The Boss DS-1 and the Boss DS-2 Turbo distortion are two iconic pedals which have both become hugely popular, but which is the best? In this article, I’ll compare the tone, features and specifications of the DS-1 and the DS-2 against each other so you can decide which is the best option for you.
The Quick Answer
The Boss DS-2 Turbo is more versatile than the DS-1 due to the turbo switch which boosts the mid-range, and is useful when switching from lead to rhythm. The DS-1 sounds more crunchy and fuzzy compared to the DS-2 which is capable of sounding heavier and can produce a greater range of distorted tones.
Comparing the Tone
First let’s talk about the differences in tone between these two Boss pedals.
The Boss DS-1 has one mode, whereas the DS-2 has two modes. The two modes on the DS-2 refer to the turbo switch, which can either be on or off. The turbo switch on the DS-2 adds a mid-range boost and arguably makes it more versatile than the DS-1 as it essentially has two voices.
As well as the turbo switch creating a different kind of tone on the DS-2 there are also several other noticeable differences in how these two pedals sound:
- The DS-1 sounds grittier and more overdriven than the DS-2 which has smoother and heavier distortion.
- The DS-1 sounds good with low gain, and produces a classic distortion tone often associated with the 70’s and 80’s. It borders on overdriven at times (rather than pure distortion) and can sound a bit like a driven Marshall tube amp.
- The DS-2 sounds good with high gain and has a punchier tone with more mid-range and treble.
- The DS-2 is louder than the DS-1 at maximum level.
- The DS-1 can sound a bit fuzzy if the tone control is pushed past midway compared to the DS-2.
- The DS-2 has more distortion variation compared to the DS-1 which has a narrower range.
In terms of which sounds the best, well that’s all personal preference, and it’s a bit of debate in the guitar community. A general consensus is that the DS-1 sounds good at low gain and produces a nice crunchy and saturated level of gain, whilst the DS-2 sounds heavier, good for leads and best at high gain.
Here is a video comparing the tone of the Boss DS-1 and the Boss DS-2 Turbo distortion pedals side by side using different settings.
The DS-1 and DS-2 distortion pedals both have a level, tone and distortion control. The only difference is the additional turbo control on the DS-2 which gives it an extra mode that boosts the mid-range. This can be activated manually, or by using a remote.
The turbo mode can be activated by adjusting the control on the pedal itself, or by using a footswitch. The pedal has an input for the remote which allows users to connect a footswitch to switch between the two modes. The turbo switch is useful for switching to lead sections as it gives it a mid-range boost.
Here’s what the other controls on both pedals do:
- Level: this adjusts the volume.
- Distortion: this adjusts the level of gain.
- Tone: this adjusts the bass and treble frequencies. Turning the dial to 0, reduces the treble and boosts the bass, and turning it up to maximum, reduces the bass and increases the treble.
Here’s a really great video that demonstrates the EQ changes with various settings on these pedals side by side. It’s time stamped so will start at the correct point in the video.
Specifications and Features
The features and specifications are pretty similar on both pedals with very few important differences. Here is a table comparing them side-by-side.
|Feature||Boss DS-1||Boss DS-2|
|Power Supply||9V DC||9V DC|
|Colour||Darker Orange||Lighter Orange|
|Weight||400g/ 0.88 pounds||400g/ 0.88 pounds|
|Dimensions||7.3 x 1.29 x 5.9 cm||7.3 x 1.29 x 5.9 cm|
Which Should You Get?
Whilst the DS-1 and DS-2 are very similar in terms of specifications, the tones are pretty different and will be more suitable for some guitarists more than others.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding.
- The DS-2 is more versatile than the DS-1 due to its turbo switch and larger distortion range.
- If you want to use your distortion pedal to switch from rhythm to gain, then the DS-2 is the best option as the turbo switch can be turned on to give a mid-range boost for solos.
- The DS-1 has a grittier and more overdriven tone compared to the DS-2 so is more suitable for classic rock and blues.
- The DS-2 has a heavier tone than the DS-1 so is more suitable for modern metal and grunge.
Here is a link to the pedals on Amazon so you can check some prices:
Boss DS-1X Distortion Pedal
The Boss DS-1X is more expensive than the DS-1 and DS-2 turbo, costing roughly double the price. The DS-1X has separate high and low controls compared to the single tone controls found on the DS-1 and DS-2, and delivers higher clarity distorted tones.
Looking to get the best out of your pedals? Check out my article on the best pedal chain order here to learn everything you need to know about setting up your chain.
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