Recently I had a chance to try an original Boss overdrive in a rehearsal studio. Based on my experiences with their Super and Turbo Overdrives, I wasn’t expecting to like it, but SURPRISE!!! It sounded friken cool, and I’ve been obsessing over it ever since. The OD-1 is certainly more than an SD-1 without a tone control. Years ago I saw a listing in Vintage Guitar Magazine calling it “BOSSES Tube Screamer!” but to me the OD-1 is superior with more output, treble and versatility than a TS-9. Less is actually more in this pedal.
Crank the gain into a clean amp with chorus,and it takes me back to early 80s modern rock. Roll the gain down, and it will push a low-gain tube amp for modern blues, more Chris Duarte than SRV. Or plug into a Marshall and crank everything to shred.
The Boss OD-1 is not rare, but it went out of production since 1989, so some people feel that justifies asking $300 for them, and as much as $1500 for one in mint condition with the box and papers. The most expensive ones tend to have a large 14-pin quad op-amp instead of transistors buffering a tiny 8-pin dual opamp.
Ironically, the later ones were built with the same JRC4558 dual opamp found in original Tube Screamers, but can be had for as little as $130 — much cheaper than a vintage TS-808, right! Fortunately version that turned me was from the early 80s with a 4558 IC.
Recently I was lucky to win a bid for one with a broken AC jack for $100. However there are a few cheaper alternatives, like the Noah’s Ark Yellow. This has a 4558 chip, and sounds really close, plus it’s true-bypass so I can put it before my fuzz in my chain.
There’s also the mini Valeton OD-10. Candidly inspired by the OD-1, it looks great, and will easily fit in your pocket or guitar case, but that means it’s too small for an internal battery, and needs a power supply. It’s so tiny that I didn’t bother opening this one up.
Does a quad opamp sound better? I still haven’t played a Boss OD-1 with the late-70’s quad opamp so I can’t say, but Analog Mike says it does. He also says you can get very close to the sound of the early ones by changing capacitors, resistors and using a second opamp instead of transistor buffers.
However there is company in Japan called Aldente Effects who make a boutique OD-1 clone using a dual 4558 for about $220, and respectfully named it the Over Drive One. I asked them about this, and they strongly feel the later versions are indeed an improvement over the first pedals Boss made in the late-70s, and that the true sound of the OD-1 comes from the transistors — NOT the opamp.
Before droping a C-bill on my own pedal, I read a great post on TRPRI by 11 Gauge about the evolution of Boss overdrives , and was surprised to find that the discontinued OD-2 and newer Boss OD-3 use transistors, rather than opamps. The Boss OD-3 was by far and above the best Boss overdrive I ever heard, before I tried the OD-1. The Boss Book says the OD-2 was originally designed to capture the sound of the OD-1. To my ear it does not at all, and sounds like it has an identity crisis. The OD-1 sounds like a BOSS. Get it?
Although the original integrated circuit packages (ICs) Boss used to make their first overdrives in the seveties are long out of production, quad opamps are not obsolete. Texas Instruments still makes them, and some find their way into new overdrive pedals like Studio Daydream’s Trad Note pedal. Maybe someday I’ll find one, and blog about it here…