BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal Review

As one of the well-established guitar effects pedal manufacturers, Boss is a company that produces a very wide range of releases for guitars of all kinds. Part of their product range is the Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal, a stompbox that is a certified classic, according to most fans. And there are some good reasons why the Boss DS-1 has grown to become one of the best-selling guitar pedals of all time.

Sound and Performance

At moderate settings, the DS-1 injects a satisfactory amount of harmonic richness into the sound. Although you might feel some hair on top, the hiss is hardly noticeable. You can then adjust the shape and tune of your sound however you want using the Tone, Distortion and Level controls. And thanks to the interplay level of the latter 2 controls, finding just the right amount of gain for a nice rhythm won’t prove difficult at all.

If you find the sound a little harsher than you expected, rolling back the Tone control a little bit can help balance things out. Pushing the pedal extremely hard will help when you want to make some noise. A word of caution though; it also squashes the dynamic range, besides compressing the signal. That said, most people would hardly find the distortion to be over the top, which means it’s still possible to find some useable sounds here.

Pairing the DS-1 with a distorted amp will result in an intense boost of gain, which could come in handy for your solos. To say the least, the pedal adds some well-balanced over-saturation that works incredibly well for big lead lead sounds. Although you might need some experience to use the pedal’s overdrive capacity, that’s the beauty of the BOSS DS-1; it hardly ever ceases to amaze.

All in all, you’ll be able to get some great tones out of the DS-1, especially if you’re somewhat of a tasteful player. It’s not the pedal’s controls that will convince you — the brilliant sound output it delivers is what actually made it famous. You could even use it for your keyboard, if you have one besides the guitar.


Having been around for over 3 decades, the Boss DS-1 has been used by a handful of legends, from Steve Vai to Kurt Cobain, for guitar sounds that have pleased millions of fans. And while this may have an effect of intimidating interested guitarists, the pedal is actually quite user-friendly. To ensure you’re able to grasp the basics quickly when getting started, it comes with an instruction manual and some preset options as well.

One could easily pick their favorite artists, songs, or build their own setup from scratch. Should you opt to modify it and take it to levels you haven’t explored before, you can easily get anywhere from low- to high-end gains, all while retaining the depth and harmony of your sound. It works well for just about any rock flavor, whether it’s indie or the heavier genres.

Should You Buy It

Despite its small size, you’ll find plenty of features in the compact pedal. With the ability to reproduce the dynamics of playing, most people will agree that it’s clearly designed for serious users. The rugged metal box enclosure and the rubberized stomp area also add to the practicality of the DS-1. You can also purchase custom-modded versions from numerous botique suppliers. And if you prefer DIY modding, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many schematics available online to help you tinker with yours. Thanks to the affordable price of $50, most people will find this pedal to be comfortably within their reach. And the sound is anything but cheap; the DS-1 is the ideal distortion stompbox for first-time buyers, and one that could well be their last.

The Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal is one of those simple stompboxes that anyone could put in their signal chain and use it to achieve their desired distorted rock tones. So whether you’re a veteran seeking to build your dream pedalboard or just a fresh beginner, you can certainly depend on it when it comes to crating your tone. And at the price you can get it for; it’s definitely a worthwhile investment towards excellent tone.