BOSS Effects for Singers

A Short History of BOSS Vocal Effects

The BOSS brand may mean different things to different people, but one thing is certain — all guitarists associate BOSS with brightly coloured stompboxes and quality multi-effects.

In 2001 BOSS forged a new reputation when the first Loop Station, RC-20, was released and have since become the global standard in live looping devices for performing musicians everywhere. More recently, with range of WAZA amps and KATANA amps, BOSS is now known for quality guitar amplifiers. Some players also know BOSS for professional tools such as the advanced ES effects switching systems.

So, what about vocalists? This article provides a concise history of BOSS vocal products — when they were released, what the intention was, and how they were used.


In 1985, 9 years after launching the first BOSS pedal, CE-1 Chorus, BOSS entered the pro-audio market by releasing a series of half-size rack units that are now known as the Micro Rack Series. The range consisted of 14 different units (including the power supply) and now, more than 30 years later, there is still significant interest in these units on second-hand marketplace sites. The Micro Rack Series was popular amongst guitarists of the time, however, three of them also found their way into the hands of vocalists; the RCL-10 Compressor, the RRV-10 Digital Reverb & the RDD-10 Digital Delay, and this didn’t go unnoticed by BOSS.

Micro Rack Series

A few years later, in 1988, BOSS had a massive win when released the now legendary ME-5 Guitar Multiple Effects. As with the earlier Micro Rack Series effects, some artists used the ME-5 solely as a vocal effects processor — and BOSS received more than a few requests to make a dedicated vocal version!

ME-5 Guitar Multiple Effects

The first response came two years later when in 1990, BOSS ‘PRO’ released the SE-50 Stereo Effects Processor (again, in a half-rack format), and it was a big hit. In the 90’s, multi-track recording had found its way into many home studios and the SE-50 was often a staple piece of gear, as it was not only loved by guitarists — but also valued by singers and producers alike. Aside from all the usual effects for guitar, the SE-50 had a number of additional effects that were specifically designed for vocals, like the ‘Vocal Multi’, a stereo series of effects made up by a limiter, enhancer, noise suppressor, delay, chorus and reverb.

SE-50 Stereo Effects Processor

The next product for vocalists came just one year later and was an unexpected one, aimed squarely at DJ’s, synth lovers and/or creative musicians who wanted something different and unusual. The BOSS VT-1 Voice Transformer was a unique device designed for altering and effecting the human voice. Now a cult classic, it had a vocoder, harmonizer and reverb, with 4 preset memory locations. It provided everything from voice “thickening” to a full ±1 octave pitch shift, but the most interesting feature, and the one that got the most attention, were the separate controls for both pitch and formant, so the user’s voice can be altered without the “chipmunk” effect — and could even be used to change a vocal gender.

VT-1 Voice Transformer

Following on from the success of the VT-1, BOSS decided to concentrate on making effects specifically designed for vocalists, all engineered from the ground up.

This series of products was to be called Vocal Effects, simplified to ‘VE’. Once BOSS had decided on this direction, there were still a number of factors the engineers need to consider; in addition to designing all the effect algorithms, BOSS needed to decide on the format of the first VE product — How big did it need to be? How many buttons and knobs should there be? At what point are there too many?

Interestingly, the first BOSS Vocal Effects drawing had many knobs & switches for many sorts of instant functionality. On the other hand, research had shown that a lot of pure vocalists are not familiar with deep technical knowledge of effects and the intent had been for something simple to use that didn’t require deep “menu-diving”. Ironically, although having a lot of knobs and dials actually achieved this intent, it made the product look complicated, and BOSS were concerned by its intimidating layout. So, BOSS renewed the focus to achieve the right balance between simplicity, functionality and looks. BOSS ended up with the concept of a ‘Sound’ knob in the centre of the product which quickly and easily selects the pre-set sound. From an engineer’s perspective, it was a brave decision as this simplistic approach had never been tried before, however, history now tells us it was a very good decision indeed.

VE-20 Vocal Performer

All of this development work eventually manifested as the VE-20 Vocal Performer twin pedal, released in 2009. It was the birth of an entirely new Vocal Effects ‘VE’ series of products from BOSS that perfectly combined functionality with simplicity.

Lineup and Chronology of
BOSS VE (Vocal Effects) Series

  • VE-20 Vocal Performer

    BOSS went to market with the VE-20 using the tag-line “The Essential Stompbox for Vocalists”. Singers loved the simplicity of one ‘Sound’ knob in the center, which quickly and easily selected the preset. This meant that with a simple click of a footswitch vocalists could instantly add lush vocal layers and harmonies, do realtime pitch-correction and have some fun with the special effects such as distortion, radio, and strobe. They could even create loops and layers in real time with the onboard Phrase Looper. The VE-20 is still a hit with vocalists today.

  • VE-5 Vocal Performer

    With 6 different vocal effects derived from the popular VE-20 (including reverb, delay, harmonizer and pitch correct), the VE-5 Vocal Performer is a compact effects processor that is designed to be hand-operated, rather than on the floor as a stompbox. It can be operated either on a tabletop or attached to a mic stand — making it perfect for singers, rappers, beatboxers, street performers and webcasters. Added settings like strobe, radio and distortion allowed singers to create unique and interesting sound when performing. With the VE-5, singers literally have control of their own sound at their fingertips.

  • VE-2 Vocal Harmonist

    The Boss VE-2 Vocal Harmonist is specifically designed for vocalists who play guitar and sing. It has high-quality reverb/delay, plus an enhancer with real-time pitch correction. Best of all, the VE-2 ‘magically’ creates beautiful harmonized vocals that follow the lead vocal line. These harmony voices will pitch in the correct key by automatically tracking the chords played on a connected guitar, or by manually selecting the key, or a combination of the two. Using one of these three operation modes, it’s easy for a vocalist/guitarist to create perfect real-time vocal harmonies in any key. Also included is a USB audio function that allows you to connect to your computer and easily capture impressive VE-2 vocal sounds for music recordings and social media videos.

  • VE-1 Vocal Echo

    For vocalists that don’t require auto-harmony but are interested to create lush, pristine vocal sounds in the studio, or on-stage, the VE-1 is a compact and intuitive, yet powerful toolbox. It has rich, lush reverbs that were derived from the famous Roland SRV series processors (legendary studio-standard reverb units) and these are specially tuned for vocals. Like its sister unit the VE-2, the VE-1 is designed to be compact and simple to operate. Fitted with accessible controls to double, pitch correct and a plethora of tools to enhance the voice, the VE-1 is an extremely useful and welcome addition to the BOSS VE series.

  • VE-8 Acoustic Singer

    Marketed squarely at the “guitarist/singer” category, the BOSS VE-8 Acoustic Singer provides studio-quality EQ and dynamics processing for both voice and acoustic guitar. Combining intelligent vocal harmonies, pitch correction, vocal effects, guitar effects and a looper into one compact, go-everywhere package, the VE-8 gives guitarist/singer/songwriters all the audio tools needed for a live performance. Add to this a range of output options for your main PA and stage monitors, and external USB connection to your computer for recording, and the VE-8 becomes a unique formidable vocal tool for the singer/guitarist.

  • VE-500 Vocal Performer

    The VE-500 Vocal Performer gives singing guitarists the tools to create unique sounds in the studio and then bring that same level of polish to their live performance, all the while controlling it the same way as their guitar effects pedals. Equipped with high-quality mic preamps, VE-500 gives you real-time access to a suite of studio tools such as pitch-correction, enhancer, de-esser and compression as well as a host of effects, delay/reverb and even a basic looper! It also features unique and innovative vocoder/talkbox modes derived from the VO-1 compact pedal vocoder, as well as an improved harmony engine with the ability to add 3 natural and organic sounding harmony voices. The VE-500 is packed with deep customisation capabilities, flexible signal chain routing and full MIDI control.