Boss DD-500 Digital Delay

  • By Fletcher Stewart @tonereport
  • September 10, 2015

A Gift from the Godfathers of Stompbox Delay

Unlike many pedal-pushing time benders, Boss had a vast and varied past from which to draw during the development of one of the most hotly anticipated delay devices in recent memory. In fact, Roland and Boss might be the only effects manufacturing entity that has been in the delay game since the very beginning. The Japanese giant has set benchmarks throughout every time-based technological state of the art. The Roland Space Echo tape delays of the ‘70s, the bucket-brigade analog DM-2 of the early ‘80s, the subsequent SDE-3000 rack digital delay and the industry-first digital stompbox, the DD-2, virtually defined the sounds of each decade.

After the release of Boss’s comprehensive DD-20 a few years ago, Strymon, Korg, Eventide and TC Electronic introduced their own do-it-all delays. Pigtronix even included some old Roland inspired algorithms its mighty Echolution 2. Many of us have wondered when Boss was going to lay down the delay gauntlet and there are likely a few questions regarding the new DD-500 that are on every delay junkie’s mind: Is it in the same league sonically and functionally with the Eventide and Strymon units? Does it have an all-analog dry signal path? How authentic do the Space Echo and SDE algorithms sound? I am here to tell you that the legacy has been preserved and the DD-500 is a 32-bit, 96 kHz processing powerhouse that can get as hi-fi or lo-fi as you like. As far as tonal authenticity is concerned, original SDE-3000 designer and boss of Boss, Yoshi Ikegami, personally made sure the coding was correct for the vintage rack mode and the RE-201 tape mode was also painstakingly lightning-bottled by the seasoned sound designers at Boss. In short, this is a top-shelf unit designed by both veterans and next-gen sound sculptors.

A Compilation of Classics with a Few Modern Twists

The first thing I found myself doing—after jacking the DD-500 into the effects loop of my Victory V30 and powering on—was heading straight to the Tape mode. Without a second thought, I hit Edit, selected the patch tab, scrolled down and toggled between the Maestro Echoplex and the RE-201 settings. Intuitive indeed. The Echoplex yielded those viperous wriggling high-pass repeats I know so well and responded in shades of saturation to my picking intensity—so far so good. Flicking over to the RE-201 was magical though. It’s all there. The silvery wash of murky multi-tap oscillations hung behind lilting chord bends, while the tap-tempo ramped the tape speed up and down with ultra realistic inertia. I am not sure if it is the new resolution or the analog dry signal path, but this sounds much better than the old RE-20 twin delay to my ears. The analog mode also sounded warm and rubbery, like the old classic DM-2—only this time around, I had the ability to add modulation. This enabled me to mimic the classic chorused Memory Man tones of yore.

Exploring the unit further and scrolling through banks of presets with my feet, my ears were privy to the super-silky glistening hi-res repeats of the 32-bit standard mode, the crunchy characterful ‘80s rack emulations and the bit-crushed brutality available within. The super spacious and precise pattern mode—which immediately inspired a galloping swarm of riffage—was scalpel-sharp and easy to get lost in depending on how many repeats were bouncing around. I am also a big fan of the Tera Echo’s futurist laser-phaser ambient faux reverbs and was thrilled to see this included in the modes. Building upon the compact TE-2’s pedal parameters, it is now possible to add pitch modulation and tweak the resonance of the effect for some seriously far out ambient trips. Taking things even further, Boss has enabled us to assign the CTL switch to Warp, Twist, Hold, Roll and much more, eliminating the need for an expression pedal in a pinch.

What We Like: The DD-500 stands shoulder to shoulder with the best do-it-all delays on the market. It is super easy to navigate, program and edit, without any need for manual reading or software tweaking. Scrolling through banks and presets is a breeze and the soft switching is bang-on the beat for tap tempo. Boss is also renowned for the best loopers in the business and this one works a treat. I also love the sleek new design and Stormtrooper-esque visual appeal. Once again, Roland upholds the legacy while remaining on the cusp of the sonic state of the art.

Concerns: None. It is built like a tank and will give much more expensive units a serious run for the money.

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  1. Lui Sutil

    I’ve had problems with the looper when it get’s a weird high pitch sound when playing back if it’s positioned in a certain way… Making it unusuable for me…
    Also, not to sound like a hater, but I don’t seem to get those tape rewound sounds from tap tempo… Only with the expression pedal and they don’t sound as realistic as a capistan or even digitech obscura’s tape mode… But then again, I don’t get any tape sound from the TC triple delay eother…
    But there are a ton if usuable sounds… Definitely one of the top delays to beat for the price…  Another one I like for the 300 dlls range is the Source Audio Nemesis.  Smaller too.
    I almost wanted to be dissapointed by this Boss unit but it’s been super fun to play with specially live…

  2. arrerwor