Hands-On Review:Boss BR-1200CD Digital Studio
Boss BR-1200CD Digital Studio
Idea + BR-1200CD = Finished CD
By Mark Dunaway
I think Boss needs a new slogan. I’m not sure whether they presently have a slogan, but it should be, "Less tweaking, more playing." That slogan could adorn any of the previous Boss products I’ve had the pleasure of using, and it definitely applies to the BR-1200CD. It has all the professional features you’d expect of a Boss product, yet operates in an easy and intuitive way. That often means the manufacturer skimped on features to make it easier for technophobes. The BR-1200CD bucks that trend. It’s for those of us who get more excited about writing songs and playing gigs than poring over the new product section of Home Recording.
The BR-1200CD is a true digital studio. It can turn your demos into radio-quality CDs with its hefty composition and mastering tools and CD burner. Plus the CD burner is great for archiving tracks for remixing or editing later. The BR-1200CD boasts more features than similar units while the straightforward design lets you get busy recording without much fuss.
Ins and outs
One of the biggest improvements this Boss unit has over its predecessors is the I/O. It has two stereo channels with XLR inputs attached to nice preamps, TRS inputs, and the ability to record both channels at once. There’s also a Hi-Z jack for recording guitar and bass direct. I like the fact that I didn’t have to unplug my microphones from the XLRs to use the TRS or Hi-Z jacks. The Hi-Z runs through channel one, and disables the XLR when you plug in. Plugging into the TRS jacks automatically defeats the XLRs in favor of the TRS inputs. And the 48V phantom power on both channels is handy when using condenser mics for acoustic tracks and vocals.
Boss set up the signal flow in a way that’s not intimidating, with knobs and buttons instead of layers of menu screens. The input select buttons tailor the preamp response and effects to the source you’re recording (guitar, vocal, etc.), and the over-limit LED helps you set the input sensitivity. All this takes place before the signal is converted to digital, so you’re actually using an analog preamp and controls to tweak your signal before it’s recorded on the 40GB hard drive.
The only word to describe the range of effects included with the BR-1200CD is huge. There is every conceivable type of effect included, with most offering multiple flavors. Some are for tracking; others are for mixing and mastering. Insert effects are mostly for tracking, though you can "re-amp" tracks to add them later. There are insert effects for guitar and bass; mic effects with COSM mic modeling; special effects for processing guitars and vocals simultaneously; and stereo effects. The ability to save settings changes is a nice touch—no need to waste time tweaking the same things over and over. The guitar and bass effects are incredible. Boss includes COSM amp and effect models from Boss’ popular GT-6 and GT-6B multi-effects processors and a bunch of their world-renowned stomp boxes. When recording guitar, especially after hours, it’s easy to plug straight in and use the effects and COSM models to dial up killer sounds for recording.
The compression, EQ, and other effects for mixing and editing are just as powerful, plus there’s a Vocal Tool Box with tools like pitch correction and virtual harmony sequencing. The pitch correction is great, especially for those of us who aren’t great vocalists, and chord maps help you create cool harmonies. If you’ve ever wondered why your demos sound weak compared to tracks you hear on professional CDs, here’s a clue: mastering. The Mastering Tool Kit on the BR-1200CD gives you the tools you’ll need to give your songs the sonic polish they’ve been missing. I can’t emphasize too much how vital mastering is for making your final mixes sound balanced and radio-ready.
Now we’re tracking
Boss’ popular EZ Compose feature is integrated into the BR-1200CD so you can program a killer rhythm section. There are a bunch of PCM drum and bass sounds, but Boss also includes an army of drum samples from Discrete Drums, legends in the drum library business, so when you’re building your rhythm tracks, the drums are definitely not lacking. They sound natural, full, big,—pretty much the opposite of tinny and canned—and fantastic on your recordings.
When you put together rhythm parts on the BR-1200CD, drums automatically go on tracks 9 and 10, while the bass parts go on track 8. You can use the prebuilt drum and bass patterns and simply set tempo using the tap tempo, or you can build your own rhythm tracks. I liked using the prebuilt patterns while figuring out parts for the song, then building customized patterns later. When you’re building your own rhythm parts, each track button becomes a drum or bass trigger, so you can "play" what you want. Could it get any easier? Yes, it can. The BR-1200CD also automatically syncs your backing loops to the tempo of your song.
With a unit like the BR-1200CD there are so many features they all can’t be covered here (download the owner’s manual to get the total rundown). Although its features are impressive, that’s not why it’s so cool. What sets it apart is it is completely ready to be the backbone of your music productions out of the box. You don’t have to buy any more software, accessories, extra memory, a bigger hard drive, or any of that other stuff. If you’ve got a mic, a song, and the BR-1200CD, you’re ready. It brings together the capabilities of some of Boss’ most popular and well-loved gear into one exceptional unit perfect for people who like to make music, not tweak knobs.
Features & Specs: