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Hands-On Review: Boss FDR-1 and FBM-1 Legend Series Pedals

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Two Fender classics captured in Boss floor pedals

By Doug Thompson

I’ve always thought highly of Boss pedals. Several of them are permanent fixtures in my pedalboard. They’re sturdy, last for years, have great sounds, and are compact. I’m also a big fan of the classic Fender amps. For the greasy-style blues I play and the clubs I play in, the vintage Fenders are made to order.

With my appreciation of both Boss pedals and Fender amps, I was particularly interested when offered the chance to preview two new Boss pedals, the FDR-1 ’65 Deluxe Reverb and FBM-1 ’59 Bassman from their new Legend Series. Boss claims these pedals faithfully replicate the ’65 Fender Deluxe Reverb and the ’59 Fender Bassman. I am intimately familiar with both amps, especially the Deluxe, and was curious to see how close the pedals come to the real thing.

Being an old-school rocker, I hadn’t paid much attention to products that emulate others. I’m not opposed to the idea or one of those tone snobs who scorns anything that isn’t vintage tube. I just hadn’t found any compelling reason to play something other than the real thing. But still, I could appreciate that not every guitarist has or can afford a real Deluxe or Bassman, and if there’s an easier, cheaper way to get the same tone and feel, I would applaud it.

What makes the Deluxe deluxe

All of the old Fenders have their charms—the Champ, the Super Reverb, the Twin—but if I had to choose just one above all others, it would be the Deluxe Reverb. It is such a cool amp. Introduced in 1963, it was a star from the start and is still widely used and appreciated to this day.

What is so deluxe about the Deluxe is its tone. It has one of the best clean tones ever—bright, crisp, and sparkly. As you crank up the volume the tone thickens with a smooth, very musical distortion. It’s a tone that has worked for all kinds of music over the years—blues, jazz, country, R&B, rockabilly, surf, even reggae. With 22 watts of power (a loud 22), you can dial it up and blaze without blowing out ears. It is also wonderfully responsive to picking dynamics.

The FDR-1

Boss FDR-1 ’65 Deluxe Reverb

I tried out the FDR-1 with several different amps (including a Deluxe Reverb, just out of curiosity) and was amazed by the sound. It was remarkably Deluxe-like no matter what I plugged it into. The amp you use does color it somewhat, but even so, it captures the essence of the Deluxe Reverb beautifully.

Basically, the controls match those of the Deluxe, though they seem fewer in number. The two outer controls are stacked knobs, so you get two in the space of one. The left-side stacked controls are labeled Volume and Gain. The real Deluxe only has a Volume and no Master Volume, so you can’t overdrive it for distortion at low volume. The more you dial it up, the more distortion you hear. On the FDR-1, you can get the high volume sound at lower volumes, but not by overdriving the amp. Volume mainly sets the level. The gain affects the volume a little, but primarily it adds distortion as you turn it up, just like the volume does on the amp. You set the gain for the amount of distortion you want, and then set the volume for level. The relative settings of the two are irrelevant.

What really impresses me about the FDR-1 is the reverb. Fender’s long-tank spring reverb has always been the best, and a wonderfully low-tech way of getting the natural reverb provided by hard walls and floors of gymnasiums, armory buildings, Legion halls—the larger rooms where rock-and-roll was mainly played in the early days. The FDR-1 nails it so well you expect to hear the clashing sound of bouncing springs if you bump it. Spring reverb, when it’s being driven hard, gets some of that same sound just from picking dynamics, and the FDR-1 duplicates that effect.

The Fender Bassman and the FBM-1

Boss FBM-1 Fender Bassman Pedal

The Bassman was introduced in 1953 as an amp for the Precision Bass, but by 1959 (regarded as its vintage year), guitar players, especially blues guys, had fallen in love with it as well as bassists. It is a simple, straightforward, and extremely toneful amp that sets the standard for funky, warm, round tube tone.

The Boss FBM-1 re-creates the sound of the ’59 Bassman with cross-the-t’s-and-dot-the-i’s accuracy. It even has the tweed color scheme of the original amp, the bright input, and the same controls. Here, again, Boss technology captures the character of the Bassman’s tone and dynamics perfectly. One hallmark of the Bassman is the way the notes and chords, especially the lower frequencies, swell after they are sounded. It’s a subtle but unique aspect of the Bassman sound and the FBM-1 is detailed enough to reflect it.

By the way, according to Fender, they were involved in the tone-creation process from the get-go, and also approved the final results. If the pedals can satisfy the tone freaks from Fender, you know they have the sound.

Who will use them?

These two new Boss pedals will find plenty of fans. They are perfect as "pregain" pedals. Put them in front of any amp with a mild boost, and most amps will scream when you kick on the pedal. Guitarists who play through solid state amps and would like to give them true-tube color and tone will find these pedals perfect. Those who play the darker-toned Brit-style tube amps but on occasion want an American sound will use them. And, of course, they offer an affordable option for players who want the sound of a vintage Fender amp but can’t afford the price the originals are fetching these days. That adds up to a good number of guitarists who will applaud the arrival of the Boss Legend Series pedals.

Features & Specs

FDR-1:

  • Re-creates the legendary tone of the 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb guitar amp
  • Level, Gain, Treble, Bass, Vibrato, and Reverb controls
  • Road-tough Boss metal construction
  • Perfect pregain pedal for adding or retaining Fender tone color

FBM-1:

  • Re-creates the legendary tone of the 1959 Fender Bassman amp
  • Additional BRIGHT IN provides a brighter sound, similar to the original Bassman
  • Presence, Treble, Mid, and Bass EQ controls
  • Road-tough Boss metal construction
  • Perfect pregain pedal for adding or retaining Fender tone color

Tags: Effects Pedals Boss

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