Tone Tips

Swapping Boss DS-1 Op Amps: Hear 20 Variations in Action

Listen to the ubiquitous orange dirt box howl with 20 different mods.

  • By Aaron Miller @tonereport
  • December 22, 2017
  • 19 Comments

Love it or hate it, the Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal is one of the most popular pedals of all time. Many guitarists have owned one or two (or 20) throughout their years of playing. With its low price tag and iconic appearance, this ubiquitous orange dirt box has been a bestseller for almost 40 years.

But with so many boutique distortions available, it’s also easily one of the most maligned pedals. Pairing nasally highs with unfocused lows and not offering much in the way of volume, there aren’t many usable settings for the DS-1 out of the box.

The good news is that you don’t have to settle for that stock tone, as the internet is jam-packed with mods to improve this pedal. One of the best ways to personalize your DS-1 is to trade out the cheap integrated circuit for a higher quality IC.

To help future modders of the world, we thought it would be a good idea to get some common replacement op amps, plug them into the DS-1’s circuit, and record how they sound. Have a listen below and see which one you think will take your sound to the next level.

What an Op Amp Does

I commend you on getting this far if you have no idea what an op amp is. Basically, an operational amplifier (op amp) is a type of IC: a small pre-packaged circuit designed for a specific purpose. In the case of an op amp, the purpose is to amplify voltage. In other words, it brings the teeny-tiny electrical signal coming from your guitar up to a certain voltage level.

This boosted signal then hits a variable resistor controlled by the distortion dial, which basically sets the limit for when your guitar's signal begins to clip. Turning up the distortion means more clipping, which means a harsher tone. By using different op amps in the same circuit, we can change the way that the signal is boosted before it reaches this vital clipping stage, which can drastically alter the timbre of the distortion.

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