The first descendant of the original Boss OD-1 overdrive, the Boss SD-1 is a well established and reasonably priced overdrive pedal. The main revision from the original OD-1 is the Tone control that allows a play to adjust the high end of the overdrive sound. Despite this aim the pedal sounds less mid-range driven with more bass then then the short lived OD-1.
Like the Ibanez TS-9 that was designed during the same period, the controls are super simple. Just your classic level, tone and drive (gain) controls. Usual Boss 9v power supply and 9v battery power options, FET foot-switch and status LED.
The gain stage in this pedal is gritty with a full mid range and high, and a slight bass scoop. With a fender style clean and lower gain settings (7-9 o’clock, level 12-5 – o’clock, tone to taste) the pedal adds a sharp honk to blues playing on the bridge pick-up. Switching to the neck it adds a lot of fullness and brightens it up enough for lead work. At these setting the gain with clean up with the volume rolled off if you wanted an always on tone.
Pushing the gain harder (9-1 o’clock) and backing off the level (12-3 o’clock) gives a bright usable crunch tones that boarder on distortion territory. With a bridge pick-up this is my favorite tone in the pedal, bright, crunchy with just enough note definition on chords. And it’ll still clean up. Pushing the gain harder (1-3 o’clock) gives a great lead tone on the bridge, add some more brightness with the tone control a fat woman tone to the neck.
Beyond that the gain gets muddy and noisy. This brings me onto another point. The pedal is noisy with a lot of background hiss and hum which is made a lot worse with single coil pick-ups. Also even when bypassed there seems to be a slight bleed through to the bypassed signal, not huge amounts but noticeable. And sadly as a boost to higher gain amp settings it doesn’t tighten up the bass end and cut enough for me. Perhaps Zakk Wylde had a rig better suited to this
Conclusion – 6/10
The pedal shines shines with lower gain settings on cleaner amplifiers giving punchy blues lead boosts and mild crunch tones (think Malcolm Young on a budget). Anything beyond that and there are better options. It should be noted that these sell for a measly £45 in the UK and even less second-hand. And for a young blues rock guitarist you could do a lot worse.
Pros – Good, low budget blues and rock tones. Solid build quality.
Cons – Muddy at higher gain levels, un-friendly levels of background noise, bypass bleed.