Boss ME-5 – legendary guitar pedal

By | April 4, 2021

Boss_ME-5.thumb.jpg.48b3e47d97e4c565d07a324e8b24fbf6.jpgME-5 is a hard-skinned multi-effect that was many guitarists’ dream gadget in the late 80’s.

First out of Boss compact pedals was Boss overdrive / dist OD-1 and recently the number of power models passed 100. So with over ten million copies sold, you are in good company. Ten years after OD-1, in other words 1988, Boss launched another “trend setter”: Boss ME-5 – Guitar Multiple Effects.

Today, there are roughly the same effects in digital form in your mobile, but then it was a dream come true for many guitarists. According to some, the interior of the ME-5 is identical to some of Boss’ sought-after vintage pedals.

With a strata with Floyd Rose, a booster and a Boss ME-5, you had the right rig. Boss ME-5 had 64 programmable sounds, which was enough and was over for most people, whether you played blues, rock or in a dance band – as a professional or at home in the local pub.

Definite order
All effects on ME-5 are analog, except for the reverb and the delay. The location of each effect was predetermined. First out was a compressor (which corresponded to a Boss CS 3) and the four parameters were: sustain, attack, tone and level. On a regular pedal, these are set steplessly, but on the ME-5 it is done step by step, so it was important to get each effect to work together with the effect before and after.

The next effect in the chain was three different dist variants with different character from soft dist to a harder, more fuzzy tone. A simple eq with boost / cut for bass and treble and signal level followed and then it was time for chorus and flanges – two indispensable effects for the 80’s that sounded very nice. The lack of phases in the ME-5 was annoying but perhaps not decisive.

A simple but perfectly okay noise gate followed and as far as I remember it did a good job before the digital reverb / delay section took over. It had five different reverbs from smaller rooms to larger halls, but also the time-typical chopped-down, jittery reverb effect that I can actually miss today for some sound. The maximum time for the echoes was half a second, which was enough for most people then, but today it is not much to say if long echoes are your thing.

Innovations such as midi were probably most confusing for many guitarists, but some had already started the technology race and connected the ME-5 with an Atari ST and the Creator program.

Palletized the pressure
The main advantage of the ME-5 was that it was easy to program. Just like your regular stomp boxes, it also had an on / off button for each effect pedal. It was hard-skinned with a black metal chassis and more than one ME-5 has survived everything from over-refreshed audiences with a large strong in the grips to millions of sound changes after cleaning and replacing a single foot pedal.

Boss ME-5

  • Boss ME-5 was the first floor-based and programmable multi-effect for guitarists.

  • A new Boss ME-5 cost over 5,000 kronor. Today, it is perhaps worth a tenth of that plus a hundred or two if it is in good condition.

  • Some claim that the interior is identical to Boss vintage pedals from the 70s and 80s.

  • Artists who played and used Boss ME 5: Rory Gallagher, Jesus and The Mary Chain, Golden Times.

The article was previously published in Studio 7-2013