New Shininess and Sprucing up the Old - The RC-300
That said, there are reasons the 300 is a better unit, and there are many. Let's break this down into three categories: new features, features that have been upgraded, and ones that have been fixed in important ways:
Believe it or not, this is actually where the most important strides are between the two units. Much of what Boss might have fixed with a patch has instead been fixed with a brand new unit. Should we complain? Got me. But look, something shiny!
1) The Dreaded First Loop Glitch
This is gone. To understand why this matters, you first need to know what it was and how infuriating many users found it to be.
When you create a loop on a Boss Loopstation, you start by hitting record. The unit then records what you are doing until you hit Record again, at which point it ties off the loop and starts repeating. You can use a Quantize function to make sure it happens on the beat even if you are a little off.
The RC-50 had a flaw here, and many users found this to be so frustrating they abandoned the unit. When the Quantize was turned on, there was a bout a half second gap after you hit Record the second time and the first time it repeated. This did not happen when you activate Overdub later on. It did not happen with the loop came around again while simply playing back. But that first time, at that crucial moment of victory of your first loop starting, there was that moment of silence.
With the RC-300, this moment of silence is dead. So... a moment of silence... for the moment of silence... if you will.
This is probably the single biggest reason to buy the 300 instead of the 50.
In defense of the 50, I don't find this as annoying as most. With a little planning, you can mask this effect by ending your loops at the correct moment and/or playing through the first Record/Quantize transition. That said, these techniques can be somewhat limiting as well, and no one will be sad to see this glitch gone.
2) Twisting the Knife vs. The Evil Quantize Beast
Another of the 50's chief problems also revolved around the Quantize function.
In both units, you can turn Quantize off. You can tell it to simply start the loop again the moment you hit the pedal. In the 50 (in my experience at least) this even gets rid of the Dreaded First Loop Glitch.
The problem with the 50 came with how this feature was turned on and off.
For some reason, Boss thought it would be a good idea to turn Quantize off if you turned the drum machine volume to 0. When quantize is off, the 50 likes to try to guess your tempo based on the length of the loop. This might be nice if you really do want the drum machine off and you really don't want any Quantize action. But if you want the drum machine OFF and Quantize ON, you have to engage in routing shenanigans that shouldn't be necessary and that limit your uses of your outputs.
With the 300, they've fixed this. It is easy to have Quantize on and the drum machine off. Just turn the volume to zero.
3) Overdubbing Headfirst into Second
Another annoying idiosyncrasy of the 50 was its inability to record an Overdub straight up into a new Loop. Allow me to explain.
Let's say you're in Single mode (you loop one track at a time) and you're doing an Overdub to layer more loops over the Recording on Phrase 1. You have set the machine so that when you tap Phrase 2, it will finish playing Phrase 1 and then go straight into Record on Phrase 2.
On the 50, the moment you press Phrase 2 (even if you've got, say, 3 bars left on Phrase 1 to play before it actually switches over) the unit will stop overdubbing that very instant. So if you want to record that Overdub all the way to the end of Phrase 1 right before starting a Recording on another Phrase, you have to try to tap the new Phrase at the very last possible moment so you lose as little of that Overdub as possible. This is dangerous, because if you're late, you'll have to wait for a whole nother pass.
This might not annoy everyone. If you prefer to set the unit to start the instant you hit a new Phrase, you'll never notice. And if you record in Multi mode, you'll want to hit it at the last moment anyway since you can't record on two Phrases to begin with, and you can set them to by synchonized so that the risk is minimal.
But if you're like me and you play in Single mode, and maintaining the integrity of your beat is important (I run external drum machines through Midi) it is unavoidable and rather annoying.
Once again, on the 300, this is fixed. It will happily Overdub until you come screaming into Second base, covered in dirt, the umpire screaming about how safe and awesome you are. And the crowd goes wild.
There's a few new features, some more exciting than others.
1) The Effects
I scoffed at the effects when I first saw the unit. Effects are the bloatware of the guitar pedal kingdom. Remember in the 90's when every household appliance suddenly decided it needed a clock on it? Yeah. Just be a blender, blender. We love you for your blending.
However, once I got the chance to try it out, I found I was wrong. Mostly.
The long and the short of it is this:
The beat-synced effects are great. The SL-20 modeler, the Tremelo, the Delay, are all awesome.
The others, not so much. Some disagree, but I found the Distortion un-usable. The biggest dissapointment is the Guitar to Bass transposition. It's worthless. Which is really too bad. You can also only have one effect on a a time, so this is probably not going to replace your Multi-FX, except if you are doing a stripped-down show and are simplifying things with a smaller pedalboard (a real need with the size of the RC-300).
So Threeleggedyoyo, what you're telling me is that if I already have beat-synced effects like from a GT series unit or something, these effects aren't going to help me anyway?
I wish it were so, but... no. And it was the 50's fault.
Here's the deal: For some reason, the RC-50 does not get along well with beat-synced Delay. I've tried two different pedals now with Midi-sync Delay (of which there are precious few). The Adrenalinn III and the GT-6. I expect the other GT units will behave similarly.
Both of them experienced significant glitching that stems from the RC-50 having a less-than-perfect Midi clock. In any other situation (Tremelos are ok. Drum Machines are ok. It's just Delay!) it's no big deal. But with Delay, the minor warbling of the BPM confuses the pedal and it tries to shift tempos and starts over. The GT does this less and gets weird artifacting. The Adrenalinn III did it more and simply forgot its Delays and cleared them all and started over. Both were random.
I tested the RC-300 with the Adrenalinn III and had the same problem. HOWEVER, with the beat-synced Delay built right into the 300, this problem goes bye-bye. Or at least during my tests, it never came up.
This has ended up being one of the more exciting things about the prospect of upgrading for me.
So while it shouldn't have to be, the fact is that the built-in effects cover some other shortcomings here in a way the 50 cannot.
2)8 Assigns Per Patch
Some people will never use this. But the long and the short of it is that while the RC-50 maxed out at 4 assignable control buttons, the RC-300 has 8, provided you use a Midi pedal that sends CC messages.
Truth be told you can get a few more out of the 50. You can reassign the Tempo and Undo buttons, and you can do some limited work with Midi also. But overall what the 300 is offering (while still also offering the 4 regular expansion momentary pedals) is more accessible, and there's more you can do with it.
Yes, increased assigns. There are more things you can control with the 300 than you could with the 50. A few highlights:
1) Change drum machine patterns
2) Multiple Undos (more on this later)
3) Effects parameters
It's also easier to get Continuous pedals hooked up to (for foot volume control or other expression). For one, there is one built in. For another, both the expansion jacks can function as Midi expression jacks, where the 50 has only 1 that can do this (though it can do additional ones through the MIDI IN).
Another cool thing is that you can actually overload assignments so a single button does multiple things. This is pretty cool. For example you could program the Overdub/Play on Phrase 2 to activate that juicy Delay or change the drumbeat.
The point here is that there's more you can do with external control, and it's easier to get at.
3) Independent Phrase Undo
The RC-50 has one Undo button that will Undo (or Redo) whichever recording or overdub you played last. This is useful not only for correcting mistakes, but for adding a layered solo which you then take away, or for clearing the top layer off the chorus for the next time you go back to play it and build it up the same way.
The RC-300 takes this a step farther. Each Phrase has its own Undo. So you can record an overdub on Phrase 1, go straight to Recording on Phrase 2, and still be able to Undo the one on Phrase 1. Pretty nifty. More on this later.
4) Rearranging the Furniture
For those of you who like Multi Mode (and this is apparently most people) the new button layout is a big improvement. The RC-50 shares Start and Stop buttons across the three Phrases. So if you're in Multi Mode and you want to go from recording an Overdub on Phrase 1 to another on Phrase 3, you have to hit two buttons: First, Phrase 3 to select it, and then the Start/Rec/Overdub on the other side of the unit.
The RC-300 has a Rec/Play/Overdub button and a dedicated Stop button for each of the three phrases, so you're never more than one tap away from any of the basic operations in Multi Mode.
Tap Tempo is built into any of the three Stop buttons, so you aren't hurting there, either.
The best part about this for Single Mode enthusiasts is that you can hold down any of the Stop buttons to clear a track without having to be on it. On the RC-50, you needed to assign an external pedal to perform that function.
5) Pitch Shifting
This really belongs in the Effects section, but the Pitch Shifter has looping uses that must not be ignored. You can record a phrase and then transpose it into different keys. So for example, you could have an entire 12-bar blues loop ready -- after recording 1 bar -- if you're willing to push this feature to its limits.
Last are several things that both units do, but the 300 basically just does BETTER.
1) Increased Memory Storage
There's no contest here. The RC-300 holds up to 3 hours of storage whether you're recording in Stereo or Mono. The RC-50 gets about 40 in Mono and 20 in Stereo.
2) Internal Drums
The 300 has more internal drums and better control over them.
3) All Start/Stop
Once again for Multi Mode enthusiasts, the RC-300 has a dedicated "All Loops Start/Stop" button. This could be done on the 50 by pressing Phrases 2 and 3 symultaneously, but this is friendlier.
4) Tempo Shift
Both units can take a loop you've already recorded and slow it down or speed it up. But in the case of the RC-50, it sounds terrible. It's like someone is playing your music through a fan... while strangling you. On the 300, it's something one could use.
5) Quantize Leap
The RC-300 gives you a better Quantize placement.
On the 50, it will assume that anything after (but not on) beat 3 of a measure will cut off to the end of that measure. So that gives you a 1.99 beat window to quantize in advance. If you are any earlier than that, the machine will assume you just hit the button really really late and mangle your loop.
On the 300, it's anyting after Beat 2, so you have 2.99 beats. This makes getting a perfect loop much easier.
It also has the added bonus of giving you a whole additional beat to get your foot in position for something else, such as activating distortion that you want to coincide with the new loop. For me that is a pretty big deal.
So Threeleggedyoyo, what you're telling me is that both units are great, but the 300 is superior whenever there are differences?
Mostly! But No!
My Ex-Wife Still Haunts Me
Despite the improvements in 95% of all areas, there are still a real, legitimate 5% in which the RC-50 actually wins out over the 300. Just to complicate things for you.
1) The RC-50 has a higher sampling rate
Supposedly this means the RC-50 should sounds a little better. I don't think I've ever noticed. I'm not sure anyone truly has. But if Honest Abe owned both pedals, he'd be compelled to tell you of this fact.
2) The RC-50 is better at that Single Undo
The RC-300 has 3 independent Undos, and it is an improvement. However, it introduces some new problems.
It takes the unit approximately a second or two after you tell it to Undo before it actually happens. This is compounded by the new button layout - where there was once a dedicated Undo/Redo button, you now have to hold down the Phrase button you'd like to undo for 2 seconds. THEN the 2 second wait kicks in, and then it does the Undo.
As if the wait wasn't bad enough, if you're not on the Phrase at the time, this will actually cue up the loop (yikes!).
You can, however, assign this function to external pedals easily. But this is less convenient, and that 2-second gap is still there.
With the 50, you have a dedicated "Last Undo" button that takes only about half a second to kick in.
This may be a step forward or backward depending on how you use undo. If you use it to correct mistakes and have longer loops, the 300 setup wins. If you like to Undo things on Phrases shortly after recording somewhere else a lot (I do) the RC-300 wins.
If you use shorter loops and use it chiefly to correct mistakes, points for the 50. If you use it to create solos you intend to layer and then take away to go back to the "normal" version of the verse, a couple more points for the 50.
If you don't want to use external pedals for this basic function and can't stand that 4-second wait, more points for the 50.
If your Ex was full of mistakes, at least she was more forgiving.
3) The RC-50 is a little smaller
They're both pretty big pedals. But the 50 is about two inches less wide and about an inch less "tall." Personally I don't care. My pedalboard is larger than some surfboards as it is. But it's there.
Of course, if space-saving is really your thing, you should be considering one of the smaller Boss pedals or a Boomerang III anyway (but that's a whole different ball of wax...)
4) The RC-50 is a Little More Flexible about Recording Order
Both pedals can be set to either Rec ---> Play or Rec ----> Overdub. This is nifty. If you want to go straight from a recording to layering it, you want Rec ---> Overdub. It you want to play a loop and go straight into playing over it without more recording, Rec ---> Play is the way to go.
When in Rec ---> Overdub on the 50, (at least in Single Mode) if you press Stop instead of Rec to tie off your loop, you'll go straight to Play. Cool! Now I have access to either one!
The 300 does not do this. The Boss engineers must have forgotten they included this feature the first time around (it's not in the manual).
I like being able to do whatever I want without planning! I like a single mode that does it all. This is really too bad that the RC-300 can't do this.
4) The RC-50 has Fewer Assignable options, but a couple that the 300 doesn't
The RC-50 can do the following with an external pedal, but the 300 can't:
1) Turn the Drums on and off. (in the 300's defense, it can control volume with external assigns, unlike the 50, so you can still get this done even if its slightly more complicated).
2) Write your patch. (You have to push the Write button to store your loops before going to a new patch, or you lose them. The 50 can do this with a footswitch, but the 300 cannot. Once again in the 300's defense, you have to stop all your loops to Write anyway, so who cares if you have to bend over and hit a button to save something you're unlikely to use further in a live situation anyway?)
6) Fade on In
I've never used this setting much myself, but while both the 50 and 300 can be set to fade out a loop at its end, only the 50 can fade in.
7) You Might Still Prefer the Button Layout
Single Mode enthusiasts might still prefer the RC-50 layout despite not having those nice dedicated clears. Issues with Undo placement aside, there is something to be said for having the Record and Stop buttons in the same place all the time. Since there are fewer buttons, and no pedal, the stomp buttons themselves are actually a bit larger, which makes them a touch more comfortable. I confess I prefer the benefits the 300 offer from a usability standpoint and would choose it over the 50 for this reason, but the 50 IS more comfortable and requires a little less thought to find that REC button when you're in the middle of juggling doubleneck chainsaws.
8 ) It's Hearsay, but the 50 May be More Reliable
It is hearsay, and both units come with a warrantee (which I can't spell right now).
That said, I have heard of people having glitches and lemons with the RC-300 more often than I've heard of anything breaking down on the 50.
I haven't heard of it happening with the 300 often. But MORE often.
Again, this isn't scientific. And with a warantee and/or service plan from your friendly neighborhood dealer (or heck, a used one with no issues), you'll likely be ok anyway.
9) RC-50 Can be a Midi Slave
Now lets get something straight here. The RC-50 is a crappy Midi slave. It's crapiness at this was one of the chief complaints with the unit. It was such a sticking point that Boss decided the RC-300 would not even have this feature. The RC-300 can slave to another RC-300 but nothing else.
The RC-50, on the other hand, can sync to most any Midi source that sends a Midi START message when it goes on. It can't just detect a BPM, which is kind of silly and frustrating. This is not optimal, but in some situations, is serviceable enough.
I would not recommend making the RC-50 the slave in nearly any circumstance (though it can solve the Delay problem in units that send MIDI if you are willing to deal with some other complications). The UI for doing it is bad and frustrating and with some units just won't work.
But if you want to, it can be done. Which is more than can be said for the 300.
10) Memory: Shorter Temper, Greater Warning
The RC-50 may have far less memory, but at least it keeps you informed on the display how much you have left. The RC-300 does not.
Still, for me I run out of patches and loops at about the same time on the 50 anyway. It would take some pretty darn long loops to max out the 300 with only 99 patches. And you can always restrict it to fewer patches to help you gauge yourself... or just plug it in to your computer via USB and see.
Look, folks, the RC-300 is the superior unit, and I want one. HOWEVER there are some users who may find they prefer the 50 if the right combination of GAS and Don't GAS converge upon the specific advantages they offer over one another, including the lower price point now that it's basically obsolete.