DS-1 Distortion review by Boss

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  • Sound: 7
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Ease of Use: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.9 (442 votes)
Boss: DS-1 Distortion

Price paid: £ 28

Purchased from: ebay

Sound — 7
The distortion produced by the DS-1 is overall decent, but it really depends on what you're looking for. It's not terribly tube-like so 'tone freaks' may have a problem with it. I've used it through my Epiphone Les Paul Standard and my mid-80s Japanese Fender Stratocaster into various amps- a couple of solid state practice amps, a Marshall Haze 15W head, an Orange Tiny Terror and an Orange Thunder 30. It sounds warmer and more musical plugged into tube amps, and I also found it easier to produce pinch harmonics. I got a passable tone through each amp. It's not terribly noisy if you compare it to something like a big muff. Obviously, it's a completely different animal- though equally wild in some ways. Using my Strat it becomes noisy at about noon on the gain knob, and it's completely unusable past 3pm. That's more the single coils' fault. I quite like the tone you get- it's quite organic and aggressive, which is good for most styles of rock. It's not really HOT enough to do metal, plus it doesn't scoop the mid-range frequencies and it's a bit harsh for classic rock. I find it a bit harsh on the treble frequencies, so for me the tone knob is always below 12-noon, which is a bit restrictive. Varying the gain, you can go from a nice crunch to a pretty wild distortion - I'd like to have a bit more room at the lower end though: it's still a bit HOT at 9am. A couple of other comments: the pedal does cut some of the treble frequencies from your signal as it's not true bypass, but it's not much- would only be a problem if you had 10 or so of these. One annoying thing is the interaction between the gain and level controls: you need to change the level a lot when you change the gain to keep the volume the same. You get this on every pedal that I know of but the effect seems bigger on my DS-1. I've been a bit nit-picky but I do really like how it sounds.

Overall Impression — 9
I play mostly pop-rock/ alternative rock in my covers band and I like to play classic rock too. So far we've played the likes of Coldplay, The Strokes, The Zutons, Dandy Warhols and Metric, so it's seen a bit of action and it's fitted the songs pretty well. I've been playing electric for about 4 years now (played acoustic for 2 before then). I'd advise people to try before you buy (not like I did) since it's not going to be to everyone's taste. On the whole I'm very happy though- it's got a widely applicable rock tone, that can be musical. It can however, be harsh and trebly and noisy if you have single coils. The only pedal I've owned that's in the same class is the DigiTech HOT Head (which is now dead for some reason) and the Boss sounds MUCH better - clearer, less noisy and a bit less harsh, more organic and musical. It's different to a tube amp's distortion, but I find that I like it more than the Overdrive from my Marshall Haze, and it's comparable to the Overdrive from a Tiny Terror.

Reliability & Durability — 9
It's a boss, so I can definitely depend on it. It doesn't seem as sturdy as DigiTech Hardwire pedals, but it's pretty solid. I'd be happy to use it without a backup (assuming I had a few 9V batteries with me).

Ease of Use — 8
Use is pretty straight-forward due to the layout of the pedal - the standard gain, tone and level controls. The sound is a bit harsh and won't float everyone's boat, but I find I can get some nice tones without searching that much. Mine is probably about 10 years old, but I don't really know which exact version it is. It's not been upgraded and it's a pretty standard distortion pedal.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I own this pedal and must say these reviews don't represent my opinions on it all. As a cheap pedal, the DS-1 is okey. However, quality-wise it lacks dynamics and has a horribly trebly EQ setting. This pedal, however, is purely made for modifications. You can either replace filters and capacitators yourself or get someone else (like Keeley) to get rid of the cheap parts. All the professionals use modded versions, and for good reason. The standard issue DS-1 will ruin your tone with its compression, and you will need to turn down the tone knob due to the large amount of treble. Hope my opinions assisted you somehow
    I can't stand sound of this pedal unless the tone is all the way down. My friend has this and it's incredibly trebly. It sounds OK if the drive and tone are all the way down and gives a decent overdrive tone but I would rather use my amp's distortion. And we have an Engl Screamer head and Marshall cab at our band practice place so no need for this pedal, the Engl sounds so much better.
    UriahSabbath70 wrote: Would this guitar pedal be suitable for early Black Sabbath music?
    Yeah. This works great for early Sabbath, but not so much if you want to do newer stuff like from Heaven and Hell.
    I'll have to agree with MaggaraMarine (the guy above). If you turn up the tone anything past 1 o'clock you start to get a really crispy sound that isn't too nice... however i find (i use a spider IV 30) if you turn back the treble on your amp with a high tone setting on the DS-1, it sounds bledy awesome. I guess it all depends on the balance of both settings that are in use for the pedal and the amp.
    I love the pedal but I wish the tone knob was a little more usable. When you start putting it to the left your sound gets really muffled and when you put it to the right it sounds like it's coming from a 2 watt amp.