Hands-On Review:GP-20 Amp Factory, EQ-20 Advanced EQ, and RC-20 Loop Station

Click here for all products by Boss.

When Musician's Friend asked me to write about three new low-cost effects pedals, I almost bowed out. What good could come from yet more trashy low-end stomp boxes? Man, was I wrong. With this series, Boss has blown away the whole cheap=cheap formula. These three boxes handle signals the way Jimi handled a six string—with total authority and lethal results.


Boss Twin Pedal Series GP-20 Amp Factory
Ever since I first cranked my brother's amp to ten (and promptly melted the speaker coil) I've been a junky for the most primal of guitar effects—a hot amp. Recently, amp modeling has acknowledged that great amps make great tone. But until now the amp modelers that your average rock 'n' roll schmo could afford sounded like... well, they didn't sound good. But this GP-20 really kicks, has smokin' sound quality and a surprising number of usable combinations.


What really turned me on was that I didn't have to get an engineering degree to run the thing. I just plugged it in, started tweaking knobs, and fell in love. One knob gives you 11 basic amp sounds with a variation button that doubles this number of options to 22 working models. Then a speaker cab modeling knob provides five cab types including the original speaker cab of the modeled amp. This knob doesn't just make subtle EQ adjustments, it makes a HUGE difference in sound. So that's 110 real and very different possibilities right off the bat. And you still have Gain, Presence, and three EQ knobs to shape each sound. The Presence knob seems to have a radically different effect for different amp models. For me, it often made the difference between "hmm-mm" and "WOW!" The digital output is also a cool feature for running straight to the board. The American Combo model was particularly pleasing, and the Metal Stack model was OUTRAGEOUS! Then I discovered the PRICE of the thing. Clearly, Boss figured out that the way to a maniac's heart is through his wallet. Reluctantly, I surrendered the test unit. But my own GP-20 should arrive in the mail tomorrow.


EQ-20 Advanced EQ
Yawn. That's what I usually do when people start yakking at me about EQ. I mean, what does a serious noise maker need beyond your basic treble, mid, and bass? But here again I have to admit that Boss caught me up short. It was probably the ease of use that sucked me into the EQ-20. You just push the Select button and this baby starts cranking through preset EQ configurations that affect your sound a LOT! I mean a WHOLE lot. I was blown away. It made my guitar sound like a bunch of different guitars. And it's got an unusual amount of control in the low range, with bands at thirty and 60Hz, making it great for bass players, too.


I even found myself doing some kind of subdued jazz thing (yeah, even Raunchy Ralph can be seduced into the soft side now and then). And once I got into a less distorted mood I realized how clear and clean the sound quality of this unit is. That digital sound is totally transparent, way higher in quality than you'd expect for this price range. The nine memory slots are already filled with factory presets that were plenty good enough for me. But with a single button you can overwrite the presets with your own preferences. Ten smooth sliders make it easy.


RC-20 Loop Station
This boxwas created to let you do loops easy during live performances, up to ten at a time, with a total loop time of 5-1/2 minutes. Like the other pedals in the Twin Series, it does its job with ultimate simplicity. I didn't have to read the manual to figure it out. It has aux in and simultaneous mic and instrument ins with independent level controls. You can even play loops backwards (a VERY cool effect), change the tempo of a loop without changing the pitch, quantize a loop with a tap pedal, and insert a Guide Click to get things oriented.


These were all really useful tricks, and I got sucked in for HOURS playing with them all. But, I derived the most joy from this thing just using the basic loop ability and overdubbing loops. It is literally as easy as stepping on the left pedal, playing the loop, and stepping on the right pedal. Bam, bam and you're your own backup. I would throw down some chords, come back over it with a bass line, then sing and play lead over the top. Suddenly I wasn't lonely anymore.


Keep it simple, stupid!
The GP-20, EQ-20, and RC-20 all impressed me with their simplicity. They're designed for use by real players on real stages. Boss didn't waste a lot of money, memory, and energy on useless whistles and bells. These boxes do what you want them to, simply and directly without a lot of electronic foofaraw to confound and distract you. But they do it amazingly well—and they're unbelievably inexpensive.


Features & Specs:



GP-20 Amp Factory Features:EQ-20 Advanced EQ Features:
  • COSM Amp Modeling pedal with 22 amp models
  • Two-channel operation (Manual/Memory) plus Bypass
  • Output select switch, line or instrument level
  • Five onboard speaker cab simulations

GP-20 Real Audio Sounds Bytes:
            • Black Panel, 2x12
            • Crunch, 2x12
            • JC Clean, 2x12
            • Lead, 4x12
            • Modern Stack, Original
            • Vintage Stack, 4x12
            • World's first program-mable twenty-band graphic equalizer pedal
            • Nine internal memories
            • Level switch for connection before amp or in effects loop
            • Stellar sound quality

            RC-20 Loop Station Features:
            • Phrase recording/sampling pedal for live performance
            • Guide Click and Loop Quantize
            • Realtime Tempo Change
            • Overdub function
            • Save ten looped phrases and one "one-shot" phrase
            • Five minutes, 30 seconds sampling time
            • Overdub function
            • Mic, instrument, and auxiliary inputs
            • Reverse function