While tracking and mixing on a computer is de rigueur nowadays, there are still plenty of people who like the all-in-one convenience of a stand-alone MAW (mobile audio workstation) with its physical faders, pushbuttons, and jacks. The Boss BR-800 is aimed at players who want a highly portable system that can handle everything from basic live recording (via its built-in stereo condenser mics) to a full on “studio” production. The BR-800 is also outfitted with a large assortment of effects and models derived from many of Boss’ top-line processors–including COSM-based amps and effects from the GT-10 series, vocal effects from the VE-20, acoustic guitar body modeling from the AP-1 preamp, and drums and percussion from a DR-880-style rhythm generator.
The BR-800 provides up to four tracks of simultaneous recording and eight tracks of simultaneous playback (with eight virtual tracks per track), and there’s also a dedicated stereo track for the onboard drum machine. You can connect the BR-800 via its USB jack to a Mac or PC, and the unit comes bundled with Cakewalk Sonar 8.5 LE software, which includes audio loops and backing tracks.
Designed for use in a variety of environments, the BR-800 can be powered by six AA batteries; USB bus power, or with the included AC adapter. A 1 GB SD card is included, and the BR-800 can support up to a 32MB card for a maximum recording time of 48 hours.
Though the BR-800 has enough depth and functions to require keeping the detailed 158-page manual close at hand, it is easy to get up and running without it. In the “Song Sketch” mode, for example, the device operates as a stereo WAV file recorder for quick capturing of song ideas and/or practice sessions. In the slightly more involved “EZ Record” mode, the BR-800 intuitively guides you though the setup process, which is really just a matter of selecting guitar or bass as the input source and picking among 327 different patterns for the rhythm track. From there the BR-800 selects the appropriate effects and rhythm settings for the instrument and musical style you’ve chosen. There’s even a “Retry” button that automatically re-cues you if you blow a take.
Beyond these basic scenarios, the BR-800 is easily configurable to your needs, whether you’re into working up songs one track at time–possibly by recording a short phrase and then using the Loop Recording function to generate up to 200 additional measures-or recording multiple sources simultaneously (such as your band’s live rhythm tracks), and then overdubbing vocals, solos, and other parts. A broad selection of “mastering effects” enables you to put a suitable finishing touch on your final mixes.
In our tests, the BR-800 performed without a hitch, producing low-noise, CD quality recordings with excellent-sounding amps and effects, guitar-to-bass and electric-to-acoustic simulations, and the like. The built-in mics sounded great for live recording, and the unit gets high marks for intuitive operation. There are myriad options nowadays in the land of recording devices, but in terms of what you get for the money, the BR-800 is an outstanding investment for anyone who wants a self-contained recording system for songwriting and demos.