• Amazon: Boss ME-80 Multi-Effects
• Pros: Simple to use interface and awesome portability for this many effects.
• Cons: Some peculiarities in how effects work together and affect each other.
• Overall: Great pedal for working guitarists who value simplicity, functionality and portability.
There are three main qualities that factor in when creating a great multi-effects unit: sound quality, versatility and simplicity. No one can deny that the multi-effects units available on the market today have come a long way in terms of sound quality and versatility. But the one area that most of these units fall short at is simplicity. However, Roland seems to be nailing it of late with its BOSS ME series multi-effects units. Today I take a look at BOSS’s latest offering, the ME-80.
If there’s one thing I love about BOSS these days it’s the fact that they seem to be building pedals that are meant to last. The BOSS ME-80’s outer casing and chassis is made almost entirely out of metal. As they say, it’s built like a tank. The pedal’s footswitches also feel pretty darn solid and the only weak points of the pedal, if any, are its plastic knobs. That said; this is a pedal that feels like it was built to be tossed around. And since the ME-80 can be powered by six AA batteries, you can actually do just that. Not only is this portability invaluable if you busk or play bars and restaurants, but it also means that you can have a nice, long jamming session by yourself with just your guitar, your pedal and a set of headphones.
The ME-80 isn’t a small pedal by any means, but at just 7 pounds and measuring just 17 X 9 inches, transporting it isn’t any more troublesome than carrying around a laptop. And either way, it’s certainly lighter (and cheaper) than having to buy all the individual effects units that it includes.
The best way to describe the ME-80’s interface is as a collection of stompboxes. Each of the pedal’s eight footswitches are assigned to control things like amp modulation, EQ, reverb, effects, compression and distortion, as well as the pedal’s tuner and looper functions. Each of the footswitches is underscored with a label of which functionality it controls so navigating the pedal isn’t a hard task by any means. But what really makes this pedal a cinch to handle is the fact that each footswitch is assigned to a miniature stompbox-like knob layout which controls the various parameters of each effect or modulation it is assigned to. So this is pretty much a plug-in and play type pedal.
The ME-80 also comes with an expression pedal which allows you to control expression based effects like wah, talk-box and whammy. The pedal can also be used to control modulation rates and delay levels.
Another great thing about the ME-80 is that it can also be used in what is referred to as “manual mode” where each footswitch functions as an on/off switch for a specific effect it is assigned to, effectively transforming the pedal into a pedalboard in itself, which you can then hookup to the rest of your rig.
One thing I like about the ME-80 is that it feels like a working guitarist’s pedal. Compared to other BOSS units like the GE-100 which has a capacity of 400 presets, the ME-80 comes just with 36 factory presets and the capacity for 36 more user defined presets. So it really is a pedal which puts functionality over over-the-top sound capabilities. But that’s not to say that you can’t create some pretty eccentric tones using this pedal either.
And as far as creating your own custom presets go, the pedal has a great selection of classic and modern amp modulations, twenty three distortion effects and eleven modulation effects. And while the pedal doesn’t include all of BOSS’s effect stompboxes, it does include a pretty varied selection including some of the newer effects like the Tera Echo. The pedal also has a great harmonizer which can harmonize your playing by thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths and octaves.
Another great thing worth mentioning is that BOSS has announced that they will have some big-name artistes partnering up with them and BOSS Tone Central, BOSS’s tone library service. This includes guitarists like Gus G, Marty Friedman and some of BOSS’s own guitar clinicians. Which means that it’ll be easier than ever for players to access a wealth of tonal possibilities almost instantaneously.
One drawback that I must mention, however, is that there are certain peculiarities in how the pedal’s effects-chain functions at times. For instance, if the effects level of a specific effect is set lower than the other effects in a specific patch, there can be a significant drop in the signal for the whole effects chain instead of a cut in the level of the intended effect.
The ME-80 comes complete with pretty much all the basic add-ons that you expect of a pedal of its caliber like tap-tempo, a tuner and a 38 second looper function. The pedal also has a built in audio interface which allow you to hook up your pedal directly to your PC or Mac and record “dry” tracks while monitoring with the pedal’s effects.
If you are a working guitarist that prefers a pedal that is simple and yet functional, portable and yet versatile, the BOSS ME-80 is definitely worth your consideration. And at just around the 300 dollar mark, it certainly packs in a whole load of value for money.
• Amazon: Boss ME-80 Multi-Effects