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Boss DS-1 Distortion Review (2023)

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal Review

In this review we will be checking out the Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal. Tone Start will be covering everything you need to know about the pedal before you go out and buy it. We will be checking out its features, sound, performance, durability, and provide you with our overall opinion on the pedal.

BOSS DS-1 Distortion Guitar Pedal

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The hunt for the right gear never seems to stop if you’re a guitar player. The easiest and least expensive way to get your desired tone is with guitar effects pedals.

What is rock music without distortion! The key to a great tone is choosing the right distortion pedal. Here is a candid review of this popular distortion pedal to help you understand if this one is for you.


If you have any experience or knowledge about guitar pedals then you would have most-likely heard about BOSS. BOSS are responsible for manufacturing a wide-range of effects pedals for both the guitar and bass. The company was founded back in 1973, and is a division of the Japanese manufacturer Roland Corporation. Many popular artists are affiliated with BOSS products, including big names such as Steve Vai, Eric Johnson and John 5.​


The pedal has a very simplistic design, which features three main control knobs for: tone, distortion, and level.

TONE – The tone knob controls the tone of the distortion. Rotating it counter-clockwise lets you to cut higher frequencies, allowing for softer and warmer sounds. Rotating it clockwise lets you cut lower frequencies, allowing you to create sharp sounds.

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DISTORTION – The distortion knob controls the depth of distortion, and also the length of sustain. Rotating it counter-clockwise gives you a deeper distortion and a longer sustain time.

LEVEL – The level knob is pretty self-explanatory. It adjusts the level of your sound.


Is there a single guitar player who does not own a Boss pedal? Boss has been a pioneer in the making of fine quality guitar pedals for a long time. Boss guitar pedals are known for their reasonable price and highly reliable performance, and the DS-1 distortion pedal is no exception.

BOSS DS-1 Distortion Guitar Pedal Review

There are many people online saying that the DS-1 is the best distortion pedal under $100. I’ll tell you now that this isn’t true at all. There are much better distortion pedals for that sort of price available nowadays. The DS-1 goes to show that popularity doesn’t mean everything in the realm of guitar pedals.

You will need to purchase an AC adaptor to power on the unit, which is sold separately. You can also power the DS-1 with just a standard 9V battery if that takes your fancying too.


The distortion it produces is very harsh and thin. Furthermore, it is constantly noisy no matter what settings are in place. After trying this pedal on several of my amps I came to the conclusion that it was always going to sound the same.

For newer players I see no harm in purchasing the Boss DS-1. Although you are going to likely outgrow it after you listen to and play with some of the better pedals available. I would recommend shopping around a bit because there are plenty of great distortion pedals out there.

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BOSS DS-1 Distortion Guitar Pedal Review

Tone is subjective, so there’s a chance that you might love the DS-1. There are plenty of people online who highly recommend it. This can be seen after a simple Google search in your web browser. So just know that you will either most likely love it, or hate it. Boss has been selling this unit since 1978 with great success and there is definitely a reason for that.

It’s honestly a pretty good pedal for both blues and rock genres. Think of artists like Guns N’ Roses and Pink Floyd, which the DS-1 can actually emulate pretty well.


BOSS DS-1 Distortion Sample Settings (1)BOSS DS-1 Distortion Sample Settings (2)


As per usual Boss provides a five-year warranty to their customers. This is a testament to the longevity of their products. I really can’t imagine the DS-1 breaking on me in the near future as it’s built like a brick.


The construction and overall durability of Boss pedals is always impressive, and this fact remains true for the DS-1. You are likely to never have to replace this tank.

There are a number of famous musicians that have taken the Boss DS-1 on the road, and into the studio. Some of these names include Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and John Petrucci. It should be said that some of these guys are using a modified version though, such as Vai’s Keeley Edition.


I think it’s safe to say that the Boss DS-1 is not suited for every genre. The range of distortion you can get from the pedal really isn’t the greatest, but it does have a few good features. Several things I love about the DS-1 is its durability, and that its been truely tried and tested. It’s been around for the longest time and used by some of the greatest musicians. I would recommend this pedal to beginners, or those looking to collect a piece of history and add it to their pedal collection. 

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Wednesday 5th of October 2022

I like that you can reach different effects with one single pedal

John Smith

Friday 18th of May 2018

From the Boss DS-1 Manual,

"DISTORTION Knob This knob controls the depth of distortion sounds and the length of sustained sounds. Rotating the knob clockwise creates deeper distortion and a longer sustain time."