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Boomerang Phrase Sampler Review

Jeff McLeod
12/20/98




I've found that the Boomerang is laid out quite nicely for live performance. The controls function just like a floor unit for controlling tape playback would--i.e. a very intuitive piece of gear. Layering of loops is very easy, and the 'Rang's padding down funtion of previous loops allows you to pile up the sounds with no fear of overdriving the signal--that is, of course, providing that you don't put something too hot in in the first place. The inputs allow for line, mic and instrument levels to be shot in there--all with an adjustable trim control. There's also an RCA jack input and output for connection with other devices. Volume control via a foot roller and a switchable mute/through switch make the 'Rang very, very versatile for a variety of uses.

It's been invaluable to me so far--which are for long guitar loops (the long sampling time of 2 - 4 minutes is MORE than ample...), ambient-to-chaotic textures and layers of noise. My trio's music runs the gamut from space rock to complete washouts of harsh, white noise. We can be complete subtle and ambient one moment, and the next snarling and as vicious as a starved dog the next. The Boomerang has only added one more dimension to what we do--and it's fit in all contexts of what we spit out. Its simplicity is great for more off-the-cuff improvisation, and once you get the hang of it, you'll be treating it like another instrument (just operated with your feet!) in no time.

I play a Carvin Koa DC 127 through an Line 6 AxSys 212 amp. My pedalboard is homemade and home-wired (oh, joy of joys...). Its configuration changes often, but right now I'm using a Whammy pedal, a ProCo Rat and the Rang. The Rang runs to it's own amp (a Carvin 150-watt bass amp), but is preceded by the Whammy and the Rat. I'm running it in all into a simple A/B configuration, with guitar on A and the looper on B. This way I'm still able to use all the in-line effects with both switches. The Rang goes into a bass amp, and I treat it just like a fourth member in my improv band. I usually keep the mute function switched so that only the looped signal gets out to the other amp--this way, I can allow myself and the rest of the band to be shocked by what this "fourth member" comes up with during our improvisations. At home, it's a fine practice tool, too. Very clean for the bandwidth of a guitar at high res (16 bit/2 minutes of sampling time, even with layers), but slightly grittier at lo res (8 bit/4 minutes of sampling time, with layering). Just today I built a lengthy loop with 6 guitar parts, dumped it down to my 4-track, doubled it by dumping it in again for stereo and then added a 7th guitar and vocal. A quick, painless session with a great, disturbing result. I was very happy. And, it was EASY.

I'd give the Boomerang a high rating on it's beautiful simplicity alone. If this is what you're looking for: a simple, intuitive looping device that's as inspiring as it is easy to use--then the Boomerang is definitely for you. However, if you want something more elaborate, it could be the wrong thing to look into.

What it doesn't have: midi capability, sync capability and storable loops (once you power down, you lose the loops). I had no trouble incorporating it into my trio, but many drummers will go nuts trying to hang with it. The direct output is a nice feature, and will allow you to run an earpiece to the drummer, which can help a bit. What it does have: well, see my notes above--but beyond those things, it's something that ANYONE can incorporate into their rig. I'm very happy that I found out about it. I'm intested in keeping my gear relative simple (the AxSys alone could keep me occupied forever, but that's another story...), and this device lets me do that while still added the looping element that I've been looking for for a long, long time.

As for its reliability: I play out with it quite a bit, lugging it around from show to show--and I don't worry about it at all. It's housed in a heavy-duty metal chassis, which can take some handling abuse. The switches are heavy-grade plastic, and at first I was worried about them. I don't think they'd take some moron jumping up and down on them, but I take care of my equipment. No worries on that end.

I've spoken to the inventor/builder of the pedal (Mike Nelson) and part-owner of Boomerang Music, and found him to be helpful and open to suggestions. We spoke over the phone a few times and via email on numerous occasions. He struck me as someone who was very interested in new ideas--and someone who wanted to hear what I had to say. He was happy to answer all my questions, and I'm sure he would do the same for anyone else. Here's all the info:

Boomerang Musical Products
PO Box 541595
Dallas, TX 75354-1595
1-800-530-4699 (outside the USA, 214-340-6913)
mnelson@dmans.com

If you've got any questions about the pedal, please feel free to email me at subversive@mindspring.com

Jeff McLeod

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