Boss is a manufacturer of electronic musical instruments and accessories based in Japan. The company is a subdivision of Roland, one of the largest producers of musical instruments in the world. Over the years, Boss has released a number of popular products, ranging from guitar distortion pedals to drum machines and samplers. One of its most enduring products, which is still widely used today despite having been first released over two decades ago, is the SE-50 multi-effects processor.
The SE-50 was the first half-rack multi-effects processor created by Boss and was specially designed with guitarists in mind. The effects unit is outfitted with an array of effects typical of such units, including distortion, chorus, and flanger. Unusual, however, is the inclusion of a 7-band digital vocoder. In total the unit offers 28 preset algorithms, nine of which are reverb-only effects.
Although the Boss SE-50 was originally conceived as a guitar multi-effects processor, in recent years it has gained popularity among many harsh EBM bands. These musicians use the unit’s pitch shifter effect to process vocals both live and on recordings. The SE-50’s pitch shifter (patch 112), offers four frequency bands, each of which can be detuned independently. This effect, and by extension the SE-50 itself, has come to define the processed vocals of a number of modern electro-industrial bands. Widely-used settings include pitching the top two frequency bands up one to two semitones while at the same time detuning the lower bands by a similar amount. This is then combined with vocal styles similar to those used in some forms of extreme metal, such as high or low-pitched screams and growls.
Users should note that the SE-50 stores preset using an internal battery, similar to those found in watches and other consumer electronics, which has a lifespan of fewer than five years. When this power supply fails, which is to be expected due to the SE-50’s age, all user-defined parameters will revert to factory presets. Replacing the battery will restore the SE-50’s ability to save user presets, though settings that were not stored on an external backup system may not be retrievable.
Despite the unit’s shortcomings, the fact that it is widely obtainable at prices less than $100 has ensured its widespread use among various guitarists and electronic musicians. Bands that have used the SE-50 include Nine Inch Nails, Duran Duran, Kraftwerk, Information Society, Suicide Commando, Die Krupps, Grendel and Tactical Sekt.