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Pedal Design 101 - The Boss Colour Chart and 40 Shades of Tone!

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This article is a natural follow up the Pedal Primary Colour Wheel feature I did back in August, and has actually been on the drawing board for a while. I kind of knew the process would be long-winded and time-consuming - which it was, and I wasn’t sure what formation I would be best off using - so it all evolved somewhat organically with the starting point as a Purple to Red Spectrum Transition with a monochromatic scale tagged onto the end. In any case it ended up in this current format somewhat naturally, and in alignment with the typical spectrum gradient/scale with some minor adjustments, I applied 40 of the key colour tone pedals across this scale - do note that there can be some slight variations/deviations in tonality here.

PT 2

There are subtle variations of shade and hue throughout the range and a few more tonal varieties than I reference, but I settled on 40 as being the ideal number to articulate the rainbow transition. As expected, we end up with large clusters of Blues and Yellows to Reds - with more incidental peripheral solitary shades along the way.

PT 3

I first and foremost selected the specific hue variations, and then my preferred pedal varieties which fit within those hue assignations - to reach this final arrangement. It's by no means a list of my preferred Boss pedals, but more of a hybrid of form and function - where I selected a favourite or two where I could.

PT 4

I've already detailed which of Boss's colour tones have become industry standard benchmarks, per my article on the 'Primary Colour Wheel' and its follow-up features (Colour Means 'X'). And referenced the OD series (Yellow), Tremolo (Teal), Blues Driver (Blue), Chorus (Sky Blue), and Flanger (Magenta/Grape). There were other manufactures that laid claim to a number of shades Boss employs - including Ibanez's Green Tube Screamers vs Boss's Green Phasers, and MXR's Orange Phaser vs Boss's Orange Distortions.

PT 5

My favourite colour sweep is probably the Yellow to Orange to Red to Black for Boss's Drive/Distortion/Metal pedals - which I've sort of adopted in my own 12 Degrees of Saturation spectrum chart. Of course Boss's highly appealing pedal design is not just about the colours - it's also about the very distinctive fonts employed - which Roland are obviously very secretive about.

PT 5.5

Roland Corporation has designed a number of notable fonts over the years including for its TB-303, TR-808 and TR-909 devices. Those fonts fit within a wider pantheon of sci-fi style fonts which share similarities with those engineered for the movies Bladerunner and Terminator. Roland also has the notable Rbio Corporate font pictured above - which though is somewhat different to the Boss Pedal Font - which I'm led to believe is called 'Boss Compact TT'. There have been a number of free font equivalents over the years based on Rbio and Compact TT - Pbio and one called 'Toss' even - which have almost entirely had take-down notices applied against them, and are not available any more. I can totally understand how essential Roland's and Boss's fonts are to their product design, and how Roland would not like the copyists and forgers to get their hands on these fonts in any way. When I do my predicted Boss pedal prototype visuals I copy and paste individual cut out letters - old-school Letraset-style!

PT 6

The Product Design work on the Boss Pedals is quite incredible really - with a lot of depth and attention to detail - and quite a few quirks along the way with different derivations of particular letters deployed. So it's the Colour, plus the Font, plus the various Knob design types employed, and of course that now benchmark latched-plate compact enclosure format which has proved so enduring. I also actually really like that Boss evolved their 200 series in parallel - so they can keep the Compact pedal design as is - while dual footswitches is obviously the way forward for several pedal types, and would / could improve the experience of already great pedals like the JB-2 Angry Driver - as I've detailed before on this site.

PT 7

Even though MXR were active with their own colourful compact range at the time - laying claim to the colours Red (Dyna Comp) and Orange (Phase 45/90) as mentioned - Boss deployed many more innovations in this area which remain industry standard to this day - including the 9V 2.1mm barrel power supply, the ingenious easy-access battery compartment, and the LED Status/Battery Check lights. At the same time MXR pedals were mostly battery-powered and sans LED - and EHX were still shifting those ergonomically and aesthetically challenged big boxes.

PT 8

So it's wholly understandable how I gravitated towards Boss - they might not always provide THE standout performer in a particular category - but they're always in the mix of the top prospects, and do have a large number of bona fide standout classics along the way - some loved and used by leading musicians for 40 years or more now. My all-time favourite musical hero Prince famously deployed an almost entirely Boss pedalboard (example below) - and if it's good enough for him, it should be good enough for anyone. Boss has created the very occasional duffer along the way - probably with the short-lived Power Driver being the best case for that - but those lapses of judgment have been very few and far between and are way in the past now.

PT 9

There was a period some 10 years ago where Boss started to loose some of its supremacy in the marketplace (to companies like TC Electronics), and fall behind the pace of effects pedal innovation, but it's more than made up for that in the recent 3-5 years. From the above top selection of 40, I personally have variations of just 14 of those, while there are 27 in my Boss collection overall - some modded varieties, with 16 more on my current wishlist. This article is in part a homage to Boss's colourful heritage, and a signal for my intentions to make 2020 my 'Year of Boss' where I intend to sure up my Boss Selection and add all those wishlist pedals I've been intending to do for a while.

PT 10

My current Boss wishlist consists of the following, but this will undoubtedly chop and change as new information comes in and my perspective and personal opinions and preferences evolve and change accordingly:

  • BD-2W Blues Driver Waza Craft
  • CE-2W Chorus Waza Craft
  • DC-2W Dimension C Waza Craft
  • DS-1 Distortion with Keeley Ultra and Seeing Eye Mods (I already have numerous DS-1 varieties)
  • DS-2 Turbo Distortion (Prince)
  • EQ-200 10-band Equalizer
  • HM-3 Hyper Metal
  • OD-1 OverDrive
  • OD-1X OverDrive
  • OD-2 Turbo OverDrive (Prince)
  • OD-3 OverDrive
  • PS-6 Harmonist Harmonizer
  • SD-2 Dual OverDrive
  • ST-2 Power Stack
  • VB-2W Vibrato Waza Craft (Prince)
PT 11

I've also speculated on what the next Boss Waza Craft pedals might likely be (current selection is 8) - surely the HM-2 must be due a reissue by now? There are certainly a number of shining stars in the back-catalog that could do with a spruce-up or a reissue. With the breakneck pace of innovation Boss has shown recently - it's kind of exciting to see where they may be headed next. The recent 200 series of pedals has been a real game changer for the industry and I expect to see a lot more similar multi-effect style pedals in Vertical Medium enclosures in the next few years as the other manufacturers catch up with that!

For reference I thought it best to tally the Boss pedals acquired thus far, note that several have duplicates in the collection - e.g. both stock and modded variants:

  1. BC-2 Combo Drive (Top Boosted Vox)
  2. BD-2 Blues Driver Keeley Freak Fuzz Mod (Freak + Phat Mods)
  3. BF-2 Flanger Alchemy Audio Mod
  4. DD-200 Digital Delay Workstation
  5. DS-1 Distortion (40th Anniversary Black)
  6. DS-1 Distortion JHS Synth Mod (40th Anniversary Black)
  7. DS-1X Distortion MDP (Multi Dimension Processing - Boss DSP)
  8. FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz (Super Fuzz)
  9. FZ-3 Fuzz (Fuzz Face)
  10. FZ-5 Fuzz (Fuzz Face/Maestro/Octave)
  11. GE-7 Equalizer Alchemy Audio Mod
  12. JB-2 Angry Driver (Blues Driver + JHS Angry Charlie)
  13. MD-2 Mega Distortion
  14. ML-2 Metal Core
  15. MT-2 Metal Zone Keeley Twilight Zone Mod
  16. MT-2W Metal Zone Waza Craft
  17. MD-500 Modulation Workstation
  18. MZ-2 Digital Metalizer
  19. NS-2 Noise Suppressor Alchemy Audio Mod
  20. OD-200 Hybrid Drive Workstation
  21. PH-1R Phaser (Modded + Blue LED)
  22. RC-10R Rhythm Loop Station
  23. RV-500 Reverb Workstation
  24. SD-1W Super OverDrive Waza Craft
  25. SY-1 Synthesizer
  26. TR-2 Tremolo Alchemy Audio Double Speed Mod
  27. XT-2 Xtortion
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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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