Boss DS-1w Waza Craft Review
Verdict and Review Summary
The long-awaited Waza Craft release of a familiar classic improves significantly on the original and adds a second mode for some flexibility that was wanting in earlier - post Japan - models. When the dust settles, it's all about circuit quality.
Circuit quality makes a big of difference.
If you do some digging into the op-amps used in the original DS-1, after the Japan production era, you'll see what I mean. These circuits were technically analog, but only cost a few cents each, which is a big part of why the Boss DS-1 was sold for such a low price.
For years I remember you could easily get one of the DS-1 pedals for about 40 bucks, give or take.
And that was a huge part of its popularity. That, and adoption from the likes of Kurt Cobain, Joe Satriani, and a slew of other guitar household names.
To date, it's one of the most recognizable guitar pedals in existence.
The DS-1w Era
All this to say:
I was intrigued to try the DS-1w from the Waza Craft series, which Boss has done a fantastic job with. In the DS-1w, we get a revamped circuit (you can see the difference in the price tag), an additional custom distortion mode, and a pedal that has improved significantly over the original.
That is, of course, my opinion.
Read on for my full Boss DS-1w review with all the details.
Few topics seem to upset people like the Boss DS-1. So keep in mind that these reviews are opinion and should be understood in that context. That said, we tested the DS-1w in-house before writing. We do not use ghost writers, third party marketing firms, or content from people who are not musicians. Note that we do use partner links from Sweetwater, so if you click through our orange buttons and make a purchase, we might earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
Compare to Other Boss Distortion Pedals
There are a lot of Boss distortion pedals to consider, so we've put just a few in here for some easy comparing. Launch the search tool below to find more pedals that you can add to the comparison bar.
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Boss DS-1w Price Tables
Pricing up to date as of Fri, September 29th, 2023.
Pricing from Sweetwater
Price Alert Tool
IDEAL FOR: Grunge, vintage distortion styles, rhythm, power chords, classic rock, analog circuit fans, and heavy blues styles
Overall Tone Quality of the DS-1w
The profile of the DS-1w is still very vintage and grungy. It has some blues hints to it, but the meta narrative of this pedal is edgy with some governing subtlety. It somehow pushes out a lot of grit while managing to reign itself in.
I liked the variety of gain I was able to get, both on the high and low end. Here's our demo:
Grit and Saturation Levels
There's a lot of smoothness that dovetails with the gritty high end, but it never sounds thin or too raspy.
I was particularly impressed with how it responded on higher gain settings, which I thought were a significant improvement over the original. It's just smoother and warmer, which is evidence of the much nicer analog circuit used in this pedal.
In custom mode with gain pushed up, the DS-1w almost sounds metal - almost.
It's still not what I would call saturated, but it does put out some decent low-end.
Sustain and Low Gain Settings
To my ear it also had a lot more sustain than the DS-1. It's hard for vintage-esque distortion to achieve a lot of sustain with lower gain levels, but the DS-1w handles this balance pretty well.
I'd still say it's most at home with the gain lowered. In Standard mode with the Dist knob down around 10 o'clock is where I thought the pedal was most effective.
Even there, I got a lot of sustain.
From a tone perspective, you really can't complain about the DS-1w.
Control and Modes
The Boss DS-1w reprises the same controls from the original DS-1.
There's also a switch to select the original Standard DS-1 mode or the new Custom mode. The Custom mode is heavier and more versatile than the original, which addresses some of the lack of flexibility in the original.
It's a big part of what puts the DS-1w in a much better position than its predecessors.
While limited, the controls provide a lot of variety.
Having the gain knob low is worlds different than the high gain sound.
Single-band EQ controls from distortion sources are limiting, but Boss did a good job of getting you a lot of mileage from the Dist and Tone knob.
Inputs and Outputs
Nothing fancy here. The DS-1w has a single input and output for an instrument cable.
Any 9V DC power supply will work. I used a Voodoo Lab ISO-5 for testing, but you can use an individual adaptor or battery (9V battery).
Price, Value, and the New Circuit
Let's go back to what I mentioned about the op-amps used in the original DS-1. Those were implemented after the Japanese manufacturing era, which is why made-in-Japan versions of Boss pedals are so heavily sought after on used markets.
The op-amps are just really cheap - analog, but cheap.
As I mentioned, they are just a few cents each and are easily mass produced.
Here's how Boss describes the circuit in the DS-1w:
Enhanced design includes a 2-stage gain circuit made with discrete analog components
To be clear:
I do not fully understand the intricate technical aspects of this design. However, I can guarantee that it's far nicer than the components in the original DS-1, thus accounting for the nearly $100 price difference between the two.
The fact that Boss is also upfront about the analog circuit in the DS-1w, while making zero mention of it in their DS-1 product descriptions, should also tell you that the price is fair and based on significant improvements.
It's the analog circuit and the ensuing sound quality that makes this pedal worth the added cost.
For fans of the original DS-1, this is absolutely a worthwhile upgrade.
Where does the DS-1w fit in?
For the DS-1w it's still all about the early '90s and the Kurt Cobain distortion style. Wherever that sound is imitated the DS-1w will be a great fit, and there are plenty of modern styles that have adopted the grungier type of distortion.
If that's your wheelhouse, the DS-1w will feel right at home.
Concluding our Review
Boss really struck gold with the Waza Craft series. They've put a lot of the appeal they had with their older pedals back into a current line, and the DS-1w continues that successful trend.
Coming from someone who was not a huge fan of the original DS-1, the DS-1w really sold me on a distortion style that I don't normally use.
If it's a grungy or grainy saturation you're after, buy confidently.
For questions, hit the comments section and I'll help as much as possible.