Best Distortion Pedal For Rock: The BOSS DS-1 Review

Distortion pedals have been around since the dawn of the rock era, and they never went away. You can actually say the same of the BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal, which has been around with the same basic design ever since its launch in 1978. In this fast-moving world filled with yearly technological advances, this gadget remains a true icon of guitar effects. It’s one of the best-selling guitar pedals of all time, and if you’re looking for great tone, this is truly the best distortion pedal for rock.

Features of the BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal

If you’re really interested in playing rock on the electric guitar, there’s probably only a single degree of separation between you and the BOSS DS-1 distortion pedal. Either you know someone who has used one, or you’ve used one yourself.

Here are some of the familiar features of the BOSS DS-1 distortion pedal that everyone in the rock music industry has heard about:

  • This features the legendary DS-1 distortion circuit that was so much better than its late-1970s contemporaries. Before the arrival of the DS-1, the majority of distortion pedals created really buzzy and harsh tones, and at high-gain settings the sound was definitely muddy. With the DS-1, you get tight and hard-edged gain with lush harmonics.
  • At the same time, it allows you to showcase your own unique playing style as well as the distinct qualities of the guitar you are using.
  • This basically gives you that very same sound and style that you get and find in the punk, metal, and other hard rock bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • It offers a very simple interface, with three knobs for distortion, tone, and level, so you can customize your overall sound to your preference.
  • The unit comes in a sturdy metal enclosure.

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  • Plenty of guitarists have used it through the years all over the world. It’s a true classic that has contributed greatly to the rock scene through the decades.
  • The distortion and is deep and very crisp. The sound really turns your guitar into a hard rock weapon. Seriously, it’s hard to resist the temptation to play AC/DC tunes ones you plug this in.
  • Balancing the distortion and level controls allows you to get just the right amount of gain for a really robust, rhythmic sound.
  • With the Tone dial, you’re able to adjust the sound so that it’s as bright or dark as you want it to be. So if the sound begins to get a bit too harsh at the top, you can just lower the tone to balance things out.
  • You can play lots of wild riffs, with the distortion set to offer a crude and really rough sound.
  • This responds very faithfully to picking nuances, so you can really deliver and produce your own unique sound. It stays tight and responsive to your picking dynamics even when you adjust the settings to extreme distortion levels.
  • It can work as a gain booster if you have a stack-type amplifier.
  • It’s also very easy to modify. After all, it’s very cheap, so you’re not risking too much of your money. You can get the schematics online and tinker with your DS-1 for a long time. You can also find lots of custom modifications in different variations in lots of boutique pedal sellers.
  • Because of its long history, you can find lots of videos, articles, and forum posts discussing this pedal. Once you have the DS-1, all your questions will have answers online.
  • This doesn’t break down very easily at all. Its durability is outstanding.


  • If you do set the distortion extremely high, the pedal can get a little fuzzy.
  • Extreme distortion can also add to the signal compression, and this will squash your dynamic range.


Year in and year out, the BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal keeps on rocking and selling. Part of the reason for its popularity is probably its long and impressive history. Many like simply because it was also used by the legendary Kurt Cobain, but then again that’s one heck of an endorsement. It has also been used by icons such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Even Prince used it.

Still, it’s a classic because it works in turning your guitar solo into truly memorable moments. Like the Donner Morpher distortion pedal, it’s an uncomplicated design that provides you with the performance you seek with no hassle. It’s affordable, yet the sound you get doesn’t seem cheap at all.

With the BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal, you connect to your guitar rock legends while you define your own sound for many years to come. Get one, and you’ll be able to discover what you can really do with your rock guitar. It’s a great first distortion pedal for newbies, and as you turn into a veteran you’ll probably still use it for a very long time.

This box also made the list of best overdrive pedals for tube amps.

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For more reviews and opinions about the DS-1, here are some resources I hope you find helpful: