Boss DS-1 distortion pedal – Legendary tone

Boss DS-1

Is the Boss DS-1 the best distortion pedal?

First up in our list of the best distortion pedals is the legendary Boss DS-1.

Now, many guitarists view the DS-1 as the Godfather of distortion pedals.  But we also know that there are many that have tried it and not liked it at all.  So let’s try and give the Boss DS-1 an honest and open appraisal.

Why has the Boss DS-1 lasted for so long?

This pedal has been the go to pedal for guitarists for over 40 years and it is not difficult to see why.  With its typically robust Boss design and simple no nonsense features this really is a great distortion pedal.

The Boss DS-1 also comes with some fairly weighty backing.  The Boss DS-1 has been used by such notable guitarists as Kurt Cobain and Joe Satriani.  Now these guys both have very distinctive sounds so you can perhaps see the tonal attractions of the pedal.  If it works for these two then it should be able to work for you.

However, if you just want to plug in and rock out then the DS1 is going to disappoint and this is why we think a large number of guitarists give the Boss DS-1 the thumbs down.

But we think that if you like to get experimental with your sound and don’t mind playing around with the pedal settings then the DS1 is really for you.

What can you expect from the Boss DS-1?

The Boss DS-1 comes in a rather fetching orange colour and is of the typical Boss construction.

The bit I like most about Boss pedals is that they are just so damn robust.  After all when you are gigging there are times when you will be stamping on the pedal to switch it on or off.  The last thing you want is to stand on the pedal and it break.  Or even worse you try to switch it on or off and completely miss the switch, something that I have done by the way!!!

This is not going to be a worry with the Boss.  You get a big sturdy box with the switch actually being a big foot switch rather than a little button that you need precision aiming to find.

For me, with Boss you know that the pedal will be able to stand up to a lot of punishment.

What about the controls?

The Boss has three controls, tone, level and the all important distortion.  There is also, just in case you needed any help with telling that the pedal is on, is a bright red LED power indicator light!!

As you would expect the tone control does what the name implies.  Twiddle this dial and you can alter the tone of your sound.  From screaming high to gut trembling bass this is the dial you will need to play with.  Unfortunately this is where we find our only real criticism of the Boss – the tone control.  It is just very sensitive and is, we think, geared for higher treble tones than a low guttural bass-like growl that some maybe after.  However, if you handle the tone carefully you can really get some sweet sounds out of the DS-1.

The level and distortion controls are fairly self explanatory.  Turn the level up and you get louder, turn the distortion up and you get more distorted.  It really is that simple!

So how does it sound?

Well we think that there really is a lot here to satisfy most tastes.

By setting the tone at the mid point we could easily find a level and distortion setting that we liked.  It was then a case of playing with the tone to get anything from a very warm distortion to a screaming fuzz ball of love.  If you are someone who likes to play with your sound you will love the versatility of the Boss.  We certainly did!

Our Conclusion

To sum up the Boss DS-1 is a great pedal.  It is really robust and offers great potential to experiment with your sound.  Many have expressed their disappointment with the Boss DS-1 but we think that this criticism is unwarranted.  If you give the Boss DS-1 time and experiment with the controls you will be rewarded with a very good distortion pedal.


Very robust pedal

Plenty of tonal variation

Great all-rounder



The tone control is a little sensitive and unbalanced




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