There have been other pocket-sized hardware multi-track studios, not least the original Boss Micro BR launched five years ago, but with a sleek design and minimalist set of controls, their new BR-80 model is the most graceful yet… and it doesn't half pack a punch too.
What you're getting is a versatile, hand-held and completely portable little widget that is an 8-track digital multi-tracker, a stereo ﬁeld recorder, a musician's practice tool and USB audio interface all rolled into one.
"A versatile, hand-held and completely portable little widget."
The BR-80 is based around three working modes. The ﬁrst of these is Live Rec, where the unit makes use of a pair of built-in microphones to instantly make stereo recordings - great for recording gigs, rehearsals or random musical ideas whenever inspiration strikes.
Any audio you record in this mode can also be used as the initial tracks of a song if you switch to MTR mode and import the ﬁ le into the 8-track multi-tracker.
The multi-tracker enables you to record up to two tracks at a time, using the inbuilt mics, a 1/4" jack input that will take a guitar or microphone, or a stereo line input. There are a bunch of insert effects that can be recorded with your signal.
Most are fully produced COSM amp/effects sounds for guitarists, but there are also several for vocalists, including some useful doubling and harmony effects as well as pitch correction. Besides the eight tracks, there's a dedicated stereo rhythm track with a library of onboard patterns that can be sequenced together to make a complete song - you can also create your own by importing MIDI ﬁ les.
Each recording track has eight virtual tracks, allowing different takes of each performance and, with 3-band EQ, reverb, panning and volume for each track, there's scope for creative mixing - with onboard mastering effects to apply a ﬁnal polish.
The third mode of operation is eBand, based on the dedicated Boss JS-8 phrase training facilities - variable speed and pitch, centre-cancelling and looped repeat. A range of onboard tracks plugged through the COSM effects is suited to guitarists, but you could play along with any instrument.
You can also import CD, MP3, and WAV audio ﬁles from a computer via USB (or use something of your own that you've recorded on the BR-80). Operation is straightforward, with a clear display and intuitive navigation around it via a 4-way cursor and dial, and linking with a computer is seamless - the BR-80 comes with Sonar X1 LE but the bundled Wave Converter software enables easy exchange of data between the BR-80 and any computer-based DAW.
You can also record straight to a DAW using the BR-80 as an audio interface, possibly while using the insert effects. Multi-tracker? Sure. Multi-purpose? Absolutely.
If you want to make music on the move, you could slip a mobile phone loaded with a bunch of musical apps into your pocket but, if quality audio recordings made with a minimum of fuss are the order of the day, whether that be impromptu idea archiving, formal stereo recording or painstaking demo creation, a dedicated unit like this takes some beating.
Some have been predicting the death of the hardware multi-tracker for a while now, but the mix of facilities that Boss has packed into the BR-80 should ensure that the genre will go on and on and on…