We all have that friend or maybe you’re even that guy. Whenever technology is on the cusp of a format change, you always seem to get on board with the option that dead ends. When the world was en route from CDs to MP3s, you picked up a MiniDisc player. A few years later, when a war was waging between Blue Ray and HD-DVD, you invested in the later. Tough call, but at least now you have a nice set of high-tech looking coasters.
The guitar and gear industry too has its evolutions, at times involving formats that either didn’t catch on or were misunderstood. Some of these now relics from the past, however, still have something to offer and symbolize important moments in gear history.
Take Boss, for example, the undeniable originator of the compact stompbox and ongoing innovator of guitar effect sounds. Between them and their parent company Roland, they also had an important role to play in the days of the dynasty of rack effects. Yes, that four letter word—rack—that makes many pedal aficionados shudder. One series of effects, however, marked an attempt to bridge between these worlds.
In the 1980s, Boss launched the Micro Rack series. A run of eventually twelve effect boxes that, as the name suggests, were tiny versions of racks effects that could be used conveniently in a miniature live setup or could sit comfortably on a desk corner for recording. Running at 12 bits and donning colorful knobs out front, the units capture the look and feel of the day.
This made in Japan anthology included models such as the RDD-20 Digital Delay, RCE-10 Chorus, RRV-10 Reverb, and ROD-10 Distortion/Overdrive. In many ways, the circuitry of the Rack Series effects was similar to that of Boss pedals from the 1980s, only in the rack format they included a few more bells and whistles.
Take the RPS-10 Pitch Shifter/Delay. This box includes options for a total of five delay modes with a range running up to 800 ms, a reverse/invert delay setting, and three pitch-shifting modes for an octave in either direction. In terms of connectivity, the RPS-10 has a number of in/out ports out back, one of which was for a footswitch that could hold the sound of affected audio and loop it until release. Try and find all that on a pedal, then or now!
With racks on the way out at the dawn of the new decade, however, the Micro Rack series may have been a right idea but came at the wrong time. Despite offering a fresh take on both the sounds and size of then traditional racks, pedals were the way of the future. Eventually, Boss parked the series to press on into the brave new world of compact guitar pedals.
As always, have a great #RiffCitySunday. If you have topic in guitar or gear history you’d like to hear about, let us know in the comments sections and we’ll do our best to tell the tale!