Let’s tackle the misperception right out of the box. Yes, at first glance, the OD-1X and DS-1X look like upgrades or reissues of the first overdrive (1977) and distortion (1978) effects in BOSS’ compact pedal line. You will likely be tempted to seek out an original OD-1 and/or DS-1 and compare the old dudes to the new kids, or perhaps you will simply wait until some magazine or website gets the bright idea to do that comparison for you.
And if you go that route, you would be so laughably off base that your credibility may never be able to claw its way out of the abyss of wrong that you so cluelessly tossed it into.
Here’s the deal: While BOSS certainly must accept some responsibility for dropping the “mistaken twin” plot twist into the mix, the similarity of the ’77-’78 and 2014 pedals is simply a Hitchcockian “MacGuffin”—it’s not the central story at all. It’s a trick. Don’t fall for it. Sure, the OD-1X ($149 street) and DS-1X ($149 street) pay homage to BOSS’ debut litter of noisemakers, but they are completely re-engineered, and have almost less than nothing to do with the company’s vintage overdrive and distortion tones—excepting the fact that they share the same effects category. These new “special edition” pedals are Phoenixes. They are reborn.
Utilizing the Multi-Dimensional Processing technology recently deployed for the TE-2 Tera Echo, DA-2 Adaptive Distortion, and MO-2 Multi Overtone, the OD-1X and DS-1X deliver what BOSS engineers believe are the manufacturer’s overdrive and distortion sounds for the now—not “toe in the water” rethinks of classic roar with more or less of this or that added or subtracted from the spectral equation. Now, BOSS could have made the cases different colors and called the pedals entirely different names, and that would have been absolutely appropriate, but then we’d have to jettison the lovely Phoenix association, wouldn’t we?
I used the OD-1X and DS-1X on two full-band rehearsals, a couple of home-studio sessions, and for listening tests in the GP sound room. Guitars included a Collings 290, an Epiphone Dot, and a California Guitars Custom T-Type. Amps were a Vox AC30, a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto plugged into an Old Dog X-Cab 4x12, and a Fender Princeton.
Thankfully, BOSS didn’t send the OD-1X and DS-1X to some hip Hollywood stylist to “visualize” the pedals’ rebirth. The chassis looks much the same as every other compact pedal, with a couple of subtle, yet cool enhancements to promote the “special” in special edition: chrome “ratchet-style” knobs, a chrome control plate, and a groovy silver screw for access to the battery compartment. The packaging was also updated for the special editions. Otherwise, these are the same reliable, gig-tough, roadworthy, and near-indestructible pedals that have graced stage floors and pedalboards since 1977. Just to be sure, however, I dropped each pedal onto a tile floor from various heights, roughly
inserted and removed cables from the inputs/outputs, and jack-booted the treadle as if I were a monster truck crushing a junkyard Plymouth. There were zero ill effects.
Overall Sound Quality
While I’m probably as suspicious of manufacturer marketing terms as many GP readers (Super Voodoo Processing! Mach X Software! Technique Enhancement Technology!), there’s definitely something going on with BOSS’ Multi- Dimensional Processing than just snappy phrasing. When I tested the DA-2 Adaptive Distortion for the November 2013 issue, I was impressed by the pedal’s articulation, dynamics, and note integrity across the entire fretboard. High notes didn’t shriek or crackle, and low notes didn’t fold in on themselves and lose impact or clarity. The MDP tech offers similar benefits to the OD-1X and DS-1X.
While it’s difficult to determine what one guitarist’s definition of “modern overdrive and distortion sounds” are as compared to another player’s, I can say that the increased dynamics, clarity, responsiveness, and attack of the OD-1X and DS-1X are sublime benefits for those who wish to have performance gestures translated with high-def resolution. In other words, pretty much whatever your fingers do is delivered by each pedal. Palm the pick and go with fingers, back off the guitar Volume, lightly brush the strings, and you get a lighter, softer overdrive or distortion tone that still remains bold and aggressive. Those all-important midrange frequencies are pulled down a bit as you back off on your attack, of course, but the punch is still aggressive and sharp and it easily holds its own within a band mix. Pummel the strings like a Neanderthal, and the mids snap to attention and become more tight and focused, but never shrill or fizzy.
There’s another quality to these pedals that I can only define as “stoutness.” During one rehearsal, I had my AC30 turned down pretty low in order to hear vocal harmonies better. In these instances, some overdrive, fuzz, and distortion pedals can lose density. There’s no slap-in-the-face impact. You still get saturation, but the force behind the growl, so to speak, just takes a walk. (Kind of like the vaporous quality of some early digital models of amps and distortion pedals that were all buzz and no beatdown.) However, no matter how softly I struck the strings, or how low I set the amp volume, both the OD-1X and DS-1X produced roars that had teeth behind them—a lot of teeth. Everything just sounds bold and full and ferocious.
OD-1X or DS -1X?
Dumb question,? Well, everyone knows the difference between overdrive and distortion, but the OD-1X and DS-1X skew things a tad. Their dynamic responsiveness makes it possible to craft both distortion and overdrive tones whichever pedal is under foot. In fact, if I spray painted each box Angel of Death Black, and tossed one or the other at you for a gig, I’d bet you’d be able to pump out snappy, aggressive chords and sustained, soaring solos without worrying whether you got the Overdrive or the Distortion.
Adding to the dilemma of choice, both pedals sound great, are a blast to play, have musical Tone controls (Low and High), and offer Level knobs that push out enough volume to skyrocket over most band mixes. And then there’s the whole crazy magical mystic voodoo of precise translation your performance gestures. This means that, whichever pedal attracts your interest, it won’t harken back to Hendrix and Page as much as it will reproduce your touch, stylistic approach, and tone. Heck, the OD-1X and DS-1X aren’t just Phoenixes—they’re chameleons.
KUDOS Responsive. Dynamic. Mean as hell.
DS -1X Distortion
KUDOS Responsive. Dynamic. Ferocious.