THE BOSS ME LINE OF MINIMALIST multi-effects has been a boon to beginners and a secret weapon for pros since its inception. Neophytes enjoy being able to test drive many Boss effects for not much more than the price of a single pedal, and for some professionals, these compact effectors packs enough processing power for rehearsals or small gigs that don’t warrant a full pedalboard or rack system. The ME-25 is a new model in this classic series, replacing the ME-20.
No subtle upgrade, the ME-25 ($276 retail/$199 street) completely revamps the layout, operation, and character of this multi-effect pedal. For starters, while the ME-20 contained 17 effects geared for hands-on performance with everything laid out in four rows right on the face, the ME- 25 adds amp modeling and requires slightly more sophisticated programming to get the maximum bang for its minimal bucks. Also, where the 20’s three footswitches accessed individual effects as well as programs, the 25 uses two footswitches only to scroll up and down through programs, and the third to tap delay tempos, control the new loop function, or engage a “Solo” boost for any patch.
One of the major upgrades is the use of Roland’s COSM modeling to add amplifiers. This allows you to plug the ME-25 directly into a mixing board for recording or live performance. If you wish to use the pedal’s effects through a stack or combo, you can simply create a group of patches with the amp modeling shut off.
The ME-25’s Sound Library lets you choose among six tonal starting points— Clean, Crunch, Drive, Lead, Heavy, and Extreme—by pushing the appropriately labeled button. A knob then selects ten variations of each type. You can then immediately access drive, tone, and volume parameters from three more knobs, enter edit mode, add or delete effects, and save to a user program slot.
While the ME-25’s reconfiguration seems more a lateral move than an advance, its USB capability is a definitive leap forward. Hook this baby up to your computer and it functions as an audio interface, for recording and monitoring through any USB cable. No DAW? It comes bundled with Cakewalk SONAR 8.5 LE software. The USB connection also lets you use included software to save and edit sounds onscreen.
I tested the ME-25 with my Fernandes T-type and Danelectro Dead On ’67 guitars. I have always appreciated the sound and response of Roland’s COSM modeling; for me, it is less a case of it sounding “authentic” than that it sounds musical and responds naturally to my picking and volume knob dynamics. The ME-20 adds a Super Stack button that not only made the Metal sounds deliver a resounding thump, but also acted as an excellent overall “loudness” button, adding bottom end richness to clean and crunch patches.
The expression pedal delivered authentic sounding wah and whammy effects, but I really loved the Freeze mode, where any chord played with the pedal in heel position was infinitely sustained as a beautiful pad effect in the toe position. I could then solo over the sustained pad; some may find this effect alone worth the price of the unit. The manual could be clearer, though, about how to set this up as well as a few other things. When one chord got boring I could either make use of the Phrase Loop function— with 38 seconds of recording time, or load some of the included audio loops, rhythms, and songs into the computer and jam away.
If you are seeking something to replace your pedalboard or rack for small shows and rehearsals, you are better off looking for the discontinued ME-20 on eBay, or moving up to the ME-70, as both offer the footswitchable access to individual effects that the ME-25 lacks. (Boss states that the ME-25 was intended as more of a home - guitarist tool than a live-performance tool.) The professional level sounds of the ME- 25 can work live if your show is set in stone; with 60 user presets, just step through them as the show progresses. I could also see adding this compact unit to your pedalboard as a dedicated Whammy, Wah, or Freeze pedal. Whether for live, recording, or practicing alone, at under two bills it should be easy to find a place for the ME- 25 somewhere in your effects arsenal.
KUDOS Great Boss COSM tones. Fun Freeze effect. USB recording capability.
CONCERNS Manual could be clearer. No footswitch access to individual effects
CONTACT Boss, (323-890-3700); bossus.com