Boss RC-20XL Loop Station Effects Pedal – Review

First published: October, 2007

Being mostly self-taught in the art of ʻukulele playing, I have been told by several people that to improve my playing it might be a good idea to invest in some cheap recording equipment or get hold of a looper. Recording equipment takes up too much space and money so I decided to go for a Boss RC-20XL Loop Station. Wow. It’s incredible.

First of all a looper is a device that records your playing and then at the tap of a pedal plays it back. Your loop then plays over and over until you tell it to stop. While it is playing back you can overdub – add in riffs or chords to the already playing loop so that next time the loop goes around you hear the original loop plus the overdub. You are now a one man band.

The Boss RC-20XL really is a work of art. It is easy to learn how to do simple things with it, so I was plugged in and going “loopy” in five minutes. To create a loop with the RC-20 you select one of the eleven phrase tracks, adjust input levels, and the playback level. Then you stomp on the left pedal to start recording. Once you have recorded what you wanted to record (be it a chord progression, melody line or something in between) you step on the left pedal again to stop recording and start playback. (It takes a while to learn how to punch in and out at the right time.) After the loop starts playing back you can tap the left pedal once more to overdub. If you don’t like the overdub you can delete it by holding down the left pedal for two seconds. To bring back the deleted overdub you press and hold the left pedal again for two seconds. At this point you can either delete the whole loop along with overdubs or you can save the loop by pressing the “write” button twice.

That is basically what the RC-20 does, although it does have some nice features that make it even easier and more exciting to use:

  • 16 minutes of recording time.
  • Before you start recording a loop you can add tap tempo with the right pedal to let the RC-20 know how to even out the space in between loops.
  • There is a simple drum machine built in that uses the right pedal to set the tempo. You can change sounds and control the volume of the drum machine.
  • You can punch the reverse button to make you loop sound like an alien invasion.
  • The auto-start button makes the RC-20 start recording the moment you start playing instead of the moment you tap the pedal.
  • Stop mode makes your loop fade out in different ways.

It is indeed a Boss. I’ve heard stories about how a Boss could survive an atomic bomb, after buying the RC-20 I don’t have any doubts. The knobs operate smoothly and are very solid. Most of the lights are LCD; the ones that are not are inside the buttons so I’m not at all worried about them breaking.

This is definitely a nice thing to have if you play alone a lot and have some extra cash. I personally play a chord progression into the looper with my ʻukulele and then overdub bass parts in with my electric guitar. After that I play lead or practice my soloing with the loop.

The RC-20 does not come with an AC adapter but it does come with a pack of batteries. You will also need an extra instrument cable – one from your ʻukulele to the looper, and one from the looper to the amp.

Update: I did have a technical issue with my unit. There was some sort of electrical noise that would whine through the amp whenever the leds flashed. It was still under warranty though so I talked to a very patient and helpful lady at Roland. She told me to send it in; parts are covered under warranty for 5 years, but labor is only for one (I was outside the later number and labor was going to be something like $35/hr.). I figured the labor cost would be way cheaper than buying a new looper, so I sent it over to the Roland factory (Roland owns/is Boss). Without any warning, my RC-20 just showed up on my doorstep a month later. They had done a mod to fix the problem and didn’t charge me a dime for the work.

So it’s not flawless reliability wise, but Boss’ customer service was very pleasant and they fixed my problem for free.

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Brad Bordessa
brad bordessa smiling holding ukulele

I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honokaʻa, Hawaiʻi, where I run this site from a little plantation house in the jungle. I’ve taught workshops internationally, made Herb Ohta Jr. laugh until he cried, and once jammed with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me