One of the most sacrosanct precepts of industrial design is “Thou Shalt Not Mess With Boss Compact Pedals.” Since the first of the line—the OD-1 Over Drive— dropped in 1977, the look and feel of the basic box was signed, sealed, and delivered, and the pedals have performed pretty flawlessly for 37 years now.
So it’s a huge deal that the company’s new Waza Craft series has messed with the formula. Admittedly, it’s an extremely small bit ‘o’ messin’, but when it comes to compact pedal design, even a miniscule update has gargantuan ramifications. To Boss, however, these new pedals represent just as mammoth a leap in conceptualizing and engineering its guitar and bass effects.
You see, when the boutique pedal boom exploded, Boss found some of its venerable pedals being modded by others, and also perhaps felt a bit of the sidelining that can occur when any major manufacturer is beset by the perceived “coolness” of renegade or smaller-market makers. One can visualize Boss saying, “Well, enough of that!” A lot of the engineers in Japan who worked on many of the original pedals are still with the company or accessible, so it made sense to completely evolve the designs, mod their own work, and bring a boutique mindset to a large, international firm.
As a result, you can easily see how special and important the Waza Craft pedals are to the company by the fact that, for the first time ever, another logo makes an appearance on a compact pedal. The symbol for “Waza”—a Japanese word that translates to “art and technique”— as well as the words “Waza Craft” are boldly displayed on the footswitch of each of the three Wazas: the BD-2w Blues Driver, the DM-2w Delay, and the SD-1w Super Over Drive.
When Boss first discussed the Waza Craft concept with GP, I had originally thought, “Oh, what a brilliant idea for bringing back discontinued compact pedals that players have lusted after for years.” It didn’t turn out to be exactly that way. (Imagine—one of my dreamy concepts had nothing to do with reality.) Boss did bring back the DM-2 analog delay—a favorite of Dave Grohl, Gary Moore, Billy Duffy, and others—that has not been seen since 1984, but it also opted to re-energize the Blues Driver and Super Over Drive, which have never been out of production since they were originally introduced in 1995 and 1981, respectively.
But whether Boss reimagines current pedals or resurrects past darlings, the benefit for pedal freaks is nearly the same: You get hyper-evolved versions of the sounds you dig with an “extra” custom sound to boot, and all in the same casing that has proven itself to be near fail proof. Depending on the pedal, there’s not much of a tariff for adding some Waza to your rig, either. The best value is the BD-2 ($99 street) versus BD-2w ($149)—unless you consider the “can’t-get-it-except-maybe-really-expensively-on-eBay” proposition of the DM-2 versus the readily available DM-2w at $179 street. The SD-1w at $149 is something you’ll definitely want to enjoy the added facility of, as current SD-1s are blowing out at just $49.
The Waza Craft concept is an excellent—perhaps even surprising—move for Boss, and it’s a savvy rethink of how to make its pedals special and relevant to both core supporters and newbies to the line. The quality and tone of all three of these pedals—as well as the fact that Boss actually futzed with a “no touch” design—deserve Editors’ Pick Awards. bossus.com
BD-2W BLUES DRIVER
Prized by John Mayer, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Donna Grantis (Prince’s 3rdEyeGirl), and others, the BD-2 has always done an excellent job at emulating the tone of an overdriven tube amp. It’s organic, dynamic, tough sounding, sustains smoothly, and does wonders for slide playing. When in Standard Mode, the BD-2w ($149 street) gives you all of that. No surprises there—and I actually compared an original BD-2 with the BD-2w to make sure, using a Les Paul and a Vox AC30. In Custom Mode, the low mids get a bit thicker, and it’s great to have some gooey sustain on tap. It’s a cool update. For me, I’d go for the Standard Mode for rhythm tracks, and anything where I wanted a nice throaty growl. But it was more pleasing to do riffs, melodic lines, and solos in Custom Mode. The slight bass boost and enhanced sustain does make a difference here—a little more inspiring, a little more aggressive, a little more fun. In both Modes, you can get what I’d call an “edgy boost” by turning down the Gain control significantly, and cranking the Level to taste. You don’t always have to bring on the heavy distortion, and it added to the BD-2w’s trick bag to be able to hit the amp’s front end with less overdrive, and let the AC30 churn out a more “Britnatural” roar.
KUDOS Great sounds.
The original DM-2 analog delay was only produced from 1981-1984, when the advent of the more full-featured Boss DD-2 Digital Delay in 1983 ultimately tanked the value proposition for the majority of users. Tone-wise, however, there are certainly a ton of analog disciples out there, and the DM-2 took on a kind of mythical quality. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps? In any case, it appears to be a great time to bring back the DM-2w ($179). It has that vintage nostalgia, it’s butt-simple to use, and yet it also has up-to-date features such as dedicated dry and effected outputs (for layering textures and/or running two amps), and an input for an optional expression pedal (to control delay time on the fly). I tested the DM-2w with a Collings 290 and an Orange Tiny Terror, and found Standard Mode produced clear repeats that folded in on themselves a bit to offer a darker timbre as the repeats decayed. If you’re looking for some vibey dimension, but still want your picked notes to stand true, the DM-2w is a good choice, as the tone of the repeats should not clash with the original signal. In Standard Mode, your delay time is 20ms-300ms. In Custom Mode, you can get up to 600ms of delay. However, doubling the delay time isn’t all you get when in Custom Mode. There’s also an ever-so-slight modulation to the sound that can mimic tape coloration. I couldn’t get my hands on a ’80s DM-2, and I never owned a DM-2 back in the day, so both an A/B comparison and my memories of the glory days were not available for this test. It didn’t matter, really. I loved everything about the delay sound of the DM-2w, and it was a joy to play.
KUDOS Awesome analog chewiness.
SD-1W SUPER OVER DRIVE
The early ’80s Super Over Drive quickly became one of the kings of the distortion party, being adopted by the big gun Eddie Van Halen, as well as The Edge, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and John 5—who never travels without a SD-1 in his gig bag. The killer app for the SD-1 is that it adds grind and harmonic richness, but doesn’t overly color the sound of the guitar. You can still retain a good amount of your favorite guitar’s identity, when some other pedals tend to obliterate all evidence that a sound was even coming from a guitar. (I love those pedals, too, but organic and amplike they are not!) Once again, A/B-ing a vintage SD-1 with the SD-1w ($149 street) on Standard Mode, I noticed a bit more midrange articulation to the SD-1w. Of course, even today, slight variations can exist in pedal manufacturing and circuit “personalities,” so this doesn’t mean the SD-1w sound isn’t accurate. I liked the tone of both the old boy and the newbie, in fact. One was just a tad different. In Custom Mode, you get much the same impact as noted with the BD-2w. There’s a more contemporary distortion sound here—a bit more substantial bass bump than what I heard in the BD-2w, and a good more sustain. Old-school hard rock is definitely the feel in Standard Mode— no shock there—and when you flip the switch to Custom, you can hang with the DragonForce and Godsmack crowds. Well, or just enjoy the stouter lows for your rhythm tracks and soaring sustain for leads.
KUDOS Great sounds.