Ten Good Reasons to Get a BOSS Pedal
By Jim Bybee
When the original BOSS overdrive, the OD-1, was first released way back in 1977, it looked very different from other stompboxes of the day. Where others were simple squared off aluminum boxes crudely screwed together, the OD-1 was a smooth cast metal body. Where others had a little button to step on to turn it on or off, most of the OD-1’s surface was the pedal for the switch. Where others had simple click switch that always caused a POP in the audio line when you stepped on it, the OD-1 had a silent electronic switch under the pedal that never made a sound. It had recessed knobs; other pedals back then had big knobs protruding up from the case — very easy to kick and move or worse, destroy. And it sounded amazing: to this day, it is sought after by collectors who know tone. And who would have thought that after nearly 35 years, BOSS compact pedals use the same design elements that were developed then, as do many competitors. Why? Simple: because as a wise man once said: if it works, don’t fix it. Think about it: what other product has been in continuous production for nearly 35 years with the same looks and industrial design, and seems just as fresh as when it first was released?
There are 10 of these original design elements that are common to all BOSS stompboxes, from the OD-1 to the most recent, like the amazing ST-2 Power Stack and RC-3 Loop Station, and they represent 10 good reasons why BOSS is still the pedal line others aspire to be. Let’s take a look at these elements, to better understand the benefits of these designs and why they have withstood the tests of time and millions of musicians stomping on them daily.
1. Heavy Duty Construction
It is well known that BOSS pedals are tough. The thick all-metal cast construction of the case is very durable, and provides very strong protection for the circuitry inside. We have seen cars driven over them, after which they still work (we’re not advocating this, by the way), and in fact in the early days, the BOSS engineers used to test them by throwing them out of a second story window. Every component is tested to withstand extreme use: the spec for the electronic switch, for example, specifies that it must be able to withstand a minimum of 100,000 stomps. BOSS has machines that test them by hitting this switch 100,000 times to see if they will take it. They do. Which leads us to the next one…
2. Five Year Warranty
This is the longest standard warranty around. Why? Because BOSS knows that they can stand behind the workmanship and quality of construction of these pedals; in other words, they are really hard to break. Think twice about pedals that have shorter warranties.
3. Easy Access Battery Compartment
There are actually two benefits to this one. In the early days of pedals, the only way to change the battery was to open up the entire pedal, (which usually required finding a screwdriver and removing — and not losing — microscopic screws, just what you want to be doing on a dark stage at a gig or at a rehearsal) and exposing the entire circuit board in order to get to the battery, which was usually just hanging by its wires inside. The BOSS battery compartment is under the pedal, which is spring loaded, so when you unscrew the front of the pedal, it pops open, revealing the battery. The other benefit is that the battery compartment is completely sealed off from the components, so if it ever leaks, it won’t contaminate or ruin the electronics.
4. Recessed Knobs
This seems obvious today, but it wasn’t 35 years ago when BOSS was the first to figure out that if the knobs were below the surface of the pedal, you couldn’t kick them, which at best changes your settings (and for some cosmic reason, always for the worse, not better) and at worst could break the knobs off. This concept has been copied (OK, adopted) by many pedal manufacturers, although you still see many boutique pedals that have knobs standing tall on top of the pedal. It’s really only a matter of time until they get kicked or worse.
5. Rubber Pads on Top and Bottom
The entire bottom of a BOSS compact pedal is a big rubber surface. Why? Many other pedals use tiny rubber feet, or sometimes nothing at all. The big rubber bottom of a BOSS pedal keeps if from sliding around on the floor when you stomp on it. This seems like another one of those simple concepts until you look at many other pedals and realize that it is not so common. But you’ll appreciate it the night you use your pedals on a slick wooden stage; your boutique pedals may slide away from you as you try to use them, but your BOSS pedals will be right where you want them to be: under your foot. Why rubber on the top? The simple answer is to keep your foot from sliding off the pedal when you want to turn it on. The entire surface of the pedal is covered with a rubber pad, so your foot can hit it without slipping.
6. Silent Electronic Switching
BOSS was the first pedal company to use this kind of switching. Rather than use mechanical click switches due to their drawbacks (they tend to cause unwanted loud pops in the audio signal and tend to break at inconvenient times, like when your playing your best solo), BOSS developed electronic switching for their compact pedals using FET components, which are very highly regarded for high reliability and noise free operation. The benefits are pretty clear: no switch failures and no noise in the line ever.
7. Big Pedal Surface
When the band is rocking and you’re really getting into your playing, what you don’t want to happen is to reach out with your foot to hit a stompbox button and miss. After all, with many pedals, you’re aiming at a target less than ½" wide. On a BOSS pedal, most of the effects’ entire surface is the pedal, so you won’t miss; you hit it from virtually any angle, so when you want the pedal to be on, it’s on.
8. Dual Purpose LED
The LED on a BOSS pedal has two functions. The more obvious one is to indicate that the pedal is on and working. The other function is to indicate the condition of the battery; after all, it’s better to know the battery is going before it’s too late than to find out the hard way — on stage, when you expect the sound to be there, and it’s not. A BOSS pedal will always let you know before it’s too late that you ought to change the battery.
9. Color Coded Pedals
This one is very simple: BOSS pedals are color coded, so you can easily tell which is which when you’re using them. There have been some consistencies in the colors over the years; for example, BOSS digital delay pedals have always been white, phaser shifters have always been green, compressors have always been blue, and flangers have always been various shades of purple. There have also been some colors that seem somewhat random: distortion pedals, for example, have been everything from orange (DS-1, DS-2, and many others) to black (MT-2, HM-2, etc.) to red (XT-2), and several shades in between (although overdrives tend to always be some degree of yellow. Go figure…). Again, the point is so you can tell which is which in your rig. This is another BOSS first that some other pedal makers have also caught on to, but many others still adhere to the same color, same look concept. Next time you get a chance, try out a pedalboard made of pedals that all look the same; in the heat of battle in the middle of a gig, on a dark stage with the lights in your face, how easy will it be to tell which is which? Not as easy as a rig full of BOSS pedals, to be sure.
10. Great Sound
Tone is what you like, and few things are more subjective, but with tens of millions of BOSS pedals out there, an awful lot of which are on top pro players’ stage rigs, it’s probably safe to say that BOSS pedals always sound right.
These, then, are the big 10. From the first three BOSS pedals almost 35 years ago with the now-classic and iconic design (do you know what they are? Check the BOSS Facebook page to find out) to the amazing pedals in the current line, these 10 time-tested design elements have helped to make BOSS pedals what they are: the undisputed market leaders in compact effects. After all, if they work (and boy, do they) then why change now?