As we’ve been looking at live looper options from BOSS and VOX, Mike Nelson from Boomerang points us to his company’s live-oriented loopers, boutique-made in Texas. And they look as delicious as Texas BBQ.

What’s unique about the Boomerang III “phrase sampler” is just how much it can do with loops once recorded, with computer-like manipulation of your samples. You can undo and redo, play back one-shots, stutter, re-sample, line up loops in sequence, play up to four loops as once, sync to tempo, drift to different tempos, fade, play at half speed, and play in reverse. (Software makers, take note.)

Of course, you could do all of this with a computer, but having this in a dedicated box has a lot of appeal, particularly if you’re an instrumentalist. There’s also expression volume control support. And your computer doesn’t have a “Bonus” button. (Well, mine doesn’t, anyway.)

There’s a lot more; see the full specs:
Boomerang® III Phrase Sampler

The one thing I’m looking for that isn’t here yet – and that would help integrate this with a laptop setup, if you so choose – is expanded MIDI support. Right now, you can use MIDI to upgrade the firmware, but can you control the looper with MIDI? Mike says:

Not yet. The next MIDI addition will be the ability to respond to a companion pedal, called the Side Car, that will be released in about 2 months. It will allow all of the III’s many functions to be available by foot control at once.

See our image of the new front panel below.

You can get the Boomerang III from your local dealer; street price in the US is well under US$500. That’s a premium versus the larger brands, but you get what looks like a unique pedal, and it’s made in Texas. Now, that’s right, you may not be from Texas, but I hear Texas wants you anyway.

Without further ado, the promised videos — first, from the makers:

And here’s an independent hands-on review:

  • Jon C

    I have had the original Boomerang for years. It is a fantastic looper for stage use because it is big, tuff and, best off all, has large dedicated foot switches that make it simple to operate mid-song in a dark club.  Glad to see they are still at it. Made in the good 'ol USA – how many things in your studio can you say that about?

  • Brian

    No MIDI sync to an outside MIDI clock? or am I reading this wrong?

    Also if that is available, can the MIDI out function as a MIDI Through?

  • asdf

    this is my favorite tutorial:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJQU22Ttpwc

  • Scott

    In a wonderful coincidence of timing, I just received my 'Rang III in the mail today – and the Side Car looks to be EXACTLY the add-on pedal that I was going to suggest to Mike as their next product!  Well done, guys! (Any word on what the pricing will be for that, BTW?)

    Brian: no, no MIDI sync – those jacks are for future expansion, like the Side Car, or theoretically for syncing multiple 'Rangs together.  If they're capable of serving as MIDI In/Out, it's not yet been implement in the software.

  • http://www.musicalgeometry.com Jason

    Looks great but the lack of MIDI sync makes it a non starter for me. Seems like this addition would make for a great software update and really expand the appeal of the device.

  • Mr Longwind

    No thanks. I know I'll take heat for saying this but with all the other pedals now readily available that rock this things socks off for the money why bother? Most of the best ones you can get now have been stereo for quite some time. I had the original and the signal to noise ratio and ground hum it made was horrible. Not that it wasn't fun and charming to play with, as well as useful. Now instead implememnting MIDI another thing you have to buy to control it better? Digitech was bad enough making you buy the $50 plus 3 button foot switch to make better use of their stuff. MIDI if it's on board should always have at least the specs to control the main features of at least Start/Stop/Loop/Overdub. Plus free VST loopers like Mobius are readily available that over power many of the other hardware in features albeit the basic looper philosophy won't use.

    -J

  • Scott

    Mr Longwind: while I obviously can't speak for everyone, I can give you my perspective on why I bought a Boomerang.  I had a few specific requirements: I wanted a hardware-based looper intended for performance, with maximum flexibility to mangle loops in real-time, that would fit easily into my guitar rig but maintain a true stereo loop for use with stereo effects upstream (and to maintain a stereo field from my HandSonic, which will go in the signal chain eventually).  I also am instituting a new rule for myself to buy American-made whenever possible.  That set of requirements pretty much limits the field to the 'Rang and the EHX 2880, and I like the Boomerang's feature set better. (Without the buy-American rule, I probably would have added the Eventide TimeFactor to the pool, although it's a single loop in mono,  and doesn't do reverse, which are significant drawbacks.  Maybe the Vox, but it doesn't even have a stereo input, much less a stereo loop.)

    All of the features displayed on the Side Car can be controlled from the current Boomerang III (except momentary stacking, which I'm very glad to see included) – you just can't have them available simultaneously.  The advantages of the Side Car, to me, are that the buttons are the same as the main pedal, so you don't have to adapt for differences in feel, and it provides more direct feedback about which functions are in operation (via the lighting scheme) than a MIDI foot pedal would do.  (And again, it'll be made in the US, which most MIDI pedals aren't.). The EHX 2880 has MIDI implementation, but I wonder how many guitarists prefer the optional foot controller?

  • s ford

    $559 is maximum retail price, cheaper from dealers as specified… 

    One thing which Boomerang pedals are really supposed to have in their favours is that they are gig friendly and robust… 

    One other things is they are supposed to have some of the easiest switches to use.  The ones on Boss Loopers are supposed to be some of the trickiest, and on the EHX Looper I have (hazarai) are reasonably tricky to use… 

  • http://www.joegore.com Joe Gore

    I've been gigging with a Boomerang III for a bit over a year. I also used the original Boomerang a lot back in the ’90s.

    I've owned many other looping gizmos, reviewed untold others for various music-tech publications, and as an Apple developer, also worked a great deal with the software looper in MainStage.

    For me, the greatest Boomerang attribute is its fabulous playability. You can really pilot with the thing with your feet in a way I've never encountered with any other looper. It's partly a matter of the pedal's stellar ergonomics — the function, feel and placement of the switches. And partly it's a matter of how the software interprets your input. It just WORKS like nothing else.

    I've been using it with a new guitar/drum, Mental 99, wherein we play two hours of semi-improvised looped music without backing tracks or a metronome click. That's HUNDREDS of un-clocked loop points to nail by foot alone, with me struggling not to derail the drummer. Sure, I fuck up continuously — but not as much I'd do on any other looping device I've ever tried.

    More than any other looper I've tried, the Boomerang helps with the musical tasks that are so non-idiomatic to looped-based music: Creating sharp, dramatic contrasts and well delineated structures. (As any looper knows, building gloriously thick textures is the easy part — it's the transitions and dismounts that'll kill you.)

    In short, I love this thing — and probably wouldn't be masochistic enough to attempt a loop-based project without it. ;)

    Joe Gore

    homepage: http://www.joegore.com
    music-tech blog: http://www.sonicgore.com
    band: http://www.mental99.com

  • Greg Burrows

    hi, anybody put this thing through its paces for looped percussion, either mic'd or electronic (such as Wavedrum)?  Or will it be up to ME to road-test it as such and Innovate this aspect of this gizmo???

  • ifthenwhy

    I also have an original "Rang", and yes the signal to noise is pretty messed up,(something I hear has been rectified with later versions) but this thing has such a unique quality, it simply sounds different than any other looper that I've tried. This is due to many things I'm sure, but I'll echo Mr Gore above by stating The Rang can be "played" like no other looper that I've ever owned. It's expressive because it allows for human error, even celebrates it, rather than designing out all those nuance in some (now standard) goal for MIDI sync perfection.

    The Rang III looks simply delicious. And while Im sure it will never come close to the weirdness of the original I'm getting one soon!

  • http://mpcakai.blogspot.com/ Akai Usen

    Thank you very much. I particularly liked the selection of videos

  • http://boomerangmusic.com Mike

    Hi loopers, As soon as the Side Car (companion pedal to the III) and a nifty expression/volume pedal are released, we'll turn our attention to implementing MIDI sync in the III. Whether or not we can accomplish that is an open question; the microprocessor is already a busy little sucker. In all fairness to the III, visit other forums to hear about MIDI sync problems with other brands of loopers. While several say they have MIDI sync, in practice it just doesn't work very well.

  • jneilnyc

    Yeah, Greg, I used the original Rang for a bit with a Nord Lead's percussion and FX sounds. It was trivial to slap in some rhythms and comp up something that sounded pretty great. I can only imagine the III with its better headroom and response – and multiple loops – would be that much more of a blast to play way.

  • de 'kraf

    Scott/Mike/whoever:

    Does "Momentary stack" allow the user to switch in an already recorded overdub by holding a button down?  I'm imagining recording a vocal or thrashy rhythm part then messing with it by tapping away on a button both on and off the beat.  That would be a real crowd pleaser.

  • Artheo1

    The features already present on the Boomerang III makes it by far the best live pedal for me. In fact the addition on an extra expression pedal and sidecar would be a minor improvement as that it does not expand a whole new market. What I mean by that is that il will only still target live guitarists, while a simple recording function to be later transfered to an external source would make the product extremely interesting to many musicians and electronic artists out there. I'm impatiently waiting for this next update.

  • Vincent

    Would be great if we could control the Boo 3 with and add-on pedal like the DMC-3 for Disaster Amp… The side car is great but it's huge on a pedal board… I just need two more option, the DMC-3 would be perfect! Anyone tried to find to Midi Sysex that works with the Boo 3 ?

  • http://www.boomerangmusic.com Mike from Boomerang

    de 'kraf:

    The Momentary Stack function does not allow the user to switch in an ALREADY RECORDED overdub or loop. The foot button just controls the normal Stack function differently: press & hold to stack, release to stop stacking. I've used it to hit a chord, let it ring, and then tap, tap, tap in rhythm with an existing loop. It's a cool effect.

  • http://campsh.com Peter

    I would REALLY love to see MIDI sync on this thing! Syncing to a drum machine live is my dream.

  • Explorer

    @Stouf – I own a few foot-controllable loopers, including my Digital Echoplex. I bought my Boss RC-50 after my Boomerang III, but the Boss unit still sits in its box. Although some need sample loading and MIDI sync, the Boomerang III is great for live looping. I'll be interested in hearing what current looper fulfills your needs. And, for those who keep bringing up the noise of the original Boomerang, it's clear that you've not heard the III. It's like someone bringing up the old Digitech PDS-1002 2-second digital delay while talking about the current state of delay technology.

  • Steve

    without midi sync it’s a failure for me… OK less then optimal