Hands-On Review:Boss BR-1180CD digital recording studio.
Recently, a musician friend of mine waxed nostalgic about his old four-track cassette deck. He said he missed the ease with which he could plug in his guitar, lay down some tunes and then move on to the next idea. In this age of computer-based hard disk recording, he lamented needing expensive gear and software?not to mention a Ph.D. in computer science?just to record a halfway decent demo.
What he didn’t seem to recall was the cassette multitrack’s horrible fidelity and its complete inability to maintain sonic integrity after more than one bounce. Tape hiss, limited tracks and zero editing features round out the list of the cassette multitrack’s failings.
Then again, those units were easy to use, and had a price that most struggling musicians could easily afford. Maybe my friend was onto something.
Boss seems to agree: the BR-1180CD Digital Recording Studio is easy to use and easy on the wallet. Moreover, it has the power and clarity inherent in digital audio.
The 1180CD boasts professional-grade features, including 80 tracks (10 tracks, each with eight virtual tracks), two simultaneous tracks of recording, two digital effects processors and amp simulation using Roland’s proprietary COSM system. And since there can never be enough bells and whistles, the BR-1180CD includes an icon-based interface that simplifies the production process, an internal rhythm arranger, nondestructive audio editing, a mastering tool kit, a CD-R/RW drive for creating final mixes or backing up data, and a chromatic tuner. Despite the unit’s small footprint, all functions?like transport controls, faders, shuttle wheels and various selection buttons?are ergonomically and intuitively grouped.
Best of all, the 1180CD boasts a 20GB hard drive that provides 200 minutes of mono recording. Or, to put it in more practical terms, you could build up to 40 tracks for a five-minute song, certainly more than enough for the average user.
Sound & Functionality
To test the 1180CD, I called on some friends for an impromptu recording session. After two hours of musical mayhem, we were happy to discover that although our song lacked quality, the recording didn’t. The internal arranger’s percussion had a satisfying whump and crack, while distorted guitar tracks sizzled like out-of-control fireworks. The BR-1180CD captured all the warmth and expression of acoustic guitar riffs, and vocals cut through with richness and clarity. The lush and organic effects?chorus, reverb and delay?didn’t suffer from any of the brittleness often associated with digital processors.
But audio quality isn’t the only area in which the Boss excels. Advanced editing features make for easy cut-and-paste production tricks, like moving a great guitar line from the first chorus to the second. And simple punch-in functions allow for surgical fixes, like repairing a missed note in an otherwise perfect solo.
Then again, sometimes you don’t know if a track is good or not until you’ve tried out other ideas first. Fortunately, the Boss’ “virtual” tracks (or V-tracks) let you record 80 tracks of audio, then play back the 10 best. By bouncing tracks, it’s easy to get all your ideas into your song. And digital bounces avoid the old problems of noise and audio degradation.
Build & Design
Though it’s made of mostly plastic, the 1180CD is built like a tank. The faders are solidly constructed, with none of the wobble found on cheaper devices. Buttons give off a satisfying click when you press them, and some?like the play button and most of the function buttons?illuminate. The large backlit display is a pleasure to work with. Thanks to various selectable parameters, the screen displays track levels, effects parameters, panning and EQ settings. Dedicated buttons allow you to call up a desired control, thus dispensing with annoying scrolling. As always, Boss’ documentation is clearly laid out and full of useful information.
The 1180CD isn’t perfect. With only two tracks available for recording at a time, elaborate drum miking would require the use of a submixer?and lengthy late-night jam sessions are pretty much out of the question. On the other hand, for demo tapes, or certain types of electronic music, this limitation isn’t such a big deal?the internal arranger is pretty flexible, and the built-in drum samples are realistic. Given that you can import sounds from Roland’s sound libraries, you can build rhythm tracks that sound almost as good as the real thing.
The Bottom Line
With an expansive hard drive, as well as great effects, a rhythm arranger, an intuitive interface and a CD-R/RW drive, the Boss BR-1180CD is a great all-in-one recording solution for the home demo producer or traveling musician.