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Boss SY-200 review

Boss’ latest compact synth pedal promises a plug-and-play ethos. We whip out the ol’ six-string to see if it can deliver

  • £299
Boss SY-200
(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

While the synth engine isn’t open for deeper tinkering, the SY-200 delivers in the fun stakes, with an adaptable tonal palette.

Pros

  • +

    Small footprint.

  • +

    Polyphonic with near-zero latency.

  • +

    Plenty of connectivity options.

Cons

  • -

    Not very deep controls.

  • -

    Not enough onboard modulation.

Boss SY-200: What is it?

Boss has never shied away from crossing the great synth/guitar divide. For decades, its parent company, Roland, has tinkered with the guitar as an expressive tool for synths by providing an ever-evolving roster of pedals and pickups to help guitar folk tap into the wizardry of synthesis. And while Boss’ own history may not be as vast, it launched the SYB-3 Bass Synthesiser a whole 25 years ago.

Now Boss has launched the SY-200, the latest pedal in its twin-button collection, replacing the now-defunct twin format of the 20 range. The -200 range offers far greater functionality to your classic single-stompbox design, with many features borrowed from the larger -300 range.

Boss SY-200

(Image credit: Future)

Boss SY-200: Performance and verdict

Onboard the SY-200 are 12 synth-types, each with up to 30 variations giving you a total of 171 tones to play with. On top of this, you are treated to three tweakable parameters per type: depth, tone and resonance. Further to the tone-shaping controls, there is an encoder dedicated to the presets. This and controls for the effect and depth levels are accessible via eight rotaries adorning the metal housing.

The pedal offers the latest in Boss’ polyphonic synth technology and delivers on its promise of near-zero latency: it’s certainly not discernible while playing, that’s for sure. While designed for both guitar and bass, we feel its real strength lies in the polyphonic tracking which is near faultless, so you’re better off leaving it in Guitar mode.

We like the fact that there is no menu-diving, but then this is offset by the fact that there is little depth of control with the SY-200. Sure you get three parameters per sound to play with, but we wouldn’t have minded a sub-layer of control if only to get into controlling the oscillators. 

That said, the lack of depth certainly does not detract from the pedal’s uses and overall fun factor. It inspires you to explore different playing styles and the analogue-style tone set offers a wide sonic palette making it an almost indispensable stompbox for any guitarist who wants to expand their sound. Plus, it’s far easier to dial in your own sounds from the control set available and you are treated to 128 memory slots to save them into.

Boss SY-200

(Image credit: Future)

The send/return sockets are perfect for experimenting with adding different effects into the loop, especially distortion, as well as integration into an existing setup. The same goes for the two control inputs. You’ve got plenty of options to add more expression with external pedals or even sequencers. This nearly makes up for the distinct lack of modulation onboard the SY-200, but not quite. 

Whilst clearly designed for stringed instruments of the electrical variety, we couldn’t resist plugging some synths and beats into the SY-200 and the results were positive. Some tones worked better on beats than others, likewise for thickening up those synth patches, and there is much fun to be had with adding it into a reverb loop too.

The SY-200 is pitched as a more plug-and-play pedal and on the subject of immediacy, it delivers. Being designed for both guitar and bass via switchable modes almost doubles its value for us, especially when you include its use on other instruments. However, if you want deeper options, including onboard modulation, then you’ll have to stump the extra bunce for the SY-300. 

MusicRadar verdict: While the synth engine isn’t open for deeper tinkering, the SY-200 delivers in the fun stakes, with an adaptable tonal palette.

Boss SY-200: The web says

"This compact box is a monster tone generator, with a dozen analog-synth-based core sounds and 171 variable presets, plus expansive tweakability."
Premier Guitar

Boss SY-200: Hands-on demos

BOSS

ThePedalZone

Rabea Massaad

Andertons Music Co

Boss SY-200: Specifications

  • Two-button synthesiser effects pedal, featuring an effects loop, 3.5mm MIDI and USB connectivity with assignable external control.
  • CONTACT: Boss
Simon Arblaster
Simon Arblaster

I take care of the reviews on MusicRadar and Future Music magazine, though can sometimes be spotted in front of a camera talking little sense in the presence of real musicians. For the past 30 years, I have been unable to decide on which instrument to master, so haven't bothered. Currently, a lover of all things high-gain in the guitar stakes and never one to resist churning out sub-standard funky breaks, the likes of which you'll never hear.