Of all the pedal brands I collect - I seem to have ended up with significantly more Boss than anything else - with currently 27 Boss Pedals all told. And while it’s not always the case that Boss has the most pedals represented in my active pedal-chain - it just so happens that right now my active Boss pedals number 7 - as follows per pedal-chain order:
Of the 7, I have 3 must-have perennial favourites - the Keeley Modded BD-2, and the Alchemy Modded NS-2 and GE-7 - those are very unlikely to be ever shifted out of position. Each of those pedals does exactly what I want, and even though say I have considered the TC Electronic Sentry as a replacement for the NS-2 there really is no significant point to it as I deem the NS-2 already pretty much perfect for my needs. I have dabbled over the years with alternatives - but these have seen all those off and are there for the duration.
Of the newer ones I feel each could do with some little improvements - but probably the DD-200 and RC-10R are closest to where I want them to be and there is nothing in the way of fully-fledged alternatives currently. Actually same is largely true of the SY-1 and OD-200 - while I can see potential pedal improvements, and if another were to offer those up - I would certainly be willing to give those a go.
Of the 9 listed above - these are all perennial favourites and to date I own exactly 7 of the 9. Pictured first is the BD-2W Waza Craft Blues Driver which is supposedly largely based on the Keeley Phat Mod, but does not have exactly the same frequency profile - for most though it is really plenty close enough - while the Keeley Modded BD-2 is my very favourite overdrive pedal of all time!
In fact before I got my hands on a Keeley BD-2 I used the Blues Driver side of the JB-2 Angry Driver - which probably just edges the Metal Zone as my favourite Boss distortion pedal. The combination of Blues Driver and Angry Charlie voicing gives you the most fantastic of richly textured Marshall-style distortions - like a really beautifully modded JCM800 with extra special sauce. That’s not to take away from the newer Waza Craft Metal Zone - which may be in part developed towards the Keeley Twilight Zone Modded Pedal - which I also have. Because of the 3-band EQ with parametric mids though - and in Custom mode - it is far easier to get even closer to the Twilight Zone Mod than the single Tone-knob BD-2W can get to the Phat Mod edition. I feel that those 3 dirt pedals are The Boss dirt pedals for me - above other such classics as the OD-1, SD-1 and DS-1.
In the middle row we have the aforementioned perennial NS-2 and GE-7 - followed by the superb and unique Dimension C Waza Craft with its custom Dimension D mode. There are plenty of amazing analog chorus effects to be had out there - including Boss’s other classic - the CE-2W. While I feel that the combination of click-switch controls here - just the pure simplicity of this pedal makes it stand out from all other choruses. In any case this is more of a sort of phasey chorus - so it’s really its own thing as such. It’s the only one here I don’t have in any format yet - but I am looking to setting the record straight on that any day now.
The bottom row consists of some of my further long-stay pedals - including the fantastic MD-500 and RV-500. I never ended up getting the DD-500 - going instead with the Empress EchoSystem at the time, and more recently having switched to the Strymon Volante being support by the DD-200. I feel Boss got the formula exactly right on the DD-200 - the algorithms featured and the ease of applying tap-divisions and key parameter controls. While the formula for the MD-200 is not quite right in my opinion and the MD-500 is a much better pedal in that area - while both could really do with the addition of Harmonic Tremolo; and the Dimension-C being absent from the MD-200 is a big miss. Boss is of course concerned about cannibalising its own sales - but needs to be aware of competing pedals in the same area - like the GFI Synesthesia and Wampler Terraform. So in terms of my appraisal and approval I would way take the MD-500 over the MD-200, while the DD-200 is close enough to the DD-500 to be really worthwhile (besides I don’t have the real-estate for the larger one) - and thus far we don’t have a RV-200 - but the RV-500 is solidly still one of the very best reverbs out there, and one that I prefer to my previous incumbent Strymon BigSky on that same slot.
I will provide a few more details on each below and how and why I find them so endearing and enduring - and then further down I have listed the ’Best Boss Pedals Longlist’ which includes mention of all those pedals I considered - and the specific version or variation of each - for Boss it’s not always the latest version that is considered the greatest. There is still a lot of love for the Series 2 pedals that came out from 1979 through to around 1998 - which includes almost all of the Waza Craft Re-issue forebears.
Note that these are My preferences and My choices - so there is no point in saying I have overlooked or omitted one or two - this is after all MY selection! I have arranged them in logical pedalboard order above. I run my noisier dirt pedals through the loop of the NS-2, and then follow that by the GE-7 to tweak and balance the signal - then I have my analog modulations, and my stereo digital modulations and time-based effects - exactly per the running order. Note also further related Boss pedal selections down this page - to help you make better informed choices for your own pedalboard! :
My favourite all-time overdrive/distortion pedal and a firm fixture in my pedal-chain is the Keeley Freak Fuzz Modded BD-2 Blues Driver which features 2 exterior surface-mounted germanium transistors alongside a number of internal component swaps to give more balanced low-end frequencies and more harmonic content overall. The Freak Fuzz Edition consists of both the Freak Fuzz Mod (Fuzz-style-voicing), along with the low-end Phat Mod - which is what Boss supposedly modelled the BD-2W custom mode on. I have yet to acquire a BD-2W per se - but have done several head-to-heads with my Keeley BD-2 - and I somewhat prefer my own modded version - which does slightly more magical things in the low and lower mids frequencies. That said - the Boss BD-2W still sounds amazing and does near enough everything that the Keeley one does - it works beautifully with your guitar volume knob too - and you can go from pretty clean to very distorted in a sort of 1/2 a rotation of that knob. Many also use the Blues Driver for that kind of Fuzz Face clean chime thing - where you turn the gain pretty much all the way down, and use the BD-2 as a tone-texturises / tone-sweetener to add more chime to your signal and enhance the tones of the further downstream pedals in your chain. The completist in me wants to add the BD-2W to the collection - while I still consider the Keeley Freak Fuzz edition slightly superior. In any case - the Blues Driver is just an amazing overdrive to distortion pedal - which in these edition formats has incredibly rich and textured overdrive character. I would go as far as to say that the Keeley Freak Fuzz modded BD-2 is probably one of the key cornerstones of my sound.
I have featured this pedal a lot on this site - and in fact I had it in my chain before I acquired my Keeley Modded BD-2. This is just the perfect marriage of two very complementary circuits. The Blues Driver half already has a sort of Marshalliness about it, and when combined in parallel with the JCM800 style voicing of the JHS Angry Charlie side - the pedal just sounds magnificent - particularly in parallel mode. I have said several times that I would have preferred a dual footswitch version of this pedal where you could switch on both halves independently and both switches together for combination. As it is you need to acquire a second external auxiliary footswitch for that versus the kind of approach Jackson Audio does so well nowadays. In any case the JB-2 gives you Blues Driver and JCM800 in the same unit and you can run the channel is series and parallel with some clever footswitch options - but this pedal could have been even greater with dual footswitches. It's still a fantastic pedal in its own right and my second favourite all-time Boss dirt pedal. For some reason people still tend to overlook this one a little - while the Blues Driver and Angry Charlie circuits are so complementary they really sound that they were made for each other. More people should give this one a go!
Much like the Keeley Blues Driver, I believe the Waza Edition of the Metal Zone was modelled to a degree after Keeley's Twilight Zone edition of that pedal - which I also have. In fact I have both the Keeley and Waza editions of these pedals and really like both. Like the Blues Drivers - they are not exactly the same - but the extended EQ control you get with the Metal Zone means you can dial things in a lot closer than with just the single Tone control of a Blues Driver. The Metal Zone's parametric mids have often proved problematic in the past - too many users don't have the patience or finesse to dial the mids in appropriately. The older Metal Zone can still be made to sound amazing - while the calibration tweaks on the Waza Craft and its tighter / more modern Custom voicing bring it bang up-to-date really with more modern metal trends. The Waxa Craft Metal Zone is a definite chameleon and still has huge range to it, but both default voicings have been better tuned-in than on the predecessor - while the range and calibration of the EQ dials also seems to have been significantly improved - which makes the newer pedal just an all-round better proposition. I actually really like both the Keeley Twilight Zone edition and the Waza Craft version - and feel you would/should be delighted with either - providing you have the patience to dial things in properly. This is still Boss's second best all-time seller after the DS-1 as far as I am aware - so despite all the negative memes there really are lots of players out there that still love this pedal. Both my Metal Zone editions make a fairly regular rotation into the pedal-chain - while they are not so much longer-terms mainstays compared to the Blues Driver or Angry Driver.
I believe Boss pretty much invented the format of this - where you have a separate sort of effects loop for your noisier pedals, but can route your cleaner ones through unadulterated. I've actually had two versions of these - the default Boss version, and an Alchemy Audio modded version with some superior components for better signal-to-noise ratio - which is the version that has been firmly welded to the pedal-chain almost from the start. I tried an ISP Decimator G-String at one stage - but felt my modded Boss performed better - and while the TC Electronic Sentry has a couple more feature options to it - my Alchemy NS-2 really performs so fantastically that I've kind of decided that it's the perfect pedal for me in that area and that it does exactly what I need - meaning I really don't need the extra TC Electronic features. I believe the Boss is still largely the industry standard in this area although a number of metal amp makers have been bringing out their own noise gates of late - e.g. Fortin. For me though the Alchemy Audio NS-2 is just perfect and it really does not need replacing.
This is another of my Alchemy Audio Modified pedals which improves on the noisefloor of the original via some superior components. Form-factor though this is perfect for me - while the new EQ-200 is just a little too much and a little too large for me to accommodate within my pedal-chain. I've reviewed all the existing compact box alternatives - and there's nothing really that can properly compete with those 7-essential hands-on tweakable bands. I like the idea of the Source Audio EQ2 - but there is no proper hands-on tweakability with such a digital display. My absolute perfect version of this would be a compact automatone format variety with automated motorised sliders and say 4-6 presets. The presets are really the only thing I'm missing - and I don't really want or need more than 7 well-chosen bands. In my case I have a number of different EQ-enabled pedals throughout my signal chain - and the GE-7 sits right after the NS-2 Noise Suppressor - in order to elegantly add in any high frequencies in particular which may have been sucked out by the noise gate and extended pedal-run / patch cables. I tend to use other tone-sculpting pedals for the various mid-range values throughout the chain - the GE-7 deals largely just with the top frequencies - while sometimes it is also used to smooth out the bass - i.e. remove any hint of flubbiness.
Another reissue of a Series 2 pedal - this time the Dimension C Spatial/Spectral Enhancer from 1985. It's actually a sort of dual directional phasey chorus effect with actually 10 different levels of intensity in the Waza Craft Edition as you can click on each button individually 1-4, or in pairs - 1+2, 1+3, 1+4, 2+3, 2+4, and 3+4. The Waza edition covers both the original pedal Dimension C, and then its custom switch turns it into the Roland Dimension D Rack Chorus equivalent - which has a significantly higher/deeper intensity overall. So you get 2 modes x 10 variations - which is actually selected in a really easy manner - so no difficulty in memorising exactly where the dials have to be set. I find this sort of chorus utterly unique and singularly appealing, and I really should have brought one in earlier - but I was having too much fun with my incumbent Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl MKII! I will for sure have a DC-2W in the rotation at some stage this year - certainly by year-end.
My very first Modulation Workstation like many was the Strymon Mobius - but when the MD-500 materialised in 2017 with all those fantastic Boss Choruses and Dual Simultaneous Playback Ability I fairly leapt at the chance of getting one - and it served me very faithfully in preference to my Mobius - right up until the Empress Zoia was released. I intended to use the Zoia in the main for multiple dual digital modulations - but also all manner of clever new modular effects - taking on the best of my Eventide H9 Max and the MD-500. It's lack of knobs and genuine hands-on interface then led me to the GFI System Synesthesia - where I'm happily parked at the moment - that offers Dual Simultaneous Modulation across 22 algorithms with hand-on controls for both Channels - going up to 30+ algorithms in March. Up until that point I had been eyeing up the Wampler Terraform too. But in the area of Dual Simultaneous Modulations - there is really only the MD-500 and the GFI Synesthesia currently. Right now the Wampler Terraform has the best mix of algorithms in one unit - while the Synesthesia will surely surpass it in March, and the MD-500 could really do with the addition of Harmonic Tremolo - otherwise it's a pretty amazing unit. For depth of control the MD-500 stands on its own really. I was personally a little disappointed with the MD-200 as the Wampler Terraform has a better mix of algorithms and more intuitive controls. The lack of both Dimension C and Harmonic Tremolo in the MD-200 are significant misses for me in being out of line with current trends. That's why the MD-500 is still a major Multi-Modulation contender for me.
I feel this is the most perfectly formed of the new 200 series - the EQ-200 and OD-200 are really decent but with flaws, and the MD-200 as mentioned is not quite what it could have / should have been - and for me is somewhat overshadowed by the Wampler Terraform in a similar size factor. The DD-200 though really is just the perfect mix of algorithms, format and features - and it works effortlessly intuitively too. Boss cleverly covered all the essential algorithms here - including the really cool Tera Echo EchoVerb - which kind of sealed the deal for me. The larger 500 series workstations are incredibly highly configurable - and you can do almost everything you would want to with the algorithms and triple footswitches and functional assignment - but all that comes with a lot of complexity - particularly on the RV-500 pedal which combines both Reverb and Delay in duplicate. I used to have the Strymon TimeLine Delay Workstation - but then switched to the Empress EchoSystem in the main, and then the Strymon Volante + Red Panda Particle V2 - while nowadays it's the Strymon Volante plus the DD-200. The DD-200 is the perfect fit and format for my current active pedal-chain - I can't really fit in a bigger pedal on that slot - and in combination with the Strymon Volante and Eventide H9 Max - those 3 delivery pretty much every delay I would want. I have of course considered the Source Audio Nemesis and DD-500 - but for combination of features, algorithms and footprint - the DD-200 really is perfect for me and a significant contender at any size - and I expect it to be a pretty long-term fixture. In my opinion though - the best all-rounder delay is still currently the Empress EchoSystem- but that in turn could do with some improvement in its control topology - and would probably benefit from some sort of screen really.
For the longest time this Dual Simultaneous Reverb Workstation has sort of been the pinnacle of Reverb pedals - there is so much going on under the hood here - and it took me several weeks to fully get to grips with all the special functions and default assignments for footswitches per algorithms - and how you could independently or automatically trigger the optional companion delay for each Reverb. It means you are actually handling 4 algorithms simultaneously and defining how the footswitches activate and control their combinations - secondary effects etc. I had initially intended to wait for the already announced Source Audio Ventris - but the Boss unit was out so much the quicker and I took a chance on that instead. Only latterly did I decide to re-focus somewhat and simplify my main Reverb component - which I also use in combination with Reverbs on the Eventide H9 Max - and finally went for the Source Audio Ventris - nearly a year on from its release. I still love/d the RV-500 when I semi-retired it. Currently I am so smitten by the GFI Synesthesia that I'm waiting for GFI to issue an updated Specular Tempus V2 in that very same format. In the meantime the forthcoming EHX Oceans 12 Dual Stereo Reverb has somewhat caught my eye - and since the Specular Tempus 2 is at least a year away, I think I may just try out the Oceans 12 on rotation with the Ventris. I had considered the Meris Mercury 7 too for this role, but have decided that I so like the dual reverb ability - that I'd like to stick with that format. And I feel that right now the EHX Oceans 12 offers the best mix of more compact form factor with full surface controls - that control topology is really smart with really obvious modes and secondary functions. Throughout this the RV-500 most likely still remains as the best 'pro' choice as it has such a high degree of configurability and versatility. Of the 500 series - the RV-500 is very likely still the standout choice - and so far with no RV-200 - the only properly advanced Reverb offering Boss has. I do feel that Boss though updated/upgraded its key delays in 2019 - so perhaps we will see an RV-7 and RV-200 in time for Summer NAMM. If so - I sincerely hope Boss has learned its lesson from the MD-200 - and that it includes the essential Space Echo algorithm on the pedal - otherwise that would be a really big miss / missed opportunity!
Here below is the original list of Boss pedals that I considered before I distilled down my 9 Essential Favourites. I believe it contains all the obvious contenders alongside some fringe candidates. The only deliberate omission here is the TR-2 Tremolo which I believe is somewhat flawed by its low output. I have an Alchemy Audio Modded Version of a TR-2 with additional Level control which 'fixes' the flaw - but that is the reason I excluded the TR-2. Generally I feel that there are a number of improved Modded Boss Pedals available, but in most cases the original unaltered versions of those are pretty perfect too. It's only really the TR-2 (which sounds great by the way) which falls foul of this flaws ruling as far as I am aware.
I have 7 of the Waza Craft Editions featured here out of the 8 - in fact all bar the TU-3W Tuner which I believe is not nearly as legible as the standard TU-3 and thus drops in its favour.
In any case if you don't like my 9 personal essential choices - then you can surely pick your own favourites from this longest! :
(alphabetical - ordered by name)
*E* = Essential
While doing this research I came across the same Roland Australia Page which I often do - which features a list of the 10 most commonly seen Boss pedals on Pro Pedalboards - perhaps you prefer some from this list :
And finally here is a kinda sorta Boss Best-Seller list based on extrapolated data from several sources, but possibly out of date by now! The top 2 I think are still clearly ahead - we've heard for years that the DS-1 Distortion is Boss's best-selling pedal, and that the MT-2 Metal Zone is the second most sold of all time.
For the remainder of the list I've just placed them by date order really as an indication to how long-term successful they must be as they are still being maintained in the range - which has to mean that sales figures support their continued inclusion!
In any case I'm not sure it's necessarily in Boss's best interests to reveal the exact sales figures for all its pedals as it can have negative as well as positive impact. I do feel though that this list is pretty representative - by all means correct me if my analysis is out of whack here!
The following is the status of my Boss collection / selection to date - with 7 of these on active duty in my current pedal-chain. Some of these have additional / alternative unadulterated versions - particularly for Modded varieties. But I choose to list by specific type alone.
Most of these get in on a fairly regular rotation - although there are some slightly more leftfield choices here - that it's nice to have, but that I make use of fairly rarely - including the Digital Metalizer and Xtortion. I'm no where close to complete though - and have several more Boss pedals on my wishlist - as immediately below:
Top of my list to get this year are the Classic Boss Choruses - CE-2W and DC-2W. I've also long wanted a BD-2W for the collection, but it's never going to unseat my Keeley Freak Fuzz Modded Version - I just need closure and completion on that chapter - so it's not a priority.
I really want to complete my trilogy of Keeley Modded Boss pedals too - with a proper Ultra + All Seeing Eye DS-1 version in good condition - and one modded by Robert Keeley himself rather one of the many copycats.
There are a number of Prince Favourites here which are really a nice to have as I doubt they will be regulars on the pedal-chain rotation. While I'm also still trying to track down an original OD-1 in good condition. I try to find Japanese sourced Excellent or Very Good pedals really - as they tend to be in very decent nick. The Japanese are generally very accurate and lean towards caution on their condition categorising while Americans in general tend to overuse/misuse the descriptors 'Mint' and 'Excellent'.
This is another one of those rolling Wishlists - and priorities will chop and change depending on what gets released, where in the world, and at what price. Price and availability + condition are obviously the key factors here. The aim was to make 2020 a sort of Year of Boss - and put some added emphasis on rounding out this part of my collection - but as always it really depends on what is available and what is happening at the same time. I would look to add somewhere between 6 and 10 pedals from the following this year - definitely the two Choruses - possibly a focus on acquiring the remaining Waza Craft Editions; and we'll see about the suitability, pertinence and timeliness of the rest! :
(pedals listed by serial number)
Boss is still very much on a roll and since its relatively recent comeback it hasn't really put a foot wrong (perhaps just a touch with the MD-200). But generally Boss is still the force to be reckoned with and is still in the ascendancy on the back of some incredibly strong releases - obviously with the Katana Series of Amps and Accessories, the 200 Series, the ongoing Waza Craft Re-issues and recently updated Delay and Synth ranges. There really is a category-leading pedal contender for every occasion here.
I do question a touch Boss's difference in approach - where with the Katana Range it looks to load the broadest feature set into every single of the devices in the range - this does not seem to be the same case for its pedals. Case in point is the MD-200 - which really is an inferior version when you compare the DD-200 against its DD-500 predecessor / originator. I can understand that Boss wants to avoid cannibalisation of its own pedals and limit its competition with itself. But then the competitors aren't going to do that - they are going to load in the very best combination of high-level algorithms and features - including versions of Boss's Dimension C - which Boss then excludes from its own mid-size offering? That does not make sense to me. I sincerely hope Boss does not make the same mistake with its likely forthcoming RV-200 variant.
In my Essentials listing I tried to pick out Boss Pedals that were sufficiently unique and sufficiently stellar performers in their own right when put up against anything in that those same categories - and where the Boss option would be one of if not The strongest choice. As mentioned - I really would not want to be without my particular variety of Blues Driver - that is my number one Boss Essential - the GE-7 and NS-2 are of course fantastic too, but as utility pedals - they don't really inspire the same level of passion. I stand by all my choices here - I'm sure some will say they prefer the OD-1 or SD-1/W or even DS-1 or another outlier - yet there can be no quibbling over the fact that the Blues Driver, Angry Driver and Metal Zone are distinct voices within their categories.
The DC-2W is of course pretty similarly unique and much copied by others and included on their mid-size modulation workstation pedals. The 200 and 500 series have also been runaway successes - and few will be dissatisfied with those even though several will prefer the smoother more affected tones of Strymon. All Strymon pedals benefit from some really clever High and Low-level frequency filtering - which give them a pretty distinctive sort of Strymon Sheen / Smoothness - in contrast you need to tune the Boss equivalents to your preferences as their EQs are default-set much flatter and neutral. I have and love both for different reasons, while I have been using the Boss MD-500 and RV-500 much more of late than the Strymon equivalents which I still retain.
Which Boss pedal/s suit you best is entirely down to your own preferences. And I've been sucked into the worlds of Chase Bliss and Jackson Audio and GFI System, Meris and Walrus Audio - who all do really clever things with their pedals that Boss doesn't do. Yet right now Boss has the most slots on the board - I mustn't forget ThorpyFX either who are doing increasingly clever things too.
Boss is traditionally very strong in Overdrives and Distortions, Choruses, Flangers and Phasers, Loopers, Loop-Switchers and Multi-FX. As I always say on this blog - there are no wrong choices - just better aligned personal preferences really - and sometimes you want something with a lot of functions and versatility, while at other times you really just want something simple but supremely effective.
I am still something of a fan of Overdrives and Distortions - so that is probably always the Boss area I will come back to first - I also hugely admire Boss's Choruses and Delays in particular. Of all the Big 3 Pedal Makers - Boss, Dunlop/MXR and Electro-Harmonix - Boss is most consistently my category favourite - while other specialist brands do still more interesting things along the margins of possibility. It's very difficult to ever recommend just a single pedal - I typically give a range of options within specified criteria - and usually one of those choices has every chance of being a Boss pedal. Boss has had to weather all manner of criticisms over the year - some justified and some which still ring true today. But overall Boss has continued to consistently improve and innovate - and has very much reclaimed its place at the forefront of pedal innovation - despite the somewhat limiting form-factor of the 1977 standard single-latch-plate compact enclosure!
This listing is not really about encouraging you to acquire what I personally like - rather to hone and refine your own options and selection - so you can build a better pedalboard to your specific preferences and requirements - be more informed - and enjoy your ToneQuest!