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Thread: Boss DS-1: A detailed take!

  1. #1

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    Boss DS-1: A detailed take!

    I’m sure many of you have trolled around the forums or asked your experienced friends the golden question; “Recommend me a distortion pedal.” More often than not, the name DS-1 pops up as the number one contender, as if it was a household name when talking about distortion. This is none other than the highly acclaimed pedal by effects giant BOSS.

    BOSS DS-1 (pictured: original Silver Screw DS-1; notice the slightly thinner fonts)

    Before we proceed:


    The BOSS DS-1 was first released in 1978 with the Toshiba TA7136AP opamp (silver screw edition). This is the original MIJ (Made In Japan) piece that is sought after. In 1994, it underwent a slight change where a second edition of the DS-1 was made with the Rohm BA728N (still MIJ). When BOSS shifted production to Taiwan, the initial badge of MIT (Made In Taiwan) still had the Rohm BA728N, which was replaced by the Mitsubishi M5223AL in year 2000. All 3 have significantly different voicings which I will cover in this review.

    Tone comparison

    Boss DS-1 (MIT); Mitsubishi M5223AL
    Many guitarists with a BOSS DS-1 would likely own this version of the DS-1. It is cheap, and most importantly, it is easily obtainable. While many of us are contented with the performance of this unit, most tend to sell it after a given period of time, or preferably mod it. This is mainly due to the fact that this DS-1 has several unusable settings. As the gain is turned up, the sound becomes fizzy (like a poorly made fuzz) and noise is inherent. Turning the tone knob incurs a noticeable volume boost, probably due to the excessive treble. Those who dislike this version find it thin & weak, or lacks versatility. It is no wonder that the Tri-Gain mod is favoured when it comes to modding a DS-1. This DS-1 also has plenty of volume to tap on, making it the loudest of the 3 incarnations of the DS-1.
    Tone: 63%

    Many mods out there cater to this DS-1

    Overall Tone (too many unusable settings)
    More often than not has to be modded

    Boss DS-1 (MIJ); Rohm BA728N

    This is the easier to find Japanese DS-1 that could go at around twice or more of the price of the Taiwanese DS-1. The immediate difference one hears when A/B-ing this with the above, it the clarity, and the volume. This DS-1 is the least loudest, but it pays for that in tone. The DS-1 can be considered to be a ‘transparent’ drive, although distortion pedals should not be marketed as such. Chords ring clear at lower gain settings, and at higher drive, it packs a serious punch. For those wanting that added high end rampant on AC/DC recordings, this is a serious contender for nailing that tone. I’ve tried it alongside boutique effect-makers Radial’s Classic Distortion and HomeBrew Electronics Big ‘D’ Distortion, and the MIJ DS-1 was comparable in terms of clarity, and was versatile despite the 3 knobs offered (although it is not as versatile as the other two). With what the DS-1 had to offer, the tone clearly knocks out these two competitors. It is not as noisy as the MIT counterpart, but a slight hiss is noticeable at higher gain settings.
    Tone: 80%

    Overall Tone (Clarity)

    Boss DS-1 (MIJ); Toshiba TA7136AP opamp

    This is the original first series DS-1, distinguishable via its Silver Screw and its hefty price tag (when and if it is on sale). This pedal motivated me to write this review the moment I acquired it. Compared to the other 2 DS-1s, this DS-1 reigns like a supreme king over the two. It offers more clarity than the other two, and has the warmest distortion. One can say that these are characteristics of a fuzz or overdrive, yet this pedal proves that it can be gritty, like other distortion pedals, yet smooth enough to be used for thick leads. Personally, I use the DS-1 for rhythm only as it is not fat sounding enough, but this DS-1 allows me to solo quite naturally. You can think of it as a tube amp as it is about to crank up; gritty yet smooth (or perhaps like a thinner sounding LM308 RAT with a slightly different voicing).
    However, this DS-1 is the most difficult to have in your board for 2 reasons. First, it has a momentary LED. That means the LED light switches on only as you switch on, or switch off the pedal, meaning you won’t know if it is in use or not without actually listening. Second, it requires its own regulated PSU (or adaptor). Hence, daisy chains and One Spots are unwelcomed adversaries.
    Tone: 95%

    Overall Tone

    Momentary LED
    Adaptor problems
    Price (although I got it at a killer price, I’m writing it in general)

    Worthy Contenders

    DS-1 MIT:
    Marshall Guvnor
    Boss DS-2
    AMT British Sound
    Biyang DS-7
    Biyang DS-9
    Artec TWH-1 Twin Drive
    MXR Distortion III
    Beta Aivin DS-100
    Ibanez DS-7

    DS-1 MIJ
    Seekz Punchtone
    MI Audio Crunchbox
    Radial Tonebone Classic Distortion
    HBE Big 'D' Distortion
    Fulltone OCD ver 3
    Toadworks Mr.Ed
    Zvex Box of Rock

    DS-1 MIJ SS
    Emma ReezaFratzitz (Best compared to this IMO)
    Jetter Gain Stage Black
    Jetter Gain Stage Blue
    Jetter Gain Stage Purple
    Menatone King of the Britains

    Video Demo here:
    It is very short and brief though..
    Silver screw alone:

    P.S: Second review. Do consider my Sonic Glory review too here:
    Last edited by Godspeed64; 03-11-08 at 03:47 PM.

  2. #2

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    hahaha, hey dude, thanks for the review..
    btw there is also the mit black label ds-1,
    its much warmer than the normal mit ds-1 but like the normal ds-1 its kinda hard to reach high gain settings and with the knobs around full got quite abit of hiss.. i modded it to keeley specs and its much better now..

  3. #3

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    That is most probably the Japanese DS-1 built in the Taiwanese factory.
    Apparently this was done for quite some time before they changed the chip for another time. :mrgreen::mrgreen:
    And that 'another time' is where the name of the MIT DS-1 came from.
    Last edited by Godspeed64; 05-07-08 at 12:50 AM.

  4. #4

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    yeah, i found the parts to be quite similar to the japanese ds-1, maybe they had some left over japanese components when they switched factories and decided to use finish all the components in taiwan?
    overall.. ds-1 does sound great.. mods allow it to take on almost any type of dist tone u want..

  5. #5

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    Yeap.. But stock, I'd say it has no contender for the MIT ones..
    Not many producers can be build a disastrous pedal and get away with it.. But modded makes it a favourite of many!
    Wait till you try the Silver Screw.. Just got it today and it's still 'screwing' with my head! :mrgreen::mrgreen:

  6. #6

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    I just got back my Silver Screw! Thanks Goose..

    This should prove that the mod is possible.. He replaced the momentary LED, made it accept standard 9V adaptors (aka One Spot!) and also replaced a few missing parts (yes, mine had missing parts) from the pedal..

    The Toshiba opamp is still intact, and the input/output or something like that was altered? No noise at all now..

    Tone still as warm as ever.. Really reminds me of the Reeza! :mrgreen:

  7. #7

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    hey guys. im wondering whether a modded DS-1 or MIJ DS-1 is better.

  8. #8

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    That depends.. "Better" is subjective..

    First of all, there are several DS-1 mods available out there.. Which are you referring to? I've only managed to try my friend's modded DS-1, which he modded to Keeley specs..
    It is versatile no doubt about that, and it sounds much more impressive that its unmodded self..
    The MIJ, biggest downside is its volume.. Other than that, it boasts clarity and saturation (not for metal, but rather perfect for Classic Rock).. But you do get the DS-1 voicing, no matter what settings, it still sounds like a DS-1.. In fact, I'm selling one of these babies right now.. Oh and when you mention MIJ I am assuming the 2nd gen one.. If its a silver screw DON'T CARE JUST BUY!!! :mrgreen::mrgreen:

  9. #9

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    woah ..thx for the information. tt silver screw sounds great. hahaha.. where is it available and how much?

  10. #10

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    diff tones bro.. most people mod the normal ds-1 because its not fierce enough, then after they mod it can handle heavier distortion with lesser noise.. but there are also mods for the ds-1 that can make it simulate the warm tone that the ds-1 mij has.. so if ur going for warm tones.. just try the mij ds-1 .. if ur looking for a fierce hardrock-slight metal type of tone.. try modded ds-1, lots of mods to look at.. they are like countless.. but the most popular one is the keeley mod duh..

    hope this helps

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