The earliest guitar pedals came to light in the 1960s. The ’62 Maestro Fuzz Tone is a famous example; used by Keith Richards to create the distinctive “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” guitar tone. Towards the end of the ’60s demand for pedals grew, with Jimi Hendrix using a number of different effects to pioneer his psychedelic sound. His setup included a Vox Wah, Roger Mayer Octavia and Shine-ei Uni-Vibe.
Although various stompboxes were available to consumers back then, there weren’t many companies producing full effects pedal ranges. Electro Harmonix did boast a small lineup, but it mostly encompassed just fuzz and boost pedals. When Japanese manufacturer BOSS emerged in the mid-’70s, though, they brought many new effects to the table. And in doing so, they changed the course of the guitar industry for the better.
BOSS continues to innovate well into the 21st Century, and their stompboxes are used by countless of players worldwide. In this article, we’re going to highlight a few key reasons as to why BOSS pedals remain a favoured choice, and why to many – they’re still #1.
The Rich History of BOSS Pedals
BOSS hit the ground running from the outset. Their first pedal, the 1976 CE-1 chorus, was based on the circuit found in Roland‘s JC-120 Jazz Chorus amplifier. Offering lush modulated tones, this stompbox provided a fresh sound that many players from that era hadn’t experienced before.
A moderate success, the company kept up the momentum and boldy launched 6 different effects pedals in 1977. Releasing the OD-1 Overdrive, PH-1 Phaser, SP-1 Spectrum, GE-6 Equalizer, CS-1 Compressor and TW-1 Auto Wah, this eclectic mix of effects was a true statement of intent from BOSS. They sought to create new sounds and inspire the next wave of guitar players.
Although these early launches were gamechanging, perhaps more importantly, BOSS had established its own identity. By designing a compact and robust enclosure, their pedals were praised for being both portable and sturdy. Compared to some of the more fragile and cumbersome effects units around at the time, these were a godsend particularly for touring players. It can therefore be argued that BOSS was instrumental in setting the precedent for the ‘compact pedals’ that we’re so familiar with today.
Some of BOSS’ earlier models have reached legendary status and become valuable collector’s items. However, there is one pedal in BOSS’ catalogue that has remained in production from the very start. Unveiled in 1978, the BOSS DS-1 Distortion arguably put the company on the map. Known for its cutting-edge, high-gain sound, this famously bright orange stompbox is regarded as the best-selling distortion pedal of all time.
Although there are tonnes of pedal brands out there, BOSS has so many adoring fans because of its heritage. And instead of becoming complacent like others have, BOSS still strives to pioneer new effects. Ultimately, their aim has always been to give guitarists a whole palette of tones to play with. Which brings us nicely onto our next section…
BOSS’ Diverse Pedal Range
Any effect type you can think of, BOSS probably makes it. At the time of writing, Andertons Music Co. stocks 79 different BOSS pedals and every year – they still unveil new products! Although brands like TC Electronic and MXR come close in terms of variety, BOSS undoubtedly has the most diverse pedal range on the planet. From overdrives to modulations, bass pedals and even vocal FX; BOSS does it all.
What’s also worth noting is that BOSS hasn’t limited itself to just single, compact pedals. Although they’re trailblazers themselves, BOSS jumped onboard with other trends like the rackmount craze of the ’80s. Today though, their other main market is the world of Multi-FX units. Facing strong competition from the likes of Line 6 and HeadRush, BOSS’ flagship GT-1000 is an all-encompassing floorboard that features amp modelling technology, cab emulations and of course, a library of built-in effects.
But if something that sophisticated doesn’t suit you, BOSS also has its 500 series pedal range. Although they are multi FX units as well, these stompboxes offer variants of a specific effect. For example, the DD-500 is a delay workstation, whereas the MD-500 is filled with a versatile range of different modulation sounds – like phaser, flanger, chorus and tremolo. In essence, BOSS caters for just about everyone’s pedalboard needs. They’ve even started to branch out with their own amps too – the acclaimed Katana series!
The Bulletproof BOSS Design
BOSS pedals are known for their incredibly robust enclosures. This trait is most synonymous with their compact pedals, but all BOSS products are regarded for being reliable and made to a very high standard. This is even more evident with their WAZA Craft line of stompboxes. Handwired in Japan, these units hearken back to BOSS’ earliest pedal models and are designed to recapture a legendary and nostalgic sound.
In terms of their construction, a thick metal casing is used protect the internals. This means that they can survive being stomped on repeatedly; night-after-night. It is their strength that makes them so popular with touring musicians in particular. And even though some guitarists avoid BOSS pedals for being “too mainstream”, you’ll find that most professional, working players will use BOSS units as they almost never go wrong in the thick of battle.
It’s also possible to power BOSS compact pedals with single 9V batteries. With a compartment placed beneath their footswitch plates, batteries can easily be changed by unscrewing a single bolt. Back in the day, this was a very ergonomic feature. However, these days it’s fair to say that battery-powered pedals are becoming phased-out, as most guitarists rely on on pedal power supplies. BOSS hasn’t altered its enclosure design, maybe for the sake of tradition. But if you just want to experiment with a bunch of pedals, or take a couple to a gig without needing to worry about powering them; BOSS pedals are definitely ideal.
Accessible & Affordable
BOSS’ willingness to accommodate for all types of musicians is what makes their products so accessible. If you walk into any guitar store or even a general music shop, nine times out of ten you’ll see at least one BOSS pedal for sale. And even though buying online is becoming increasingly popular; believers of “try before you buy” will have almost no trouble finding BOSS stompboxes anywhere.
BOSS pedals are also popular because of their affordability. This isn’t always the case of course, as models from the WAZA Craft line, for example, are much more expensive. However, compared to some of the ’boutique’ pedals that have flooded the market in recent years, BOSS are considered relatively affordable nowadays.
There are many reasons why BOSS pedals are still considered the industry standard. First and foremost, they’ve been around for over four decades and have innovated so many successful products. They didn’t just launch a few guitar pedals and sit back. BOSS has constantly researched, developed and improved over the years.
The distinctive stompbox design that they established is also another key part of their success. The moment you see their pedal enclosure shape, you know immediately that it’s a BOSS. This has remained unchanged for good reason, and like they say – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Like we alluded to, there are plenty of alternatives available today. There’s never been so many pedal brands around at the same time, and the competition is pretty fierce out there. However, if a group of guitarists was asked “which pedal brand would you use exclusively if you had to?” – we reckon most of them would say “BOSS”.
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