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Microphone Month

REVIEW: BOSS DB-90

As a musician, you need a metronome. It’s a fact of life. Personally, I’ve had a simple, basic metronome that I picked up years ago while I was in grad school studying music composition, with classical guitar as my instrument. It has served me well, but it has one flaw that has frustrated me for years: it’s circular in shape and has a tendency to roll off of a music stand if I don’t set it on there just right.

With some of my practice routines, I wanted some additional features from my metronome as well. The big one was that I wanted to be able to start and stop the click with my foot, so I didn’t have to take my hands off the instrument when working on a piece or a technical exercise. Right off the bat, that eliminated just about every metronome on the market. Then, I discovered one that had this feature: the BOSS DB-90.

Once I had the DB-90 in my hands, though, I realized that it’s one incredibly advanced practice machine.

At its most basic, you can set the tempo, start the metronome, and start practicing – pretty easy – and tempos from 30 beats per minute through 250 beats per minute are supported. A big yellow knob sets the tempo (you also use it for data entry for other functions), or you can tap the tempo in from the front panel, and a large Start/Stop button gets things rolling – or you can use a footswitch to start and stop it, as mentioned above. There are three different click sounds you can use, or you can choose to have a human voice count the time for you – you can even use four sliders to have the metronome click or count subdivisions, including quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteen notes, and triplets. Another slider sets the downbeat accent level, and a sixth slider sets the overall volume level.

The Beat/Pattern switch allows you to select among different time groupings, or, in Pattern mode, it plays back drum beats in a variety of time signatures and styles, ranging from funk to jazz, shuffle to waltz, mambo to clave, and reggae to house. In Tune mode, the DB-90 can produce 12 reference tuning notes, in a 5-octave range, through its built-in speaker, with A tunable from 438-445Hz.750-DB90_img_rear

All that takes you way past conventional metronomes, right? Hang on, as we’re just getting rolling. You can also set the metronome to have a count-in (one to eight beats) before the actual click begins, which is nice if you’re either working on a piece of music and trying to stay with the downbeat or using the Loop function (more on that below). If you need to temporarily silence the click, you can hit the Mute switch.

Now, let’s look at some advanced features. The DB-90 has 50 user-programmable memory locations for storing metronome setups, as well as 10 locations for reference tone setups. Using the Loop function, you can play through the memory locations, with each repeating a user-programmable setup a number of times. This allows you to set up a metronome-driven practice routine of working through a variety of beats and patterns. This is incredibly powerful. You can even use a switch plugged into a second footswitch jack to step through the memory locations for a more customizable routine.

Want more? There’s a MIDI jack for syncing the DB-90 to either a keyboard with a MIDI sequencer or to a DAW. This is a great feature if your drummer plays to a click or uses a metronome to set the tempo but you’re also using sequenced keyboard parts. For developing better timing skills, there’s a coaching mode in the DB-90. Using either the built-in microphone or a practice pad connected to the trigger input jack, you can play or clap rhythms and check your accuracy against the DB-90. There are four Coach modes for working on accuracy, timing, endurance, and stamina.

No, we’re still not done. There’s also a built-in amp-simulator function that lets you plug in an electric guitar or bass and use the DB-90 as a basic practice amp/monitor. Amazing! Other niceties include an adapter for mounting the unit to a cymbal stand, a backlight, a built-in stand for holding the unit upright, and even a nice leatherette carrying case.

I can’t believe I’ve written this long of a review on a metronome. But the DB-90 is way more than just a metronome; it’s a one-stop practice tool. It’s truly the Rolls Royce of metronomes. If you want to take your timekeeping as far as it can go, and benefit your practice routine in the process, then this is the most amazing machine you’ll find. It’s not the cheapest metronome, but it is the best. Why would you want anything less?

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