Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #32
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Boss has been one of the dominant players in the stompbox market for decades and gave its new Japanese-inspired Waza Craft pedals a major launch, promising new levels of performance. But do they live up to their all-star billing? We gave two of the new trio to Lewis Turner to find out.
I'm quite sure that anyone who plays guitar even slightly seriously has at some point owned or played a Boss pedal. They have been the go to stompboxes for years and still have a massive loyal following, due to their sturdy build, great sounds and huge line-up. Boss has now released a brand new line called 'Waza Craft', essentially revisited and re-imagined versions of Boss classics. We will be getting the third in the series to check out at a later date, but for now we have the SD-1W and BD-2W to have a play with.
The SD-1 and BD-2 are two of Boss's most famous pedals, so they could be playing with fire trying to improve an already loved product. The old saying “If it ain’t broke why fix it?” may be springing to mind, so let's see what the Waza part brings to the table.
Apparently, “Waza” is a Japanese word combining the ideas of 'art and technique', and these special edition pedals proudly carry the Waza symbol to represent the pinnacle of Boss design and craftsmanship. Boss claims that the “Waza craft series brings you exceptional tone and touch response through carefully-selected analog components, refined circuitry, and meticulous attention to detail” So that's the internal change, but are they an improvement on the originals? Be sure to check out the video to see and hear them for yourself. The pedals are standard Boss size, and can be powered either with a 9V battery or standard power supply. Let's dig a little deeper and see what they have to offer in the heat of battle.
BD-2W Blues Driver
The BD-2W is based on the original Blues Driver that will/would have been a standard feature on many a guitarist's pedal board. As with most Boss pedals, simplicity of operation is key with a plug in and play attitude at the very centre. These are no different. Level, Tone, Gain and a Standard or Custom switch in the middle, are all you need to worry about. That switch does exactly what it says, too. In the Standard setting you should be getting the tone from the original BD-2. This setting gives a great crunchy tone ideal for beefing up chords, and yes as the name would suggest that bluesy lead tone. You can set the gain on the pedal fairly high, then use the volume on your guitar to alter its overall characteristic. Flicking it over to Custom and getting that new all discrete analogue circuitry working makes a noticeable difference. Much more bottom end was present but not so much to make it muddy, effectively delivering more body and sustain. Cranking up the Gain also gave a very saturated sound nearer to that of a full on overdrive pedal, making this a very versatile stomp box.
SD-1W Super Overdrive
Once again based on an original model, the original SD-1 which is a massively popular stompbox, this shares exactly the same configuration and set-up as the BD-2W, including that all important Standard and Custom switch. In Standard mode this is a great overdrive pedal, offering plenty of gain and, as the name would suggest, a 'super' amount at the top end. It retains the natural tone even at its most saturated with clear overtones and harmonics. In custom mode we once again see a change in tone with the bottom end being a little tighter, and offering better response to picking dynamics, which is precisely what you need for fast picked runs.
The BD-2W is also very versatile if you introduce it to the volume control on your guitar. The two pedals also work well together, the BD giving you the crunch foundation then the SD stepping in to add the overtones, sustain and extra drive
Back in the day, these pedals were game changers and have enjoyed continued success. I guess it's fair to say, however, that other manufactures have come along since then to challenge Boss - and, of course, there has been the cool factor provided by the boutique makers, whose products often (and sometimes unfairly) make the gear manufactured by the big boys look a little less special. It happens with guitars, amps and effects and you can imagine the frustration it must cause: you invent a product, perfect it and some guy with a kitchen table and a soldering iron comes along and says he's improved it! Indeed, it seems likely that Boss's decision to introduce these pedals was prompted by a desire to say 'Hey, we can make special, cool pedals, too.' But the question is, how to they stack-up? Well, die hard Boss fans will stand firm by them, and that's fine: once you find a sound that suits you most players tend to stick with it. For those that have been looking for a little something more from Boss, the new Waza line-up could well be what you are looking for. The company really has improved their sounds, as described above. I personally think the design of the pedals is now a little dated looking, but what I call dated others would call classic. A great couple of Drive/Overdrive pedals well worth checking out.