Distortion is one of the most popular effects for electric guitar players, and a necessity for anyone who wants to play rock, metal and heavier blues rock. It takes the clean tone of your guitar and clips the signal in order to add either a warm fuzz or a cold metallic buzz to your tone, which can sound amazing when applied tastefully in your playing.
Boss (Roland) is one of those companies who pretty much lead the way in the field of guitar and bass stomp boxes and effects pedals. They are popular largely because they create very robust, sturdy pedals which are rarely complicated to operate, and usually much more affordable than boutique equivalents.
The Boss DS-1 is definitely one of the company’s most popular effects pedals, and it is also one of the most popular distortion pedals used today. Artists famous for using this little orange distortion include Steve Vai, who swears by the tone of the pedal when the drive is cranked all of the way up to the max.
The Boss DS-1 is a very good pedal for those guitarists just starting out with the electric guitar. By itself it delivers a very standard, classic distortion sound with very little personal character. Although this is a matter of personal preference, I’d say that this is not the pedal to buy if you are looking for something particularly rich and ‘creamy’. It is however good in generic rock and blues to add that gritty kind of tone, and considering the low price, it is good value for money.
Issues with the sound are that it is pretty limited in range. It will never get you into hard rock territory, and I felt that it was a little quick to go into distortion too, which limits its effectiveness in a clean boost kind of role on the pedalboard. The tone can be excessively trebly when pushed up past 12 o’clock, which creates a rather unpleasant tinny overtones and harmonics in the distorted sound.
It works best as a lead or solo guitar boost when placed in front of an overdriven tube amp head, although even for this role, there are many pedals out there which do a better job.
The DS-1 – like all Boss pedals – is built to withstand some serious punishment. Its rugged metal frame and basic control layout means that it could easily withstand a huge amount of gigs and weather it out on the road like a pro.
Plus points are definitely ease of use, tough, durable design and great value for money. The negatives include limited range, lack of character and excessive high end frequencies in the tone control.