New digital circuitry gives the BOSS OD-1X Overdrive and BOSS DS-1X Distortion guitar effects pedals a much bigger range of sonic options than their analog ancestors.
By Chris Loeffler
Harmony Central Associate Editor
The BOSS DS-1 and OD-1 have been perennial favorites in the world of dirt for over 35 years and are a testament to how many things BOSS got right from day one. Given how similar they look, it would be easy to assume BOSS launched the new OD-1X Overdrive and DS-1X Distortion pedals as a victory lap with a couple of cosmetic tweaks to their iconic pedals… but we all know what assumptions lead to.
Vintage Looks and Modern Tone
The BOSS OD-1X and DS-1X share the classic rugged steel enclosure aesthetic common to the BOSS pedal line, with the molded enclosure lending weight and durability and solid knobs that travel well and stay where you set them. Tasteful chrome appointments on the enclosure and special knobs make the pedals stand out from the BOSS crowd without seeming too far removed.
Whereas the original DS-1 and OD-1 units (including those still in production) are built around a single op-amp and clipping diodes, the OD-1X and DS-1X Special Edition units embrace BOSS’ proprietary Multi-Dimensional Processing to create overdriven tones impossible to achieve with analog circuitry. When played next to their classic siblings (both of which are highly regarded by even the pickiest players), the difference is immediately clear. Both pedals feature High and Low controls in place of a single Tone control and utilize BOSS’ famous soft-touch buffered stomp switch for silent switching and to maintain signal integrity on larger boards.
Without abusing hyperbole, the BOSS OD-1X sounds unlike any overdrive available today. Whether used as an independent distortion source or to run into and overdrive a preamp, most overdrive effects work best as an integrated part of an ecosystem, with terms like “transparent” or “focused” as the typical descriptors. The OD-1X, however, sounds so present and lively on its own due to its responsiveness and dynamic voicing that it has an uncanny “plugged straight into the amp” feel. At lower gain settings, the OD-1X has touch-sensitive grit that is tube-like and extremely expressive; it feels alive. As the gain is turned up, subtle EQ shifts happen to compliment the overall gain structure while the pedal remains open, uncompressed, and harmonically rich.
Run at unity gain into a clean amp, the OD-1X produces lovely, overdriven tones that sound supernaturally high-fidelity while exuding musical warmth. Turning the volume up and rolling the drive back sends a pushed preamp into overdrive, marrying the pedals distortion with the preamp tube breakup for natural-sounding, punchy lead tones. Despite the ease with which the pedal cuts through a live mix it has significantly less mid-range hump than most overdrive effects.
The BOSS DS-1X, sharing a common DNA with the OD-1X, is the bigger, meaner brother. Low gain, overdriven amp tones are available at the bottom end of the Distortion control, but those quickly morph into the vintage distortion reminiscent of a Marshall amp stack. Despite the insane amount of distortion it can produce in the second half of the gain sweep, the DS-1X is much more nuanced and responsive than your typical distortion effect; individual notes each ring out in complex chords and slight changes in attack yield dramatically different tones.
The crunch of the pedal through the first half of its sweep has the soul of a vintage British amp, but there’s a clarity and complexity in the frequency range that lends a modern feel to the distortion. At extreme gain settings, the DS-1X compresses into a smooth, violin-like lead with harmonic feedback available on sustained notes while never masking the nuances of the strumming/picking hand.
There is a fair amount of overlap in the middle settings of the two pedals. Those looking for lighter shades of gain would be better served by the OD-1X, but would be far from left wanting if they only had the DS-1X and needed light crunch. Likewise, those looking for heavy tones will find plenty to love at the extreme gain end of the OD-1X, whereas the DS-1X will go even further into aggressive, modern distortion. Either way, expect a livelier and more responsive type of gain than a typical distortion effect and be ready to hear more of you coming through your amp.