After you began playing the electric guitar, it didn’t take long to realize that there’s something really big about Boss pedals. It seems that almost every guitar player had at least one of these in their arsenal. Well, if a company is present on the market since the 1970s, and has some products that remain almost unchanged since the day they were released, then there has to be something about these pedals, right? Well, there certainly is.
Although the company wasn’t officially formed back then, the first unofficial Boss product is B-100 The Boss – an acoustic guitar pickup with a portable clip-on preamp. The first official pedal was their CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, which was released in 1976 and is still popular among collectors.
With their experience and innovation, Boss managed to revolutionize the whole guitar industry. The most responsible “culprit” is their compact and sturdy design of guitar pedals. They managed to bring great tones in small floor-based switchable devices, something that was almost unimaginable back in the 1970s. But despite their small sizes, some of these devices were really big game-changers. This is why we decided to look more into the legendary Boss pedals and tell a thing or two about those that changed the world of guitar for the better.
For this one, we need to go back to 1977. Boss’ OD-1 Overdrive makes two important breakthroughs. While there were some amazing distortion pedals back then, there weren’t any compact soft-clipping devices that would replicate the tones of tube-driven amplifiers. OD-1 was not only the first overdrive pedal but also the first Boss product to be released in their now-famous sturdy compact casing.
The pedal had only two simple controls – volume level and overdrive level. But although discontinued in 1985, it opened up a new path for future guitar effects. There were a few versions during its original run, with only minor differences between them.
This pedal’s greatness can be seen with the big names who used it over the years. Anyone from Fleetwood Mac‘s Lindsey Buckingham and up to hard rock masters like Eddie Clarke. The list also includes Richie Sambora, Jerry Garcia, and even Joe Satriani who used it on his legendary piece “Ice 9.”
Although pedal is no longer in production, the company released an enhanced version during the 2010s, called OD-1X. Aside from the two basic controls, it also includes a 2-band EQ.
Continuing with the company’s famous overdrives, SD-1, dubbed as “Super Overdrive,” is another one of Boss’ legendary game-changing devices. This one saw an improvement with the addition of a simple tone knob. But the most mindblowing thing about it – it was released way back in 1981 and is sold even to this day with only some minor changes to the circuitry and design. What’s more, it’s super cheap yet sounds amazing.
Of course, many big names have used SD-1. The story goes that this pedal found its way on David Gilmour‘s second solo album “About Face,” released in 1984. Zakk Wylde is also one of the famous users, as well as Eddie Van Halen, Josh Homme, U2‘s The Edge, Metallica‘s Kirk Hammett, Steve Vai, and even John Paul Jones.
The development of the so-called “bucket brigade devices” and their implementation in the guitar effects industry marks a huge milestone. Before this, the repeated tones were only available through those bulky and complex tape-based devices. The introduction of these new compact pedals allowed up to 600 milliseconds (of delay time. Boss also jumped into this game with their DM-1, which was one of the first pedals that they ever made. However, this particular pedal used a charge-coupled device (CCD) instead of the legendary BBDs, and it gave guitar players up to 500 milliseconds of delay time.
It was the next iteration, DM-2, that changed the game for guitar players. Aside from implementing BBDs in the circuitry, it was housed in Boss’ legendary compact metal casing. Although it had only up to 300 milliseconds of delay (some sources claim 330), it became pretty popular among guitar players of the era. It had a short run, between mid-1981 and early 1984, and was succeeded by DM-3. However, it kept its value on the market of used pedals, and over the past few decades, we could find it on pedalboards of some of the biggest names in rock music – Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Mike McCready, Joe Satriani, and even more contemporary guitar heroes like Josh Klinghoffer.
Aware of its potential, Boss reissued it as a part of their Waza Craft series of pedals under the DM-2W name. It still has the analog circuitry with the classic BBD, keeping all the much-appreciated warmth in there.
It’s hard to imagine that a simple guitar pedal can be so divisive. However, Boss’ MT-2 Metal Zone is one of the most controversial pedals of all time. Some love it, some hate it, but the most important thing – it still sells.
Metal Zone is a continuation of the company’s venture into heavier territories, which we also saw with devices like HM-2 Heavy Metal and MZ-2 Metalizer. Introduced in 1991, it offered some pretty detailed controls for such a compact pedal. Along with the standard 3-band EQ, we also have a separate knob that determines the peak frequency of mids.
Since its release, there have been a few versions with different operational amplifiers. However, Metal Zone always retained its razor-sharp tone, with the option to add those “in-your-face” mids. For many guitar players, it was a bit too much, some even claiming that it completely ruins any dynamic response. Interestingly enough, some have even achieved great results by plugging it directly to the power section of tube-driven amplifiers (the “return” jack).
But no matter the criticism, it found its way into the rigs of some big guitar players. But while it’s no surprise that a guy like Megadeth‘s Dave Mustaine or Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein had MT-2 in their collections, some non-metal players used it for live performances. Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule and The Allman Brothers Band used to have one in his live rig (maybe still does). And here comes the shock – none other than the almighty Prince also used Metal Zone for live shows.
Along with three other devices, CE-1 Chorus Ensemble is one of Boss’ first pedals. Carrying a simple bucket brigade device, it was succeeded by the CE-2 Chorus pedal, which was introduced in 1979. Although sold only up until 1990 (or 1992 according to some sources), it became really popular and marked one entire decade.
CE-2 was a simple one, with only rate and depth parameter controls on it, all packed in Boss’ classic casing. And it was this simplicity, along with amazing analog tone, that appealed to some of the biggest guitar heroes of all time. Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Johnny Marr, Carlos Santana, Joe Satriani – just some of the guys who used this pedal during their careers. As for Satriani, the story goes that he used it on “Headrush” from his 2018 album “What Happens Next.”
Although not the first in the line of Boss’ chorus pedals, it marked an important change in the world of guitar. CE-3 was the next version, and these days we have CH-1‚Super Chorus which has been selling steadily since 1989. Lovers of good old warm vintage tones still adore CE-2, although it’s not that easy to find these days. Luckily for them, Boss introduced CE-2W as a part of their Waza Craft series.
In 1978, Boss introduced one simple yet very versatile distortion pedal. DS-1, simply christened as “Distortion,” is, by far, one of the best-selling guitar devices in history. It went down so well that Boss never really stopped the production, but only changed the circuitry two times, but kept the pedal’s enjoyable and “grainy” distorted tone. There’s almost no difference in tone compared to the original version that came out in 1978.
The list of big guitarists who used the pedal wouldn’t fit this article. And it’s no surprise, since the simplicity and its effective punch found use in anything from pop and up to different metal subgenres. While it’s widely known that Joe Satriani and Steve Vai used it during their fruitful careers, we could also see it in the rigs of Kurt Cobain, Mike Stern, Gary Moore, John Frusciante, Robert Smith, and many, many others.
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You can find these and more Boss products on SamAsh.com. If you’re still undecided, have questions, or need assistance with your purchase, give us a call at 1-888-977-0074 where we have music and audio experts at the ready to help you fulfill your needs.