Boss pedals' uniform shape, distinctive colorways and general air of practical reliability made them pioneers of the pedal world. And over its near-five-decade history, the company has made an insane number of stompboxes.
For every safe, sensible mild overdrive pedal there is a bonkers feedback instigator or – before pedal amps were as popular as they are now – an attempt to wedge an entire Fender amp inside a stompbox.
In this article, we’re going to highlight some long-forgotten treasures from the vast Boss back catalogue. We’ve even gone one step further and tried to point you in the direction of where some of these prized pedals may be lurking, should the temptation to buy hit you.
Due to the nature of these pedals being discontinued, they aren’t always the easiest to find and your search may turn global, but it helps if you know where to look. Enjoy!
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Mention the word ‘feedback’ and you’ll probably think of that awful, high-pitched squealing you get when you place a microphone too close to a speaker. For years, however, electric guitar players have known that – if controlled well – feedback can be hugely musical. Using feedback and your guitar’s volume knob, for example, you can coax violin-esque swells from your guitar.
The Boss FB-2 was a pedal designed to do just this; boost your signal enough to push it into feedback, upon which you could create all kinds of interesting and unique textures.
Shop Boss FB-2 Feedbacker/Booster
Shop Boss FBM-1 Fender ’59 Bassman
Certain amplifiers are prized for being able to produce a specific tone or sound. The Fender Bassman is one such amp, known within guitar circles for its fat, rich tone which suited blues and country styles perfectly.
Using its COSM modelling technology, Boss attempted to capture some of that magic in the Boss FBM-1, modelled directly on the Fender ’59 Bassman. It had plenty of control over the EQ and tone, and worked well as a pre-gain pedal to help drive overdriven amps further into natural harmonic overdrive.
There are pedals on this list that inspire nostalgia. There are pedals on here from which the foundations were laid for future classics. And then, carving its own niche, there’s the Boss Heavy Metal, or HM-2.
Born in 1983, the HM-2 is responsible for a unique interpretation of a metal tone, typically associated with the sound of Swedish death metal; where other pedals pushed tube amps into further distortion, the HM-2 hit them with a chainsaw to the face. Designed initially to emulate those classic scooped Marshall stacks, in reality it gained popularity thanks its unique take on a high gain tone. A subtle pedal this was not.
In recent years, it has seen something of a resurgence thanks to producers like Kurt Ballou, and you can still find them on the pre-owned market primed and ready to melt faces and make recording engineers weep.
Shop Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal
It isn’t like electric guitar players have a total monopoly on guitar pedals. Ok, a near-monopoly, but not a total one. The Boss AD-3 is one such example, offering electro-acoustic players a small but perfectly formed selection of tone-shaping controls to fine-tune a sound for performance.
It also added in chorus and reverb to add a splash of color, while the anti-feedback facility was a god-send if the front of house engineer was a touch over-zealous with his faders.
Shop Boss AD-3 Acoustic Processor
If there’s one thing Boss has produced a lot of over the years, it’s distortion pedals. Gain for every style or genre, from the classic DS-1 through to the more extreme stylings of the Metal Zone, they’ve done them all.
But it’s the Boss XT-2 we find ourselves missing, if only for nostalgic reasons. The XT-2 had specific ways of sculpting your gain using punch and contour controls, making it among the more versatile distortions of its time.
Shop Boss XT-2 Xtortion
Some of the pedals in the list will be easier to track down than others. The Boss SG-1, on the other hand, is among the most sought-after discontinued pedals there is. Functionally, it filtered out the attack of your notes, causing them to swell naturally.
Two knobs gave control over the length of the attack, and of how sensitive the pedal was when picking up your sound. These really are rare, but do crop up from time to time. If you do find one, you can realistically expect it cost you a serious wedge of cash…
Shop Boss SG-1 Slow Gear
Some discontinued pedals are so well thought of that even the brands themselves miss them. The Boss VB-2 is a great example of this, as it was brought back out of retirement as part of the Waza Craft series in 2016.
The original, which still attracts big money on the pre-owned market, enabled players to apply gentle vibrato to their playing without using their fingers. It was discontinued in 1986 but you can still find originals on the market today.
Shop Boss VB-2 Vibrato
Some pedals are so simple to use, with just to or three controls to learn. Others, like the Boss PS-3 Pitch Shifter / Delay, require at least a few sessions with the manual to hand to get the most out of.
Packing in the benefits of a pitch shifter and a lengthy delay, the PS-3 was one for the experimentalists. It offered seven pitch-shift modes, three delays and an expression mode.
It was never likely to be the cornerstone of anyone’s live rig – aside from alt-rock favorites Cave In – but its uniqueness was also what made it so cool; there really isn’t much else like it, even to this day.
Shop Boss PS-3 Pitch Shifter / Delay
You’d think, for a brand with so many pedals under its belt, that a basic everyman delay pedal would be somewhere in the line-up. Then again, this is Boss, right? The Boss DM-2 was the last time it had something akin to a ‘normal’ analog delay in its roster, yet it only lasted three years on the market.
Shop Boss DM-3 Delay
The final pedal on the list is also the perhaps one of the rarest. Despite being on the market for a little over a year, the Boss DSD-2 arguably paved the way for the more modern phenomenon that is loop pedals.
By today’s standards, 0.8 seconds of available recording time is minuscule, but in 1985 it was near revolutionary. It was succeeded shortly after by the Boss DSD-3 which, thanks to advancements in technology, was cheaper than the DSD-2 but was then also discontinued in 1988. Sure, you could just go ahead and get a looper, but they’re nowhere near as cool as the pedal that started it all.
Shop Boss DSD-2 Digital Sampler / Delay
Hopefully we’ve dispelled the myth that Boss is the ‘safe and sensible’ guitar pedal company. As you’ll see from the list, they’re responsible for some of the most sought-after, valuable and interesting pedals on the used market today.
Some of the models listed above are pretty rare, so you can expect to pay top dollar for them, and your search may take you to the other side of the world, but it’s all about the thrill of the chase as a vintage pedal fan.
So, next time you’re weighing up whether to go with a Boss pedal, keep an eye on its future value; in a few years’ time it may prove to have been a very worthwhile investment…