Boss RC-1, RC-3, RC-30, RC-300, and RC-505: An In-Depth Comparison

Boss makes some of the best guitar equipment out there, in my opinion. After years of watching their products get better and better, I feel we’re finally at a place where I can compare some of their looper pedal and looper station models to help determine which is the best value. 

There’s a popular saying when it comes to high-quality items: buy nice or buy twice. If you choose to go with a station or pedal that is less expensive, it may not last until you need to use it. Alternatively, choosing a pedal that doesn’t have everything you need will mean you need to drop more money in the future. Don’t end up with a ton of pedals and hundreds of wasted dollars.

Boss’s RC-1, RC-3, RC-30, RC-300, and RC-505 models all have different things to offer a guitarist, whether you’re a beginner or are doing live performances every weekend with your band. Let’s take a look at what sets them apart, what makes them the same, and how each of them can help boost your performance.

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
Our Top Pickmlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-300
  • Best Product for Live Performances
  • So many ways to play with your sound, including effects, a fader, and 3 separate stereo tracks that can be played simultaneously
  • Tons of on-board memory for storing loops and tracks
VIEW ON AMAZON →
mlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-1
  • Simplistic design that is easy to use and master
  • Great features when compared to other looper pedals in its class
  • Runs on battery, but can be connected via AC adaptor
VIEW ON AMAZON →
mlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-3
  • Compact enough to be a worthy addition to your pedalboard
  • Tons of recording time and memory phases for different recordings
  • 10 different drumbeats preloaded to help you keep the rhythm
VIEW ON AMAZON →
mlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-30
  • Indicator lights and display screen work together to give you the most information
  • Easy to choose effects and tempos with the simple interface
  • Ability to handle double stereo tracks with up to 3 hours of recording time
VIEW ON AMAZON →
mlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-505
  • 37 effect types and 85 rhythm types for endless sound possibilities
  • Five simultaneous stereo tracks that can be controlled independently
  • Sleek, futuristic look with lots of indicator lights and a loop indicator panel for each track
VIEW ON AMAZON →

Main Differences

First, I’ll look at the important feature sand specifications that these looper pedals offer.

FeatureRC-1RC-3RC-30RC-300RC-505
# of Effect Types0051627
Recording Time12 minutes3 hours3 hours3 hours3 hours
Phase Memory099999999
# of Tracks01235
# of Footswitches11290
# of Rhythm Types010108385
DisplayNoneLED (2 characters, 7 segments)LED (2 characters, 7 segments)LED (2 characters, 7 segments); Backlit LCD (16 characters, 2 lines)Backlit LCD (16 characters, 2 lines)
Battery Life3 hours3 hours7.5 hoursNone (AC Only)None (AC Only)
Power Draw95 mA70 mA195 mA320 mA420 mA
Input Impedance1 M Ohm1 M ohm (INPUT), 22k Ohm (AUX)4 k Ohm (mic), 1 M Ohm (instrument), 22 k Ohm (AUX)4 k Ohm (mic), 1 M Ohm (instrument), 47 k Ohm (AUX)4 k Ohm (mic), 22 k Ohm (instrument), 22 k Ohm (AUX)
Output Impedance1 k Ohm1 k Ohm1 k Ohm2 k Ohm2 k Ohm
ConnectorsINPUT A (MONO) jack: 1/4-inch phone type,
INPUT B jack: 1/4-inch phone type,
OUTPUT A (MONO) jack: 1/4-inch phone type,
OUTPUT B jack: 1/4-inch phone type,
STOP/UNDO jack: 1/4-inch TRS phone type,
DC IN jack
INPUT A Jack: 1/4" phone type,
INPUT B Jack: 1/4" phone type,
AUX IN Jack: Stereo miniature phone type,
OUTPUT A Jack: 1/4" phone type,
OUTPUT B Jack: 1/4" phone type,
STOP/MEMORY SHIFT Jack: 1/4" TRS phone type,
USB Connector,
DC IN Jack (DC 9 V)
MIC IN Jack: XLR type (balanced/phantom power: DC 48 V, 10 mA),
INST IN Jacks (L/MONO, R): 1/4" phone type,
AUX IN Jack: Stereo miniature phone type,
OUTPUT Jacks (L/MONO, R): 1/4" phone type,
FOOT SW Jack: 1/4" TRS phone type,
USB port: USB B type,
DC IN Jack (DC 9 V)
INPUT MIC jack: XLR type (balanced/phantom power: DC 48 V, 10 mA),
INPUT INST jacks (L/MONO, R): 1/4" phone type,
INPUT AUX jack: Stereo miniature phone type,
MAIN OUTPUT jacks (L/MONO, R): 1/4" phone type,
SUB OUTPUT jacks (L/MONO, R): 1/4" phone type,
PHONES jack: Stereo 1/4" phone type,
CTL 1,2 / EXP 2 jack: 1/4" TRS phone type,
CTL 3,4 / EXP 3 jack: 1/4" TRS phone type,
USB connector,
MIDI connectors, (IN/OUT/THRU),
DC IN jack (DC 9 V)
INPUT MIC jack: XLR type (balanced, phantom power: DC 48 V, 10 mA Max),
INPUT INST (L/MONO, R) jacks: 1/4-inch phone type,
INPUT AUX jack: Stereo miniature phone type,
PHONES jack: 1/4-inch Stereo phone type,
LINE OUTPUT (L/MONO, R) jacks: 1/4-inch Stereo phone type,
CTL 1, 2/EXP jack: 1/4-inch TRS phone type,
USB port: USB Type B,
MIDI (IN, OUT) connectors,
DC IN jack
Dimensions5.08 x 2.32 x 2.87”5.08 x 2.32 x 2.87”6.8 x 6.25 x 2.25”

21.125 x 9.125 x 3”16.56 x 8.31 x 2.69
Price$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Let’s dive into what each of these features means for you.

# of Effect Types

Sometimes looper pedals can add effects to your loops, to improve and enhance the sound in the same way an effects pedal would. Here, I’ve listed the number of different effects that each pedal offers. 

The RC-1 and RC-3, being basic models, don’t have any effects available. On the other hand, the RC-505 has the highest number of effects, with 27.

Recording Time

Each loop pedal has a certain amount of on-board memory. The recording time refers to how much audio can be recorded and stored at once. 

Most pedals on the list can store up to 3 hours of music, but the RC-1 can only store 12 minutes.

Phase Memory

This refers to the number of memory banks that the looper has. Most pedals on the list have 99 phase memories, which means there is a potential of 99 loops and repeats you can create and store (up to 3 hours of total playtime, as per the recording time setting). The RC-1 is the only looper pedal that has no phase memory.

# of Tracks

The number of tracks that a looper pedal has available tells you how many backing tracks you can use while you play. The RC-1, for example, cannot store any backing tracks. The RC-505, which is the most recent model, can store up to 5 backing tracks at a time. Each track can be played together and synced to create amazing sound experiences.

# of Footswitches

Footswitches make your looper pedal easier to use, especially when you’re performing live (where you may not have space or the ability to bend down to change settings in the middle of a performance). Curiously, the RC-300 has the most footswitches of any pedal on our list. The RC-505 requires the purchase of an external footswitch if need to operate via footswitch.

# of Rhythm Types

Each genre of music has a different rhythm type or a standard beat composition. The number of rhythm types available on your looper pedal can be important if you want to play around with a variety of different sounds, rhythms, and more. The basic RC-1 has no rhythm types preloaded, but the RC-300 and RC-505 pedals have over 80 rhythm types each.

Display

If your pedal has a display, you want it to be versatile. A segmented LED screen will get the job done, but a backlit LCD will be able to display setting changes. You’ll also get the added benefit of words instead of codes and abbreviations for all of your settings. 

Battery Life

While only three of the looper pedals I’m looking at today can run on battery, this metric will inform you how long the pedal can function on a battery. Measurements are taken using alkaline batteries, so other battery types may present varying battery life. 

Out of our loop pedal list, only the RC-300 and the RC-505 run strictly on AC power and cannot run on battery.

Power Draw

The power draw of a pedal will tell you how much power it requires to run. This can be important when you’re working on power solutions for your setup. Adding a pedal that draws the right amount of power without drawing too much (or too little) can benefit the way your system sounds and functions. 

Power draw is measured in mA, or milliamperes, which is a common way that most instruments and accessories measure current. The pedals with the smallest power draw (The RC-1, RC-3, and RC-30) are also the only pedals on our list that can run on battery alone.

Input Impedance

As a general rule, a higher input impedance is always good. Low input impedance values can ‘load’ your instrument, making their volume lower and their sound somewhat distorted. The same is true when you use an AUX input or a microphone input. You always want the highest input impedance possible to increase your sound quality. Higher input impedance also allows you to connect multiple devices without worrying.

Thankfully, all of the pedals on our list have a pretty solid input impedance, barring the instrument input impedance on the RC-505. Instead of 1 M Ohm like the rest, it only boasts 22 k Ohm.

Output Impedance

Output impedance is just the opposite of its input counterpart. You want low output impedance – the lower, the better. This is because lower output impedance allows your amp to balance power more efficiently. A higher output impedance may cause voltage drops, which can lead to problems with sound quality, equipment function, and can ultimately affect the number of devices that can be attached to your amp.

Connectors

Having more connectors isn’t always better. The quality and variety of connectors are far more important. Make sure that the looper pedal you have your eye on has the inputs and outputs for the types of equipment that you want to use with it. 

Some connectors will allow you to connect additional instruments and add them to your loops, so make sure to look up the specifics on how you want to make your system work together.

Dimensions

How big is the pedal? When you’re planning a pedalboard or considering how much space you’ll have in your studio or on stage, knowing the dimensions of the pedal can make all the difference. Choose the pedal that is best for your needs, but also consider how it’s going to fit in a lineup with your other equipment.

Price

How much are you willing to spend on your looper pedal? Price is an important consideration when you’re shopping for a pedal. The looper pedals on this list have a wide range of prices but consider spending just enough to get the features that you need. 

Individual Reviews

Boss RC-1

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
mlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-1
  • Simplistic design that is easy to use and master
  • Great features when compared to other looper pedals in its class
  • Runs on battery, but can be connected via AC adaptor
VIEW ON AMAZON →

The Boss RC-1 is the most basic looper pedal on the list, but that doesn’t mean that it should be immediately discounted. If you don’t want any of the bells and whistles of the other RC models, this pedal will work wonders for your set up. 

In addition to solid performance among other basic loop stations in its class, the RC-1 offers a step above the competition. The stereo input/output that is available on all the RC model loopers on this list makes it a little more than basic. It’s perfect for clarity and makes your music sound like it was meant to be heard.

The indicator ring display is also a great addition to this basic pedal. You can tell at a glance how long the loop is and what mode/phase of looping you’re in. 

Pros: 

  • Simplistic design that is easy to use and master
  • Great features when compared to other looper pedals in its class
  • Runs on battery, but can be connected via an AC adaptor

Cons:

  • Only 12 minutes of recording time, which is far less than other pedals on this list
  • AC adaptor must be ordered separately

Boss RC-3

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
mlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-3
  • Compact enough to be a worthy addition to your pedalboard
  • Tons of recording time and memory phases for different recordings
  • 10 different drumbeats preloaded to help you keep the rhythm
VIEW ON AMAZON →

Boss’s RC-3 is a step above the previous RC-1 model. It still runs on a battery, but it provides up to three hours of recorded audio, which is a vast improvement. It also contains a drum rhythm, which is rare and valued among looper pedals.

The RC-3 also features an AUX input, a USB port so you can transfer your loops to your computer, and 99 memory slots for storing your loops. The interface is a little more complicated than the RC-1’s visual indicator ring, but it offers much more flexibility and many more settings as well.

Pros: 

  • Compact enough to be a worthy addition to your pedalboard
  • Tons of recording time and memory phases for different recordings
  • 10 different drumbeats preloaded to help you keep the rhythm

Cons:

  • Double-tap to stop recordings can throw off your rhythm
  • AC adaptor must be ordered separately

Boss RC-30

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
mlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-30
  • Indicator lights and display screen work together to give you the most information
  • Easy to choose effects and tempos with the simple interface
  • Ability to handle double stereo tracks with up to 3 hours of recording time
VIEW ON AMAZON →

The RC-30 is the mid-step model between the basic pedals (RC-1 and RC-3) and the higher-end looper stations (RC-300 and RC-505) on our list. This model offers dual pedals so you can easily control effects, tracks, and more without complicated tap patterns. It also comes with 5 different effects, unlike the more basic models. 

One of the biggest changes to this model besides the dual pedals is the extended battery life. The pedal can now run for up to 7.5 hours before the battery needs to be changed (if you’re using alkaline batteries). The Boss RC-30 can also run on AC power, but the adaptor must be purchased separately. 

A microphone input, two separate stereo tracks, and more control over your loops make this pedal competitive for its class.

Pros: 

  • Indicator lights and display screen work together to give you the most information
  • Easy to choose effects and tempos with the simple interface
  • Ability to handle double stereo tracks with up to 3 hours of recording time

Cons:

  • Tap controls may be difficult to learn
  • Takes up a lot of space on your pedalboard

Boss RC-300

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
Our Top Pickmlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-300
  • Best Product for Live Performances
  • So many ways to play with your sound, including effects, a fader, and 3 separate stereo tracks that can be played simultaneously
  • Tons of on-board memory for storing loops and tracks
VIEW ON AMAZON →

The RC-300 is the first larger, more complicated looper station on this list. This model includes several smaller pedal switches, as well as a larger expression pedal to help better control effects as you’re playing. Three stereo tracks can be synced up here, as well as input level controls for auxiliary input, a microphone, and your instrument.

Essentially, the RC-300 packs a lot more features into its design. There are dual pedals for each stereo track, as well as a multitude of connectors and multiple rhythm settings. The segmented screen is still here, but there is a backlit LED screen as well for greater visibility. 

This is one of the best pedals on our list for live performances, as the wealth of options can be changed on the fly with some clever footswitch stomping.

Pros: 

  • Best Product for Live Performances
  • So many ways to play with your sound, including effects, a fader, and 3 separate stereo tracks that can be played simultaneously
  • Tons of on-board memory for storing loops and tracks

Cons:

  • 9-pedal design means it takes up a lot of space on stage
  • Takes a while to find an optimal setup

Boss RC-505

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
mlmtbl-table__imageBOSS RC-505
  • 37 effect types and 85 rhythm types for endless sound possibilities
  • Five simultaneous stereo tracks that can be controlled independently
  • Sleek, futuristic look with lots of indicator lights and a loop indicator panel for each track
VIEW ON AMAZON →

The Boss RC-505 is a bit different from other loopers on our list. First, it isn’t meant to be a stompbox – rather, it is operated completely with your hands. This is beneficial for vocalists and other performers who can press buttons while on stage. 

On the other hand, it is the most high-tech, feature-rich looper station on our list. There are input effects, track effects, and even DJ setting effects so you can always play around with your sound. There are 85 rhythm patterns preloaded so you can experiment with different tempos and genres. Each of the 99 phase memories can hold up to five-phase tracks, so you can store a lot of custom loops, tracks, and sounds.

The RC-505 looks great as well, with backlit buttons and a completely backlit LCD screen that displays all the information you need. 

Pros: 

  • 37 effect types and 85 rhythm types for endless sound possibilities
  • Five simultaneous stereo tracks that can be controlled independently
  • Sleek, futuristic look with lots of indicator lights and a loop indicator panel for each track

Cons:

  • Not made for operation with your feet
  • Doesn’t run on battery

Overview and Common Features

Now that you know how the RC-1, RC-3, RC-30, RC-300, and RC-505 are different, let’s take a look at some of the features that they share. 

Stereo Features

This feature sets the Boss RC line apart from the competition at every level. While some looper station and stompboxes only produce mono sound, the RC line allows stereo input and output. The difference is right in your audio quality: stereo allows for better audio fidelity, so your music always sounds like it was meant to be heard.

AC Adaptor Compatibility

Though three of the pedals on our list (RC-1, RC-3, and RC-30) run on battery power, all five stations allow you to attach an AC adaptor. In the case of these first models, the adaptor must be purchased separately, but you will have unlimited use time with the pedal plugged in.

External Footswitch Support

If you feel like one (or two, or nine) pedals aren’t enough, each of these models have the option to add an external footswitch. In the case of the RC-505, this allows you to modify the station for use during performances. Additional footswitches can also give you new means to control your sound and recordings.

Internal Loop Recording

Of course, the one thing you want from your loop pedal is just that – the ability to loop. These stations can all record your loops to their onboard memory so you can recall them at any time. Even the basic model, the RC-1, boasts 12 minutes of recording time. It isn’t much, but it’s better than none at all. The more advanced models can record for up to 3 hours.

Overdubbing

Overdubbing allows you to add more to your audio tracks. More effects, more layers of audio, and more loops. All Boss RC audio pedals allow you to do this endlessly, so there isn’t a cap on how much you can add.

‘Undo’ Function

Don’t ruin your tracks! With the ‘Undo’ function, you don’t have to re-record every part of your loop if you ruin one section. Simply undo the recording you just made and have another try without sacrificing your entire recording.

Simple, Effective Interface

From the RC-1’s indicator wheel to the RC-505’s backlit buttons and bright LCD, each of these pedals has an amazing interface. This includes all of the indicator lights, screens, and knobs that tell you what they do. Every part of these pedals is easy to master with some practice thanks to the simple interface.

Stereo FeaturesAll models have stereo inputs and outputs.
AC Adaptor CompatibilityEven pedals that run on battery can be plugged in via AC Adaptor
External Footswitch Support

You can attach another footswitch when you need more control.
Internal Loop RecordingEven if it’s just 12 minutes, all models allow you to record loops and save them to the internal memory.
OverdubbingEach RC model on this list allows you to add as many effects and layers to your loops as you want
‘Undo’ FunctionEven the basic pedals allow you to undo the last action you took on your loop, saving you valuable recording time.
Simple but Effective InterfaceThese pedals and loop stations look good and share the important information upfront

Verdict

These Boss RC looper stations and pedals are all highly engineered pieces of machinery that can help take your sound to the next level. Even the most basic pedal has features that put other basic pedals to shame, and that’s saying something.

Overall, the Boss RC-505 has the most to offer – but it can be difficult to use for live performances. For beatboxing, vocals, and other handsfree performances, this is the looper station to beat. On the other hand, the RC-300 has a slightly smaller collection of features but works better for live performances. 

The RC-1 and RC-3 models are great for beginners, or for guitarists who want a simple looper pedal. These are great for use in live performances or the studio. They are also small and extremely portable. 

The RC-30 is our middle-of-the-road station. This looper has dual footswitches, but it also carries a marginal degree of performance that the RC-3 doesn’t meet. For a great looper on a budget, this is the perfect station.

Summary
Article Name
Boss RC-1, RC-3, RC-30, RC-300, and RC-505: An In-Depth Comparison
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