Review: Boss Box-40 40th Anniversary Box Set

In 2014, we partnered with boss to produce a comprehensive digital resource entitled Guitar Player Celebrates 100 BOSS Compact Pedals.
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In 2014, we partnered with boss to produce a comprehensive digital resource entitled Guitar Player Celebrates 100 BOSS Compact Pedals. The staff was buried in specs, tones, and artist interviews for months, and we had a marvelous time getting first-hand access to the company’s Compact Pedal archives. One of the surprises during this project was discovering how rare and collectible the SP-1 Spectrum had become, often fetching upwards of $500 to $700 or more for a 1977 original. Not bad for a single-band EQ pedal operating in the 500Hz to 5kHz range!

This year, the initial stage of BOSS’ 40-year history of making cool compact pedals is being celebrated with a wicked cool—albeit super expensive—limited-edition box set, the BOX-40 ($899 street). You get reissues of all three of the Compact Pedals BOSS produced in 1977 when it first introduced the line—the so-called “traffic light trio” of the OD-1 OverDrive (yellow), the aforementioned SP-1 Spectrum (red), and the PH-1 Phaser (green). The commemorative box is just a black cardboard case, but it’s a nicely designed one, and it includes a numbered message card from BOSS president Yoshihiro Ikegami (our box for this test was numbered 0380). Only 1,500 of these sets were made, and the BOSS engineers scrupulously sourced the materials to ensure the new pedals sound much the same as they did back in 1977. The BOX-40 is an extremely classy salute to a now-iconic pedal line, and its main market will surely be BOSS zealots and collectors. But if you’re not in that camp, there are a couple of reasons why spending $899 for three pedals isn’t the craziest of ideas.

First, these pedals simply haven’t been around for decades. The OD-1 was manufactured from 1977-1985, and the SP-1 and PH-1 from 1977-1981. If you wanted to seek out and buy ’70s originals, a quick check of current estimates at and eBay puts the OD-1 at around $480, the SP-1 at $535, and the PH-1 being decidedly less nutso at $150. That’s a combined price of $1,165 for 40-yearold devices that have likely played thousands of gigs. The BOX-40 offers bulletproof, hand-wired reissues with modern upgrades such as an on/off LED and PSA-compatible power. Do the math.

Now, let’s forget price and talk about sound, starting with the ultra-rare SP-1. If you dig cockedwah sounds, you’ll understand the SP-1’s character quickly, but it can also produce some unique tonal twists, from synthoid brassiness to scooped metal mania, and, at more subtle applications, a clarified and articulate timbre that easily cuts through even the most dense mix without being overly bright. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but if you’re always on the prowl for surprising and novel guitar tones, the SP-1 can get you there. The OD-1 was renowned for delivering warm, realistic amp overdrive—I bought one in 1980—and the reissue is no different. It’s definitely a more organic sound than what you get with a new OD-3 or OD-1X. I’ve always loved the lush swooshes and warbles of BOSS phasers, and the PH-1 was the second pedal I ever bought after purchasing a BOSS CE-2 Chorus in 1979. The reissue absolutely delivers all the undulating beauty of the ’77 original, but, to be honest, if you own a brand new PH-3 Phase Shifter you’ll get very close to the PH-1 sound.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, like some action-figure collectors, you could just leave the BOX-40 virtually untouched, wait a few years, and try to turn a profit on a mint-condition set. But that would be sad, I think, because these three pedals didn’t kick off a revolution for nothing, and they need to be heard again, and with all the glory your music can muster.

KUDOS Meticulous reissues. Elegant presentation. Classic tones reborn.
CONCERNS Um, how much did you say that was?