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This article was originally published in issue #36
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Boss Overdrive and Distortion pedals have been around since the late '70s. Back then, the only real competition Boss had was the MXR brand. Nowadays, however, the market is absolutely saturated with companies churning out stomp boxes that will do anything you can think of to your sound, and some come with ludicrous price tags due to them falling in to the 'boutique', 'hand built', or 'vintage' categories. Throughout these trends, Boss pedals have remained an industry standard used by beginners and seasoned pros alike. They are well designed, simple to use, and above all they do whatever they are designed to do really well for a fair price. How good they sound depends largely on the player using them and his or her understanding of tone and how to get it, but that applies to any pedal you buy. Some players out there seem to think that an expensive boutique pedal costing hundreds also comes with the talent and ability included!
With that in mind these DS1-X and OD1-X pedals represent Boss putting 37 years of know how into their MDP technology. MDP stands for Multi Dimensional Processing, which is a marketing way of telling us that the electronics in these pedals do the job really well and you won't be disappointed. I am very familiar with the original DS-1 and OD-1 pedals because I have owned the original Japanese issue versions for a very long time. In my early years they came in handy, but in more recent times my collection of pedals has grown and therefore so has my choice for usage to create a tone. So how do these re-workings stand up? Read on.
The thing I remember about the original DS-1 was that its sound was very dependent on what amp and pick ups you were using. Any distortion pedal is designed to work best with a cleaner type of amp that acts as a blank canvass for you to shape all the sound with the pedal. If you put the older DS-1 into an amp that was already dirty, or generally maxed out the settings on the pedal, it would turn in to a compressed mush with no attack at the front of the note especially if you had hot output pickups. This modern DS1-X version seems a lot more sorted in its application. The attack stays no matter if your amp is clean or dirty, and the artificial fizz that could easily be got with the original seems absent. There is also very low hiss and general noise on the DS1-X even on higher settings, which is a huge improvement on the older version.
The sound is very usable. Bags of full-on Distortion that you can tailor with the high and low EQ pots, or you can even use it as a good usable boost for your amp if you back down the drive pot and push up the level pot. Backing down the settings on the older DS1 wasn't one of its strong points, and it just gave average results. The DS1-X also keeps the character of the guitar you are using, which the original DS-1 struggled to do.
The original OD1 was born in 1977 and everybody very quickly discovered that if you combined it with a decent crunchy valve amp and turned it all up to rude volumes, the sound was unbelievable. It still is! An original OD1 will cost you a lot of money if you can find one secondhand, because they have transcended into vintage cult status for doing what they do really well.
Just so you are clear, an overdrive pedal is designed to give you more of everything from an already cooking amp. The OD1-X will give you everything the original does but much more. You have the added high and low EQ pots, plus the drive will go way past what the original can deliver. All this plus it is so much quieter in use. If it was a choice of taking the original OD1 or this OD1-X to an important gig or session, I would choose the OD1-X without question. It's way better, very organic sounding and again, keeps the character of your guitar and amp. That's a big statement, because the original OD1 is great pedal too.
Boss is clearly on to something with its multi dimensional processing (MDP). Both these pedals sound good and you can blur the lines between the two. The OD1-X on higher settings will give you similar tones to the DS1-X on lower settings. I would personally go for the OD1-X of the two, purely because I prefer to use overdrives and boost pedals in combination with high power amp heads, and it's how I do my 'thing', but if you twisted my arm I would be happy to use either. No, they are not true bypass, but so what? The buffers in these pedals are so good your tone and signal will be helped, rather than hindered, especially if you use passive pick ups and a lot of pedals in a board (I am a big EMG active pick up user, so the buffer vs. true bypass argument isn't so much a concern). I am very impressed with both these pedals and with any half decent amp, they should prove very versatile and musical in use. Make a point of checking them out and make a special note of the price. We reckon they are great value.