Ive been looping since 2008. I remember not being satisfied with 5 minute beatbox shows having performed in bands for upto 2 hours, so i started researching loop technology. Knowing I would want more control than just a single phrase looper to control more dynamic music, I was screaming eurika when i discovered the Boss RC 50. I succefully worked and performed on this machine for 5 or 6 years and admit to being dubious of the new RC 505 when it came out and I didnt buy it until around a year after it came out.
The concept of the RC 505 is absolutely amazing. 5 stereo phrase channels, input efects, output effects, totally programmable phrase channels, reverb and compressor options for the entire output signal 6 hours memory and many other wonderful features, however it is clear that it is cheaply made for a market that is booming. For the 1.4 kilos of equipment you purchase I dont believe it warrented its 550 euro starter price. Boss's official explanation is that it was designed to be super light weight for travelling artists but i havnt met a looper yet that wouldnt mind a few kilos more over their shoulder and a machine that wouldnt feel so vulnerable to a fall or a bump. The fact is if you drop your RC 50 you pick it up and continue. If you drop your RC 505 you will spend the rest of the day crying and wondering how much the technical service is going to be or how to save another 500 euros! The truth is, Boss have a monopoly on 5 channel multi effect looping gear. Solution? Get a flight case and never take it out and it will serve you for years.
I have currently been performing for 3 years with almost no major problems except of course a fader breaking off due to leaving out of my flight case for a day and it recieving a small bump with a very small fall! I also had the shocking surprise of losing all microphone signal in the Uk Beatbox Champs Looping Battles 2014, so I conducted my own research through Facebook forums to see if others had had other major technical problems. The results where quite shocking. although many people have had absolutely no problems with their machines, many loopers have had very serious ones. From not switching on in Gigs, to songs being lost, while looping live to big audiences, faders break off like match sticks, the famous SYSTEM ERROR which makes the machine flash like a christmas tree, I witnessed this live on a few occasions in other artsits performances and basically everything stops until you press exit and you never know when it will happen. Recently loopers such as Be Box complained of when your first loop is very short and you attempt a longer second loop they encoutered problems in the macine not being able to comply. Bebox recently managed to capture the bug on video and we hope boss care enough to try and fix it.
With Major artist such as Rico Loop and Dub FX using the 505 it is now an artform that is reaching the biggest stages of the world and my feeling is that we all want a looper that is as sturdy as the RC50 with all the features of the 505 plus effect control of a kaoss pad 3 with 10 channels and more features that where already covered on a previous artictly by TyTe earlier this year. To be honest I cant complain as my machine has worked time and time again, looping perfectly and performing all the tasks i ask of it. Only once this summer in around 50 hours of performance did the machine wipe the tune while performing. The rest of the time any errors where my own!
The inputs on the the RC 50 and 300 were all solid metal, you now have to settle for, of course light weight plastic. the faders are for sure the worst and most flimsy faders of any pro sampling or dj gear. they wobble even when new!
After overcoming the new tech procedures to move on with my looping and its flimsy 1.4 kilos of plastic i began to fall in love with this machine very quickly. Having no hands free though to hype the fans when i drop the tunes was strange. With the Old RC 50 i held the mic in one hand, performed with the Other then played the music with my feet. So at the beggining I felt I wasnt giving enough to the crowd as a performer. However i have got over this and it hasnt affectted my show at all. A simple way to over come this is to buy the external control pedals from Boss which can be assigned basic tasks of the looper to be controlled from the floor by your feet. Usefull for looping guitars or other instruments when you would need your hands free.
Although the faders are probably the worst and cheapest faders of any pro live music or dj equipment, the addition of the faders does help enourmously with the control of the live set and there are also stop buttons if you prefer and volume of each channel can also be controlled on each channels edit menu. as can output effects on/off, loop length and other features such as one shot, fade in or fade out.
The extra channels have changed completly the arrangment of how i make music and the efffects are of a good enough standard to be dependant on them as your main efffects. (not to be said of the rc300)
That 2 effects can not be used at the same time is annoying as the EQ really is a very nice preamp but if you want to use it for all your incoming signal then you will need an external effect controller like a Kaoss pad to add delays or filters or whatever you want on your voice as it passes throught the Eq of the 505.
The effects are stored in thre banks A, B and C and each banks menu can be assigned different parameters for each effect, this means you could have three different EQ settings, one on each menu! The same is true for all the other effects.
The addition of the Guitar to Bass effect has abolished the need for external bass pedals, and gives a very deep and strong bass sound, however if you push to hard with your voice it distorts and needs some getting used to and functions better with humming in to it then actually trying to make a bass sound as a beatboxer. another issue is the lower you go less volume comes out so once you are comfortable with your set and the machine you need to learn mic control to balance the volumes of your bass line as you make it. Less volume higher tones more volume lower tones.
Bouncing tracks from channel to channel is not possible, nor is recording output effects over the already recorded tracks, except for the 4 extra effects on the output channel, Beat Repeat, Beat Shift, Beatb Scatter and Vinyl Scratch (Penkyx gets the most out of these feautures). This means that if you wish to add effects to your tracks that are already recorded you have to programme your 5 channels to which channels will have output effects on and which ones off, then you can select your desired effect. if you then wished to put different effects on different channels, for example, you start off wanting Filter on channels 2,3,4 so channels 2,3 and 4 have outfx ON and 1 and 5 off. now you want to put a beat repeat on channels 1 and 5 you would have to manually change the on/off setting of each channel independantly before being able to apply the effect, this involves a lot of eyes looking down time and we all wish it was easier to apply. look at the modern mixers for djs such as DJ SWITCH or modern Launchpad Midi controllers, loads and loads of buttons and switches for instant multi control options. rapid control, bright different coloured pads, and super sturdy build for hours of top quality control and use. i dream of similar gear for loopers without the need for Ableton live.
Beatboxing and looping are growing at an incredible rate and the music we are making is getting better and better, largly to the evolution of the technology but also due to the creativity of devoted loopers
the dream is for boss to take us super seriously and give us the pro gear that we feel totally confortable with on stage, loads of channels, quick controls, as many effects as want at a time, fully programmable and professional gear. If this means paying more, then any devoted looper would. if they are worried about sales then sell a cheaper less channel less feature model could be the solution. but we as artists support them as customers and in turn their respect and investment into super pro gear would give us the confidence to push this art form to the level of Djs and Bands. I believe we can reach this as an industry not just as a few special artists. but of course it takes time and evey new art needs to push through the old mentalities to bring it into the limelight.
Like i said, ive been performing now for around 2 and a half years with the Boss RC 505 and its almost never let me down, but I do consider myslef to be lucky as many havnt been so fortunate. It is a great machine but for the needs of many it is already out of date and the simple upgrades that we would all like to see have already been documented on an article by TyTe in Humanbeatbox.com
By all means i reccomend this machine as it is the main machine of mine and many other loopers set ups, however many still use the RC 50 (Mc Xander), and the RC 300 (Petebox).
Ask yourself what do you really need. The RC 50 was a basic classic. Robust, simple to use and lasts forever. The same can be said of the RC 300, but the built in effects are laughable, considering Boss are one of the world leaders in effects pedals. The RC 505 is an evolution but its as fragile as a new born baby and needs a lot of love and care.
I hope you have found this article usefull and lets keep growing in belief and artistry and bring this wonderfull expressive art form and its technology forward.