DS-1 Distortion review by Boss

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Ease of Use: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.9 (443 votes)
Boss: DS-1 Distortion

Price paid: C$ 15

Purchased from: Long & McQuade

Sound — 8
I play primarily Fender guitars - a reissue '52 Tele with upgraded pickups, a Classic Player Tele Deluxe and a Strat copy. I have also played this pedal through an Ibanez RG and both Gibson and Epiphone guitars. This pedal can be pretty noisy with single coils, and on higher gain settings too. Judicious use of the volume knob or a noise suppressor is probably a good idea if you experience these issues. Having played it through a Quilter MicroPro 200, though, the noise threshold is much lower; check it through different amps. I've found through years of use that humbuckers almost universally make this sound more delightful, though it's a matter of taste. If you have heard (or experienced) a great deal of "horrible buzz" with this pedal, try putting it through the amp's Drive channel. I tried this on a Fender Frontman 15 and 25R: with the Gain on zero, two things become immediately apparent. First, the volume control is smoother than the clean channels - no leaps from 0 to 1! Second, the character of the distortion from the DS-1 is totally different from the clean channel; "richer" comes to mind. On its own, this can't quite reach "metal lead" gain levels, though rock leads are pretty decent. If you use your amp's OD for rhythm, this can lend some brutal saturation and bite.

Overall Impression — 8
I play rock, metal, punk, blues, and bit of jazz, funk, country and classical. This pedal doesn't ALWAYS fit perfectly with what I do, but in my experience and the lessons of people like Phil X, a lot of your tone comes from how you play rather than what effects you have. I don't know for sure whether I would replace it if it were lost/stolen... I traded an OS-2 for this before I learned what it was capable of, so maybe I would try that out again first. However, it is a decent contender for a competitive price. I love that I can get "rock" from this easily from any amp. I don't like that it can't shell out the gain I need for EVERY style (Arch Enemy fans look elsewhere), but and OD placed before this in the chain can goose the saturation quite a bit: for a tone experiment, try putting one OD before and one after (to act as the solo boost). You would be surprised at what can come out! If anything, one can safely say that the Boss DS-1 has maintained its reputation as a "baseline" distortion unit for a good reason: love it or hate it, it is good enough for pros and hobbyists alike to find a place for it in their rigs.

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Reliability & Durability — 10
I've had mine since about 2005/6. It's been paired with OD pedals (behind and in front - try it. Big differences in tones); its been supplanted by other distortions, and at times abandoned for the amp's distortion. However, when I need some rock in a small package, I know what I can expect from this pedal. Currently, I'm rehearsing with a drummer and bassist, and needed a bit more grind than what the MicroPro can put out. I tried this out before the next practice, and decided it fit rather well. We're working on originals, but have nailed down covers for Billy Talent, Jimmy Eat World, and System Of A Down; we plan on learning Foo Fighters tunes, Rise Against, RHCP and others. This works just fine as a rhythm sound for pretty much all of those (though SOAD might need some more grind still), and my amp's boost lends itself well for lead breaks. On top of that, the usual Boss durability rules apply.

Ease of Use — 9
The DS-1 has received mixed reviews over the decades; I've loved and left this pedal in my turn, but it keeps sneaking back onto my board from time to time. Why? Because it's easy (lol) - mild to hard crunch and distortion tones are fairly easy to access, and with the right balance between this pedal and your axe, you can conjure up some pretty swell sounds. The 3-knob format perhaps lacks some depth of features, but doesn't take long to explore either. The manual is pretty self-explanatory, and it is likely that unless you are new to effects units (and guitar in general) you won't need it.

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