Cost: $49.99 USD new
Purchased this pedal recently after realizing I needed a simple, reliable distortion.
How it Works and Final Score: 8.7
The Boss DS-1 Distortion is one of the most straightforward and popular pedals of all time. Known best for its punchy, classic rock-style distortion, the DS-1 has been used by everyone from Kurt Cobain to Steve Vai. With 3 easy controllable parameters, “tone”, “level”, and “dist”, you can dial in a dynamic range of gain sounds. The “tone” and “level” controls are your standard output and treble/bass ratio controls, while “dist” controls the amount of gain. There’s really not much more to it, sometimes the best circuits are just the simplest ones!
Start with each knob at 12 o’clock and you’re quickly in classic rock mode thanks to the big, mid-range sound that still retains note to note clarity as you bash out power chords and riffs. The “dist” knob can slowly take you from subtle overdrive tones to saturated, high gain, making it a truly diverse distortion. I even started to get some borderline fuzz sounds as I cranked the distortion but limited the level controls.
Overall, I think the best feature of the DS-1’s sound has to be the harmonic richness. It’s almost inexplainable but it just adds that missing something that can make each string vibration feel warm, full, and musical. The spread on the tone control is fantastic, meaning you really have full control over how bright or dark you make the sound.
Boss pedals are built like tanks, they very rarely break on you and I trust them more than any other pedal to perform time and time again. The sturdy metal casing, the foot pedal, and the knobs all seem to last a lifetime. When buying a pedal, going with a trusted brand is always a safe bet, and Boss is arguably the safest brand possible. There is reason guitar heroes like John Frusciante, Rivers Cuomo, and Joe Satriani all use these products.
The DS-1 is so damn cheap, coming in around $50 at most major retailers, and probably even cheaper on the used market. At that price, you’re getting one of the most trusted and reliable distortions on the market. Some players are quick to point out that the DS-1 is not the most inspiring of all distortion pedals, and that for just tens of dollars more you can get a wider range of fantastic drives, distortions, or even fuzzes. While the TC Electronic Dark Matter or EHX Muff series may add more diversity for the price, the DS-1 is still an insane value and should be a staple on every player’s pedalboards.