It’s always fun to go through history, trying to find out more about some of the famous gear manufacturers. Things become really exciting (and perhaps a bit geeky) when you start researching some of the more obscure and forgotten pieces of gear. The first thing that might attract you are the overall weird looks, and if you do manage to stumble upon some video and audio demos online, the tone is usually unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
Knowing that Boss is one of the most significant pedal manufacturers in the world, and that’s been conquering the market for decades, it’s only evident that there are going to be some long-forgotten yet rather interesting products to find in their arsenal.
With every mention of the company, we get reminded of their classic pedal design and products like DS-1, MT-2 Metal Zone, DD-3 and DD-7 delays, CS-2 and CS-3 compressors, and countless others. In recent years, we’ve even seen the resurrection of some of their older pedals in the now-famous Waza Craft line, including DM-2 analog delay and the CE-2 chorus.
However, if you dig deep enough, you’ll be able to find some pretty unusual pedals they made over the years. The first “unofficial” product was an acoustic guitar preamp, called “The Boss” and labeled as B-100. Done as a collaboration between Japanese and the US divisions of Roland, it soon led to the creation of the well-known pedal company. Over the coming years, they made an abundance of great pedals. And knowing that there’s a lot of stuff to be found there, we figured we could do some proper research and bring you some of the old, forgotten, and somewhat obscure Boss pedals.
GE-10 Graphic Equalizer
For this one, we would have to go all the way back to the formative years of the company. GE-10 was a simple graphic EQ produced in 1976 and 1977. You might already be familiar with the first official Boss product, the CE-1 chorus, which featured pretty much the same circuit as the one found in JC-120 Roland Jazz Chorus amp. This EQ was similar in size but featured a completely different design.
Maybe not so pleasing to the eye with its all square edges, the GE-10 was a pretty useful pedal. There were ten frequency ranges to tweak, going from 31 up to 16 000 Hz. Each of the sliders could boost or cut 12 decibels (whereas modern EQ pedals do +/-15 dB), and there was an additional level control with the same range.
One of the downsides – it didn’t include a footswitch but rather a regular on/off switch. Not exactly useful for live situations, but it’s still an interesting piece and an important part of electric guitar history.
SG-1 Slow Gear
But speaking of rare, the so-called “Slow Gear” or the SG-1 is pretty hard to find these days. Made only in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, it’s considered to be one of the rarest products by Boss.
Sporting the classic Boss pedal casing the company is known for, SG-1 was a volume swell effect. There were only two controls on it – “Sens” for the depth and “Attack.” Paired with a decent overdrive pedal, you could make some violin-like tones with it.
MZ-2 Digital Metalizer
We’re all familiar with the now-legendary MT-2 Metal Zone and its predecessor HM-2 Heavy Metal. But during the whole metal experimentation craze and over-the-top effects of the 1980s, Boss came out with a pedal called MZ-2 Digital Metalizer.
Produced in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, you can still find it today today, but it’s still an overlooked compared to some other Boss products of the era. There were a few things that made this pedal so unique. First off, it was more than just a high-gain sizzling distortion pedal as it also included delay and chorus effects, which could be added through a separate mode switch. The delay was achieved through a digital circuit, thus the “Digital” in the pedal’s name. There were six modes in total – one for distortion only, two for dist and chorus, and three for dist and delay.
The second thing that made it stand out, and that’s really unconventional for a distortion pedal, is its stereo output.
It may not be that practical to have a delay and distortion in one piece since you’ll probably want to separate them in the signal chain. However, the pedal did produce some fascinating and previously unheard tones. If you’re into stereo setups and some rare vintage tones, then the Metalizer might be the right thing for you.
TW-1 T Wah
Getting the right wah pedal is one of the biggest priorities for a lot of guitar players. However, people do tend to overlook and even underrate the power of automatic wahs. Especially if we’re talking about funky rhythm tones.
The TW-1, or “T Wah” as it was called, is an excellent example of how a dynamic wah can be useful. Succeeded by AW-2 and eventually AW-3 models, T Wah was a pretty simple pedal with two knobs and one switch. The knobs controlled the depth of the effect and sensitivity. The switch toggled between “down” and “up” modes of operation.
It was manufactured from the late 1970s and all the way to the late 1980s. There were a few variants in this period, which sported different chips and had some slight design changes.
First of all, this is one of all-time best names for a distortion pedal. Second, it’s a real shame that such an amazing piece, like the XT-2 Xtortion, remains as one of the lesser-known products by Boss.
With the DS-1 being one of the company’s most popular products, Boss tried to do a different twist to it a few times. One of those attempts was the DS-2 Turbo Distortion, which caught on pretty well and is produced even to this day. Xtortion was one of their not so commercially successful efforts.
Made in Taiwan in the mid-’90s, there’s a total of about 20,000 units. It had four knobs on it – level, contour, “punch,” and distortion. Countour and “punch” were a different twist to the classic tone control you can find on DS-1. Like on other pedals and amps, the contour either cuts high-end tones or boosts the lows and highs, ultimately scooping the mids. The “punch” control here was to boost the mid-range. We could say that it was like the DS-1 with more mids in the tone or more “punch.”
To put it simply, SP-1 Spectrum is like a simplified EQ. It’s no wonder that the pedal got discontinued, since an abundance of very useful EQ pedals with detailed controls have been released throughout the 1980s and onwards.
But still, there’s something special about the Spectrum. There are only two knobs on it, labeled as “spectrum” and “balance.” The first one sets the frequency range, anything between 500 and 5,000 Hz. The second control does some fine-tuning by setting the peak frequency.
Made from 1977 to 1981, it is a highly valued pedal among the collectors. If in perfect condition, along with the original box and manual, it can reach the prices of around $1,000. Who would have thought that such a simple pedal would be so expensive?
The VB-2 Vibrato is another one of those old pedals reissued within the Waza Craft line. However, true vintage tone lovers would rather get their hands on one of the old ones than any possible revamped versions.
It’s a classic vibrato pedal with some exciting features added to it. Aside from the depth, rate, and release controls, there’s an additional mode switch with bypass, latch, and unlatch options. The so-called “unlatch” feature is interesting as it turns on the vibrato effect only when the pedal’s footswitch is pressed down. Being a Boss product, the pedal’s circuitry is made after the vibrato on Roland’s Jazz Chorus amp.
The originals made in the mid-1980s are somewhat hard to find and can reach some high prices on the used market.
The BF-1 had a pretty great run and was officially sold between 1980 and 2001. There were a few versions over the years, slightly differing in design and other features. The only significant change came with the replacement of the opamp, but the circuit never saw any other modifications.
And it’s a classic type of a flanger that set the standards for some of Boss’ following products. They’re not that rare, but after almost two decades since its discontinuation, it became one of those lesser-known products by Boss.
PD-1 Rocker Distortion
Now, this was a rather unusual product. Packed in the same type of casing as the FV-300L volume pedal, PD-1 was a distortion pedal with a “rocking” part, which served as the gain control. There were three knobs on it – level, tone, and the minimum distortion. The third one determined the amount of distortion in the pedal’s open position.
The effect was turned on and off with a heel control press. And by using toe-clicking action, just like on an average wah pedal, you’d get an additional high-gain boost to the tone.
Not much is known about these pedals as they’re pretty rare to stumble upon. The Rocker Distortion was made sometimes in the 1980s, and there were a few other pedals with the same design, like the PW-1 Rocker Wah. It was a pretty unconventional but rather innovative solution for distortion pedals.
PW-2 Power Driver
Power Driver pedals are not as old as some other pedals that we talked about here but is still one of the largely overlooked products by Boss. Manufactured for less than a year in the 1990s, there were about 19,000 PW-2s made. It didn’t much commercial success, so the sales of original units lasted for almost one decade.
Packed in the classic Boss casing, the PW-2 was designed as a classic overdrive with a “beefier” twist. Aside from level and drive controls, it included two knobs, labeled as “fat” and “muscles.” The first one was a bass control, and the other tweaked the mid-range.