17 Years of Boss RC Looper Pedals
The start of 2018 has brought with it the sale of the one millionth Loop Station pedal from Boss’s unstoppable RC pedal range. To celebrate, Boss have released a limited edition black RC-1 pedal, but how did they get here, and where did the Loop Station start off?
Original article can be found here.
Right now, somewhere in the world, a live musician is breaking the rules with a loop pedal. From Ed Sheeran at Glastonbury to the hot-tip local songwriter at the open-mic night, the sheer possibilities of looping have attracted musical mavericks from every genre, each one of them twisting the concept to fit their own vision. In 2018, the buzz around looping has never been louder. But every revolution needs a flashpoint – and after 17 years and one million units sold, there’s no doubt it was the BOSS RC Loop Station series that lit the fuse.
It’s true: the looping concept existed before the RC series. Rewind to 1963 and US jazz-man Terry Riley was dabbling with basic tape loops on his track Music For The Gift. By the early-’70s, guitarist Robert Fripp and producer Brian Eno had moved the art form onwards with the so-called ‘Frippertronics’ technique, using two reel-to-reel tape machines to create layered sounds. But the technology moved painfully slowly. As recently as the ’90s, most of the looping pedals available to everyday musicians were frustratingly basic, offering just a few seconds of sampling time and operation that often resulted in an onstage car-crash.
Quite simply, this twin-footswitch unit changed everything, turning a cult technique into a mainstream phenomenon, thanks to its unprecedented five-minute sampling time, overdub and real-time tempo change functions, AUX input – plus 11 flash memory slots, ready to be loaded with backing tracks and samples.
Before the BOSS RC-20, a solo performer was limited by the capabilities of their ten fingers. Now, by drilling into those groundbreaking features, they could become a rhythm section, an orchestra, a guitar army or a choir of angels. The possibilities became thrillingly clear when an up-and-coming Ed Sheeran chose the updated BOSS RC-20XL in 2004, and used its 16-minute recording capacity to fuse beatbox vocals, dovetailing guitar riffs and percussive beats on the body of his acoustic.
In 2011, the RC-3 kept the practical size but upped the spec with three hours of stereo recording, storage for 99 loops and USB compatibility to connect to a PC. That same year, as the RC series hit its first decade and BOSS hosted the first Loop Station World Championships, the RC-30 brought fresh relevance with two stereo tracks with dedicated faders, built-in FX and compatibility with a range of instruments.
Always pushing forward, BOSS then unveiled the RC-300, raising the spec and putting almost infinite creative possibilities under users’ boots.
Looping might be built on repetition, but deep into the millennium, BOSS has kept breaking new ground. In 2013, the RC-505 Loop Station offered five independent stereo tracks and flexible effects in a tabletop format for beatboxers to control by hand. And yet, even as it explores cutting-edge technology, BOSS has never forgotten to keep its offerings streamlined and player-friendly. Unveiled in 2014, the RC-1 was the most intuitive Loop Station model to date, putting on-the-fly looping capabilities onto the stage of even the most technophobe live performer. Meanwhile, in 2016, the scaled-down RC-202 packed in the highlights of the RC-505, but punched above its weight with ultra-compact dimensions.
In 2018 – as BOSS launches a limited one-year run of the RC-1 in a head-turning black finish – the RC Loop Station series is still the beating heart of the looping scene. These are the pedals you’ll hear on the seminal albums and find on the biggest stages. They’re picked out by the most imaginative players around the world and praised by the looping movement’s greatest exponents. Seventeen years and one million sales might feel like a milestone, but it’s really just a momentary stopover. The RC revolution is only just getting started…