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Boss SY-200 Synthesizer review

A whopping 171 sounds and a compact 200 Series enclosure makes this Boss unit a guitar synth to be reckoned with

Boss SY-200 Synthesizer
(Image: © Boss)

Our Verdict

The Boss SY-200 Synthesizer offers guitarists the easiest and most affordable gateway to the wonderful world of guitar synthesis by providing true plug-and-play performance in a compact pedal unit that delivers 171 awesome synth sounds.

For

  • 171 synth sounds.
  • 128 presets.
  • Superb performance.
  • Good value and easy to use.

Against

  • As with all synth pedals, be careful with your technique.

One of the biggest drawbacks that kept many guitarists from using guitar synthesizers was the commitment required. In the past, guitar synthesizer systems required dedicated controllers or special pickup systems, and the sound modules were usually housed in bulky floor controllers or rack mount units. 

This was fine for players who were fully dedicated to making a guitar synth their main instrument, but for guitarists who just wanted a couple cool synth sounds for occasional leads or some lush pads for a few rhythm parts it was a bit much.

The Boss SY-200 Synthesizer pedal provides a compact, easy-to-use alternative that’s perfect for everyone from guitarists who to explore a handful of synth sounds and textures to full-blown guitar synth enthusiasts. 

Boss SY-200 Synthesizer

(Image credit: Boss)

Housed in a unit that’s only slightly larger than a standard Boss compact pedal and offering true plug-and-play performance (no special pickups or controllers are needed), the SY-200 is the easiest way for guitarists to explore the vast universe of synthesizer sounds.

Features

The SY-200 offers 171 sounds arranged in a dozen groups – Lead, Pad, String, Bell, Organ, Bass, Dual, Sweep, Noise, SFX, SEQ and Arpeggio. Individual sounds are accessed via a rotary switch and the Variation knob, and they are easily modified via three multi-function parameter knobs.

Boss SY-200 Synthesizer

(Image credit: Boss)

Users can save customized sounds to 128 internal memory locations. The top panel also includes individual level controls for the direct guitar signal and effect (synth), a Menu button for accessing on/off, control and expression pedal functions and send/return, system, MIDI, MIDI PC map and factory reset functions, an Exit button for quickly returning to performance mode and a rotary Memory knob for scrolling through presets. 

All performance and editing settings are easy to see thanks to a large, brightly lit LCD display. A pair of footswitches provide on/of and assignable memory/control 1 and hold functions. Input, output, send, return and controller ¼-inch jacks are mounted on the rear panel, and 1/8-inch MIDI In and Out and a mini USB jack are located on the left side. The pedal is powered by three AA batteries or an optional Boss PSA-S adapter.

Boss SY-200 Synthesizer

(Image credit: Boss)

Performance

The Boss SY-200 provides guitarists with the easiest gateway to exploring synth sounds ever. Just plug the unit between your guitar and amp like an ordinary effects pedal and you’re instantly ready to go – no level or sensitivity tweaking or other adjustments are required. 

The synth sounds track flawlessly without latency, whether playing single-note lines or chords (thanks to the SY-200’s polyphonic capabilities), but note that it’s best to play notes as cleanly as possible and avoid techniques like string scrapes and artificial harmonics that may not track well. 

Also, as typical for any guitar synth, players may need to adjust their playing technique for certain sounds, such as patches with slow attack envelopes.

The 171 sounds cover an excellent variety of synth tones and textures particularly well suited for electric guitarists. While the SY-200 may not be quite as versatile as a dedicated synthesizer and lacks some of the most fashionable EDM sounds, it still works particularly well for adding new dimensions to solos, rhythm parts and chord pads in a full band context. 

Most of the patches sound great when amplified through a regular guitar amp dialed to a clean setting or even mild overdrive, but the SY-200 sounds best when connected to a full-range sound system

I particularly loved blending several of the Lead sounds with the regular guitar signal and a distortion pedal patched to the send/return jacks to play massive-sounding solos. 

Most of the patches sound great when amplified through a regular guitar amp dialed to a clean setting or even mild overdrive, but the SY-200 sounds best when connected to a full-range sound system. An ABY pedal is worth consideration for players who want to get the best of both worlds.

Specs

  • PRICE: $389 / £299 street
  • TYPE: Polyphonic pedal
  • FEATURES: 12 analog-style synth categories with variations (all in 171 sounds), 3 adjustable parameters, 128 preset slots, parallel send/return loop 
  • CONTROLS: 12-way mode selector, Memory with push/pull, Menu and Exit buttons, 3 Parameter controls, E Level, D Level, Variation, On/Off footswitch, Memory/CTRL footswitch
  • CONNECTIONS: 1/4" input jack, Send/Return, MIDI in/out, USB, CTL 2 3/EXP 1/4" input
  • BYPASS: Buffered
  • CONTACT: Boss (opens in new tab) 

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Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.