It all starts with a mere curiosity. One day you listen closely to your favorite musicians and fully mesmerized by their sound, you start wondering about the apparatus that made it all happen. You do realize that it is about their craftsmanship as well, but you know that there is something more. You ponder: is it the amp, the guitar or something else? Then you google and this genius search engine submerges you in answers. And that is when you discover effects pedals (well, at least it was something like that for me). When you are just starting out, all you are looking for is simplicity and affordability. I have not met a beginner who would pay 200 bucks for an overdrive pedal. And even though there are limitless choices and options, some stand out with their quality and fame. Yeah, you heard me, even cheaper pedals can be renowned. And that is definitely the case with Boss SD-1. This tiny fella has been included in many prominent rigs but has still remained rather inexpensive. If you do not want to spend all your savings, then stay with me and find out what this bad boy has to offer.
If you interact with guitarists frequently, chances are you will not hear the best things about Boss pedals. Bashing their products has even become some kind of trend. But you should not judge a book by its cover and a brand by one device. They have created some of the best pedals out there, so keep that in mind. SD-1, in particular, falls into the “good pile” and has some qualities to brag about. First and foremost, it is built like a tank. You could throw it from a 5 storey building, run it over with a truck, smash with a hammer and then pick it up and perform the same day. This thing will last you through ages of heavy abuse and will remain a relic if you grow out of it. SD-1 is a one trick pony – it does not claim to deliver extreme versatility and it does not. But it definitely excels at everything it promises to. Its features are straightforward: we only have three knobs. As with other Boss pedals, the stomping space here is quite huge so you will not have the problem of accidentally hitting something else. But the device is compact and will easily accommodate itself on any pedalboard. SD-1 can be supplied with a 9V battery or a standard AC adaptor. Changing the battery is just a child’s play – you just have to loosen the thumbscrew and the top compartment will be exposed. It does also have a LED which indicates whether the battery is drained or not. Looks pretty nice, ha?
Things get even better in the control section. As I have already mentioned, we only have three knobs to work with. They are mounted on the top part of the pedal. Encoders are black with silver-plated surface, and feel rather sturdy. They modify your sound precisely and offer a decent level of accuracy. But the main thing is what their main functionalities are. Let’s find out!
We shall begin with Level control. It adjusts the volume of the effect and allows you to mix it with the clean signal. This way your overdrive will not sit on top of your sound, but will blend with it perfectly. Moving on to the Tone, this bad boy intensifies the treble response when rotated clockwise, while taming the higher frequencies when turned in the opposite direction. The last knob we have here is Drive, which is quite self-explanatory but as you are here anyway, I might as well tell you everything. So, this control adjusts the amount of overdrive and allows you to move from smooth effect to a bit heavier results. And obviously it has a footswitch that activates the unit or triggers the bypass mode (which is not a true bypass by the way).
Boss SD-1 has couple of applications that deliver different results. When utilized as an overdrive unit, this pedal can create smooth effect that is saturated with character. Low-gain settings sound spectacular here, since they have definition and enough treble to cut through the mix and create powerful leads. As you increase the effect a bit, you enter the crunch zone that is gritty but still quite smooth. This can even be called the sweet spot of SD-1. Both subtle and crunchy overdrives clean up perfectly with a guitar volume knob. If you go too crazy and crank the pedal up to the fullest, it might become noisy and a bit muddy (it still depends on your rig, though). Another application would be using this pedal for clean boost. If you turn the Level all the way up and dial down the Drive, you will feed a stronger signal into the clean channel of your amp and cause it to break up. You could even feed it to the overdriven amplifier or a distortion pedal to achieve higher-gain results. SD-1 is an amazing pedal for that (ask Zakk Wylde). And one more thing, this stompbox is touch-sensitive, i.e. it responds very accurately to your picking and emits sounds accordingly. This means that it will be more overdriven with heavy techniques and vice versa. If you take your time and search for the settings that work for you, SD-1 can truly rock your world.
To round everything up, Boss SD-1 is an amazing overdrive pedal if you do not want to break the bank and invest in a high-end boutique model. It does exactly what it promises to and it does so perfectly. For the price, you would have hard time finding the same sonic or even overall quality. Even though it has some downsides, they are quite natural and can be avoided with proper approach. Just be patient, explore the capacities of this pedal carefully and you will be fine. Good luck!
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