I recently picked up a used Boss RC-202 and after some initial struggles, found the looper to be an excellent companion with most of my synths. While this article may not necessarily be a review, I thought I would post some initial thoughts about my experience with the Boss RC-202 and the Nord Lead 2.
Connections are pretty straight forward if you have ever experienced the Boss RC-505. They are very similar. The two connections that I found troublesome though were the “aux in” and “phone” jacks found on the front end of the RC-202 device. In the photo with the Nord Lead you’ll see that if I were to use those jacks, the cords would hang over the keys. Not good! Fortunately I don’t require either when using a mixer so all is ok, but for those wishing to use headphones and/or the aux in jack it could be a major problem. They should have put the jacks on the rear of the device or on the right side.
Button pushing is similar but a bit different on the RC-202 than that of the RC-505. I found some confusion at first since functions were found in different places on the Boss RC-202. I also found that you had to push the value button to toggle between sub menus. That wasn’t so intuitive coming from the RC-505. I must admit, the Boss RC-202 requires a quick read through the quick start manual to get a grip on the functionality. I also found the several quick video tutorials from Boss on Youtube to be helpful too. Maybe I was tired the other night, but things were not easy to understand in the beginning.
What’s FANTASTIC about the RC-202 is that it’s sits almost perfectly on the Nord Lead 2 and perhaps will on other synths too. I love the slight change in how tracks are created and organized. Basically I can get 8 individual sections in a bank with two tracks per section. Using the memory button or foot controller you can switch between the sections. The two play buttons represent the two tracks. So I could easily create an intro, verse 1, chorus 1, verse 2, etc… on the fly without stopping the RC-202. With the RC-505 I can basically only get up to 5 sections but only one track each. Or 5 tracks layered in one section or a mix thereof. Perhaps I could switch memory locations for additional sections, but it’s clunky on the RC-505 compared to the RC-202.
I find the RC-202 works better for song creation and breaking the loop sound. My goal when I loop is to not sound like I’m looping but rather creating a song or progression. The RC-202 with the two tracks is a good compromise to get yourself quickly up and running with overdubs, but at the same time allowing you get on with creating the song. While I like the RC-505 with 5 tracks, it can be difficult to manage all of those tracks live. For some reason I was able to focus on song creation rather than just working on a loop. That’s pretty cool I think.
The effects are brilliant and very easy to use ONCE you wrap your head around the process. Again, it not that intuitive as you would think. You hit the effects button and “WOW!” you see all these lights come on. You need to consult the manual and learn what’s going on so that you can not let the effects detract from the song creation. Maybe it’s just me, but with the RC-505 and other Boss Loopers it wasn’t so crazy. Once you get the feel of the effects though, it’s simply amazing what you can do and how AGAIN it lends to song creation rather than just looping on and on and on and on and on…..laugh!
The Boss RC-202 is probably the first looper that doesn’t sound boring after I lay down some loops. With the effects and the superb ability to change memories quickly, I can change the feel and the direction of the song instantly. Sure all of this seems the same on the RC-505, but the workflow is just plain different. You will know what I mean when you find yourself working with both. I’m pretty sure you’ll be scratching your head wondering how two similar machines make you approach them differently. This was the best surprise of the Boss RC-202 and why I think it will likely become my favorite looper.
Note that I used a Boss FS6 foot controller and could effectively record loops using my feet. I had no problem keeping my hands on the Nord Lead 2 while creating loops. It’s also super easy to change the CTL assignment of the pedal without stopping the RC-202 as well. After you create your loops you can change from recording to automatic memory switch perhaps so that you can toggle between the sections of your song. Of course you will need to have your loops set or recorded, but even then you could go back to your old CTL settings if you like. In short, it seem you can adjust any setting WITHOUT stopping the looper. How you make those transitions is left entirely up to your creativity rather than any lack of functionality on the RC-202.
All in all, I can’t recommend enough the Boss RC-202 for synth or guitar players. The fact that you can sync via midi and transfer loops to and from the unit is just icing on the cake. At the moment I just can’t find anything wrong with it other than the “aux in” and “phone” jacks on the front end. Oh, and the Boss RC-202 definitely feels more sturdy and better constructed than the RC-505. Boss did a good job with this except for the initial price. In Japan, the street price is $400 and almost the same as the RC-505. Way too expensive and I suspect sales are sluggish in Japan. I had to wait for a used one to pop up for $250. I think in the States it’s selling for $299, probably less. The list price is a bit high I feel so shop around if you can.
I’ll update in the comments section with more thoughts as I work with the RC-202 more. Stay tuned!