Review: Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher

By Jake Behr –

Review of: Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher

Reviewed by: Rating:4.5On April 29, 2018Last modified:April 29, 2018


I am terrified to imagine a world where an introduction to Boss is necessary, but here we go. Founded as the guitar effects branch of Japan’s Roland Corporation during the rockstar legend-making yesterworld of 1973, Boss has always had a busy hand in helping to shape the trajectory on which guitar tones have evolved. Everyone’s had that proverbial Boss pedal on their ‘board at some point in their career, and whether you’ve taken it off for something with more bells and whistles, or it’s remained an integral part of your tone, there’s a sense of safety in those iconic enclosures that makes it difficult to depart from them entirely. Despite the boutique-saturated pedal market we enjoy, Boss still reigns supreme as the veteran CEO of dependable and innovative effects pedals, and today we’re looking at the Boss MS-3 Multi-Effects Switcher, a spiritual descendant of the MS Multi-effects series and ES-5/ES-8 Effects Switching Systems condensed into a smaller, equally utilitarian multi-effects pedal and effects loop switcher.

I’ve often expressed my general distaste for multi-effects pedals (though, paradoxically, I haven’t officially reviewed one that lacked merit), but in the case of the MS-3, we’re looking at something that takes an absolutely essential utility, effects switching, and fuses it with a ridiculously packed effects suite backed by Boss’s extensive history of quality and reliability. Atop such an already tall bastion of usefulness, Boss has also stacked a mind-boggling cadre of control features that shames even the most feature-rich pieces of gear you’ll find on the market today. This was easily one of the most complex pieces of hardware I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing, and even having played with it for weeks, I’m still not convinced I know it completely.


112 built-in effects with up to Six Simultaneously active Effects Blocks

Slim, angled Form-factor

5 Programmable Footswitches

3 Programmable Knobs

Mono in, Stereo out with true Stereo or Left/Right Mono

3 Mono Effects Loops

2 TRS Control/Expression inputs, each capable of controlling two parameters

Control Output for external switching of amp/pedals

Backlit LCD and panel LEDs for on/off status of loops and effects

Global EQ, Noise Suppressor, Built-in tuner

Up to 4 MIDI patches on channels 1-16

Up to 8 MIDI Continuous Control (0-127)

Build & Functionality:

I was foolishly expecting the MS-3 to be massive, but to my delight it only measures out to about 11”x4”. For comparison’s sake, it’s about 4 modern pedals wide and two inches shorter than a standard enclosure. A wedged form-factor makes stomping effortless when placed nearest to the front of your pedalboard. The brushed aluminum of the chassis is historically known for being easily scratched, but I’ve been able to buff out tour scars inflicted on similar surfaces in the past. The first thing you’ll notice when activating the MS-3 is the brightness of the LCD screen; this thing is Sirius-bright. If the blinding white is too much for you to handle or if the brightness detracts from the text displayed onscreen in a practical, dark setting, a contrast control is found in the menu.

Though you should be fine cutting power to your whole pedalboard at once, I love that the MS-3 has a power switch. Too often for comfort, I’ve seen quite a few massive digital effects suites (and even some boutique amp sims) released into the market with no dedicated on/off switch, making every subsequent power-down a nerve-wracking experience, so the tactile comfort of flipping a power switch does wonders for my peace of (obsessive-compulsive) mind. Furthermore, the MS-3 sports an auto-shutoff feature which will power down the MS-3 after a certain amount of time if it fails to detect any incoming signal, movement on the knobs, or presses on the footswitches.

Boss boasts that the 24 bit, 44.1khz A/D D/A converters built into this unit keep your signal completely intact with practically no loss translating from analog to digitally-processed signal, and I can confirm: this thing is CLEAN. The only time I noticed any significant change in sound quality or hiss was when I used some of my own dirtier pedals, particularly DSP-driven effects.

If you hate deep-menu diving as much as I do, Boss has developed a companion editor software for the MS-3 for editing and saving patches, aptly named the Librarian. You won’t find much in the Librarian that you can’t dig up in the MS-3’s internal menu aside from the potentially infinite amount of presets saveable on your hard drive, but the option to use a graphic UI can improve your workflow in spades.

Like a few other deep effects switchers, there are two ways to play, and your use may vary depending on what kind of player you are. Memory Mode changes the LED indicators blue, and gives you relatively immediate access to 200 patches in banks of four. Each footswitch represents a patch in each bank. By default, pressing footswitches 1 & 2 simultaneously will bank down, while 3 & 4 will do the opposite. The footswitches and control ins are all programmable inside of any given patch, adding to the flexibility therein. For example, in Memory Mode you can set an overdriven tone in patch 1, then activate/bypass a delay in the same patch by hitting footswitch 1 inside of that patch. (More on this later.) Manual Mode in red is more of a classic switcher format with each footswitch representing a loop or function that’s programmed in. The four blocks controlled by the footswitches are represented on the LCD screen. There’s utility here even if your immediate response is to dismiss it as the inferior mode. If you’re more the type to prefer having all of your information displayed right in front of you, you can program each footswitch to control individual effects/loops, the control outs, tap-tempo, solo triggers, or the tuner. Scrolling through patches can still be accessed via knob 1, or via an external footswitch. If you’re of the mind to use one configuration and disregard the other entirely, you can even program the Memory/Manual switch for a total of five operable footswitches.

Full Assimilation

In a skin-deep kind of way, the beauty of the MS-3 lies in its ability to integrate your pre-existing effects via its effects loops. These three mono in/outs each comprise one effects block, and the block of three loops can be placed anywhere inside of the MS-3’s signal chain which helps when deciding what effects you’ll be running before, within, and after the MS-3’s loops. If you have MIDI-enabled pedals, you don’t even need to limit your loop choices to three pedals, as you can send program changes and continuous controller (CC) messages from the MS-3 to activate your effects as you need them.

Guitarists who run between gain stages via their amp’s effects loop can utilize a Loop on the MS-3 to achieve the good ol’ “four-cable” method, so they don’t necessarily have to force their preamp to take all of the incoming signal directly to the face. Simply route your guitar into the MS-3, out from one of the Loop sends to the front of your amp, out of the amp’s effects send back to the return of the MS-3 Loop, and back out to your amp’s return imput. There’s no level control on the loops, so you’ll be using 100% of whatever signal the pedals in the loops contribute, but in most cases you’ll have a mix knob of some sort on the pedal in question. It would have been great to be able to rearrange the individual loops, and the lack of parallel routing, especially in stereo, seems like a big missed opportunity. I can forgive these shortcomings under the auspice that the MS-3 simply lacks the hardware to make this possible, and given Boss’s trend of releasing a huge, no-chill mega unit after the success of a mellower, precursory unit, one could speculate that if we’re lucky, we may see switchable parallel routing and the addition to stereo loops in a hypothetical MS-5 or other larger sibling to the MS-3. You know what else would be nice to consider for our fantasy expansion? The ability to cannibalize one of the effects loops and reintegrate that external effect into the wet signal of the delay/reverb voicings. The MS-3 concept inspires a lot of ways that Boss may take it to new plateaus in the future.

Riding the WAV (And Friends!)

Since the MS-3 followers the previously released ES-8 & ES-5 switchers, you would be correct in guessing that the programming capabilities of the MS-3’s footswitches and controls aren’t as shallow as turning effects on or off. That degree of simplicity is an option via the CTRL menus, of course, but you don’t have to dig super deep to realize the possibilities are nearly limitless. The CTRL Assign menu will allow you to select the source that controls any effect parameter or MIDI channel in the MS-3. For example, you can route your expression signal to the MIDI out to control a MIDI-enabled pedal or use a separate footswitch to change your volume pedal to a wah within a patch.

One particular function in the MS-3’s control wheelhouse is as close to black magick as I can fathom; in fact, when I discovered that it was capable of this forthcoming tone-witchery, I drew a salt circle around it to protect myself. Inside of the Ctrl Assign menus, you can tell the MS-3 to modulate any parameter from any onboard effect or MIDI-enabled pedal along a triangle, sine, or sawtooth wave LFO. I know. Those of us familiar with ramping pedals know what’s possible here, and the MS-3 excels at it. You can set the depth of the modulation to and from any point on the digital dial, and sync the cycle to either an arbitrary frequency or the internal tempo of the MS-3 divided from whole notes to 16th notes and all the dots and triplets in-between. It’s not quite a sequencer, but it comes pretty close. Oh, and did I mention there’s EIGHT Ctrl Assigns, and you can program each input to control multiple parameters? You want to sweep the rate of a dark chorus up to a tight chirp while maxing out your reverb wet mix and activate the Sound Hold effect block simultaneously? Go nuts, you beautiful crazy person.

Despite the Owners’ Manual’s insistence that we use Boss external footswitches and expression pedals, and though the Dual Expression pedal and FS-5U’s ilk are perfect for getting the most out of the MS-3, the effective list of non-Boss compatible external units is miles long. One such third-party footswitch option that I would be remiss not to mention is our very own resident overachiever Paul Uhl’s “Paul Switch”, a simple little doodad with height-adjustable soft-touch footswitches that he designed specifically as a companion piece to the MS-3. The reason I mention Paul’s pedal in particular is because he is an avid MS-3 user (the dude uses two) with an extensive history in MIDI and CV solutions. He has a few videos on programming the MS-3 on YouTube (not just in conjunction with his switch) that helped me get started, and he’s even gone so far as to create and manage a 500+ member Facebook Boss MS-3 Users Group for fellow users of the device that members of Roland UK monitor and occasionally participate in.

Building Blocks

Even if you’re convinced that you have all of the sounds that you could ever need (who are you kidding?) in your elitist boutique-only ‘board, the MS-3’s effects suite is one-hundred-and-twelve effects strong. I’ll say that again, but louder: ONE HUNDRED AND TWELVE EFFECTS! Included in this densely populated effects nation are eerily accurate facsimiles of many of the standbys that Boss has built their empire on. The OD-1, OC-3, and CS-3 are just a few classics simulated here. Most of the guitar effects have a Bass equivalent, so the MS-3 is a great addition to bass and synth effects chains alike.

Editing effects directly from the unit is a bonafide breeze. From the home screen, hitting the edit button will bring you into a menu displaying a graphic representation of the effects chain. Not including the Noise Suppressor block, we have six onboard effects that can be active simultaneously. FX 1 & 2 contain your Compressor, Drives, EQ, Pitch Shifters, and other weird goodies; MOD 1 & 2 are obviously the extended Chorus and Tremolo family; DLY and REV are what they sound like. On the front panel, Knob 1 scrolls through the effects chain, Knob 2 rearranges the blocks, Knob 3 scrolls through the effects type, and each block is activated or bypassed with the aptly named “On/Off” button on the top panel. In the “Edit” menu, the physical knobs correspond with the parameters displayed on the LCD screen. The depth of control is what I’ve come to expect from the MS-3; most of the effects have multiple pages worth of parameters and toggles to play with, in most cases adding more features than their analog predecessors had. If you want to save a patch, just hit the Exit and Enter buttons simultaneously.

In addition to the Parametric and Graphic EQs in the FX blocks, the MS-3 also has a Global EQ that covers the entire signal chain. This is a great way to dial in a nice overall tone palette going in to your amp before you even touch the patch-specific Para/Graph EQs which not only saves time but also allows more room for effects if you’re not fussy about stray frequencies.


As recently as half a decade ago, digital overdrives and distortions were openly lambasted as the ugly step-siblings in the overdrive family with tone elitists relegating them to being used in emergency scenarios only with seldom few exceptions. Use a digitally rendered overdrive in a multi-effects pedal for the sake of convenience, and you were sure to earn condescending sideways glances by the overwhelming majority of your fellow guitarists. Today, however, not only has this superstition been washed away by the deluge of seamless gain plugins and software, but the pedal market has boomed with DSP-based overdrive modelers whose uncanny resemblance to the real thing has stumped many a pro, and there’s been no indication that this trend will do anything but grow in our lifetimes. Now that we’ve established how important this section is, let’s talk about the MS-3’s digital reflections of the truly essential growl-inducers we all know and love.

The first thing about the OD/DS that stood out to me was the overwhelming variety of voices available. Twenty different flavors of sweet, sweet dirt are eager to get under your fingernails in the Guitar drive channel alone, ranging from Clean Boost to Metal Zone (yes, that Metal Zone.) There’s also a much lighter Bass overdrive that includes six voices with increasing degrees of filth. It’s obvious to me that Boss has definitely taken their time to get as close to the real thing as possible, but how does it fare in practice? Favoring the language of my people, I started with the RAT voicing to see how effectively Boss was able to invoke that familiar distorted post-rock fury, and I was not disappointed; it rips in all the same ways that old black box could without tying up the same real-estate. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the clean boost added crystal clear volume and tasteful gain with no digital distortion. There are also Bass, Mid, and Treble boost variations that do what they sound like. The Blues voicing emulates its predecessor, the BD-2 Blues Driver, and effectively fattened up my tone with even-order harmonic girth, each note sizzling with surprising liveliness. I won’t expound much further, but there’s a Muff, Octo-fuzz, Guv’nor and Tubescreamer crammed in there too, to name a few more options.

All of the overdrives have a bottom-end boost/cut knob for expanded tone-sculpting on top of the obligatory Tone knob. On the third page of the Overdrive blocks, there’s an option to boost your volume further through the use of the “Solo Switch,” which like any parameter can be conveniently assigned to any of the footswitches on the MS-3 or to your chosen external footswitch. Personally, I like pairing the Solo switch in trigger mode and the Feedbacker effect in momentary mode on an external footswitch to really maximize my solo/sustain tones.

Overall, I’d say there’s an understated merit in the drives modelled here. Noise and hiss weren’t really a problem for me, and for when we’re not working with the silky-smooth cream of a boutique valve overdrive, these’ll patch any holes in your gain arsenal on a bad day. There isn’t much of a tonal gap between their interaction with real amplifiers and amp sims. I’d say the latter is closest to my taste in most instances, if only for the fact that you can more readily nail the tones you seek and not have to forego a drive that SHOULD sound good but just doesn’t like your amplifier. For that reason and for the sake of quick tweaking at gigs, I’d still advise any Tube amp users to hold onto their favorite drive(s), but once you grow comfortable with the MS-3’s drive section, you can relax knowing that you have a backup pedal that can produce a solid approximation of any kind of grit your music calls for. Plus, if you’re really eager to unload some weight on your pedalboard but lean heavily on overdrive or distortion, you can always map up to three of the OD/DS parameters to the knobs on the top panel and know that most listeners won’t be able to tell the difference between your live, MS-3 modelled tones and your carefully crafted analog studio tones.

Filters/Pitch//Weird Stuff

There are a few odds effects in the FX blocks that probably aren’t essential, and maybe two or three whose musical usefulness is nebulous at best, but most of them are nice to have, especially the few single-use effects that eliminate their physical single-use counterparts. For example, the MS-3’s Slow Gear effect is an auto-volume swell, a voltage-controlled swell that features a “Detect” threshold knob that controls how much signal it has to detect before it starts to increase your signal from zero, and an attack knob to lengthen or shorten the climb to unity volume. It’s a simple and effective way to swell in your signal without needing to tie your foot to your volume pedal. If I’m being honest, a physical auto-swell has no place taking up power or space on any ‘board in 2018, so the inclusion of the Slow Gear in the MS-3 is welcome. Sound Hold is the “freeze” in the MS-3. It’s another one of those simple effects you may not often need but can be clutch in those musical situations that require a drone, though you can’t expect much more than droning from it. It’s more or less an on/off sort of deal. There’s also a “hold”-on-steroids voicing called Warp which sounds like a delay set to infinite with flanging feedback. This is most applicable when used momentarily or in conjunction with volume swells, so Warp and Slow Gear are best buddies. The flexibility of this particular effect is stunted by a shortage of parameters with only controls for the mix and the rise and fall of the wash. Then there’s the Overtone effect which, appropriately, generates wavering overtones over the input signal to produce an organ-like effect.

If no multi-effects unit is complete without a wah filter of some sort, it would follow that the MS-3 is complete three times over with Touch Wah, Auto Wah and regular ol’ Wah. The Touch and Auto Wah effects can be set to band-pass or low-pass filters, but the classic Wah effect includes seven voicings to satisfy a range of tastes. As far as the pitchshifting & harmony effects go, almost everything you could want that involves pitch is compartmentalized into six individual effects. I almost panicked when the “Whammy” pitch shifter wasn’t where I thought it would be (filed under “Pitch Shifter”), but thankfully Boss included it in the Pedal Bend effect. Sound quality-wise, there is the occasional pitch-shift artifact here and there, and it gets expectedly crowded and discordant when playing chords, but it’s not hard to tease out a quality tone when playing single notes during solos.

The last effect in the FX block is the Sub-Delay, a short, digital-styled delay with a high-cut parameter. Initially, I wondered why this particular delay wasn’t placed in the Delay block with all the other delay voicings, but quickly came to realize that including a delay in a separate block from the only block designated for delays opens up great ambient possibilities, allowing you to stack two independent repeats. Hell, you could even go to five if you’re using the Sub-Delay in both FX blocks (2 repeats,) the Dual delay voicing (2 repeats,) and the Delay reverb voicing (1 repeat,) for truly unnecessary levels of washy ambience, but the possibilities are here if you want to indulge in excess.


The lushness is real. Chorus, flange, ring mod, panning tremolo… this entire effect block truly shines in stereo. If vanilla chorus doesn’t do it for you on its own, 2×2 Chorus is there to make all your modulation dreams come true. Two frequency-band choruses work against one another in stereo to produce vigorous warbles in the lows and serene zen in the highs or vise-versa. The Crossover parameter controls where in the spectrum the low and high modulations are split, keyed into frequency presets ranging from 100 Hz to 4 kHz. As if you weren’t spoiled enough, pre-delay parameters for both frequency bands determine the poignancy of the double effect and permit even further contrast between the flavor of your highs and lows. The Tremolo here is pretty basic, offering controls for waveform, rate, depth, and mix. Where the tremolo lacks in creative mojo, the Slicer effect swims in it. The Slicer effect is a Boss SL-20 Jr, packed with 20 mono, volume-targeting tremolo patterns. Phaser and Flanger are here too, ready to blow your head off with crazy sweeping modulations and parameters that most analog versions struggle to support. The Flanger can be run in full stereo and has a separation parameter to pan the signals left and right. There’s also a resonance control that ranges from tastefully subtle to unbearably nauseous, “Manual” that sets the center frequency that the flange modulates, and a Low Cut Filter in addition to your standard Rate, Mix, and Depth knobs. Meanwhile the Phaser has four step options (4, 8, 12, and BiPhase) for different flavours of phase-shift. The Step Rate knob controls (you guessed it!) the rate that the shifts take place and when activated produces some pretty rad digital bleeps in a similar way that a sample and hold does. This works against the actual rate of the phaser itself, and by setting them both to different tempos, you can create rhythmic patterns around which entire song structures could theoretically be built. Like most effects in the MS-3, the rate of all of the MODs can be set to either a numeric value ranging from 0-100 or to the MS-3’s internal tap tempo at multiple subdivisions.


I was thoroughly impressed when I played with the Delay branch of the MS-3. I could not find a single genuine flaw in the tones. Analog is dark and gritty in its attempt to recreate those bucket brigade delays we all love. The Tape delay even decays with wow-and-flutter. Also included is Boss’s modern classic Tera Echo which is a wild modulated delay/reverb with frequency-shifty trails. Much like its inspiration, the MS-3’s Tera Echo features a hold function that can be triggered via footswitch, perfect for building soundscapes. Setting the CTRL Assigns to momentarily max the feedback or flip the tempo will grant you access to the sorts of oscillations and pitch bends many plain Jane digital delays only dream about. I particularly like setting my expression pedal to control the tempo; you can program the heel down to leave your repeats locked in to the tap-tempo and sweep the time down to 1ms from there to pitchshift at will.

I (somewhat selfishly) wish at least one of the delay blocks had a quick loop function a la DD-6 to emulate the simple-yet-effective glitch stutters that the Boss DD-6 was capable of. You can get kind of close with the CTRL assigns programmed to max the feedback and activate the bypass in toggle mode on the same switch simultaneously but it’s not quite the same. Come to think of it, a looper would have been nice to include with the gift horse that is the MS-3, but we won’t look in that particular mouth. We’ve got plenty here.


I love reverb too much. My relationship with reverb is bordering on unhealthy co-dependency. Reverb makes my wife jealous.

So I’ve been vigorously wringing my hands in anticipation of getting to this effect block, looking like a supervillian watching all the pieces of his carefully constructed plans fall into place. And as I expected, I was treated to eight super clean digital reverb voices that excel at creating the reflective ambient wash I’m addicted to.

The gang’s all here, too; Ambience, Plate, Spring, Room, two different Halls, a modulated Reverb and a Delay/Verb. The first voice in the selection is called Ambience, and it isn’t really a traditional reverb per se. It simulates a room mic picking up the sound of your instrument from a distance, the length of which is determined by the pre-delay parameter. This is an awesome way to add a 3-dimensional feel to your tone if it’s coming out dry but you don’t want a super recognizable reverb tone. The two Halls differ in the sense that Hall 1 is tight and more clear than Hall 2, the latter producing much more mellow and diffused reverberations. Plate glistens with metallic sheen, making the best use of the high-cut parameter out of any of the ‘verb voices to cut back on it’s particularly poignant high-end. Mod throws a slow modulation over the tail of the reverb, and Delay is (surprise!) a delay into a reverb. All of the reverb voicings can go full wet, of course, allowing us atmospheric nerds the space we require to transcend this lame mortal coil.

I have to say, while all the Reverbs in this block are gorgeous, I feel they could have been fleshed out a little bit more. For example, the modulated reverb voicing could have definitely used rate and depth knobs for its filter. You get high-cut and low-cut parameters, which is great, but you’re sort of stuck using the one tempo and the relatively shallow modulation that Boss gives you to work with. It sounds awesome, but the impact of that awesome sound is rendered kind of inert by the inability to tweak it in more creative ways. In fact, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the reverbs had basically the same parameters available for tweakage save a few exceptions with the only significant contrast being the fundamental differences between the algorithms themselves. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and the fact that you can put the Reverb block anywhere in the chain will help you experiment with different tones, but a few extra control additions would have been welcome.

Room for Improvement?

As impressive as the MS-3 is, we’re going to play hardball here and try to snuff out any possible room for improvement. If I were to head the project of updating the MS-3 or releasing a higher-end version and I had no resource constraints, what would I do to improve on what’s already here without adding too much to the cost of admission? Aside from the spillover, parallel routing, and Loop improvements I mentioned before, a successor could do with another CTL OUT jack (or three) for starters. The fact that there is only one Control Output (for up to two control modulation destinations when using a TRS cable) is limiting, especially if you have more than two pedals in your signal chain that don’t have MIDI but do have foot-switch enabled options switching options or exp/CV inputs. I also have to mention that being unable to relay CV expression to the pedals in the loop through the CTL OUT is mildly disappointing as well. That said, if you’re open to unorthodox and/or relatively complicated solutions, you can find a MIDI-to-CV converter by spending a few minutes on Google. So if you have a bit of money to spare in your budget and you don’t mind experimenting, something like that might make an invaluable companion piece.

While we’re on the external control tangent, how about a MIDI in? My ideal ‘board necessitates uninterrupted MIDI communication from my DAW to my MIDI-enabled devices all the way down to my vocal effects, and anyone with a similarly automated chain will make the same complaint. You can still sync to a global CV click by relinquishing a control input or output CV tap tempo by giving up the sole control out, but that in itself is a major bummer. In a band where most readers likely spend their musical time, the notion of having to actually stomp the box isn’t exactly heartbreaking, so I can’t rationally judge the MS-3’s viable utility on this fact alone. It’s also not entirely outside the realm of possibility for Boss to add MIDI-in via the USB input in the future; the prospect of future software updates is always a force multiplier for value, and while I’m not holding my breath (as full USB to MIDI capabilities would probably require a complete overhaul of the MS-3’s firmware), that addition will remain stubbornly at the top of my wishlist. I haven’t had the chance to test the viability of a MIDI-to-CV converter relaying data to the MS-3 through the CTRL ins, but coupled with the aforementioned CTRL out limit, even if it’s possible, there’s a high probability that there would be a severe bottleneck in the automation flexibility therein when compared to direct MIDI-in. For now, the lack of MIDI input creates a nigh-insurmountable obstacle for the growing population of solo musicians and bands alike that rely on MIDI automation from their DAWs and MIDI gear. I should also note in passing that the ES-5 and ES-8 feature MIDI-thru, but for the sake of comparison, it’s not a factor that justifies overlooking the extensive effects suite in the MS-3 considering nearly everything else in the MS-3 in terms of control is a direct carryover from the ES-5. It’s just an observation that I think you should consider if you’re truly happy with your effects (read: in denial) and only seek something with a little more pliability by way of integration. And as I was writing this NAMM 2018 happened, so I think it’s important to also mention that Boss’s new flagship unit, the GT-1000, features MIDI-in as well, so check that out, too, if that feature is a must-have for you.

One important feature in most huge effects suites is the implementation of reverb/delay spillover, particularly in the case of switching between patches. In a musical context, dropping out of a reverb with no trails can be a most effective mood-killer and often implies to the audience that amateur hour has begun: cue the turned backs and trips to the smoking alley. Okay, you have to have some pretty bad luck to catch such an apathetic audience, but a trail snuffed out before its time is a pretty big turn-off for me as a listener. In the MS-3, we get spillover, but only when turning the delay/reverb on or off, not when changing patches completely, or when bypassing a pedal in the loop. If you keep that in mind when you’re programming your presets you shouldn’t run into any catastrophic problems. It’s a safe bet to leave a MIDI-enabled delay or reverb after the MS-3, to prevent the dreaded cutoff. You’ll want to do this with a stereo delay in particular (if you run in stereo,) since the MS-3’s loops don’t support stereo, but the output does.

The Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher will, without a doubt, be remembered as a pedal that set a new standard for all-in-one multi-effects pedals, especially at its price point. It’s just as impressive when used on its own in a pinch as it is integrated into an established pedalboard with your other pedals. The tones leave very little to be desired. The options for external control are impressive. Not to mention there’s a growing community of knob-tweakers discovering and refining the knowledge of what’s possible with the MS-3, lending their experience to beginners for the greater good. At the end of the day, what else could you want? Guys, I tried really hard to justify knocking off another half star, but I just couldn’t find a good enough reason. My suggested solutions to any “problems” mentioned here would be going way beyond the threshold of necessary features in a loop switcher or a multi-effects unit. Truly, the only thing about the MS-3 that might stress you out is that their are so many possibilities. In fact, the general unbiased consensus in the BGE crew is that with its mind-boggling effects suite, its deep and expertly crafted control array, and its flexible routing configurations, the MS-3 is arguably among the very best pedals released in recent years.

US Street Pricing: $399.99

That concludes our Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher review. Thanks for reading!

Jake Behr


  1. Bobby guy

    April 13, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Great review. The one thing I wish this pedal had was the ability to use one do the control outs for a “favorite” or “override” switch – so that if you assign patch 46 as the favorite (for ex, a core sound of boosted overdrive with light delay just for solos), then no matter where you are, when you hit the control switch you toggle out to that, and when you hit it again you toggle back to your prior preset. That’s my one request and could be an easy firmware upgrade via usb. Your suggestions around trails etc are awesome.

  2. Mike Hundley

    May 28, 2018 at 11:43 am

    I’ve been trying to clean up my pedal board for quite sometime. When the es-8 debuted there was my holy grail. Eight of my favorite pedals and with midi control,I could hook up a multi effects unit just for modulation,verb and delay. Then this MS-3. Excellent. Now I could eliminate trying to fit my Intellifects rack unit under the board somehow. Only one problem: 3 loops are not going to cut it. I don’t think it will for a lot of players. This is a multi effects pedal,only they gave you a little room for your absolute favorite stompers. Boss,please….more loops,less crazy effects. Just give us some killer chorus,reverb and delays. Any wild stuff….I have a pedal for that……or maybe 2 or 3. Jus’ sayin.

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