Overall I give it 4 stars since I feel that with a tag sporting $199 the (for the most part) 24-bit unit really ought to be much better with it's tone and tracking, and of course it should also be true bypass [Why can't all effects companies adopt a True Bypass philosophy already?]. However, those couple of gripes aside the unit is definitely everything it's cracked up to be and then some! It's Detune mode has already paved the way to a new song idea and new uses in the other material we perform as an alternative to using my Dano Chorus most of the time. This stomp isn't for everyone, and I don't recommend it to anyone who thinks this is Boss' answer to the DigiTech Whammy pedal ('cause it isn't), but for the player looking for some cool chorus, pitch shifting and whammy-like effects in one compact unit then the PS-5 is probably the tool for you.
Model Year: 1999
Price: $199.00 (new)
Where Obtained: Musician's Friend
5 pitch-related modes offer some killer alternatives to the good ol' standards of yore: Pitch Shift, Harmonizer, Detune, Tremolo Arm and Flutter. Pitch Shift does just that -- shift the original pitch in increments up to 2 octaves above or below. [Note: There are no increments between one octave and the 2nd octave.] This mode also serves as an "octave" pedal, which produces some of the coolest octave tones I;ve ever heard. The Harmonist mode allows for "intelligent" pitch shifting based on the scale being played, however, the manual states often that this feature works best when the guitar is in tune and tuned to standard tuning (A 440). Otherwise, the (note) "tracking" gets off and the unit has to "guess" and assign the note it thinks should be there. The Detune mode is perhaps my fave since I can apply it to the things we write and perform much more so than an octave or harmonist effect. This mode is basically a chorus effect, and when applied subtly makes for an awesome doubling/thickening effect that is great for groking a killer Zakk Wylde tone! The Tremolo Arm effect functions as a pitch bend up or down to the pitch increment you set it to -- up or down to two octaves. What gives this mode it's realistic feel is the knob which controls the speed in which you arrive at the desired note. The last mode is the Flutter mode which simulates the flutter effect one can achieve with a floating whammy (sometimes referred to as "chirping"). [Ref: Steve Vai and Satch used whammy flutters alot in their earlier recordings.] This is one of the features that sold me on the unit, for even though it can't do everything the DigiTech Whammy pedal can, the Whammy can't do the flutter.
Like most Boss units, this one sounds great as far as what it was designed to do, but I have noticed that some modes make your tone sound a little more "digitally processed" than others. For example; when depressing the pedal in it's unswitched TREMOLO ARM (T. Arm) mode, I can hear the tone go from it's analog warmth to a digitally-processed one to achieve the desired pitch bending effect, and then upon releasing the pedal I can hear the *pitch* return to normal, but it takes a second or two before the pedal "reliquishes" the digitally-processed tone and lets the true tone come through. Don't get me wrong, for I do love the many cool effects this one pedal gives, but you'd think with 24-bit Analog-to-Digital (AD) conversion (only 20-bit DA conversion, though) that the tracking and "digital" overtones would be a lot better than most earlier pitch shifting units. Those qualms aside, the unit does sport some awesome effects nonehteless. My fave modes are the DETUNE and PITCH SHIFTER since I'm a sucker for the kinds of killer tones that chorus pedals and octave pedals produce, but the TREMOLO ARM and FLUTTER effects have found a place in my heart as well since I abandoned using whammy bars back in the early 90's and miss some of the things you can do with them. While I don't think this unit will ever be able to match the expressiveness of the real thing, it does a good enough job of emulating these whammy effects to make you and your listeners smile. I'm using the PS-5 in my live rig, which at the heart is a Rivera BoneHead half-stack w/ the Los Lobottom subwoofer system, but I found that the unit sounds best in my situation in the Effects Loop of the amp -- along with my Dano Chorus and Dan-Echo pedals. I tried it at the beginning of the chain (before the amp input, followed by my Rotovibe and Very-Tone stomps), but for some reason it didn't sound as good with the effects that followed. It seems that my digital effects always sound better in the Boner's Efx Loop and my analog ones at the front of the chain, but this may not be the case for everyone so definitely experiement to find where it works best for you.
This isn't the easiest pedal when it comes to intuitively knowing how to utilize the sounds of each mode, but the manual gives some good examples to follow. One major ease-of-use gripe I have is in regards to the "Real Time Control" via an expression controller -- basically put, it SUCKS! I actually returned the $70+ Roland expression pedal that I bought to accompany the PS-5 since it seems the *only* parameter control it provided was for Pitch, and even that it didn't do all that well. I had hoped the PS-5 along with an exp. pedal would be their answer to the DigiTech Whammy, but apparently it wasn't designed to be, and the expression control lameness made me realize it all the more. Besides only controlling that one parameter for most of the modes, get this... in order to use the exp. pedal for the TREMOLO ARM and FLUTTER effects (which are "unswitched", i.e., the pedal must be held down to be 'ON') you literally have to use one foot to stand on the PS-5 and keep it depressed while the other foot is to somehow manipulate the exp. pedal!!! Talk about a *MAJOR* design flaw, this is the first one I've experienced with anything from Boss.
Boss usually makes solid gear, and this unit is no exception. However, I dunno 'bout the other PS-5 users, but mine ate through a brand new battery during the course of a 2-hr. rehearsal, so do yourself a favor and buy the wall wart for it. I hate using wall warts unless I absolutely have to, and here lately it seems that the majority of the new pedals I've bought can't cut it with batteries alone (including the PS-5).