001 | BOSS DS-1: A Closer Look at this Classic Distortion Pedal | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Welcome to the first episode of the Sonic Renegades podcast, where we're exploring Renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. For today's discussion, we're going to be talking about the legendary BOSS DS-1 distortion pedal. So join us as we discuss its roots and where it's at today. Hey everyone, I'm Scott.

Austin Bryan:
Hey guys, I'm Austin.

Scott Schwertly:
And we are with Siren Pedals and welcome to our very first episode of the Sonic Renegades podcast. So today, as we mentioned, we're going to be talking about the BOSS DS-1. So Austin, I know this is one of your favorite pedals.

Austin Bryan:
I love this thing.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. So any strong thoughts about it?

Austin Bryan:
I would have to say of all pedals that I've owned over the years that this BOSS pedal in particular has probably been the most influential. And I think a lot of other folks out there can say the same. This bright orange pedal has been on boards more than once. If it's been taken off, it's been re added. If it's been pulled, it's been re added. It's a wonderful pedal and it has a lot of really interesting history and a lot of cool facts that maybe some folks out there might not know.

Scott Schwertly:
And they just celebrated, right, the 40th anniversary for this pedal?

Austin Bryan:
Yeah, 40 years, came out in 1978 and just celebrated that in 2018. So crazy it's been around for that long and been such a great selling pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
And I think there's what? There's been about four years of iterations on it, right? So there's the 1978 and 1994, 2000. And then the most recent was 2006, right?

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. They did some re updates on the chips on the inside, but overall it's really remained unchanged as a pedal. It was really, BOSS's, their first distortion that was released. And besides going through those revisions, which a lot of people feel they're very distinctive changes with those chips, it really has maintained that same tone structure throughout. And buying one right off the shelf today, it does what it does best.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Which I'm a huge fan of it as well. In fact, I've had it on my pedal board for quite some time. And I've tried to replace it with a few others, but it always seems to creep its way back in. So it's just sort of an old reliable for sure. So let's go ahead, and the format that we're going to keep for you guys, as we go through dissecting these pedals that we're going to cover week to week, we're going to go in a little bit and talk about the history, some of the famous artists that use these pedals, some flaws, weaknesses of the pedals that we don't really like, but we're also going to talk about things that we really do love about the pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
In fact, there's a lot to love about the BOSS DS-1, for sure. And then we'll give you a sample and just let you know what you can expect if you don't have this pedal in your collection and what you can get from it. So we're going to go and kickstart here today with some information on the history of the BOSS DS-1. So as Austin mentioned, it started in 1978. It's been known as being really the best selling distortion that you can get. But I think the thing that really separates it from a lot of the competitors is it's whole two stage circuit. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Austin Bryan:
A big part of the BOSS DS-1, and a lot of folks really, really love about it is the aspect of that hard clipping distortion. Over the years, with a lot of distortion pedals out there, the hard clipping diodes that replace the amplifier stage really give this pedal that distinctive quality that you hear. So we'll get more into the artists and other folks that are using it, but when you hear this pedal on a track, you know what it sounds like. And it's because of that distinctive gain staging that's taking place with this pedal that gives it that. And I think that's one reason it's remained such a staple for folks over the years.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. And it's really got that sort of warm distortion, right? Which I know I particularly like, and it's kind of got that tighter sound, which is wonderful.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah, it's a really tight tone. In terms of versatility, you can really go from a lot of different genre styles with this pedal. A lot of folks hear distortion and they think, "Maybe it's just rock and roll." But this pedal can be tamed with that tone circuit and you can get a lot of different sounds with this if you want to kind of clean it up a little more, which I've always really enjoyed about it as well.

Scott Schwertly:
And that's probably why it's the favorite of folks like Kurt Cobain or Steve Vai. Even John Frusciante and Glenn Fry, there's so many different artists that just seem to love this pedal.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah, Kyle Shutt of The Sword, Robert Smith, Mike from Incubus and Gary Moore, great blues guitarist who just sadly is no longer with us, but an incredible player. And he had a DS-1 in his setup, which hearing his tracks, you can really hear that distinctive sound of the DS-1 with the Les Paul in it and a Stratocaster, and it just sounds killer.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, I know you're a huge fan of Kurt Cobain and I know he's used the DS-1 as well as sort of the inspired DS-2 and others.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah, and Kurt Cobain used this pedal as... If anybody thinks about the DS-1, first person that usually comes to mind is Kurt Cobain. Pre Nevermind and the Bleach era, this pedal was seen a lot on his board. It's a very, very distinctive sound. If you listen to any tracks off of Bleach, or if you listen to the Nevermind record, you can really hear what this pedal can do. And any of the YouTube videos you can find those early live performances, you can really hear what this pedal can do. And it sounds just incredible in how distinctive it is and how it also really defined a genre in a way, hearing that sound. So he's usually the first guy to think about in that sense.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, definitely. Because I know when I first started getting into guitar and I really wanted to capture that Nirvana sound, I remember buying other distortion pedals and they were close, but then as soon as I got word of the BOSS DS-1 and I put it on my board, I could immediately dial in those Nirvana sounds, which is...

Austin Bryan:
For sure just a big part of the sound for getting those Nirvana tones is adding that one into the mix. And if you've got a small clone, you're pretty much on cloud nine in that sense. So it's a staple for sure if you're trying to get those early Kurt Cobain tones. Absolutely.

Scott Schwertly:
Now, even though the BOSS DS-1 almost sounds perfect based on what we're talking about, obviously it comes with its weaknesses and flaws. I know the biggest one that I've personally experienced, and I know a lot of people complain about is typically at those higher gains, you tend to get a little bit that fizz sound. I know that kind of gets on my nerves a little bit. And I think that actually has become more prevalent with the 2000 version where they actually included the Mitsubishi chip. I don't want to get too technical here for people that aren't necessarily engineers or into that part of pedals, but I know just what their subtle upgrades it's kind of lost a little bit of its authenticity. But still a great pedal, nonetheless.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah, a lot of folks out there feel that the original MIJ versions, the made in Japan ones, sound, in their opinion, superior to the MIT, made in Taiwan, which is what the modern day ones are. And it's crazy because a lot of folks feel that that original pedal had a particular character of warmth. And you can go through tons of YouTube videos and comparisons between different eras and different years of the DS-1. But overall, a lot of folks would say that some of that warmth is kind of lost in the newer pedals. There tends to be a dryness and a fizziness.

Austin Bryan:
And as tone is a very subjective thing for everyone, there is some uniform negatives across the board that some people feel like the tone controls a little brighter that might be a little less usable in some situations. And some folks might even feel that the distortion tends to be a little muddy, but that can be a good thing sometimes. So it just depends on the player. A lot of things are debated on this, but another thing I feel like some folks might think this is a onetime use pedal, you play it, you get the sounds you want, and then you're moving onto something else. But like I said early on, it seems to find a way to come back. So with those negatives, it is a very positive pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Well, let's talk about decibel levels because I know when people think distortion, I know my brain thinks of pedals like the DS-1, but then I also think about ProCo's RAT. And I know the rat has higher decibel levels. I think it gets up to 70 where the only goes up to 40. Any strong thoughts or opinions on the DS-1 versus the RAT?

Austin Bryan:
It goes to show you that if you're looking for distortion, there are different flavors and how they play along and how they play differently. They have very similar characteristics and how they're very hard clipping distortion pedals, but overall labeling that difference in the decibel levels, the DS-1 is going to have a different characteristic to the RAT. And based on how the RAT's tone is, and that's a whole another topic for another day, it's really interesting to hear how distinctive each pedal is in their own way. But if you're going for a very distinctive, specific sound that you're looking for, a specific hard clipping distortion sound, this is a great, easy to grab pedal. It's cheap, it's widely available. I think BOSS even has it now in a kit where you can buy with other cables. So there's no excuse to not have distortion. You can go out and get this pedal and become a rock god.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Well that's a good jumping off point to not focus so much on the negative now, but actually focus on some of the positives and the things that we like.

Austin Bryan:
For sure.

Scott Schwertly:
And one of the things that really stands out to me about the pedal is that it is so diverse that if you think about all these different genres, there are so many different musicians that can utilize this pedal, whether they're in pop, rock, classic rock, alternative, I've seen it utilized amongst many different artists, which is a testament again to just the quality and the legendary appeal of this pedal.

Austin Bryan:
Absolutely. For looking at this thing, and we've got our DS-1s in front of us right now, and what's really crazy is this design hasn't changed. It's the same thing as it has been since 1978, with the exception of some changes with those chips that we mentioned in those revisions that have happened over the years. But it stayed the same. It's great. It is truly an iconic, classic distortion pedal. And if you don't have one, you should really think about this. This is a great effect to add in its own right. Really a no brainer. Just if you want to have a piece of history, just go out and buy one of these.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, and you really can't go wrong with any sort of BOSS pedal. And the fact that it is a BOSS pedal, I'm holding it here in my hands, it's basically indestructible. You can drop this thing. I know you've used yours since college. You've got many BOSS pedals, including the tuner and everything else. But yeah, it's basically indestructible. It's completely easy to use. There's only three knobs, we're dealing with the tone, distortion and basically volume and level. Super easy to use. And with the BOSS pedal, you kind of get the knobs where they're sucking down a little bit. So if you're pressing it on your pedal board, you're not so inclined to manipulate the knobs with your foot. They're kind of, again, buried in there. So again, classic element of any BOSS design pedal, which I love. Huge, huge fan.

Austin Bryan:
It'll last, that's for sure. It'll outlast us all. It's incredible. I really think, talking to all these things, it'd be really cool, maybe, to see a Waza Craft version of this pedal down the road with maybe some of those functions in there to help it sound more like a MIJ revision. Because the prices on those, it's crazy. New, these pedals are around $49.99, new. And the vintage models are about $199 and up. So there is a very big craze over these. And for folks that might want to go for a vintage one, or want to go for a new one, it's just something you've got to have.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Austin Bryan:
It's just a great pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, if you're one of those folks right now that maybe you're getting into guitar or you're really getting into pedals for the first time, if you have not checked out this pedal or maybe this is your first time actually hearing that this pedal actually exists, what we're going to do now is actually share with you what you can expect. So we're just going to play a few rifts here and you can actually hear what the DS-1 actually sounds like.

Scott Schwertly:
Wow. Okay. Alrighty. So hopefully at this point you have a good snapshot of what the BOSS DS-1 sounds like in addition to some of the history and some of the famous artists that utilize this legendary pedal.

Austin Bryan:
It's such a killer pedal. Gosh, it really is a great platform just to get a really nice distortion sound, man.

Scott Schwertly:
It's a must have.

Austin Bryan:
It really is. If you're really going for just maximum rock and roll, this is a simple pedal just to really, really get your amp pushed. And you can get a lot of different areas out of it, man. 1978, just recently 2018. 40 years, man. And we're still talking about this thing and we're still playing it. It's a great, great pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, you really can't go wrong with it. And again, whether you're a new person to guitar or a veteran musician, it's just a nice thing to have in your collection.

Austin Bryan:
Just buy another one. If you've already got one, go buy another one.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Dirt cheap, no pun intended there. So super affordable. Again, definitely something to have in your collection. And kind of a shameless plug, if you do love distortion, be sure to check out our Airavata, which actually releases at the end of this month. Depending when you're listening to this, we're referring to the end of January slash early February. But it's our personal take on distortion and it's a great one to have in conjunction with the BOSS DS-1 if you want to have your distortion or dirt options.

Austin Bryan:
It plays well with others.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, it does.

Austin Bryan:
It's a great, great battle.

Scott Schwertly:
For sure. Well, thank you so much for joining us on this first episode of the Sonic Renegades podcast. Be sure to join us on our next episode where we're going to be talking about compressor pedals, specifically Wampler's Ego compressor, which is another one that's personally on my board. I know, Austin, you've used it quite a bit.

Austin Bryan:
It's a wonderful compressor.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, it's another personal favorite. So if you like those clean sounds, if you like Strat sounds, you're going to love the compressor. All right. Well thank you so much for joining us and we will catch you in the next episode.

Austin Bryan:
See y'all later.

Scott Schwertly:
Bye.

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