The Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal is celebrating 40 years of production. We take a closer look at this iconic pedal and show you why you really need one in your rig!
For 40 years, the Boss DS-1 has appeared on pedal boards, in studios and on records drenching songs in lush distortion. It is instantly recognisable pedal used by everyone from beginners to absolute professionals. The Boss DS-1 is still to this day relied upon by guitarists in need of a versatile pedal that can provide smooth, creamy crunch, hard edge distortion and everything in between, all with low noise. This has fuelled the signature sounds of guitar legends all over the world and is still an extremely popular pedal in the music world.
So today we’re going to look at why this pedal has enjoyed such popularity and stood the test of time, going on to become one of the most well-known effects pedals ever made and the highest selling BOSS pedal to date.
A brief history of the Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal
When it was first introduced back in 1978, the Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal would become Boss’s first foray into the world of distortion pedals, instantly defining a new sound that provided players with hard edged attack and smooth sustain that guitarists of all genres fell in love with.
Aside from the small DS-1 logo being moved slightly when production moved from Japan to Taiwan, the overall Boss DS-1 design is unchanged, with its signature sound still intact.
Before this pedal exploded onto the scene, most distortion pedals were known for producing harsh, muddy tones especially when driven into high gain saturation. However, the engineers at Boss changed all that when they developed the unique DS-1 circuit complete with a pioneering two-stage circuit. This two-stage circuit incorporated both op-amp and transistor gain stages resulting in a signature low-frequency fullness loved by punk, rock and metal players. The fact you could crank the distortion knob to achieve everything from a mild boost in distortion that would drive your amp all the way to full throttle no-holds-barred gain made it an appealing option for those who loved to bust out the big riffs!
Best of all, the Boss DS-1 didn’t mask the unique characteristics of different guitars and pickups – it worked WITH your guitar, so you still had the sound of your guitar colouring your overall tone.
This versatility meant guitarists of all genres found it to be extremely useful… which brings us to our next point…
Notable Boss DS-1 Users
Chances are, you’ve played with someone who has a Boss DS-1 or you yourself have got one in your collection – if not, you’ve definitely heard of it and you’re wondering what all the fuss is about hence reading this blog. However, we’re willing to wage that you have an album in your collection that has this pedal on due to the fact it’s such a ubiquitous presence in the music scene.
The Boss DS-1 has some really famous users and as we said, has been used on a myriad of different records that might surprise you.
Kurt Cobain is perhaps the most notable as this is one of the only pedals he used on the album ‘Nevermind’. According to an interview in Guitarworld.com producer Butch Vig was known for preferring to get his distortion sound directly from the cranked amps, but as Kurt Cobain did feel that the DS-1 was the main factor in his tone, he made special exception. So those distortion tones you hear on the likes of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Breed’ are the sound of a cranked amp and a Boss DS-1 – perfect!
Take a look below at some of the most famous Boss DS-1 users all spanning a wide range of different genres and styles:
- Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
- Joe Satriani
- Robert Smith (The Cure)
- Mike Stern
- Steve Vai
- Steve Rothery
- Glenn Frey (Eagles)
- Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake/The Dead Daisies)
- Josh Klinghoffer (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
- Kim Deal
- Luca Bob Gotti
- Chuck Schuldiner
- John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
And this is just a mere selection of the most famous players. But hey if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us!
40th Anniversary Edition & Different Versions of the Boss DS-1 Pedal
In 1987, the Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion Pedal was released – a younger (but more angry) brother to the original DS-1, offering guitarists twin distortion modes so you can enjoy a more expanded range of distortion. In addition, the DS-2 includes a built-in Remote jack which allows you to switch between modes via an external footswitch. This meant you could go from loud to louder and then even louder again should you need to!
In 2013 the team at Boss would then unveil the Boss DS-1X which would provide players with unmatched response and expression from a guitar pedal. The major difference between this and the original DS-1 is that this is a digital pedal designed to process your playing in real time and adapt its distortion tones based on how you were playing. If you played harder, the pedal would respond, if you played a little softer the pedal would change to suit your dynamics. In addition, you have a wider range of EQ settings to play with!
However, it was in 2017 that the team at Boss would reissue a special edition version of the Boss DS-1 and really set the collectors out there into a frenzy. The Boss DS-1-4A was a limited-edition pedal commemorating 40 years of boss innovation and to celebrate 40 years of the DS-1. This now sold-out pedal had exactly the same sound as the original DS-1 pedals but featured a black body with gold lettering, gold-capped knobs, and a vintage silver thumbscrew for the battery compartment as well as a special box with 40th anniversary logo.
So give me 3 reasons I need a Boss DS-1 pedal!
There are many reasons why the Boss DS-1 is easily one of the greatest distortion pedals ever made, but here’s 3 to get you started!
1. The sound is simply incredible
The sound of the Boss DS-1 is like no other pedal. Straight out of the box you get amazing sounding distortion that is tight, focused and provides huge distortion with minimal noise. The rich harmonics of the pedal work in unison with the characteristics of your guitar bringing out the best sound possible without taking anything away from your sound.
You can use the pedal as a subtle tone or volume boost by dialling the distortion back, or crank it right up for some seriously bone crunching riffs. One of the best things about the DS-1 is the fact you can use it for a wide range of different genres as it can provide super smooth growls, harsh Grunge tones to high gain Southern Rock all at the twist of a dial.
2. It’s no fuss and easy to use
The easy to use controls allow you to dial in your perfect tone within seconds. You have a Tone, Level and a DIST (distortion) knob and that’s it - easy! The tone knob allows you to dial in a more treble based sound or boost the bass frequencies, whilst the Level knob provides you with control over the volume of the pedal – push it past 12 o’clock for a boost in signal and really feel your sound start to come alive!
The Distortion knob allows you to increase or decrease the amount of distortion on the fly – best of all they’re extremely hardwearing so they’ll comfortably turn for decades and put up with a lot of (ab)use.
3. Recessed knobs hardwearing construction
Just like every Boss stompbox pedal, the DS-1 features a sunken knob design which ensures you’re not changing anything by accident with your foot when you stomp on the pedal. This is extremely useful if you’re a guitarist who (like me) tends to stomp on your pedals quite hard.
In addition, the Boss DS-1 is almost indestructible thanks to the sturdy metal chassis which protects the inner workings of the pedal. The battery compartment has also been designed to protect the circuit board should you forget to take it out the battery after a couple of years (it happens!) and it accidentally leaks.
In conclusion the Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal provides players with a no-fuss, hard wearing distortion pedal that sounds spectacular. When you’re looking for a distortion pedal, the Boss DS-1 is easily a contender for one of the best distortion pedals of all time.
Shop the Boss DS-1 now over at PMT online or call in to your local PMT store today to try one out for yourself and see why this pedal is so popular.