• Amazon: Digitech RP355 Multi-Effects Pedal
• Pros: Tons of effects, amps and cabs, alongside a 60-pattern drum machine and a 20-second looper. The included expression pedal is completely user-assignable.
• Cons: A little complicated to use for beginners, the amp models could be better and it’s not ideal for live use.
• Overall: The RP355 is a stand-out option for casual guitarists still looking for a variety of effects, but regularly gigging and effects-dependent players should only consider it if you’re on a budget.
The RP355 is the mid-sized multi-effects unit from Digitech’s RP series, packing more pedals than the RP255 or 155, but not being quite as formidable and well-stocked as the larger RP500 or RP1000. This puts it in a pretty good position for the average guitarist, striking a good balance between size, hands-free capability, portability and price, but there are plenty of similar effects pedals vying for domination in the mid-size category, so the RP355 has to do something special to really stand out. It might not have the iPad-toting gimmick of the iPB-10 or the monstrous array of footswitches of the RP1000, but how does the RP355 fare among its core competitors?
Tons of Feature
The RP355 doesn’t hold much back in comparison to the larger RP1000. You get 32 amp models, 74 effects and 18 cabs (with a maximum of 11 simultaneous effects), as well as a 20-second looper and an included drum machine with 60 patterns. There are 70 factory-designed presets, and another 70 that are completely user-editable. The bigger units boost the numbers in terms of preset locations, amp models, effects and cabs, but in terms of core functionality, you get a scaled-down version of everything you’ll find on the RP1000 with the RP355.
Although it’s comparatively a mid-size unit, it still isn’t exactly small. It’s almost a foot and a half long, and measures just under 9 inches back to front, so it will still take up a fair amount of floor-space. However, that size gives the RP355 the room it needs to offer three footswitches along the bottom row and an onboard expression pedal stretching up the right hand side of the unit. The remainder of the pedal is occupied by the effects “matrix,” with six dials below it (which all have dedicated functions, but also work for adjusting the parameters listed in the corresponding column in the effects matrix) and an LCD display screen above.
The amp models included on the RP355 give you a broad selection from some of the most popular amps in guitar history. These include the 57’ Fender Tweed (Champ, Deluxe or Bassman), some early-60s Vox models (the AC15 and AC30 Top Boost), the ’65 Marshall JTM-45, the ’01 Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, the ’65 Fender Blackface (Deluxe and Twin Reverb) and plenty of options from Digitech themselves. The amps are automatically paired to suitable cabs (including the 1 × 12” ’65 Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb, the 4 × 12” HiWatt Custom w/Fane Speakers and several from Digitech), but you can manually make the selection if you prefer. You can even load up two amp models at the same time on the RP355, if you’re looking for a more unique sound.
It’s pretty hard to imagine most players needing more effects than are included on the RP355. They’re all based on classic stompboxes, including 18 distortions (such as the Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer, the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi, the Boss DS-1 and MT-2 Metal Zone and a few from Digitech), four each of choruses, flangers, phasers, pitch-shifters and wahs (including the classic Cry Baby), along with three compressors (including the Boss CS-2), and a smattering of analogue and digital delays, reverbs, tremolos, vibratos, envelopes, a noise gate, and even pickup simulators (making it possible to replicate a humbucker tone with a lowly single coil or vice-versa).
If you’re looking for a good looper, you’d obviously be better off going for a purpose-built pedal, but the RP355 does come with a looper built-in, good for a maximum of 20 seconds recording time. It isn’t the best looper even by standards of multi-effects units (for example, the Zoom GT’s provides 60 seconds of recording time), but it’s more than suitable for some casual looping, whether as a composition tool or something to practice with. Holding down the “Amp A/B” footswitch switches the looper on, and tapping the footswitch again arms it for recording. After being armed, it records from the moment you start playing, which is a useful feature (commonly incorporated into dedicated looper pedals), but unfortunately the RP355 makes overdubbing a little more annoying than it should be. Rather than just tapping the pedal once to start overdubbing, you have to hold it down constantly while you record the dub.
There is also a drum machine included on the RP355, with 60 preset patterns arranged according to genre. There are more patterns for rock, hard rock, metal and blues, but you also get options in other styles like jazz, country, hip hop, world and groove, as well as some generic options. This has a dedicated button to activate it, and you can change patterns, tempo and level with three of the RP355’s knobs.
On the back panel, there are two 3.5 mm jacks for headphones and an auxiliary input, a USB port, a spot for the power supply, stereo 1/4 inch and XLR outputs, and a mono 1/4 inch input. The aux input can be used with the “Learn a Lick” feature, which gives you the ability to play a clip from an external device – of up to 10 seconds long – and slow it down by a maximum of three-quarters. This doesn’t affect the pitch, so it can be an invaluable tool for when there’s a section of a song you’re struggling to nail at full speed. When you connect up via USB, you can use the X-Edit software to adjust your sound parameters on your computer, and you also get Cubase LE4 for making recordings.
The Digitech RP355 works either in “Performance” or “Stompbox” mode. In Performance mode, you can scroll through your presets using two of the footswitches and handle any deeper editing (like adjusting your effects’ volume, choosing an effects chain and altering amp model parameters) with the knobs. You enter Stompbox mode by pressing the center and right footswitches together, and this alters the function of the footswitches, enabling you to activate or deactivate the Distortion, Chorus/FX and Delay effects without the need to stoop over mid-song.
There are some problems with live use, though, as you may expect from a mid-sized pedal. For example, the minimal footswitches mean you’ll have to arrange your presets carefully to use them for a gig (you can save presets wherever you like, at least), and it must be said that the metallic button-style footswitches on the larger RP units are easier to use during a gig than the relatively flush ones on the RP355.
The layout of the matrix makes deeper editing to your presets fairly straightforward, but it may still be a little complex if you’re new to multi-effects pedals. This isn’t to say you won’t be able to do it, more that the array of options can be a little overwhelming for a beginner. No matter how experienced you are, it’s hard (to say the least) to make detailed on-the-fly changes or create a new preset in a performance situation – it requires operation of the dials and the up and down “Edit” buttons. With preparation, it could be used live, but if you’re a regular gigging musician, it might be worth considering bigger units.
For casual, home-based players or perhaps for use in a basic home studio, the RP355 is a fairly affordable and definitely well-stocked effects pedal, and it’s hard to imagine most guitarists being disappointed with it. The amp models could be better, and some of the effects are a little lacking, but overall (and considering the price) there’s very little to complain about. More serious players might prefer to invest a bit more in a larger pedal, but among its fellow mid-range competitors, the RP355 is an outstanding pedal.
Amazon: Digitech RP355 Multi-Effects