Owning a Boss pedal is a rite of passage for guitar players. The first pedal I ever had was a Boss OC-2 that I acquired in a trade for some CDs I didn’t listen to and a hand-me-down R.E.M. t-shirt. Given the nature of the deal, it was a steal. And speaking of theft, the pedal left me when the guitar player in my junior high band (I was the drummer) claimed he “lost” it when he jammed with some sketchy college guys downtown. I doubted his story as he once claimed to have taken Bela Fleck’s envelope filter pedal right off the stage after a show when the Flecktones played at the Boise State student union building; he was good at writing angst-ridden songs about his ex-girlfriend and stealing other people’s gear. That tragedy aside, the simple nature of the analog octave pedal left a deep impression upon me, and I was immediately fascinated with effects pedals and the impact they could have on music. I, along with many others, owe my love of effects to Boss, and I’ve owned many of the company’s bulletproof stompboxes since. In honor of their many contributions to the music world, Boss released a special 40th anniversary DS-1 distortion pedal, and opening it up and holding it gave me that same excited feeling I had when I first plugged into the OC-2.
A Classic Reborn
Dressed in a handsome black and gold ensemble, the DS-1 is the same classic distortion box you’ve come to know and love. We are spoiled with a seemingly endless supply of boutique dirt boxes to cater to our every need, but there is something special about the trustworthiness and simplicity of gear from Boss. The Tone, Level and Distortion knobs make it idiot proof, and you can drop it out of a five story building and play it at the gig that night. While you may think you have graduated from pedals like the DS-1 (or DS-2), just remember that a guy named Kurt Cobain used one, and he put together a decent career, inspiring a few people along the way. If you want one in this limited color scheme, make it a point to pick one up this year, as they will only be made in 2017. I’m a sucker for limited edition pedals, so there’s a good chance I’ll snag one so I can pretentiously tell someone “Oh, I have the limited edition version.”
Dirty Sounds, Done Dirt Cheap
Part of the appeal of many pedals in the Boss lineup is their affordability. Coming in at $60 brand new, the DS-1 can do many things that more expensive pedals can do for a lot less. The Tone knob on the DS-1 has a very wide range, making it useful with every amp in your arsenal. There’s enough volume on tap to put you over the edge when you need it, and the classic distortion can turn a clean amp into a monster or further saturate your favorite dirty amp. I found the pedal to be most useful with the Tone around 10 o’clock, Level at noon, and the Distortion all the way up. I used my guitar’s volume knob to get varying shades of overdrive and distortion, pleased with the utilitarian dirt sounds I could get without ever changing settings. When the Tone knob is all the way up, the DS-1 can be bright and shrill, but rolling it back produces a smooth, inviting distortion that will make you forget about spending money to buy the perfect tone and focus on playing.
There’s a reason at least one Boss pedal is on the pedalboard of just about every pro player in the world. They’re easy to use, sound good, and they could be the one thing that Skynet’s terminators wouldn’t be able to destroy. Just go buy this thing.
What We Like: Classic Boss distortion dressed up in a limited edition finish. Affordable.
Concerns: Can be shrill at extreme tone settings.