This week on TPS, Dan & Mick were live at the “House of Vans” Boss 40th Anniversary party in London. Over four decades, Boss has produced over 15 million compact stompboxes. For many of us, including our TPS anchormen, Boss pedals played a pivotal and persistent role in our own musical training an gear journeys.
With the potentially endless list of topics that could be covered from the extensive catalogue of Boss pedals, Dan & Mick navigated through the time and space of Boss history by exploring new sounds from old classics. Along the way, they disclosed a few tales of their own involving Boss gear as well as pro tips for optimizing some of the most iconic and common Boss pedals you might already have on your rig.
The Gain Structure Secret Weapon: The Boss Super Overdrive
We’ve all been there. You hear a guitar sound you love at a gig or on an album, think you’ve pinned down what pedal is creating it, rush out to the shop to pick one up, and then get the surprise of your life upon plugging it in: the tone, drive, and EQ are nowhere near what you anticipated. Fail! Dan recollected such a moment in his early days of being enamored with the sounds of Brad Gillis of the Ozzy Osbourne band. He soon discovered part of Gillis’ sound was due to a little yellow stompbox called the Super Overdrive. “When I heard this guitar sound, I thought, ‘Wow, if I could get that pedal and sound like that, it’d be awesome!’” We all know how this one ends: the buy, the plug in, and then, the thunderous sound was nowhere to be found.
As Dan noted, after a little experimenting and research he learned the pedal was right, but how he was using it was wrong. On its own, the pedal can be punchy and sharp. “I realized they weren’t using the Super Overdrive to get that sound at all. It was augmenting what they were already using.”
If you have a foundational overdrive sound that you already know and love—say, a Boss Blues Driver or tube-amp that’s running hot—hitting the front end of it with the Super Overdrive can make it even more explosive. That’s what Dan was hearing, and that’ what the unmistakable yellow stompbox was doing. Suddenly, the edges cut just right, the bottom end of the gain is fattened up, and the character of the tone and EQ is pushed right up the middle. In short, using the Super Overdrive as a boost might be a great alternative to other types of pedals you’re using to try and get that job done.
The First Step Toward 15 Million Pedals: The Heritage of the Boss Chorus Lineup
Back in 1976, the Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble was the first-ever compact pedal to roll of the line. Originally meant to appeal to jazz and blues keys players, it didn’t take long for guitarists to start modding the input so it could be played with the six string. Fast-forward to the CE-2, and now the CE-2w Waza Craft, and it’s safe to say that the sound of the world’s first chorus pedal continues to be a top contender for the world’s best chorus pedal.
While Dan & Mick toured through some key uses and sounds of a battle-worn Boss CE-1, many of their insights are also relevant to players of the Waza Craft edition, since this pedal includes a mid-ship switch to access that classic sound. As Dan noted, a key feature of the original is the modulation of the chorus-vibrato. The CE-2w authentically reproduces this sound using stereo outs. This makes the pedal ideal for a wet/dry setup. Since chorus is essentially the mixing of a dry signal with a vibrato sound, by bracketing these two out from each other and sending them to separate amps, the resulting sound is very much an real-time marriage of physics and acoustics. The sounds separated in the circuitry reconvene in the physical space of the room and your brain hears chorus. Brilliant.
Sure, a pedal can change your sound, but can it change your life? As Dan recalled, “I became emotionally involved with the CE-1.” In fact, it was this pedal that caused him to ditch the rack gear altogether and delve into the world of pedals. “When I heard this pedal [and the EHX Electric Mistress] my life changed forever. It’s the reason I’m standing here today…For me, it’s a pedal that changed everything.” Guess I better pick one up..
The Amazing Odd Fellow of the Boss Delay Family: The Analog Boss DM-2
When I think of Boss delays, my mind automatically runs to the lineup of digital delays: beautiful glossy white boxes embossed with blue fonts. Yet, the Boss DM-2 pedal, and now the DM-2w Waza Craft edition, neither dawn this wardrobe nor play by the digital rules. Rather, the DM-2 is an all analog delay with warm yet shadowy repeats fading into the distance. In our present world of advanced digital delays with libraries of meticulously crafted algorithms, is there still a place for the humble DM-2? Yep. And in ways you might not have even expected.
Sure, it’s got an excellent analog vibe to it. Sure, it’s apt for osculating feedback experiments by toying with the intensity and rate nobs on-the-fly. But beyond this, Mick showcased a hack with this pedal that has almost nothing to do with creating a traditional delay sound. The pedal is already set up well for a slap back delay but when that sound is dialed in a little tighter the DM-2 provides an ideal boost for solos—an almost doubling effect. It provides body, dynamics, and a force to be reckoned with. As Mick concluded, “It really throws you out of the mix.”
In the golden age of gear, Boss is no doubt the granddaddy. They started the whole stompbox movement and continue to innovate it with great sounds at unmatched value. For a full lineup of Boss compact boxes and now Katana amps, head over to Riff City and add a little Boss to your board.
TPS Rig Rundown
Guitars: Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster, Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster.
Amps: Hamstead Artist 20+ RT, Two Rock Classic Signature.Pedals: Boss SD-1w Super Overdrive, Boss BD-2 Blues Driver, Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, Boss VB-2w Waza Craft Vibrato, Boss DM-2w Waza Craft Delay.