5 Ways To Use The BOSS MS-3 Multi-Effects Switcher


First things first. Despite the visual similarity, the MS-3 is not just a smaller version of the popular ES-5 and ES-8 effects switching systems. It’s all in the name – it’s a Multi-Effects unit and pedal Switcher, with 3 loops to integrate your must-have stompboxes.

Let’s break that down a little further.

The MS-3 contains a whopping 112 built-in effects including delays, reverbs, modulation/pitch effects, overdrives, distortions, and more. It’s basically the fully-fledged effects section from a GT-100, crammed into a super-compact enclosure. You can run six of these effects concurrently.

It’s also a pedal switcher. This is where it gets interesting. You have three separate loops for your desert island pedals that make you sound like you. If you’ve got an esoteric fuzz or a rare analog delay that you can’t live without, place these in one of the three loops and you’ll be able to turn them on and off independently, as well as position the onboard effects around them any way you want.

To top it all off, the MS-3 can also act as the command centre of your rig, switching amp channels via control outputs or MIDI.

What does this actually mean for you and your rig?

Well, let’s take a look at these 5 practical uses for the MS-3, and see which one works best for you.

Contributed by Ed Lim for Roland Corporation Australia


MS-3 with Compact Pedals
As mentioned previously, the MS-3 has three loops for your own pedals, and over a hundred onboard effects. This means that if you’re really particular about your overdrive pedals for example, you can put those in the loops – but if you’re not too worried about chorus or reverb, you can let the MS-3’s onboard effects do the heavy lifting. If you need a specific effect like a ring modulator or pitch shifter just for one song, and you don’t want to shell out for costly pedals that will only get used once every 10 songs? The MS-3 has got you covered. This will help keep your pedalboard size down, without stifling your creativity!


Since the MS-3 comes packed with the effects muscle of a GT-100, you can use it as a completely standalone multi-effects board! For gigs where space is at an absolutely premium, the MS-3 makes for a compact, powerful fly rig – all you need to do is pick it up off your full board, chuck it in your backpack and rock up to the gig, ready to plug in to any amp.


What if you want to use the MS-3 with a high gain amp using the 4-cable method, so that you can run your delays and other time-based effects in the loop?

No problem. The MS-3 doesn’t have a dedicated effects loop, but don’t forget that it has three switchable loops for your pedals – all you need to do is commandeer one of those for the 4CM routing.

The down side of course is that only leaves you with two loops to integrate pedals into – but once again, the MS-3’s internal effects suite can step in to back you up.

Since the MS-3’s three loops function as a block (i.e you can’t change the order of them like the ES-series switchers), make sure to position any time-based outboard pedals (delays, chorus etc) after the loop that you’re using for the amp’s preamp.


These days, many preamp pedals or micro-amps feature cabinet simulated outputs for going straight to a recording interface or mixing desk. All you need to do is add one of these to your signal chain (either at the end or in one of the MS-3’s loops, depending on how you want to run your effects), and you can ditch your amp altogether for a powerful, versatile direct rig. Say goodbye to all the heavy lifting, and say hello to an entire rig that you can load in and out of a gig in a single trip!


Did you know that the MS-3 comes loaded with 10 effects specifically for bass? (And of course, you can still use all the other effects as well!)

We’re talking bass compressor, bass overdrive, bass octave – the list goes on.

Bass-ically, any of the applications that we’ll discuss in this article are also 100% applicable for bass as well.

Whether you’re a full time bass player who wants lots of effects in a compact package, or you’re a guitar player who sometimes moonlights on bass and doesn’t want to have to create two separate pedalboards, the MS-3 is ready to bring the low end.

Add on a bass preamp or overdrive with DI out and you can even go straight to the mixing board without need for an amp!


The MS-3 is a fantastically versatile piece of kit. It’s easily adaptable to virtually any rig configuration, and it’s loaded with tonnes of effects to stoke your creativity without breaking the bank – or your back. With an MS-3 at the heart of your rig, you’ll be prepared for almost any gig imaginable. Go try one out today!



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