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Jon Broderick 09-02-2008 03:16 PM

September Sweetwater Gear Review Giveaway - Boss RC-20XL Phrase Recorder
This contest is sponsored by our good friends at

Check out their unique guitar gallery which shows the exact guitars they have in stock:

As I mentioned in the newsletter, Jeff here at the Guitar Tricks office is in the market for a Phrase Recorder, so he will be applying that enthusiasm to this review below.

We are going to givew this item away to a lucky newsletter reader next week.

In order to win this prize, you must "enter" the contest by posting on this thread before September 12.

Please read the rules in the next post to be sure you are eligible. Unfortunately, we can't ship this out of the U.S., so it is only open to U.S. residents.

Jon Broderick 09-02-2008 03:17 PM

Official Contest Rules
*** Sweetwater Gear Review Giveaway Contest Details ****

How Winners are Selected and Notified:

On September 12th we will randomly select one winner from people who post a reply to this forum thread. Posting more than once will not increase your chances to win.

Winner will be announce in this forum thread (save your newsletter, it is the only external link to this thread).

Official Contest Rules

- Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

- Contest is only open to U.S. residents who are over 18 years of age.

- No purchase necessary.

- All Guitar Tricks members including both Full Access and Free Membership are eligible to win.

- Guitar Tricks instructors, forum moderators, staff and members of their households are not eligible.

- Winner will have 30 days to claim their prize.

- If you win, we will need to use to your name and image in the newsletter, so have a good photo of yourself to send us!

- Prize winners are responsible for all federal, state and local taxes.

- By accepting a prize, all winners agree that Guitar Tricks, their affiliates, and all of the officers, directors, employees,
representatives and agents of Guitar Tricks, will have no liability whatsoever for, and will be held harmless by winner for any
liability for any injury, loss or damages of any kind, to winner or other persons, including (without limitation) injuries, loss or
damages arising out of or relating to death, and, injuries, damages or losses to property, due in whole or in part, directly or
indirectly, from the acceptance, possession, use or misuse of the prize or participation in this giveaway.

- Guitar Tricks reserves the right to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the giveaway, reject any entry, or make any revisions to the
official rules as we deem necessary.

Obeej 09-02-2008 03:31 PM

Boss RC-20XL Phrase Recorder Review

By Jeff Obee

Back in the 1970s, Roland released the tape-based Space Echo delay, famously used by Jaco Pastorius for looping bass grooves. In the early Ď90s, Gibson and Lexicon released the Echoplex and Jamman, respectively. Slowly but surely, looping became ever more popular, with a community of looping devotees springing up all over the world- and a whole slew of looping products as well.

Boss is a sub-division of Roland, so both have been in the looping game for quite some time. The original RC-20 phrase recorder was released in 2001; the RC-20XL appeared in 2004. Although there are several new features, the main difference is that the XL has 16 minutes of sampling time onboard.


A lot is packed into a small chassis here. The rear of the unit has 1/4Ē inputs for your instrument and mic (no XLR input, unfortunately), a 1/4Ē mono output (no stereo), an aux mini jack for CD/MD/iPod input, 1/4Ē inputs for phrase shift and reverse, and an AC input (the cord is fairly long with a minimal wall wart, which is good). The phrase shift and reverse inputs are for optional pedals to control these features without bending over to the front panel; reverse is self-explanatory, and phrase shift allows you to move from track to track.

The top consists of two small pedals that perform the bulk of your looping. The right one stops recording, playback, and overdubbing; sets tap tempo; and completely deletes your last phrase if held down for two seconds. The left one enables recording; once a phrase is recorded it then allows you to switch between playback and overdub modes. If you hold this pedal down for two seconds it will either undo or restore the current phrase. Indicator lights between the pedals show you whatís going on.

Also on top are 5 knobs and six buttons. The knobs are largely for setting input and output levels; one is for switching tracks (11 tracks in all, either one-shot or looped). The buttons are for reverse playback, tap tempo and time signature, saving tracks to memory, setting Auto Start (recording starts when it detects the first note- otherwise you get a bar of pre-roll), and to access the Stop Modes. The three Stop Modes allow you to either stop a loop immediately upon pressing the right pedal, fade a loop at the end, or stop a phrase after itís played to the end.

Thereís a Quantize feature that automatically sets the end of a phrase in time, which really helps lay down a solid groove. This can be disengaged. There is no headphone jack, MIDI capability, USB port, or flash card slot.


The RC-20XL isnít the most intuitive piece of gear Iíve used straight out of the box; all the features and controls packed into it will probably have you reading the manual at first, but I was soon off and running.

I first tested the unit on itís own, then put my Zoom FX pedal in-line before the RC-20XL. The audio quality holds up quite well as you layer overdubs, which is always a good thing in a looper. One of the knobs controls the Guide volume, meaning the metronome for the tap tempo (there are eight Guide sounds to choose from). At the low end, the Guide volume didnít fade well to zero- there was a point at which the volume was either off or a bit too present for my tastes.

If you sit while you play, then bending down and reaching for certain controls isnít too big an issue. However, if you prefer to stand, itís a pain. Youíll probably shell out for the ďsold separatelyĒ footswitches, since these control track switching and reverse playback. However, itís really nice to have reverse- itís indispensable when creating soundscapes.

Creating layers of grooves, chords, and incidental rhythm bits with the Rc-20XL alone is great fun. However, if youíre just using the usual timbre of your instrument itís easy for things to start blending too much. When I put the Zoom pedal into the mix, things started to sparkle. Playing chords with chorusing, incidental parts with wah-wah, and so forth helped everything stand out in the mix.

After playing with a bunch of groove material, I experimented with a soundscape. Auto Start and One-Shot (on any track) was helpful here as I randomly improvised sound effects and lines. I then tried a jazz tune (All The Things You Are), laying down the bass line first, then the chords, then soloing over the top. I have to say, this is a great way to hone your jazz chops. And speaking of honing chops, you can also slow the audio down to 75% speed and stay at the original pitch.


The RC-20XL is great for practicing, setting up layers of groove oriented material, or creating fairly complex atmospheric pieces. It retails for $362.50, but the Sweetwater price is around $260, so itís very reasonably priced for what it is. I would suggest getting the footswitches (if you donít have them already).

My wish list would include a headphone jack, MIDI clock for synching to other sound modules, an XLR input, USB capability, and some sort of memory card slot. But, thereís just not room- the idea behind a product like this is to fill the gap between the small and simple stomp box R-20 loop pedal, and the large seven-pedal full-featured RC-50. Folks into looping are always crying out for more features, so inevitably Boss had to squeeze as much as they could into a small-ish sized chassis to make it attractive at this price point.

The main competition here is Digitechís JamMan, which has an XLR input, USB and a flash slot- but no headphone jack, MIDI or reverse playback. Thereís always something. The bottom line is this: the RC-20XL has a lot of very useful features, sounds terrific, itís portable and built like a tank, andÖ itís a whole lot of serious fun.

light487 09-02-2008 03:39 PM

Thanks for reviewing this. You review is thorough enough for me to see that I might have to seriously sit down with one of these in a store, if I can find one in Australia, before purchasing it. I have been wanting one of these for a long time now but I can see now that it might not be as simple as I thought it would be.. a bit like watching a professional with a tremolo and then trying it yourself. It takes time to learn how to use it effectively. At least this review has given some more things to think about.

0x1a4 09-02-2008 09:23 PM

That looks like a fun unit. Count me in. Thanks!

aglanmg 09-03-2008 12:28 PM

Nice review, it is an interesting device.

2gross4u 09-05-2008 05:27 AM

Sweetwater's Boss RC-20XL Phrase Recorder looks to be a cool device and I sure would like to win it. I hope this reply suffices as an entry to the sweepstakes. Thanx from Jim-2gross4u

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