Price paid: £ 100
Purchased from: eBay
Sound — 9
We have two in our band, one on the guitar and one on the bass. These are tied in via MIDI to a Roland Octapad which our drummer uses to sync the clock and beats from triggers on the kit via a humansync programme on a laptop. This means the slices can be kept in time with a human drummer and each other as none of us are machines and our timing might not be perfect live. The idea was originally I used some slicers on recordings to give a more syncopated dance feel to some of the rock tracks we play. It sounded good but we didn't want to just play all backing tracks or samples live, so we came up with this fairly roundabout way of doing it. Plus we sometimes use the slicers independently just to make a solo interesting or build a song piece. The Slicer has 5 banks of settings. 3 are simple on/off slicers but the final two banks are harmonic settings and build sort of cascading harmonies from your sliced inputs. This makes for some pretty good keyboard like sounds on a basic guitar or bass part and can be used for dubstep, drum n bass, electro styles. If you watched all the Boss videos on YouTube you'd think it could only do cheesy '80s disco drum Machine things, which goes to show most people will advertise a cool piece of equipment in the worst way possible. The effect is pretty obvious, though you can dial in more original signal and less sliced if you want. You can also record and play over sequences if you want and the pedal will recall them from the last power up. There's a useful pulse speed which glows red on the downbeat and flashes green on the other beats so you can sort your timing visually if needed. It also syncs through MIDI (as I mentioned with our set up). There are actually a lot of tweaks you can make considering the relatively few controls on the pedal. The only limit is really that there are 5 banks with 10 patterns per bank, so you can't write your own slice patterns but given you tweak these 50 or so sounds for ages, it's pretty moot unless you are trying to copy a very complex dance drum pattern that's already written. The only downside to the sound (might not be a downside, just something to be careful of) is when loud the percussive "beats" really Drive your speakers hard. Due to some musical physics that I don't really understand as I'm not very bright, the volume seems to leap up when slicing, especially on the bass rig and the first few times we were using it we nearly popped our bassists speakers. As long as you set up for this or use a PA line in instead, it shouldn't be a problem. And I guess most people complain when pedals are too quiet rather than too loud.
Overall Impression — 9
I play in an alternative/techno rock band. A lot of dancier elements from electronic music so it's really ideal to make chopped up beats and pulse sounds but without having to do everything with synths and samples. We can still play 3 people with regular instruments and play straight rock sounds but then do very synth styles with some pedals and triggers etc. This is a great pedal for just coming up with ideas too. You don't have to be into electronic music to like it, I'm sure it would have a place in any experimental sound you wanted. As most pedals these days are straightforward OD/Fuzz/Distortion, then your filters, then your modulators, then your delays and reverbs - it was nice to have a pedal that acts more like a computer based/keyboard based option. You can still plug in keyboards or computer synths as this is a stereo pedal and you can "slice" anything, but it's great to chop up a bass pattern and create a sudden syncopated drum effect that locks in with a real drummers bass drum and a triggered sound. If you think guitar is more about a clean signal chain, dynamics and one cable and a tube amp sound (which I love for a lot of stuff BTW) you probably wouldn't appreciate the slicer in any shape or form. But if you like the idea of messing with the electronic world but with your bass or guitar, and you'd rather have a Solid Metal pedal on your board rather than a ton of computer generated samples - this is a great "bridge" between those two worlds. I bought both of my slicers from eBay, so they were a lot cheaper but they've survived the previous owners and my bands life. They are tough and dependable but very tweakable and you'll definitely come up with songs that don't sound like the usual fare. True if you are a computer based producer and are used to being able to tweak every last parameter on a plug-in, this might seem limiting, but for a plug and play guitarist, it lets you do a lot of that computer based "expression" with your instrument and amp and a few rotary knobs and switches that you can tap tempo/record/overdub with your feet live. The MIDI function makes it ideal if you need to control it from another piece of kit and monitor it's timing. The only detraction I could make is that the really interesting sounds are in the two harmonic banks and once you've used them up, you can't really update or mod the pedal to offer more patterns. In an ideal world they could have offered a "user" bank and a software control via USB to programme your own beats into the thing (I don't know maybe somebody out there has done this somehow?) but it's a small quibble for a very clever pedal.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Boss pedals are generally little tanks. These dual pedals are obviously a bit easier to break because there's more bits on them, but they are the same sort of metal casings with tough controls and recessed input and outputs so nothing is likely to get beaten up. I've never had a problem with any Boss pedal, even really old ones from the '80s or '90s that have been second or third hand. These Slicers have performed perfectly and will probably last forever. We power them from the pedalboard generators so there's no batteries in so not sure what the life is like on batteries. I can Imagine it's not as good as the smaller Boss pedals since there is a lot more CPU in here and more lights and displays. I don't have backups, so if they failed I'd probably have to modify the songs using them pretty quickly or play something else. But they've never been a problem.
Ease of Use — 8
The SL-20 is one of the dual pedals in the Boss range. It's a slicer which effectively cuts up your signal into beats using different waveforms and ramps. It's pretty easy to get some interesting sounds out of it as the layout using knobs and switches is easier for some than using lots of menu displays. That makes it a lot more "plug and play" but there are still a lot of options to get it right. The manual is about the usual Boss standard - good for a basic "here's how to plug it in and not blow it up" but not awesome for explaining some of the more in-depth uses. But then I guess most people don't like sitting with manuals anyway, so don't blame them.