3 to be more than they require. Everyone in the middle including solo performers should take a serious look and listen to the RC-3 Loop Station. What Boss has rocking in a compact pedal that sells for around a couple bills is pretty mindblowing. // 9

- Jimmy Leslie (c) 2014

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overall: 9
RC-3 Loop Station Reviewed by: callumbobharley, on august 12, 2013
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: C$ 200

Purchased from: Long & McQuade

Ease of Use: The RC-3 Loop Station or "looper" is fairly easy to use, but if you fancy smoother and more precise loops, I suggest you also get a dual latched footswitch by Boss (approx. $20 CAD). That way, you will be able to utilize the pedal much more easier. Now, when I went to the Boss website, there was a firmware update for the pedal, so I figured I would download it and put it on the pedal. Let me just say that doing so is easier said than done! I had to scavenge my house for a USB 3.0 "B" male to USB 3.0 "A" male cable so that I could connect the pedal to my computer because Boss did not provide one in the box. For $200, I think that they could have thrown in a cheap cable. Please note that you will also need the cable mentioned above to transfer WAV files to and from the pedal. On the plus side, I found that the manual in the box was quite helpful for learning how to operate the pedal. Also, if you have two instruments that you want to play out of one amplifier, you can plug both of them into the loop station via Input A and Input B and use Output A to send the sound to one amp. If you have two amplifiers, you can do the same, but output the sound to both amps via Output A and Output B. In both situations, both instruments can utilize the loop station, so long as they are plugged into either Input A or Input B. All that sounds great, but I should mention that the Boss RC-3 is loaded with 99 spots in which you can save your most cherished loops! Boss decided to fill spots 90-99 with their own loop tracks, but you can erase those and any other data on the pedal very easily. NOTE: There is no XLR inputs or outputs. The inputs and outputs are the following: IN-x2, OUT-x2, FOOTSWITCH-x1. The pedal is powered via a 9v battery or a 9v adapter. I recommend getting an adapter for this pedal, unless you enjoy swimming through a house of empty 9v batteries. Another upside of using a 9v adapter is that you don't have to worry about the pedal shutting down during a gig or jam session. Please also note that this pedal, like every other, does not come with a 9v adapter. // 8

Sound: You can use almost any instrument with this pedal, as long as it has a 1/4 inch output. Sometimes I even use an electric keyboard with the pedal. I simply get a 3.5 mm cable and plug one end into the headphone out of the keyboard and plug the other end into a 1/4 inch adapter and then into the pedal. I have not noticed ANY loss of tone due to this pedal. It's the most quiet pedal I have in my arsenal. There are no effects that come with this pedal, but I wouldn't expect any. However, this pedal does have 10 different drum tracks that coincide with the tap tempo button and can be turned of at will by pressing a simple button. This piece of gear does not improve your sound per se, but it is a very useful tool for practicing, jamming and has led to the birth of several ideas that have led to full-fledged songs. If you are using more than one pedal, make sure that the Boss RC-3, or any looper for that matter, is at the end of your signal chain (farthest from your instrument and closest to your amp). // 10

Reliability & Durability: First of all, I would only use this pedal at a gig if I had a separate 9v adapter for the pedal. It would be very embarrassing if, all of a sudden, your loop stops and you have to cut your song a few minutes short. Speaking of gigs, I have never and will never EVER use this pedal when I'm playing with a percussionist. I say percussionist and not drummer because I would never use it with any percussion instrument. Period! Whether it be a tambourine, a triangle or bongos, you just can't use a pedal like this with a percussionist because the pedal is always on the beat according to the loop you set and drummers can and will slow down and/or speed up unintentionally because they're not perfect - no one is! However, as far as staying on the beat, this pedal IS perfect. Trust me on this one, you do not want to bring your looper to a gig with a drummer. To be honest, I rarely use this pedal at gigs, unless there is just me and one or two other guitarists. That said, if you are playing a gig with guitarists and/or a bass player, this pedal is great for really jamming on stage. Numerous times, my friend and I have just wailed on the E pentatonic scale while the Boss RC-3 loops a classic 12-bar blues progression. // 9

Overall Impression: Whether you play blues, rock, jazz, metal or country, this pedal will be an amazing tool for you to use while practicing and jamming with other guitarists or bassists. The pedal is fine on it's own, but if you ever use it on stage, I definitely recommend that you get the Boss latched dual footswitch to make your looping and whatnot much smoother. The thing I love the most about this pedal is that there are 99 slots for you to save your loops, so there is no space issue whatsoever! Compared to any other loop pedal on the market, whether it be the DigiTech Jam Man or the Vox 'Lil Looper this pedal beats them all. I've had conversations with people who say that the T.C. Electronic Ditto Looper is much better than the Boss RC-3 Loop Station simply because it's cheaper. That may be, but the RC-3 has 10 different drum tracks that coincide with the tap tempo button on the device. Oh, and did I mention the 99 different slots on the pedal where you can save your loops? The Ditto Looper has none of that, which makes it a very expensive pedal for what it does. I use this pedal mainly for "sketching" song ideas and jamming alone and with friends. // 9

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overall: 9.8
RC-3 Loop Station Reviewed by: unregistered, on february 14, 2013
1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 170

Purchased from: Internet

Ease of Use: The RC-3 Loop Station is an incredible deal. It has 3 hours of recording memory for up to 99 loops with 2 input/output options that (providing you mix well and have a good microphone) works really well for looping vocals and guitar at the same time. Even if you just do 1 or the other, the pedal is effective and easy to figure out. You should probably buy a DC converter so you don't have to waste batteries all the time, but if you buy a 1 spot (which I did) you'll have no issues whatsoever. The only problem is that you have to hit the switch twice in order to stop the loop from playing. I overcame this annoyance by hooking it to a kill switch so I only have to hit a switch once to stop the loops. // 10

Sound: The sound quality is great and easy to manage. There is a dial for the playback sound level and the new sound you're adding or playing over the loops. Once you mess with how you want those levels to sound, the quality is great. It sounds great through guitar amps or PAs and is really easy to alter and mess with to figure out how you want everything to sound. If you want to use a microphone for vocal looping, you just have to turn the volume on the mic up more and find a way to avoid static, but with the right mic and cable you can make it sound really good and it'll go great with guitar looping as well. // 9

Reliability & Durability: Boss makes a bada-s product. The thing is tough and durable and if you break it I'll be impressed. There's no outstanding limbs that will easily snap off, and the metal frame holds the thing together just fine. I've dropped mine on concrete and it doesn't even have a scratch. If you like the durability of any of the Boss pedals, this one will hold up. It's small, light, but tough and hard to mess up. I have and will continue to use this pedal in gigs without a backup. It is completely dependable. // 10

Overall Impression: I play acoustic music mostly. Sometimes I play with a backup band, and I don't really recommend it for that because it's hard to get timing down perfectly with everyone in your band when the loops will remain at the same tempo no matter what. For solo acoustic or other solo performances, it's great. You can manage the sound well and everything works great. I've used it to fill up the empty spaces in my acoustic songs so that it gives me a fuller sound as a whole. For that purpose, it's incredible. // 10

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overall: 9.5
RC-3 Loop Station Reviewed by: therobert, on february 27, 2013
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 199

Purchased from: Advance Music Burlington Vermont

Ease of Use: This is a very easy to use and easy to make work little box. After reading the manual a couple of times, it was easy to change things such as bpm, count in, drum settings etc. Getting use to the double tap is hard but I read that you can buy an external foot switch for it that would make it easier. It is real simple to add presets and delete them. Sometimes, the two letter prompts like Er(error) and stuff like that are hard to comprehend so KEEP THE MANUAL if you get one. It is easy to connect it to the computer and back up files or send a loop to friends so all in all, it is pretty easy to use. // 9

Sound: I play this through a Stratocaster or an Epiphone SG going through a Marshall or a Fender G-DEC. I usually play it dry but sometimes I will use a Boss B-D 2 (by the way, wonderful). Even WHEN I am not setting loops, I plug it in. It does not distort my sound at all which is nice and there is no lack of volume. I like to play blues so it is fun to upload jam tracks from online or play them my self and then just solo. It does not create any sort of buzz or hum or any bad noise that we do not want. // 10

Reliability & Durability: Like any Boss products, (have a reputation for being durable) in there metal boxes and high quality knobs which you would have to TRY to move them by kicking them, this is a VERY durable pedal. I have the slight felling That I could just kick it all day and nothing would happen to it. I would most definitely use it for a gig with no backup but I would want to have an extra full juice battery in it even with an adapter just in case I accidentally unplugged the adapter. It is most definitely reliable for anything. // 9

Overall Impression: I play blues and rock and this is a very good pedal to set backing tracks to jam to. Sometimes, I play it with my bass and it works really well. I have been playing for 4 years and this is a really good practice tool. I own a Vox multi effects, a Boss Blues Driver and a Cry Baby Multi Wah. I also have an Epiphone Dot, G400 Faded and a Strat. I sometimes play my Ibanez acoustic through it and it sounds good. I wish I had asked the guy at the store what to do with the mono and stereo inputs/outputs. It is a little confusing at first but I got the hang of it. I was looking at getting a JamMan Solo XT but this one looked superior. // 10

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