The Sunday Papers

The B-Sides of Boss

By Andy Perrin | October 06, 2017

Riff City Sunday Papers No.1 Vol.9

After four decades of innovation and experimentation, Boss has a catalogue of several iconic effects and a few forgotten favorites. These relics from the past are part of Boss’ history and each has a story all its own.

This week we’ll take a look at five items in Boss’ heritage of compact effects that had short production runs, garnered cult followings, and these days are part of the lingering collection of pawn shops. While such rare items may not have dominated the gear scene in their day, their sounds are a true testament to the ingenuity and bold design approach of the stompbox royalty that is Boss.

SG-1 Slow Gear

Between 1979 and 1982, the SG-1 enabled guitarists to filter out the attack of a note so that the onset was a gradual swell. This Frankenstein-like blend of a volume and compression pedal might sound pretty simple yet its short run and made-in-Japan heritage have earned it a top place in the rarest of rare on the used market. These days a well-worn SG-1 will fetch a price that is often on par with Boss’ most recent and ambitious creations, like the Reverb RV-500, Modulation MD-500, and Boss DD-500. So, if you’ve got around $400 to spend, choose wisely.

DC-2 Dimension C

In a decade awash with chorus, the Boss DC-2 made its pale purple debut in 1985. By layering thickness, depth, and width atop each other in a three-dimensional chorus sound, the pedal channeled the vibe of the earlier rack mounted Roland SDD-320 Dimension D. One of the most unmistakable design features of the pedal is it remains the only Boss compact effect to not feature any knobs or sliders. Rather, its pre-set chorus modes were accessed by pressing rectangular buttons. What you see is what you get—at least until 1989 when the Dimension C was phased out of production.

DF-2 Super Feedbacker & Distortion

Generating a roaring squeal of feedback on demand can be a real asset. The DF-2 is one of a few pedals to attempt this instant guitarist gratification. With the footswitch depressed the pedal imbibed the signal with endless sustain and harmonic overtones—the essential ingredients for a rising wave of feedback. While the pedal had a lifespan of a decade from 1984-1994, the first few thousand pedals produced before 1985 are highly sought after due to their name change. Originally released as the “Super Distortion & Feedbacker,” Boss quickly had to switch things up upon learning that DiMarzio had already trademarked the name “Super Distortion.”

XT-2 Xtortion

In the mid-90s, distortion pedals were dominating the gear scene. On the heels of what would become arguably the company’s most famous overdrive stompbox, the BD-2 Blues Driver, Boss came to market in 1996 with its grungier cousin: the Extortion. While the pedal certainly had more teeth than others in the Boss lineup to date, its flat EQ and fizz-like sound seems to have won few fans. After a mediocre reception, Boss retired the pedal from production after a run of only 20, 000 pedals over eleven months.

TE-2 Tera Echo

If the 80s saw a spike in chorus pedals and the 90s were all about the overdrive, in a decade or so we’ll probably look back at our own day and remark at pedals geared for ambient, washy, and otherworldly sounds. As such, the TE-2 is the only active production pedal on the list, a stellar b-side in the making. The TE-2 offers up ethereal blends of delay, reverb, and modulation in a way that only the masterminds of Boss could dream up. With its launch in 2013, the ambient TE-2 marked the 100th compact pedal in the Boss lineup.

With a heritage of four decades of compact pedal designs and a catalogue of stompboxes exceeding the triple digits, Boss’ story is one of originating the modern gear game and innovating it at every turn.

So turn up whatever Boss pedal is on your board, give it a stomp, and have a great #RiffCitySunday.