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The legendary DS1 distortion pedal from Boss, reviewed by UK effects pedal specialist Jon Heath

Under effects giant BOSS,the DS1 distortion pedal has been around since 1978 and though it has undergone a few changes, it still remains a household name in Distortion pedal history.

Players such as Steve Vai,Dave Grohl, Joe Satriani, John Frusciante, Billie Joe Armstrong,Kurt Cobain and Rivers Cuomo have used or are using the Boss Ds1.For good example of the DS1’s sound I recommend checking out ‘Smells like teen spirit’ where Kurt Cobain uses it on the intro and chorus to great effect.

Boss DS1 Pedal Review

For this review of the Boss DS1 compact pedal, I used a Marshall DSL 100 Head through the matching cab and the guitar I was using was the Gibson Les Paul Standard. The DS1 Has been on my pedal-board for four years and I can tell you after playing around with lots of different distortion pedals, I have found a unique sound from this orange beauty, that keeps bringing me back for more. From its robust and near indestructible metal-housing to its simplicity of use, it achieves that sweet spot and never lets me down.

The three knobs at the top of the DS1: tone,level and distortion are smartly placed (a standard for most Boss pedals) to be away from the step-on switch to turn the effect on – great design as it can save you from any problems on a dark stage. There is a small LED above the controls on the front of the pedal displaying if the effect is engaged and a easily accessible battery compartment

below the step-on switch.The pedal’s metal housing is very durable to dents and scratches- I have really put my DS1 to the test at times but it still looks the same as the day I bought it.

If you are new to distortion pedals or have little experience with Boss compact pedals, I would recommend that when you use Ds1 for the first time you adjust all three of the knobs so that they are all at a “ 9 ‘o’ clock position.

I found these settings a great starting place from which to begin tweaking and tailoring your own sound. 

Depending on what the situation calls for, there are generally two different ways in which I use the DS1; through a clean channel for tight,responsive rhythm guitar, or through the drive/gain channel as a subtle boost to a lead solo.With the Distortion effect turned on and the gain channel of the Marshall DSL selected, the DS1 gives a tube-like tone to my lead playing, making cutting through a live or studio environment an easy task. When using the DS1 on top of gain, I have found that a low distortion setting ( 9 ‘o’ clock) paired with the dynamic character of your amplifier, is a great way to exploring what this pedal can do for your tone.The upper half of the tone adjustment (past 12 ‘o’ clock) is slightly metallic and combined with a high-bass amp setting, can produce a convincing hard rock/metal tone.

Whether you play punk, rock, or blues the Ds1 is quite adaptive and affordable compared with similar industry-standard Distortion pedals. As a gear fanatic like me, I find that the Ds1 to be one of those pedals that makes you keep picking up the guitar.Priced at £35-£40 in most music shops, I found it to be great value for money and definitely worth a try if you are looking for a distortion pedal.

(Image credit to Roadside Guitars)

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