Hands-On Review:Boss RC-20XL Loop Station
Boss RC-20XL Loop Station
Create complex, multilayered performances in real time
The latest edition of Boss' phrase sampler and loop creation pedal is here, and it offers creative musicians a powerful way to quickly compose, loop, and layer sounds. A word to the wise—when you get your RC-20XL, make sure you have some free time set aside. It's instantly addicting. Once you start improvising you won't want to stop.
The new RC-20XL is loaded with hot features. First is the recording time, now up to a full 16 minutes! This is almost three times longer than its predecessor, the RC-20, which at five-and-one-half minutes wasn't bad.
An undo function lets you fix mistakes instantly, removing whatever was recorded last from memory. Up to 11 loops can be stored in memory for later use.
Once you've laid down a loop, you can change the tempo instantly with the tap tempo function without changing the key. This is great for live use, when you might want the song to be faster or slower but you don't want to transpose it or have it sound like Mickey Mouse or Darth Vader. With the addition of an optional footswitch, selected loops can be brought in and out at will.
The auto quantize feature keeps your loops effortlessly in sync, which can be difficult with loopers and delays. If you use the built-in beats to build your loops on, the RC-20XL will automatically cut the end to the exact BPM so that your loop timings are always right on.
Are you in the loop?
To test drive the RC-20XL, I gathered up a bunch of drums from my world hand drum collection and after a quick glance at the instructions, I hit the tap tempo on the left a few times, starting the internal metronome drum sound. On my djembe I played a simple four-bar pattern, hit the tap button again, and the pattern began repeating. Grabbing some clay drums, I hit tap tempo again and laid down a syncopated beat over the first loop. Repeating this process with a talking drum, doumbek, udu, and maracas, I soon had a huge percussion section filling the room with grooving sound. You can also run a line in to Loop Station to record from outside sources. An included sample CD contains a nice library of sampled sounds to start with.
An orchestra of one
I recruited my daughter, a viola performance major at college, for a classical player's take on the Loop Station. She happened to have with her the sheet music for Terry Riley's “In C,” a contemporary composition consisting of layered string parts. She was able to create the composition as played by a whole string ensemble in a matter of minutes! Loop Station obviously has a lot of potential as an instant sketchpad for composers, as well as being an extraordinary tool for live performance.
Boss RC-20XL Loop Station