Boss ME50B Review:
The Boss ME50B is a great way of experimenting with what I like to think of as three changable stompboxes bolted together. Within the unit you get a powerful limiter/compression fuction, a basic EQ, and three changeable pedals - tone, drive, and modulation. Whilst this has it's advantages over programmable units there are also drawbacks, so here's my experience with it:
I bought my ME50B to replace a Zoom B2.1U after struggling to get to grips with the sheer quantity of effects. Having looked at an ME50B in a shop and tried out the interface I was impressed with how easily I could get good sounds out of it, and picked one up second hand.
The ease of which it was possible to change settings meant I was able to quickly devise a a system of sounds I liked. I generaly prefered ignoring the memory feature for the most part (though if used right is a good way of maintaining patches, as I'll discuss later) and prefered using a sort of three stompbox approach, generally as a bass cut (for slap), an overdrive, and a reverb/chorus. All the various effects worked well and when set up right sounded extremely good. My main issue here was with transporting the pedal and maintaining the settings I wanted. The easiest way was to have a picture on my phone of the board, but it was still an inconvenice I'd have prefered not to have had.
In terms of individual effects:
> The compressor/limiter was very effective, though I feel I didn't quite explore this area as much as most.
> The EQ section was solid, without being remarkable. Most amps have a similar sort of EQ and indeed my BTB676 has on-board EQ settings which were better and easier to change.
> The tone section was mostly cuts/boosts and auto-wahs. I'm not a great fan of auto-wah in general - especially with a potential wah pedal built in - but most of the EQ bits were fairly handy.
> The drives were temperamental, and the hardest to get right, but the most satisfying once I cracked it. I never really got the hang of the synths, but never used them in a band context.
> The modulation/ambience effects were all very workable, and this was almsot a drawback...
> The expression pedal was useful, but the wah was a little odd and had an odd sort of "cliff" in terms of sound when the pedal was fully up. Not sure if this was just my unit or the sensitivity. The resonance setting was good for annoying bandmates during intros.
Whilst happy with all the individual effects, as I developed further I felt I was being limited slightly by only being able to choose one effect from each bank. I couldn't have a phaser, chorus, delay and reverb all set up ready to go without delving into the memory banks, which was nigh-impossible mid song as I wanted, or trying to change settings mid song, again difficult to work with. I had no problems with reliability or anything whatsoever and it seemed bulletproof, so that was no reason to start wanting a change, however over the 12 months I owned it I gradually wanted to spread my wings a little and get a set of individual stompboxes.
So eventually I made the decision to replace this unit after about a year. I must stress this was not down to anything inherently wrong with the boss unit, quite the contrary it served it's purpose well. I had now worked out exactly what effects I needed and rather than have a jack-of-all-trades I wanted to take a different direction. Had I needed most of the effects it would be a no-brainer keeping it, and it is far cheaper than buying 40 individual pedals, but for the 5 or 6 I wanted, I felt individual pedals would be a better use of my money. These gave more flexibility on the individual effects I wanted (not overall) as well as not limiting me to either a delay, reverb, chorus (or only a combination) and I could mix and match brands to decide which was best. Another small point was that for some gigs I only wanted one or two effects, and having a couple of small pedals is easier than one huge one.
I have no regrets whatsoever about buying this unit. As I bought it second-hand I hope to recoup most of the money I spent on it, and am setting up the lots now (as of 09/04/13). It was handy for a number of gigs and gave a thoroghly good account of itself in the process. I would recommend it whoeheartedly to anyone who wants a lot of bang for their buck or wants to experiment with alot of effects before moving on. Probably look at second hand as they are well under half the price of a new one and there's little to be gained having it new - especially if you decide to replace it like I have.