Hands-On Review:The Boss MICRO BR
A huge recording value in a tiny package
By Tom Foster
In the bad old analog days, moving my trusty four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder was like lifting a precision electronic boulder. Then you had to add a heavy mixer, external effects boxes, a patchbay or three—it was a bulky mess.
Over the years Boss has solved this dilemma with slick digital recorders that combine effects, mixing—the works—into small portable packages. The Boss BR line (such as the 8-track BR600 or the mighty 16-track BR1600) offer great, compact multitrack recording systems. With the introduction of the Boss MICRO BR, the smallest unit in the BR series, they’ve managed to create a highly capable digital studio that you can slip into your pocket.
In a market constantly flooded by new audio technology, I have to say that the Boss MICRO BR stands out as a true technological wonder. Boss has distilled their years of multitrack expertise into a four-track digital recording studio that literally fits in the palm of your hand. Packed with amazing features, the Boss MICRO BR is bound to become the next must-have unit for anyone that needs to record on the go.
Despite its small size, I found the controls on the MICRO BR easy to use. While large fingers may find the eight front button controls a bit of a challenge initially, you’ll find using the controls becomes easier as you work with the unit. The MICRO BR can record a guitar directly using the built-in 1/4" jack, a mono or stereo line source, or live sound sources using the impressive built-in condenser microphone.
With two fresh AA batteries, the MICRO BR will run for several hours. Another nice touch: you can use an optional Boss AC PSA 120 power adapter when AC power is at hand. All data for the MICRO BR is saved onto standard SD flashcards that you can find just about anywhere. Although the Micro BR comes with a 128MB SD card, you can use SD cards that can store up to 1GB of audio data—enough storage to do a whole lot of recording without swapping cards.
The micro studio
According to Boss, the MICRO BR features the same mastering capability as its VS series and other BR devices. I found the MICRO BR’s recording and effects processing very clean with more than enough resolution to build up song ideas and capture live performances.
One great feature is that the MICRO BR is platform agnostic; it will work just fine with either Macintosh or Windows-based computers. Although not controllable via computer, the MICRO BR shows up on your computer’s desktop as another storage device for easy file transfer and backup.
Recording on the MICRO BR is a breeze, with four tracks immediately accessible for playback. If you need more recording real estate, the four playback tracks also have eight virtual tracks each for a total of 32 virtual tracks. With the ability to bounce tracks, you can master all four of your playback tracks to a pair of virtual tracks and then go on to add more layers.
If this wasn’t enough, Boss has built a robust drum machine into the MICRO BR. Featuring 293 different patches and playing genres, it’s a great way to keep time while laying down basic tracks, practicing, or just jamming.
Grind your axe
Recording guitar tracks into the MICRO BR is a blast, thanks to built-in digital amplifier modeling and a variety of multi-effects. You can choose from a range of amplifier models to give your guitar the sound of everything from British stack roar to that Blackface sound. You can even adjust virtual microphone placement providing a bit of equalization on the amp modeling.
There are standard chorus, distortion, and delays in the effects section where you can store up to 50 user patches. There is one global reverb that can be applied to all tracks. Still, both the amp modeling and the effects processing are easy to use. Creating great-sounding demos is easy and intuitive.
Ultra MP3 trainer
On top of everything else, the MICRO BR is also one of the first devices on the market that can play back, mix down to, and time-stretch MP3 files. You can load any MP3 audio file onto the MICRO BR’s SD card via your computer and then play it back. Or save your latest mix to an MP3 file that you can email to others. The best part of all is the MICRO BR’s ability to speed up or slow down the tempo on MP3 files allowing you to figure out lead parts or harmonies within your favorite tunes. Trying to nail a blazing lead guitar solo full of sixteenth notes? No problem. Just load an MP3 of that solo and then use the MICRO BR’s time-stretch function to slow down the performance so you can learn it note by note.
Don’t leave home without it
Multitrack recording unit, guitar processor, effects unit, MP3 player—when you add it up, the MICRO BR is an incredible value. Factor in the cost of separate components—an inexpensive multi-effects processor, a drum machine, and a portable recorder—and you’ll find that you could easily spend two or three times more than the cost of the MICRO BR. The bottom line? The MICRO BR is a must-have tool for any traveling, gigging musician who wants to preserve musical ideas on the go.
Features & Specs:
- Records in mono or stereo
- Records 4 master and up to 32 virtual tracks
- Mixes down all 4 tracks to 2 virtual tracks
- Loads, plays back, and mixes down to MP3 files
- Macintosh/PC compatible via USB port
- Built-in condenser microphone
- 128MB SD data card included
- Supports up to 1GB SD cards
- Drum machine with 293 patch/genre presets
- 12 user rhythm arrangements
- COSM guitar effects and amp models
- Amp model type and mic placement parameters
- Distortion (preamp), Modulation (chorus, flangers), Delays
- 50 user effect patches
- Changes MP3 file speed without changing pitch
- Runs several hours on two AA batteries
- Optional power adapter: Boss AC PSA 120
- 5-3/8"W x 7/8"H x 3-3/16"D