BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal Review | The Rock Machine!?

BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal Review

The BOSS DS-1 is one of the most popular distortion pedals ever made.  Its simple design, mixed with its versatile tone control, makes this a winner.  The BOSS DS-1 is extremely affordable, making it a great choice for guitarists in 2023 and beyond.  BOSS has always priced their pedals reasonably; the DS-1 is no exception. Is the BOSS DS-1 worth it? Absolutely!

Simple Controls

The BOSS DS-1 has three main controls for easy tone-shaping.  The Tone control on the left controls how bright the effect is. The DS-1 gets bright-sounding quite fast, so keep the knob below midday when you first turn it on and adjust it from there.  For me, it worked best at 11 o’clock or lower.

The level control in the center allows you to push the volume above the volume of your amplifier by adjusting it towards the right.  This pedal gets loud, so start with the level control towards the left.  On the right is where the magic happens; the Distortion control.

This distortion control changes the amount of gain the pedal produces.  Towards the right, the pedal is far more saturated than towards the left.

BOSS DS-1 Controls
BOSS DS-1 Controls


Power Options like a BOSS (pun intended)

The BOSS DS-1 can be powered in one of two ways.  Like most BOSS pedals, the DS-1 has a 9v DC power input on the top.  This allows you to power the pedal with a 9vDC AC power adapter.  If you are new to effects, I highly recommend the True Tone One Spot 9V Power Supply (Sweetwater link). I use the True Tone power supply for my pedalboard and power my pedals at home or gigs.

One of the smart design elements of the BOSS DS-1 is the internal 9v battery compartment. You can access this compartment by unscrewing the front screw to the left until the lid pops up.  Once the battery is inserted, you can power it without damaging the pedal.

I love the design of the flip-top battery compartment.  It’s one of the best long-term designs from any pedal company.

BOSS DS-1 Power Options
BOSS DS-1 Power Options


Gain Structure

The BOSS DS-1 is a full-blown distortion pedal.  This means it’s unsuitable for lower-gain tones or “off-clean” sounds without turning your guitar volume down.  The good news is, with your volume control down, the pedal is extremely dynamic, offering you a way to get a far cleaner sound without switching over to a second effect.  Just know there’s not a lot of cleaner tones in the pedal without your guitar volume helping the dynamics in a big part. How much this pedal cleans up will depend heavily on your amplifier setup. 

Check out the BOSS SD-1 (my video link) if you want something with a traditional overdrive sound.  The DS-1 distortion tone is reminiscent of music from the late 80s and 90s.  If you are a fan of 80’s rock, grunge, or hard rock tones from that period, you’ll get a kick out of the BOSS DS-1 sound.

If you want something leaning more towards overdrive, check out my list of reviews on my website. 


Is the BOSS DS-1 Distortion or Fuzz?

If you dial in the tone and gain control, you can get a very smooth Fuzz sound.  Fuzz and Distortion can sometimes be intermingled based on their tonal characteristics.  This makes for a great rhythm or lead guitar for the appropriate style of music.

While BOSS labels this as a distortion pedal, it shares many familiar sounds with some of the classic fuzz tones of the same or earlier era.


BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal Video Review

Check out the range of tones using the BOSS DS-1 into a Marshall DSL-40CR clean channel.

Buy it on Sweetwater | Thomann | Sky Music Australia | Amazon DE| Amazon Canada | Amazon UK


BOSS DS-1 for Humbuckers or Single Coils

When I think of the BOSS DS-1, I think of humbuckers and rock n roll. The cool thing is, like most pedals; the BOSS DS-1 has no issues with single coil tones.  This pedal suits a guitar loaded with p90s or traditional Stratocaster-style pickups.  It will also work with a Telecaster (see video above).

BOSS DS-1: A Great match for Humbuckers
BOSS DS-1: A Great match for Humbuckers 


My BOSS DS-1 Review

The BOSS DS-1 is one of the most popular distortion pedals ever made.  BOSS has sold over 10 million effects pedals since its release in 1978.  The BOSS DS-1 is a staple for grunge, rock, alternative, and heavier tones found on classic recordings of days gone by.  The versatility of the tone control ensures the pedal will cut the mix thanks to its extended high-end frequency.  This pedal is not suited for blues or lower gain styles of music and is best suited for those who like to rock.  The build quality is excellent, and I have no issues recommending it if the tone is what you are looking for. 

Check it out online in your part of the world:

Buy it on Sweetwater | Thomann | Sky Music Australia | Amazon DE| Amazon Canada | Amazon UK