Musikmesse 2015 hands-on: Boss SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer

Our first impressions of the MIDI-free synth pedal

Boss SY 300 Guitar Synthesizer

MUSIKMESSE 2015: We have to admit, we were sceptical: Boss's teaser for the SY-300 was uncomfortably 80s, and had us convinced another update to the GK MIDI system was on the way. But when we found out this would be the company's first synth pedal that works with any electric guitar, our interest was piqued.

Boss's stand at Musikmesse only had one unit available to test – rumour had it the company was tweaking the algorithms right up until the day before the official announcement – and much to the annoyance of other eager punters, we managed to grab 15 minutes with the sole SY-300, a standard-issue Les Paul and a set of headphones.

Even scrolling through the unit's 70 presets, we were floored. The tracking was dead-on for chords and single notes alike, and latency impressively minimal – we were able to conjure rumbling saw waves, bell-like chimes and a host of decidedly non-guitar-like sounds without the unit breaking a sweat.

Some patches offer controllable octave and filter sweeps via the CTL 1 footswitch – handily pointed out by the pedal's informative display – and the unit's delays and reverbs are nothing less than awe-inspiring in stereo.

Admittedly, the sheer amount of options here will be daunting to all but the most tech-orientated of guitarists, and we didn't get a chance to dive into the editing interface, but there's no doubting the quality of what Boss has produced here.

We were expecting a gimmick, but the SY-300 could genuinely be a game-changer – provided it's used in contemporary as well as 80s contexts.

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