Boss OD1 Demo, Best $30 I’ve Ever Spent, & So Many Other Things

Finally.

I finally found that deal. You know, the one you dream about…where you go in to some used guitar shop and find an old Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face marked ‘Dallas Orbiter Fuzzy Face – $10′. And there would be much rejoicing. Okay, so not really. I still haven’t found that deal or the infamous ‘Kron’ deal, even though I check all the time. Every guitar or pawn shop I ever pass, I go in. But I came close. A couple weeks ago, I was looking at Guitar Center’s used section, which is getting really good lately, and noticed a Boss OD1. An original. Turned it over, black label boldly sporting ‘Made in Japan.’ No price, though. So I asked the guy, and he looked it up on Guitar Center’s what I believe to be DOS-based computer system. And he says, ’30 bucks.’ And I say, ‘Mine.’ Hoping desperately that it’s one of the original 14-pin chip ones that can sell for $500.

Turns out, it’s not. It’s an OD1d, dated to 1979 or 1980. It’s also a weird one though, as it has a stamped serial number inside the battery compartment but also a black screw on the footswitch. Supposedly those shouldn’t have gone together, but this one has it. It also has an odd chip designation, that I can’t find any info on. But it’s all original, not modded. Best I can figure, it’s one of the first OD1′s to be built after they ditched the 14-pin chip due to supposed supplier issues, but before they started dropping the quality of the rest of the components. Wow, I’m a nerd. Just skip that paragraph.

It also is in horrendous condition. So with it not being the 14-pin version, and in the condition that it’s in, it’s probably a $100-$150 ebay sell. But, in true Boss fashion, the outward condition has no impact on its functionality, and it works great. And sounds…surprisingly…incredible. To be honest, I had more fun playing this $30 pedal than I did playing the Ethos.

The Demo
(No clean tone, features, or bias listings, because it has two knobs. Level, Drive. Gorgeous.)

So if you’ve got $30, and search a little bit, I can almost guarantee you some pretty cool tone for super cheap. And I suggest you do. As you may have noticed, I’ve been selling increasingly more modulation pedals, and buying up more and more drive pedals. And unlike the Ethos, this one is staying on my board. And the reason is that I have been becoming more and more bored with sterile, crisp, clean, and produced church services. Churches, it seems, tend to find a style, and then homogenize and produce the very life out of it. And I’m sensing a backlash to that starting on the near horizon. Folk tried to be the backlash, but inexplicably got caught up in the machine, and now only exists in churches and even in popular culture as a bearded dude with a $2000 Martin that he purposefully put a hole in, sweating under an 8-layer scarf in the summertime, next to a girl in a grandma skirt she bought at Wet Seal, who thinks she’s vegan because she drinks organic milk, filming themselves on their iPhones in the woods behind the Wal-Mart, playing up-strum chords and singing ‘honest’ lyrics that they really could care less about. Okay, so that’s a gross generalization, and I’m definitely wearing a scarf under my beard right now. ;) But it seems that everything gets homogenized, especially in church, and we lose the heart. And where overdrive comes in, as my good friend Matt and I have been talking about, is when we can break from that and start to play stuff that sounds worse. Not too much worse, just slightly worse. As if the world will not cave in and no one will leave the church if there’s a .1 decibel hum coming from the guitar amp. It’s like the Nirvana response to ’80′s synth-pop; I’m just praying that we don’t decide that that’s what it’s going to be, and then calculate out what made Nirvana popular, put it into a formula, and then perform that formula to the lowest common denominator. I’m hoping that we put a little bit of heart back into things, and ditch formulas for just a bit.

The other interesting thing about this pedal, is that technically, it sucks some of your tone. It takes a bit of the body of your clean tone away, and colors it. But the thing is, tone is a tool for the music. And sometimes, when trying to use that tool to fit the music, your tone can be, in essence, too good. What I mean is, what we think of when we think of great tone…warm, full, round, present…can be so good and powerful and out-standing, that it hurts what the overall music is trying to do. And drives like this OD1, though technically hurting your tone, can do a great job of giving you sounds that fit the overall mix and ultimately, the overall music. Sometimes, you have to make your tone worse so the music can be better. Just sometimes, though. ;)

And that is a lot of things coming out of the playing of a $30, two-knob pedal. Sorry. But not really, of course. I don’t have the time right now, but after the Christmas season, there will be posts expounding upon each of these ideas. For now, remember the mantra: Tone does not always equal price. But sometimes it does. The Ethos? Tone definitely equaled price. It’s expensive, and also amazingly good. The Boss OD1 is the other side of the equation. Tone completely does not equal price with this pedal. Cheap, and sounds great. Buy one. Love one. And then buy another one.

Splendid.
Karl.

33 thoughts on “Boss OD1 Demo, Best $30 I’ve Ever Spent, & So Many Other Things

  1. and the Tuna Melt!

    My advice I tell the new guitarists who always ask “How did you get the $$ to build a board that big!!??? I can’t afford it.”

    1) Time, slowly buying over time. Took over 5 years to get my board this way.
    2) Cheap tone. Play everything, demo everything and buy what sounds good– even if it sucks tone, if you can get it to sound good, then use it!

    I love cheap effects, they often have a sound all their own and stand out great in a mix!

  2. pfft, I really really really want to mention that in such a simple application the quality of the components makes no audiable difference at all. And you forgot to mention it’s an sd-1 without a tone control… other than that it does sound pretty good and you can ignore me :) still a good deal.

  3. Larry–great comment! Love it. And interesting that you mentioned the Tuna Melt…I’m editing a demo of it right now hanging with a much more boutique tremolo. :)

    James–haha You’re the engineer, not me, so I’ll roll with that. However, I have to play devil’s advocate a bit and say that while I might agree with you in theory, in application I seem to hear a good deal of difference between higher quality and lower quality components. :) Like I said, you’re more than likely correct, I’m just speaking from what I believe my ears to have heard over the years.

    Don’t worry, I’ll have a completely different opinion next week. ;D

    • I’ll play devil’s advocate again and suggest that the difference you are hearing may be due to less accurate components (5% tolerance instead of modern 1% tolerance and also due to the aging of capacitors which happens nearer the end of their life), not due to often wrongly so called ‘better’ components :) and as extra proof here’s an sd-1 from taiwan compared to a japanese one. Both have mylar capacitors (good quality caps) and carbon comp resistors (the same style as used in vintage boss gear) http://acapella.harmony-central.com/showthread.php?2673969-Boss-SD-1-guts.-Japan-vs.-Taiwan.-pics! :) also have you compared two circuits which are identical on paper to each other in real life where one has been built with cheap components and the other top end components? I may be sending a late Christmas present to America if you promise to do a blind shootout with it :)

  4. A good component argument would be one of “tolerance.” One resistor changed from a +-5 tolerance to +-15 tolerance might not make a difference, but what if Boss, in the move from Japanese production to Taiwanese production, dropped the spec on tolerance altogether? That liberal tolerance policy might have shaved cost off the quality control standard but could certainly affect the tone, methinks.

    Then again, the quest for circuit predictability is precisely what led the early amp pioneers towards solid state only to find that the ICs made us feel that our amps became sterile and robotic. Except for the Roland Jazz Chorus amps. Been meaning to put one of those in my rig for 20 years.

    However, the last thing I spend time and money on is the endless tinkering folks do on pedals, especially the Boss variety. You could spend $50 on eBay for the OD1 Super Duper Insano Mojo Tone MOD and only get two resisters, a cap, and a little sticker. No thanks.

  5. “Sometimes, you have to make your tone worse so the music can be better. Just sometimes, though.

    lol!.. can’t believe you actually said this! i think the tone police are coming for you now! lol…

  6. Yeah! Welcome to the other side of tone. It’s way more fun over here. It’s like, which would you rather hang out with at a party? The stuffy, expensive Klon Centaur (though he seems like he’d be good at…polo?) or the fun but unassuming OD1? Sure, sometimes the OD1 will say or do something a little unexpected, but that’s most of the fun!

    And if church is making you stuffy, then maybe that’s an issue. Go crappy pedals, go!

  7. “Folk tried to be the backlash, but inexplicably got caught up in the machine, and now only exists in churches and even in popular culture as a bearded dude with a $2000 Martin that he purposefully put a hole in, sweating under an 8-layer scarf in the summertime, next to a girl in a grandma skirt she bought at Wet Seal, who thinks she’s vegan because she drinks organic milk, filming themselves on their iPhones in the woods behind the Wal-Mart, playing up-strum chords and singing ‘honest’ lyrics that they really could care less about.”

    what a sentence! Never understood the winter hat on stage with the t-shirt, face dripping with sweat and I want to scream “take your hat off!” It doesn’t have to be this way, function over fashion people!

  8. Word up, Brother. I used an SD-1 as my main overdrive sound for years at my church. Even when I had a Marshall JCM 900 behind me. I bought one again feeling reminiscent and did Monte Allums GT mod to it = even better.

    Now, my main overdrive comes from a Deltalab Tube Overdrive nabbed out of box from Guitar Center for…$30. So of course I got two of them: one set for low gain, one for mid gain. One of the best overdrives to not suck out the bass when you turn it on.

    Of course I still check craigslist for Zendrives and whatnot, so…Go CHEAPIES!

  9. James–I agree on the SD1. I modded one once, and couldn’t tell it apart from the stock one. However, according to Analogman, there are differences in values and quality in the OD1′s. I have compared certain pedals with high quality versus low quality components, and am pretty sure I’ve heard a difference. However, I’d never turn down a pedal gift, haha. ;) And to be quite honest, I hope you’re correct as it would save me money, and send this blog more on the way of its current new direction of good sound having nothing to do with price necessarily. I’ve never tried to hide the fact that it’s very possible that much of my hearing comes from my eyes. ;)

    Jay–great point on the values, and I believe that did happen on various versions of OD1′s. And I agree on the mods…I’ve done the home ones before where you change the chip and two resistors, and there is very little if any difference. Search this blog for ‘TS7′ and my video of that should come up. Great comment!

    Swhitney–I wrote this post from witness protection. I’ve already gotten death threats from certain Gear Page members. ;)

    Ben–ha!! You’re right, that is part of the fun. I still have a $15 TS7 on my board, and every once in a while I use it instead of my other drives just for the fun factor. :)

    As far as church goes, I’ll expound more in the coming weeks. Didn’t mean to sound stuffy; just meant, in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way, that I think churches in general have fallen back into the 1950′s mentality of making everything perfect. And I get it….that plays to a much wider audience, which can be good. But I think we’re going to start seeing more of that ’70′s ‘Jesus Movement’ where the corporate celebration of Jesus is just a little less calculated. :)

    Michael–haha Totally! Scarves are hilarious. Although, I must admit, I will be so guilty of this at our Christmas Eve services. I always wear a scarf to be festive, but it’s always super cold outside so they crank the heat up to like 90. I lose about 10 pounds each year. haha

    Joe–right on, bro! Ya…cheapie or Zendrive…if it sounds good, rock it. Great comment!

    Kenrick–lol Best dual comment ever. And no…I still wear scarves. And make fun of others who do as well. Hypocrisy is the new trendy. ;)

    Brandon–lol This little guy’s a permanent on my board now, I think. :)

    Dan, Kenrick, and KennyG–and we have now lost all hope of ever hearing another good U2 album.

    In all fairness though, Edge is an amazing musician and may still be able to make brilliant music through it.

    Or what is more likely, the last album was so compressed that what Edge is playing through just plain doesn’t matter. haha ;)

  10. Great post! I’ve been reading on the blog for a few months now, and love your insights and humor Karl…and my wife swears we must be related…I don’t think she thought there was another out there as obsessed with gear and tone!

    I like this post because I recently switched overdrives…I had been using a Fulldrive 2 (non-mosfet, powder blue, cream knobs) and it was a great pedal…but I decided to sell it and see what else I could try.

    I bought a Garagetone Drivetrain of ebay for $36.50 and I love it! As for my tastes…I like it alot better than the Fulldrive!

    So…there’s great tone out there, in unexpected places…that don’t cost $250 or more!

    • Ya. I have the garagetone analog delay! It is nice and warmand sounds just like the carbon copy. I have literally played them side by side and they are the same…just the cc has the modulation.

  11. Slicktone–great comment, bro! Ya…with a little research and trial error, you can get some good tone without a ton of money. And welcome! It’s great to have you here! :)

    Rhoy–nope, no delay or reverb at all. Just the OD1, and where noted the LPB-1 for boost, and the DD7 just to loop. It does sound like there’s a subtle ‘space’ thing going on, but it’s in all my recordings since I moved into this new apartment and my recording space is smaller. I think it’s a happy accident with the walls closer and the Sennheiser having such a wide pickup range.

    Brandon–ya, that would work. It doesn’t sound like a tubescreamer at all. No mid hump, and much more saturated.

  12. Seth B–lol I forgot that was there…incidentally I saw a used GT6 today for an insanely low price at Guitar Center Cerritos. Made me nostalgic. haha

    Rhoy–haha Now I’m scared to move anything! ;)

  13. Karl-Thanks a ton!! Yours is by far the best Worship guitar webstie I’ve come across and I”m very happy to have found it!

    Brandon-I’ll have to check out the Garagetone Delay…I’ve been thinking about another delay to keep set at as short, “thickening” type for leads and such. As my other tends to stay on the dotted 1/8th most the time.

  14. I bought the new Boss Combo Drive to replace my modded Boss Super Overdrive and absolutely love the tone.

    Hopefully someday Santa will deliver a Grestch to go with it.

  15. I’ve been using a BD-1 (or is it a 2…hmm) for leading. Yes, it’s not the cleanest in the world, but when in a “mix” -as you stated- I find it works well to just give that little extra edge.

    I’ve been using the clean tone on my amp and driving it to different levels with different pedals – I think that’s the trend currently. Right now, though, it’s just the BD-1 (or 2?) and the clean tone.

  16. Slicktone–thanks, bro!!

    James J–haha Did Santa deliver the Gretsch? ;)

    David–good call! I’m continually surprised by that Blues Driver.

    Guitar Jar–thanks so much! :)

  17. This demo sounds amazing….Karl if you ever decide to sell this pedal, probably not for the cash, maybe just to pass the gift on to someone, I would definitely want to try it out!

  18. Thanks, bro…I’ll definitely let you know first. But to be honest, I was actually just contemplating another post on this pedal, but I keep finding more and more use for its tone. It really is surprisingly amazing.

  19. Yowzers! Just got one of these, also from a guy on Craigslist, also for $30. Insane deal. I hope my ears will tell my wallet to keep it on the board instead of flipping it. Sounds fantastic; very clear and remarkably quiet. Thanks for putting this pedal in my head!

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