On The Rack
Lee Russell confesses to falling for the Boss Micro Rack — a pint-size processing system worthy of a full size studio.
There once was a time when a musician was considered hi-tech if he plugged his guitar through a Phaser pedal. Today things are a bit different and modern music production techniques rely heavily on the creative power leant to us by state-of-the-art processing equipment. This is great for those who can afford countless thousands of pounds on gear and who have a full size studio to put it all in, but most of us are still working in backrooms looking for the break, and have a rather more limited budget to stick to. Buying cheap equipment certainly isn't the answer, it just sounds CHEAP and finally weakens the force of the music.
That's why the new Boss Micro Rack system is so very welcome. It combines Roland's knowledge of uniquely musical processing circuitry with a compact, lightweight design. It looks and sounds expensive — but it's actually surprisingly affordable.
The series currently consists of five models each housed in the same design of sleek grey alloy casing measuring a modest 218mm x 46mm x 169mm. The whole range has been carefully thought out to fit easily into virtually any home-based system, and can be switched to operate at a line level of either -10dB or -20dB, thereby making sure that you get the best performance possible, no matter what mixer and tape machine you're using. Another touch of genius is the fitting of both 1/4" jack and phono sockets to all audio inputs and outputs. Anyone who's ever been prevented from using an effect simply through lack of the right kind of lead will understand how important a feature that is.
Possibly the most easily recognisable model is the RGE-10 graphic equaliser. No recording system should be without a good quality graphic, it can be a real life saver. Unless you're working with a very upmarket mixer its equalisation will probably be fairly simple. That's fine for cheering up a basically good sound, but if you need to get a little radical, or you want to make your old drum machine sound half convincing, some extra assistance is definitely called for. The Boss RGE-10 may be small in size, but it offers the audio spectrum from 31Hz to 16kHz. There's also a bypass switch plus an overall output level control for matching, and to make things really clever, even in the darker hours of a late night session, each slider has a small LED in it. Quiet, effective and it even glows in the dark.
If you're involved in demoing songs you'll know how important it is to keep the vocal clean, clear and upfront in the mix. This isn't always easy when the people next door insist on turning their hi-fi up halfway through a take, or your voice has an unfortunate tendency to get progressively weaker as it goes up in pitch. What you need to keep the neighbours' hi-fi out of your song is a noise gate; and to give your vocal that professional consistency and punch, you need a compressor: the Boss RCL-10 offers both processors in the one compact unit together with limiting and expansion. It's beautifully simple and effective to use and it works like a dream to give everything — not just vocals, that extra presence and clarity.
As a basic effect there can be few things so fundamental to the production of modern sounds as the digital delay line. With the Boss RDD-10 digital delay you can flange, repeat, echo, double track, introduce pseudo-stereo, make things go strangely metallic and cause them to do all sorts of spatial acrobatics. The problem with most delay units of this price is that the quality of the effect is only good enough for 'special effects' on certain electronic instruments. The RDD-10, on the other hand, offers full studio quality with a 15kHz bandwidth and a 90dB dynamic range making it perfect for vocals and acoustic instruments too. With both 'mix' and 'effect only' outputs available on the rear panel, the RDD-10 is perfect for working in-line using a mixer channel insert point or an amplifier's effects loop jacks, or alternatively as part of an auxiliary send/return circuit allowing more than one instrument to access it at a time. If you decided to splash out on a couple of RDD-10's, the combination of the modulation bus jack socket and the polarity reversal switch would allow to sync their modulation rates whilst putting their directions of sweep in opposition. Big fun.
And finally we come to a new generation of a couple of tried and trusted production tools — the phaser and the flanger. The ideas may have been around for a long time, but phasing and flanging are still such important tools in creating musical textures, and the Boss RPH-10 Phaser and RBF-10 Flanger can make your guitar sound like it's being churned through a concrete mixer stuck at the end of a long dark tunnel. If offers such detailed control over the depth, rate, feedback and tonal quality of the effect, making it so easy to steer in any direction you feel. Similarly, the RPH-10 Phaser provides very comprehensive musical control including three separate operating modes, offering a range of effects from a light wispy 6-stage phasing to a really deep resonant 12-stage sweep. As with the RDD-10 Delay, both of these units can by synced in pairs and have polarity reversal switches to create wider spaces for the effects.
The Boss Micro Rack series is quite simply giving professional quality effects at affordable prices. What's more a complete rack of five units will tuck under your arm — or sit comfortably on the dining room table. Big sounds in small boxes.
Roland Newslink - Summer 1985
Gear in this article:
Feature by Lee Russell
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