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How to easily avoid an expensive mistake with guitar pedals

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Remember a simple rule, and you'll avoid wasting money.

Above is the BOSS Loop Station RC-5. Is it good? Of course it is. BOSS makes great stuff. But there is one huge problem with it...

...the screen.

It's not that the screen is bad or doesn't work or anything like that. The pedal works as intended.

But when trying to read that screen from a standing position (or even a seated position for that matter), that's where this design fails and fails hard.

I have made the mistake before of buying a floor pedal with a screen on it similar to what's on the RC-5. Yeah, it looks cool. And yeah, the manufacturer can stuff a ton more features into a pedal with a screen on it.

But ultimately it all comes down to legibility. Pedals with screens simply cannot be read as easily as those with segmented displays.

Even if you have perfect 20/20 vision, you're going to squint when trying to read the RC-5's screen from a standing position. These screens also have a tendency to wash out very easily under bright lights or when used outside in sunlight.

Comparatively speaking, the older RC-3 and RC-1 models can easily be read from a standing position. The RC-1 in particular, while the most basic of the bunch, is the easiest to get along with because it uses lights and colors in a circle instead of having to read anything.

Are you better off using pedals with no screens at all?

In all honesty, yes.

The only thing you need for most pedals is one light that tells you if the pedal is on, off or doing something as indicated by pulsing, flashing or changing color.

However, for pedals that have presets, memory slots or need to count up/down things, the best display that's been around since the '80s is a segmented red backlit display, such as on the RC-3. This is something you can read from a distance without a problem.

The rule is...

Don't get pedals with screens on them.

With amps, that's a different story because those displays are much closer to eye level, and they're not being literally kicked around.

If the pedal effect for whatever it is lives on the floor, you're always better off with simple segmented displays or just lights.

Yeah, you totally want the newer stuff with the screen because it looks cool and has every feature imaginable. Don't do it. Remember where the pedal lives.

If you want a simple example of how bad an idea it is to have a screen on the floor, take your phone, load up a web page and increase the font size. Then put it on the floor, stand up and look down at the screen. Try to read it. You probably can - but then imagine that screen as less than half the size of your phone's screen. You'll then understand why a screen on a pedal is a bad idea.

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