It’s no secret that the digital revolution is here – more and more players are moving to modeling and profiling rigs, which could spell the end for multi effects processors. Fortunately for players who still want to play with a real amp and who don’t want the hassle of setting up a pedal board, there are still some holdouts makingToneMission: Petrucci IR Collection Vol 1 – one of the most prominent being Boss and their ME series.
The Boss ME-80 was a massive success, and now they’re back with the all-new Boss ME-90, a multi-FX processor with significant upgrades over the outgoing model. Boss asked us to test out the new ME-90, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we take a detailed look at the brand-new Boss ME-90 to give you a full overview. We covered everything from build quality to user-friendliness and tone quality.
If you’re in the market for a pro-grade multi-FX unit, this is one you won’t want to miss!
Who is This For?
The Boss ME-90 is a versatile and easy-to-use multi-effects processor and is a great choice for players of all levels. Newer players will love having so many effects in one unit and will appreciate the tactile nature of the rig. More experienced players will also love the variety, but they’ll also appreciate the level of customization and fine-tuning that this pedal offers.
Gigging players will find that it’s a cheaper option than filling a pedal board and doesn’t require all the patch cables and multiple power sources. This is not only more convenient but can also help to reduce signal noise as you’re introducing fewer electrical sources and also reducing the length of the signal path, making it a great option for studio use, too.
Appearance / Features / Controls
Despite being the newest model in the Boss lineup, we thought that the ME-90 had a decidedly old-school look. It was all about physical switchgear, making it ideal for anybody who doesn’t get along with modern touchscreen controls. On the topic of touchscreens, or even non-touch responsive LED screens – you won’t find one on the ME-90. It features a small LCD screen to indicate the level of whichever parameter you’re adjusting.
It featured 11 different preamp options, including X-Modded, Juggernaut, Maximum, X-Hi Gain, X-Crunch, Natural, Twin Combo, Tweed Combo, Diamond, Brit Stack, and Recti Stack. The amps on offer deliver everything from clean to heavy distortion and serve up famous tones from the likes of Marshall, Fender, Vox, and Mesa/Boogie.
Each of the preamps came with a dedicated cab sound, allowing us to connect directly to an FRFR speaker or straight into a PA.
The amp models are imported from the flagship GT-1000 effects unit and are powered by augmented impulse response dynamics (AIRD) technology. In a nutshell, this improves playing dynamics to the point at which pretty much any player would be convinced they were playing or listening to a real tube amp.
As for the effects, there were an additional six sections on top of the preamp. It had Compression and FX1, Overdrive and Distortion (OD/DS), Modulation (Mod), Delay, Reverb, and EQ/FX2. The effects include a bunch of Boss classics like the Blues OD, Boss Overdrive, and Metal Zone, and even some replicas of other famous pedals like the RAT, Tube Screamer, and Big Muff.
There were an impressive eight foot switches and an expression pedal off to the right-hand side for manipulating FX like the S Bend digital whammy. The foot switches controlled a number of the pedal’s functions, including turning effects on and off just as you would with individual pedals, shifting between banks, and selecting patches.
Performance / Sound
In terms of the build quality and construction, the ME-90 definitely lived up to the standards Boss is known for. Everything from the switchgear to the housing was solid, and we think it would easily stand up to professional use.
The sound quality was also up to the usual Boss standard. Particularly when it came to the emulated Boss FX, we really couldn’t hear any difference between the standalone pedals and the ME-90s replications (believe us, we checked side by side!).
One real limitation of the ME-90 when it came to creating a signal chain was that it wasn’t able to stack FX from the same section. For example, there was no way to run the flanger and the phaser effects together at the same time. If you want this kind of functionality, you’re going to need to move up to something like the GT-1000 modeling pedal.
Despite this limitation, we think that the ME-90 is a great option for players who like to keep their signal chain simple. If you don’t see yourself stacking effects, then obviously, this isn’t actually going to be an issue for you.
The reverb effects were all fantastic. There were three different settings (Room, Hall, and Spring), and all three were controlled from the same knob. The Room setting had a really nice, natural ambiance, the Hall mode gave us some really big, lush soundscapes, especially at higher settings, and the Spring reverb setting delivered a surprisingly organic, vintage sound.
The use of a small LCD display, in our opinion, was a stroke of genius. It helped to maintain the simplicity of the pedal, and because it only showed the settings of effects as they were being adjusted, it didn’t become a distraction. Of course, the downside is that it did make creating custom patches a little more challenging at first, but we found the learning curve to be shallow.
Using the switch on the back, we were able to change between Amp and Line Level. In Amp mode, we’d definitely recommend keeping the amp clean. With any kind of grit, we found that the pedal could get a bit muddy, but with clean amp settings, the articulation and balance were spot on. With the Line mode activated and running straight into a Headrush FRFR, the preamp settings really came to life – this was definitely our favorite way to use the ME-90.
Final Thoughts on the Boss ME-90
There aren’t a great deal of multi-FX pedals we’d highly recommend buying these days, particularly with the variety of modeling pedals on the market – but the Boss ME-90 is one we’d happily make an exception for. In terms of tonal quality, it’s as good as any of the more expensive modeling units, and as for build quality, it’s definitely pro-grade.
We loved the overall simplicity, and being able to adjust parameters using physical knobs was a refreshing change. If you’re finding yourself frustrated with touchscreens and one knob that does it all, a pedal like the Boss ME-90 might be just the thing you need.