space-challenged session guitarist Adam Goldsmith is trying out a new micro pedalboard for tV and studio work
Many working guitar players – including myself – find that the size of our pedalboards can be an issue. The majority of my work takes place in either a recording or TV studio, and frequently with orchestras, which (especially with the latter two situations) hardly ever provide you with enough room. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve played at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic or the BBC Concert Orchestra, where you’re expected to cover every style known to man in one concert, and then they provide you with the same amount of room as the second viola player.
Therefore, when an email advert for a new bit of gear popped into my inbox, it piqued my interest. For those of you who haven’t seen the Boss MS-3 yet, it’s a looper switcher/amp channel/MIDI controller combined with a multi-effects unit. It’s also tiny, at about the size of three Boss pedals next to each other.At least as far as I know – and I stand ready to be corrected – this is the first unit to offer all that, especially in such a small package.
My current go-to setup for sessions involves a Fractal FX8 for mods, delays, reverbs and assorted effects, a Strymon Sunset,J Rockett Archer and Keeley Monterey fuzz for drives, and an Xotic SLCompressor teamed with an Analog Man-modded Boss EQ pedal,plus wah and volume pedals.As you can imagine, that takes up a lot of space, which is fine for those times when someone else is moving your gear into Abbey Road Studio One for a Hollywood film, but not so fine when you’re doing a jingle in someone’s back garden studio and there’s no parking… and even less fine when you’re doing a set with your mates at the Dog & Ferret on a Sunday night.
So here’s the thing with very high-quality and expensive effects when it comes to studio recording: nine times out of 10, when you’re there as a session player on someone else’s commercial project, the first thing the engineer will tell you to do is turn off all your delays and reverbs, or at least minimise them.That way, when it comes to mixing the music at a later date, they can add them to their taste and aren’t stuck with your original choices. Hence, whenever high-end effects are described as‘studio quality’in their blurb, it occurs to me that‘studio quality’should really mean‘easy to turn off’.
The thing that really matters is your fundamental tone – that being the amp and possibly one or two drive pedals. So while a direct comparison between the effects of the Fractal Audio FX8 and the Boss MS-3 is a little unfair given the price gap of several hundred pounds, which will actually be more useful to me in most of my gigs? It’s going to be a work in progress as I’ve only just received the MS-3, but so far I’m really very impressed. As a technophobe, I find the editing process much easier than the Fractal, and although I’m not really a fan of the drives on either, my favourite drive pedals are easily integrated into the loops of the Boss unit in a stupidly small surface area. My friend Chris, who runs the great company Custom Pedal Boards (guess what they do?), is providing me with a ’board and case specifically for it and two volume or wah-sized pedals, and the whole thing is only 540mm by 230mm.
As I said, I’m early in this comparison process, so I do reserve the right to change any opinions, but at the moment I’m willing to take a slight reduction in the quality of the effects (on a first listen the delays and reverbs, while very good on the Boss, are a little less pristineand expensive-sounding than the Fractal), for the convenience of the Boss. I’m going to use this new setup on the live final of BBC’s Pitch Battle in a couple of weeks. Nothing like taking a chance on live TV with a new bit of gear. Or maybe I should try it at the proverbial Dog & Ferret first?
Adam is trying out the Boss MS-3 (bottom left) in his new custom ’board – with ukulele for scale!