Bass Magazine's Rod Taylor and Victor Wooten dive into the expansive world of the newest loop station from Boss
I still remember the first time I saw someone use a looper. It was the early ’90s, and guitarist Phil Keaggy was using one live, looping various guitar parts over each other — and even singing into his acoustic guitar pickup to loop his voice into the mix. I didn’t know how he was doing it, but I was intrigued. A few years later, I came across the first model of the Boomerang Phrase Sampler and bought one. At that point, Victor Wooten and I had been friends for a few years, and when I told him about the looper, he told me he had bought one, too. Thus began a long pattern of seeing which one of us would get the latest looper first. (Vic usually won.)
After the Boomerang (versions 1 and 2), we each tried the first Boss Loop Station, the RC-20, in 2001, as well as various other versions and brands thereafter. Over the past 25 years or so, Vic and I have owned and compared a wide variety of loopers, from later iterations of the Boomerang, to the simple-but-effective Ditto by TC Electronic, to Singular Sound’s Aeros Loop Studio. Between us, I also think we’ve owned every version of the Boss Loop Station, from the simplest to the most complex. So, it just made sense that when I reviewed the Boss RC-600, I would invite Vic to join me in the process.
Like many of you, I’m impressed at how creatively and skillfully Victor uses loop pedals, and he and I have often discussed the ways we each benefit from them. For example, Vic mainly uses loopers in an improv manner during his live shows, creating beautiful landscapes of sounds. At other times, he uses it to build beautiful multi-part songs. (Check out his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” or the song “My Life” on his 2001 Live in America record.) I tend to use loopers more as a developmental tool at home, only occasionally using them with a band or in a solo situation. We felt that this difference in approaches would make for an interesting joint review of the Boss RC-600.
For context, both of us have owned the RC-600’s similarly designed predecessors, the RC-300 and RC-50, and we both tend to use Boss Loop Stations more than other loopers we own. As such, we were curious to see how Boss approached this new model and if it offered anything new in the way of features, customization, and useability. We weren’t disappointed.
The RC-600 is impressive in terms of its features, adaptability, effects, and connectivity, and we can’t cover all aspects in this short space. If you’re interested in all of those details, there’s an extensive list on the Boss website. Instead, we focused on a few key areas that each of us find particularly beneficial, given the various ways we use loopers.
Getting In The Loop
Before Vic and I met to experiment together, we each spent time with the looper at home by ourselves, getting somewhat familiar with the general layout. A few weeks later, Vic came over to my home rehearsal studio, where we set up our Loop Stations at the same time. Mine was mounted on my Pedaltrain 2 pedalboard and connected to several other effect pedals. Vic used his Loop Station by itself. We played tunes together and also used the loopers on our own. We would periodically go online to look up how to configure or adjust the Loop Station. We recorded our thoughts during the process, summarized below.
Ease Of Use
Vic: The easy part was that as soon as I plugged it in, I stepped on the RECORD/PLAY button, and it did just that. When I stepped on it again, it kept playing but stopped recording. Perfect! Even overdubbing worked right out of the box. That’s what I like: play first, read later. I’m like a kid with a video game; I don’t want to read the guide first — I just want to play. My only initial problem was that the Loop Station’s default is set to quantize to a tempo right out of the box. I know that many users want that, but it’s something that I never use, and it wasn’t easy to figure out how to turn it off. It went from “Really easy” and a big smile to, “Okay, I think I need a YouTube video.” So, it was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of ease of use. In the end, however, I experienced more joy than frustration in learning all of the amazing things this pedal can do.
Rod: I too began by just digging into the pedal, to see how immediately intuitive it was (and how it compared to its predecessors). I almost always use a looper with the quantize feature turned on, so I didn’t mind it being set like that. I made some layered tunes using Loops 1–3 (rather than just overdubbing on Loop 1) and enjoyed myself for quite some time before hitting a few things that caused me to have to pause and research. Once you start to dig into it, you’ve got some work cut out for you — more on that later. In general, though, it’s fairly easy to use out of the box to create a quick loop composition.
Vic: The layout is good. It makes sense when you first start to use the Loop Station, but since the pedal does so much, the layout could get confusing later, because most of the buttons can be programmed to do different things. For example, buttons you’re using for loops 1, 2, and 3 can also be used to control loops 4, 5, and 6, and even for special effects.
Rod: I found the general layout pretty easy to navigate and understand. As I realized how you can customize what the buttons do, I thought I might end up getting some label tape and putting it under each button to mark what it does. In fact, when I looked up some things on YouTube, I saw a lot of people doing just that — making their own labels and putting them over the printed ones. I also dug the buttons themselves. I was never a fan of the huge pedals on the original RC-20, nor the thinner (but still large) ones on the RC-50 and RC-300. The ones on the RC-600 are like the buttons on most of my other effect pedals, so now I get a more consistent feel with all of them.
Vic: I really like the size of the pedal. My favorite of the previous Boss loopers is the RC 50, because it was one of the first pedals I got that gave me three different loop options in the layout. This one is even a little smaller. I love that.
Rod: Right. I was able to fit it on my Pedaltrain 2, along with six or seven other effects I like to use with a looper. I couldn’t have done that easily with the other two previous versions of this looper.
Vic: I also like the way “track select” changes color when it switches modes.
Rod: I do, too — when it’s white, it means the lower buttons operate loops 1, 2, and 3. But if you hit “track select” again, it turns red, and now I know I’m using 4, 5, and 6. If I hit it again, it turns blue, which lets me know I’m in the effects mode, and the bottom row now engages pre-selected effects. That’s pretty cool.
Vic: The effects are surprisingly good. You can choose the effects you want and then go back into loop mode with those effects engaged. That’s really cool. That layout makes a lot of sense to me, although the four knobs for the menu options confuse me a little.
Rod: Each of those four knobs has a push feature, and they rotate back and forth. But I remember us struggling a bit with them at first. I like the layout to the right of that, though, and if you want to do something with the loop options, you push the LOOP button and those four knobs to the left are now controlling things in the loop feature. It’s just a bit difficult to initially figure out how to adjust everything properly or quickly.
Vic: The pedal can do about anything you want it to, but figuring out how to do it is another thing. Like the quantize feature: It took watching several YouTube videos for us to figure out where we needed to go to even address that. And I still haven’t figured out how to get the TEMPO button to not flash in time with its internal tempo, even when I’m not using a set tempo. That’s a bit distracting. I would like to be able to turn that off easily.
Rod: It can be a bit complicated to find out how to access certain features and adapt them to your needs, but thankfully there are tons of YouTube videos that can help out. For example, we had to watch a video to learn how to rename the loop presets. I can kind of understand that, though, because they’ve squeezed a ton of options into a fairly small footprint. And you can customize about everything in some way or another, but sometimes you have to go deep into the menu options. I started making notes to myself, because I knew I would forget which button to push or which way to turn a knob later on when I wanted to get back to that same place. That being said, I found this version to be easily the most adaptable Loop Station that Boss has ever made.
Vic: I totally agree. I think it can do more than I’ll ever need it to do. I like the onboard drum machine, too. The provided drum patterns and drum kits are pretty good, and I was surprised by the variety. You can also play the drum patterns when you’re not actively looping, which I like. There are lots of options to choose from, and I found it pretty easy to navigate and adapt this feature.
Rod: I figured out how to connect my Singular Sound BeatBuddy drum machine pedal via MIDI, letting the Loop Station set the tempo, and I was very pleased with the result. For me, it’s a big deal to be able to take advantage of a drum tool like the BeatBuddy and have it synced with my looper.
Vic: Lately, Boss seems to be updating firmware more often and responding more to what users want. Many companies don’t reach out to working musicians for insight and advice before a product gets made. We’re the ones who actually use the product, and reaching out earlier would result in companies having to make fewer changes after the fact.
Rod: With social media, it’s easier than ever to hear from us. Case in point: One of the things I want to do with a multi-loop pedal is have the separate loops (i.e., 2 and 3) record and start at the end of the previous loop phrase, regardless of when I physically engage the RECORD button. Doing that allows me to set up the next loop to record or play before the end of the previous loop without having to hit the button exactly at the time it needs to start the next loop. It frees me up to play more smoothly over the change. I noticed that the initial firmware didn’t allow for that type of setting, but they added it in a later update, in response to people asking for it. I hope Boss continues to pay attention and responds with periodic updates to improve the user experience.
Vic: I really like all of the effects on the Loop Station and the fact that we could adjust their parameters. I could take this pedal by itself and do a solo gig. Besides six separate loop tracks, I have effects like reverb, envelope filter, distortion, and others that sound really good and very useable. Essentially, you could just use it alone like a multi-effects pedal, or combine the effects with the loop features.
Rod: One of the features that caught me by surprise is that you can adjust how you want the loop and drum rhythms to start. Normally, to start a loop, you step on RECORD and it starts recording, but Boss offers a few other options here. With one setting on, when you step on the RECORD button, it doesn’t start recording until it gets a signal from your instrument. For example, after a short intro that’s not looped, I can let the last chord of that section fade a bit before stepping on the RECORD button to cue things up. Then, when I’m ready to actually record the loop, I percussively hit my E string with my thumb, and that cues the drums to come in (at a preset tempo), and the loop starts recording. It makes for a cool transition between the parts. You can even change the sensitivity to the signal it needs to start the recording.
Vic: Ooh! That could be really dramatic onstage. I’m stealing that idea!
Vic: I had a ton of fun testing the RC-600 Loop Station. I’ve been searching — and waiting — for a pedal like this. The RC50 was the closest I’ve gotten to what I had in mind, but this is like that, plus a whole lot more. This is like having six loopers with effects and a drum machine all in one. If you’re a serious looper, this is the pedal for you.
Rod: The RC-600 is the best looper I’ve come across in my “looper journey.” I still have a lot of work ahead of me to explore all it offers, but I’m excited about how many ways I can personalize it — from pedal assignments to its numerous features. And the fact that it fits well on my pedalboard with other effects makes me even like it more.
Boss RC-600 Loop Station
Pros A loop pedal packed with practical features and tons of customization options — all thoughtfully laid out with players in mind.
Cons So many features will require a steep learning curve and commitment to digging into YouTube videos to learn how to access all that the pedal can do.
Bottom Line The RC-600 Loop Station is likely the best all-in-one loop pedal out there.
Looper 99 memories, 6 phrases per memory
Looping time 1.5 hours (1-track), 13 hours (max memory total)
Presets 200 x rhythm patterns, 16 x drum kits
Effects 49 x input FX, 53 x multi-FX
Inputs 2 x XLR (mic 1/2), 4 x 1/4″ (stereo instrument 1/2)
Outputs 2 x 1/4″ (stereo main out), 4 x 1/4″ (stereo sub out 1/2)
Headphones 1 x 1/4″
MIDI I/O In/out
USB 1 x Type B
Other I/O 2 x 1/4″ TRS (control/expression)
Software Boss Tone Studio, RC Rhythm Converter
Power source AC adapter (included)
For more on the Boss RC-600 Loop Station: Click Here
For more on Rod Taylor: Click Here
For more on Victor Wooten: Click Here