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Boomerang III Phrase Sampler and Side Car Controller

July 13, 2012
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Boomerang has been making looping pedals geared toward serious loopists since 1995, the most recent being the Boomerang III ($559 retail/$469 street) running version 2.1 software, which, among other things, enables it to operate with the new Side Car ($269 retail/$227 street). The Boomerang III is impressive on its own, but has far more footswitchable features than it has footswitches, meaning you have to choose some and do without others in any configuration. In response to user requests for greater flexibility, Boomerang introduced the Side Car, which greatly expands the Boomerang III’s creative capabilities, particularly when used live. Here, I’ll briefly explain what the Boomerang III can do, how the Side Car enables it to do much more, and how I used both units to perform a live-looping arrangement of “Third Stone From the Sun” at the Thanks Jimi Festival in Wroclaw, Poland.

The Boomerang III has three primary loops. There are dedicated footswitches for Loop 1, Loop 2, and Loop 3, along with two Bonus switches—colored green and yellow—which may be assigned to various functions, including Stack (overdub), Erase, (play) Once, Octave (half-speed), Reverse, Play-Stop All, Fade, Undo, Copy, Reverse Solo, and Loop 4. The Bonus footswitches operate at two levels—Tap and Press—and with two exceptions separate functions may be assigned to each, effectively resulting in four footswitches. The exceptions are Loop 4 and Solo Reverse, which require an entire footswitch each. And therein lies the aforementioned rub: To do my Hendrix thing I needed that fourth loop and the absolutely killer Solo Reverse function, which used up the two Bonus footswitches—but I also needed Octave, Reverse, Stack, and Fade at the very least.

Fortunately, the Side Car provides dedicated switches for Stack, Play-Stop All, and Erase/Erase All, along with two more assignable Bonus footswitches, which I assigned to Octave, Reverse, Fade, and Thru Mute (to kill the guitar signal when tuning). The Side Car connects to the Boomerang III via a MIDI cable, and is powered with the Boomerang III’s power supply using a splitter cable (both cables are included). The only bummer is that the power supply is a proprietary design, and the barrel connectors are not the standard size, meaning the pedals can’t be powered with a power supply such as the Voodoo Lab Digital unit I used to power the other pedals in my rig.

The Boomerang III’s other controls include six knobs with dual functions, two buttons labeled Play Style and Bonus Assign, and 20 LEDs—12 of which are arranged in a circular pattern called the Clock Display. The LEDs flash different colors at different intensities and speeds, as well as lighting solid, to indicate the status of various functions. And while the system is somewhat unwieldy and requires a good memory, it is rather clever and does effectively convey a great deal of information visually.

The Boomerang III offers four operating modes or “Play Styles”: Serial, Serial-Sync, Sync, and Free. When set to Serial, loops play one at a time, which allows you to create individual loops for each part of a song (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.), and switch between them. For example, if Loop 1 has been recorded and is playing, pressing the Loop 2 footswitch cues Loop 2 up for recording, and as soon as Loop 1 completes its cycle, it is muted and recording begins on Loop 2. There’s no need to press more than one footswitch, or to “punch in” accurately—everything is automated. Serial- Sync is similar, except that Loop 3 becomes the “master” loop, the other loops are synchronized to it, and Loop 3 can continue playing at the same time as any one of the other loops. Sync is a variation on Serial-Sync, which allows all loops to play together, synchronized to Loop 3. Free allows all loops to play together independently.

For “Third Stone From the Sun,” I set the Boomerang III to Sync mode, and first recorded a “bass” line onto Loop 3 (using an Electro-Harmonix Micro-POG for the sub octave), which became the master loop that all subsequent loops would sync to. Next, using a clean tone I recorded a twochord motif on Loop 1, followed by the first half of the main riff on Loop 2. Then, I reversed Loop 1 for a cool psychedelic effect, and played a recording of Hendrix’s voice on an iPhone through the guitar pickup, using Stack to overdub the last part (“You’ll never hear surf music again”) onto Loop 1, over the reversed chords. After that, I used Octave to drop Loop 1 down to half speed, producing the slowed-down voice effect Hendrix used on the album. I then engaged Solo Reverse, tapped in a two-bar delay, and played what sounded to the audience like a real time backwards guitar solo. Next, I kicked in a Gore Pedals Ocho octave fuzz, and recorded the entire main riff on Loop 4. To get some of the flavor of the Hendrix original, I used a Strymon El Capistan delay pedal and my guitar’s tremolo arm to overdub spacy effects onto Loop 1. Finally, I engaged Fade, and played the main riff again as all of the loops gradually faded out underneath. Obviously, a lot of features and moves were involved, and the Boomerang III and Side Car both performed exceptionally and without a hitch.

Although I didn’t play it at the festival, I also worked up a looping arrangement of “Are You Experienced?” that takes advantage of one of the Boomerang III’s lesserknown but hippest features. By engaging Reverse and Octave before recording the first loop, and then looping a muted rhythmic figure, an “Are You Experienced?”-style reversed rhythm part is recorded immediately, without having to first record the loop then reverse it and drop it down an octave, which would require four moves and spoil the mojo. Very cool!

The Boomerang III has many more features than there is room to cover here, including true stereo operation, multiple sampling rates/delay times, onboard mixing, variable Fade time, an expression pedal jack, the ability to copy and merge tracks, and several intriguing “Optional Behaviors”—but you can find details and downloadable user manuals on Boomerang’s very informative website.

Kudos Robust feature set. Awesome Reverse Solo function. Pristine audio quality.
Concerns Requires proprietary power supply.
Contact Boomerang Musical Products, (800) 530-4699; boomerangmusic.com

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