I published most of this post in a response to a question posted in the comments here. I figured that it was worth publishing as a post in its own right. So here are a half dozen things I think about when I’m choosing between a Digitech RP360XP and an RP500.

One thing you don’t need to worry about with either device is whether my patches are available for it. I’m glad to say that we offer terrific patch setups for both devices. Click here for more information.

I used the RP500 with an Audix Fireball V to record every harp part on my record “The Lucky One”–check out the sounds!

1) If you intend to change sounds in performance–or to add and remove elements of a sound, such as distortion or a modulation effect–frequently, I strongly recommend the RP500 over the 360. It sounds very good, it’s larger than the RP360 but not too large for a shoulder bag, and its dedicated footswitches make it very, very easy to manage lots of changes to your tone in performance. There are dedicated footswitches for tap tempo for your delay, for compression/FX/delay/reverb on and off, etc., all of them very useful when you’re on stage and want to create a dramatic moment or two. There’s even a dedicated button for turning the amp and cabinet modeling on and off. In my side-by-side tests of the RP500 and the RP360 running the same patch setups, the differences in sound are very slight, often unnoticeable, and in my opinion not enough to force the decision one way or the other.

Digitech RP500 at top right
Digitech RP500 at top right

2) If you don’t change sounds frequently in the middle of a song, are willing to spend (plenty of) time programming footswitches patch by patch for the 360’s “stomp” (stompbox) mode, or are happy to mainly use the expression pedal to change a particular aspect of your sound in performance, such as the speed of a rotary speaker effect, the RP360 will work well for you. However, let it be known that editing the RP360 must at this point be done mostly from its front panel; Digitech’s Nexus software is a very poor option for editing the device’s setup, adding time and pointless repetition to the task instead of making it easier. Whether edited via the front panel or Nexus, stomp mode footswitch settings can be made only on a patch-by-patch basis. The RP500’s on-off switches dedicated to compression, distortion, FX, delay, and reverb cover most of the really dramatic facets of the sound, are easier to learn (because they’re the same for every patch), and don’t have to be programmed patch by patch, which saves a lot of time when you’re setting the device up for performance.

The RP360XP: great sounds, s--- software
The RP360XP: great sounds, s— software

3) The RP360XP is lighter and smaller than the 500, so just a little easier to haul around–not enough to make it my preferred device for any occasion, but enough to make it a consideration when size and weight are very important.

4) Price used to be a differentiator, but the prices of both new and used RP500s are now the same as the RP360XP ($200 and $150 respectively.)

5) If you intend to do a lot of sound design, the 500 wins hands down, because its software (Xedit) is far, far superior to the crippled excuse for a patch editor that Digitech has supplied with Nexus. Digitech’s history where its software support for the RPs is concerned is pretty discouraging in this regard, and I wouldn’t count on them to fix Nexus anytime soon. They might, but they very well might not, too.

6) Finally, the RP360XP runs on both Euro and US-standard wall power–220 volts or 110 volts. Pretty cool if you play gigs on multiple continents.

That’s my list of decision points, summarized here:

  • Frequent and varied realtime changes in sound needed: advantage RP500
  • Size and weight matter: advantage RP360XP
  • Price matters: no difference, pick what you like!
  • Sound design matters: advantage RP500
  • Different wall power standards matter: advantage RP360XP

  • I’ve left out factors that might matter a lot to some people. I haven’t figured the looper on the 360XP or the 500 in to the equation, because I use an external looper in my chain that’s more capable than the looper in either box. (The Digitech JamMan Stereo, to be exact.) So add in any additional factors that matter to you.

    Since I own both devices, I’m currently making my decisions on a gig-by-gig basis. I’m taking the RP360XP to my gig in Milan next week, but I’m still using the RP500 as the go-to device for my solo performances, where I need as much flexibility in shaping the sound in real time as I can get. So for me it’s horses for courses. If you’re only going to get one, go with the course that’s most important to you.

    If you liked that, you’ll like these:

    the 21st century blues harmonica manifesto in sound

    Get it on Amazon

    Get it on iTunes

    the rock harmonica masterpiece

    Get it on Amazon

    Get it on iTunes