Boss Finally Updates Its Hugely Important DS-1 Distortion Pedal After 44 Years

And yes, it’s still bright orange

  • The DS-1W adds features without messing with the original formula. 
  • The DS-1’s sound is nothing short of iconic. 
  • Boss arguably invented the modern guitar pedal.
DS-1W BOSS Waza Craft Pedals


Boss, the OG Japanese guitar pedal maker, has updated its classic DS-1 distortion pedal just 44 years after it was launched.

With the DS-1W, Boss has given one of its oldest models its Waza Craft makeover, which is Boss terminology for keeping the original parts intact, but adding some fancy modern boutique options. Boss arguably invented the guitar effects pedal, and still has a reputation for quality and incredible reliability. Its Waza range doesn't mess with this reputation, perfectly balancing vintage appeal with modern tweaks, and shows how Boss continues to be one of the most important names for guitarists. 

"The DS-1 hit a trifecta that cemented its legendary status—it's versatile as all hell, allowing you to go from playing hardcore punk to grunge to goth brit pop to finger numbing virtuoso shred; it's been used by some of the biggest names in guitar-based music—Kurt Cobain, Steve Vai, Robert Smith, John Frusciante; and it's got an absolutely iconic design, on par with the silhouette of the Fender and Gibson headstocks," professional musician and filmmaker Alessandro Pulisci told Lifewire via email.

Meet the Boss

Boss, now owned by Roland, makes basic, reliable pedals that have few frills. Compared to today's boutique pedals, which can run up to $500 a pop, Boss' pedals are affordable and get the job done. The DS-1W, for example, comes with a five-year warranty, though it’ll likely last for decades. But back when the original DS-1 launched in 1978, the world looked very different.

In the 70s and 80s, pedals came in all shapes and sizes. The big, red UFO-shaped Fuzz Face, for example, or the early versions of the Big Muff fuzz box, which looked like something out of NASA. Pedals came with faders instead of knobs, and even had permanently-attached power cables.

Today, the pedal world has more or less standardized on the Boss format. there's an input on one side, an output on the other, and a nine-volt power input at the back. Many pedals can still be run on a 9V battery. Some pedals are bigger and smaller, of course, but the overall layout is surprisingly similar. 

"Boss are the progenitors of modern guitar pedals. Without the legendary Compact series, the pedal market as we know it today would not exist," Janna Pugh of Vintage King Audio told Lifewire via email.

"Its instant recognizability, usefulness for beginners and pros alike, and tank-like ability to withstand decades of stomping and disgusting bar floors, while still looking cool, has ensured it'll be a part of any guitar player's stompbox arsenal as long as kids are out there emulating their heroes in the mirror," says Pulisci.

Waza Craft

But as the pedal market grew, and more and more small makers popped up, Boss' pedals came to be seen as somewhat staid. They were still respected, and nobody would ever get teased for having a Boss pedal on their pedalboard. It's just that there was a lot more choice, and some pretty wild FX. In short, the competition was a lot more exciting. 

To fight back, Boss pulled a typical Boss move. It launched a range of made-in-Japan pedals, named Waza Craft. These were revised versions of its classics, with faults ironed out (noisy circuits, that kind of thing), and new features added. You get an enhanced version of the original, but there's a switch to access new features in a custom mode. 

DS-1W BOSS Waza Craft Pedals in different colors


In the DS-1W, the custom mode brings "fatter distortion tones," some tweaked EQ, and more sensitivity to the guitarist's touch. And that's about it. Quality, simplicity, and no messing with an already proven formula. 

The downside of Boss' amazing build-quality is that you don't ever need to buy new. Used pedals might look beaten all to hell, but they will still work fine. A DS-1 can be found for $50 used, and offers most of what the new Waza version offers. But even with the tweaks, the new version is still only $190 (with a street price of around $150), which is a lot less than fancy boutique pedals. 

But in the end, it's the sound that matters. And you’ll almost certainly know it, even if you don't play guitar.

"The DS-1 has been used on so many classic recordings so the sound often lives in our heads before you even learn to play. It's always really satisfying when you get a piece of gear and it has the sound from one of your favorite albums," Emilio Guarino, engineer and producer at GlitchMagic told Lifewire via email.

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