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The BOSS DS-1 is an awful guitar pedal

no ds-1

Yes, I think this pedal sucks...

...but at the same time it has a reliable sound that never does you wrong and it is worth owning.

I'll explain.

Guitar players buy a BOSS DS-1 for basically one reason. It is the cheapest distortion pedal that's built like a tank. Yes, there are tons of other distortion pedals out there, but the DS-1 is only pedal that can truly hold the title of stomp box at its price point. You can quite literally stomp on this thing hard, and at no time will you think "Gee, I sure hope I don't break this thing." Trust me, you're not going to break it.

As well built as the DS-1 is however, the tradeoff is that it's a tone wrecker.

Any guitar that's plugged into this thing will sound the same when the pedal is on. It's a biting, nasty, trebly sound that completely strips a guitar of any natural pickup harmonics and blares out a tone best described as "square."

The only way to really get a DS-1 sounding anywhere near usable is to dial both the TONE and DIST knobs all the way back (yes, all the way,) and then start shaping your sound from there.

The first thing you'll immediately notice about the DS-1 is that even with TONE and DIST turned all the way back, distortion still exists. This pedal always has dirt in the sound, and that's part of its tonal character.

The second thing you'll notice is that TONE is oversensitive to the point where anything past the 12 o'clock position is pretty much unusable.

The third thing you'll notice is that DIST is also oversensitive to where anything past 12 o'clock is pretty much unusable.

But even with all this suck going on...

...the DS-1 is still one of the best distortion pedals of all time and is worth owning.

The DS-1 never has an "off day," so to speak. It always sounds the same every time. The same can't be said for other pedals. Every time you stomp the DS-1, the same square sound comes out very reliably.

Another thing about the DS-1 that most people don't mention is that once you're able to wrangle a decent sound out of it, that square tone is easy to mix because the sound is so squashed. Also, the tone of the pedal can cut through any mix with a quick turn of the TONE knob.

I personally believe the secret of having a decent DS-1 tone is having an analog delay pedal in front of it, such as the cheap-and-good Donner Yellow Fall mini-sized delay. A small amount of delay works very well to tame the grit of the DS-1.

Another thing I'll mention about the DS-1 is something I've said before. You absolutely, positively cannot plug in a DS-1 direct to a mixer and expect it to sound good. That will never happen. A DS-1 must go through some kind of amp modeling first since it was designed for amps originally (it was originally released in 1978, after all, and it hasn't changed much since then.)

In the end, yes you can get a DS-1 to sound good, but it takes effort to do it. And a delay pedal.


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