How the BOSS RC series has inspired the looping scene for 17 years. By Henry Yates, Journalist
Enter BOSS. The Japanese innovator had planted the flag for digital looping in the mid-'80s with the acclaimed DSD-2 and DSD-3 - but it was the original RC-20 Loop Station of 2001 that drew a line in the sand. 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.
Since then, the popularity of looping has snowballed on the live scene, and that passion has been echoed at BOSS, where the firm's brightest minds dedicate themselves to pushing the technology ever-further. In 2006, the RC-2 Loop Station fitted its deceptively powerful tech into a compact single-stompbox unit, while the RC-50 let ambitious musicians perform more aggressively with three loop tracks. 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.