Field Test: Boss RV-500 Reverb

The Boss RV-500 is a reverb freak’s paradise. Our review of one of Boss' most exciting new pedals.
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Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of reverb. I love using it to wash over guitar solos, or provide a subtle and ghostly presence to chord progressions. So the BOSS RV-500 Reverb ($349 street) is definitely a machine after my own heart, as it offers a huge amount of options, sounds, and parameter control. Drawing on the rich, reverberated history of Roland/BOSS effects throughout the years, the RV-500 includes old and essential favorites such as Plate, Room, Hall, and Spring, as well as some wilder options like Shimmer, Non-Linear, and Space Echo. All of the reverbs sound fantastic, and you can not only use the A/B Simul mode to use two patches simultaneously, but a spill-over function ensures the reverb tails don’t cut off when you change patches. The Hall setting is particularly lush and spacious. My arpeggios drifted far into the ether in the most beautiful ways. On the unconventional side, one of my favorite presets was Storm, which indeed sounds like your guitar signal is being tossed around by a tornado. There is a swoosh and whoosh with every chord you play! I also liked the Lo-Fi preset—especially for giving double-tracked guitars different filtered effects—and Slowverb, which added post-rock drama to a Jazzmaster and fuzz part.

There are myriad control options in the RV-500, and, at times, the amount of available parameter tweaks—as well as navigating the menus and patches—can be overwhelming. Any box with 297 preset locations is going to be a programmer’s dream—as well as a possible point of struggle for players who just want to click a button and get reverb. However, the manual is well-configured and detailed, and it helps smooth out any learning curves by walking you through all of the editing operations. And if you choose not to go deep into the menus—which I think would be a mistake, because the reverb-sculpturing power is incredible—the top-panel controls are familiar and easy: Time, Pre-Delay, Effect Level, Low and High EQ, Bank Up and Down, and a Tap Tempo footswitch. Back-panel features include stereo/mono 1/4” outputs, MIDI In/Out, USB (for synching with the device’s free editor/librarian software), and an expression-pedal jack. You can also choose between true-bypass and buffered operation.

The LCD, top-panel knobs, and footswitches make the RV-500 a fantastic choice to put on your pedalboard for live performances. Once you get all of your patches together, it’s a breeze to call up tons of cool reverbs on the fly. But the audio quality (thanks to a 32-bit AD/DA running at 96kHz) and the number of sounds also make the RV-500 a wonderful home-studio tool. Sure, there are no balanced XLR outputs, but I had no discernable sonic glitches routing the 1/4” outputs to my DAW of choice using a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. For recording, the reverbs worked great on vocals, background vocals, drums, and percussion—so much so, that I often opted to record the ambient effect with the source sound, using the Effect Level control to add just the right amount of dimension and environment. While $349 might seem a bit expensive for a reverb pedal, you have to factor in the dual-application (stage and studio), 12 modes and 21 reverb types, NASA-like parameter control, and numerous presets. Not to mention that the RV-500 is a reverb freak’s paradise!

KUDOS Inspiring tones. So many ways to tweak them.
CONCERNS Editing menus can feel overwhelming.