There’s a saying that the only two things that will survive a nuclear strike are cockroaches and Boss pedals. And all joking aside, there is some truth to that. The design of the Boss compact pedal has proven itself to be extremely rugged and durable, no doubt at least in part due to the decisions made right from the beginning to minimize the direct contact between the circuit board and the outside world. The footswitch is connected with wires, rather than being soldered straight to the board. The same for the jacks and pots, which are also secured to the box. This means that outside forces – a singer stepping on the plug going into the pedal, or a lead-footed guitar player stomping on the pedal – will not reach the main circuit board. The most vulnerable point is the adapter jack – especially the type that sits on the circuit board, poking out through a square cutout in the box, since that is the only point of contact between the board and the outside world. But other than that, as long as the box itself isn’t crushed, the pedal will usually survive whatever is thrown at it (or being thrown at things).

The designers of the compact series really got it right, all the way back in 1978. And ever since, even though their design is relatively costly to make (it requires a fair bit of hand-soldering, after all) Boss has been deliberately slow to change and have kept several models in production – some virtually unchanged – for decades. For instance, the SD-1 hasn’t changed materially since it was introduced in 1981. Of course, when designing new pedals, they’ve taken advantage of whatever technical advancements available at the time – not least SMT (surface-mount technology) or SMD (surface-mount device – same thing, different name) components, which allow them to cram much more into the same space. But for the most part, they’ve tended to leave the earlier designs alone, except for when components becoming unavailable forced a redesign (see the DD-3 page for an in-depth on one pedal that has had several such changes).

But all things must pass, as they say. These last few years, some of Boss’ existing pedal designs have received a complete (internal) make-over, with all new circuit board layouts using small SMT (surface-mount technology) components. Let’s dive in, shall we?

DS-1 Distortion

The DS-1 first appeared in 1978, underwent a small change quite early on (that momentary status LED was not a good idea 🙂 ), and then stayed largely the same until 1994. At that time, the DS-1(A) was born, sporting a different op-amp chip which forced a sligthtly redesigned circuit. The adapter jack was moved to the circuit board (easily identifiable by the jack poking out through a cutout, as the pic shows). The adapter jack circuit was also changed to PSA (regulated 9vDC) specs (detailed in the ACA/PSA article).


From there on, the DS-1 only underwent tiny changes – both in 2000 and 2006 the op-amp chip was changed – but the main circuit stayed the same. Until now, that is. Sometime in the later half of 2016, DS-1’s started turning up with a completely different circuit board, named DS-1(B). The pic to the right is nabbed from Analog Man Mike Piera’s Instagram, and shows the new design.  What used to be a circuit board covering the entire box, using through-hole components, have now been shrunk down to just fill the top part of the pedal. And I don’t even think the circuit design is very crowded – with the tiny SMT components, there’s plenty of room to spare.

The black 40th Anniversary DS-1 still uses the old style circuit board (and yet another op-amp chip, by the way). If you can find one of those, you will have yourself a great DS-1 that is mod-able as well!

BD-2 Blues Driver

BD-2(B) vs regular BD-2

This one caught me a bit by surprise – for some reason, I thought this pedal was new enough to not warrant a redesign. But as the picture (another Instagram pic I nabbed off what I believe is a Japanese user – if it’s yours and you want it taken down or be credited, let me know) shows, they did. The original version to the right, with the new BD-2(B) to the left. The new design seems to have appeared mid 2017, and uses the same basic layout as the DS-1. It has a vertical power board that houses the adapter jack, and a horizontal board for the pots and main circuit.

This leaves lots of space in the box, which Boss no doubt utilized in their Blues Driver/JHS Angry Charlie combo pedal, but there are of course downsides to this, as well as benefits. The biggest is the ability to repair or modify the pedal – not all techs are willing to fiddle with the tiny surface-mounted components.

SD-1 Super Overdrive

SD-1(C) LED closeup

Alchemy Audio spotted an SD-1 Super Overdrive with the new circuit board layout and design, similar to the redesigned DS-1 and BD-2. Boss calls this one the SD-1(C) (I don’t know why they skipped ”B”), and it will be much harder to spot from the outside than the others, since it always has used the larger ”external” type adapter jack. But the bottom plate is different, and there are also other subtle cues. The LED is a little different than the normal red 3mm LED Boss has used since forever – this one doesn’t sit quite as high, and it is clear rather than opaque. Even when it isn’t lit, you can still see that it is a red one, especially when ambient light hits it. When the pedal is on you can clearly see the light coming up from inside the LED – as opposed to the whole thing lighting up, as on the older style LED.

”Taiwan” label

The production location for the SD-1 has changed over the years – it started out as Made in Japan (with a black large/rectangular label) and were then moved to Taiwan (first with a black, then later a silver large/rectangular label). All of those have the original circuit board layout, using regular through-hole components. The latest one – the SD-1(C) has the Malaysia back panel, with a black, smaller/less rectangular label.

SD-1(C) main circuit board

One thing that needs to be explored is if the new design has cured the age old bypass bleed issue (which was caused by a circuit board layout problem in the original version – you’ll find an article about that here). I did buy an SD-1(C) with the intention of looking into doing some mods, or rather, if I would find it at all possible to work with the tiny components. Time will tell, but just peeking into the pedal does NOT inspire hope. SMT components come in different package sizes, some of which are quite manageable. However, the engineers at Boss seem to have chosen some of the really small ones. Without a magnifying glass, I find it hard to even pick out some of the individual components. I doubt I’ll be able to get in there with a soldering iron and a pair of tweezers….

GE-7 Graphic Equalizer

Malaysian made SMT GE-7 (left) | Image cred: Mike Piera/Instagram
GE-7 SMT vs regular GE-7

In early March 2021, Analog Man spotted a new version of the GE-7, again with SMT construction (pic lifted from his Instagram). The new version has a smaller, more square, black bottom label (the same style of bottom plate/label as the Made in Japan Waza Craft pedals, just to complicate things), marked ”Made in Malaysia”. Again, as with the DS-1, if you spot a GE-7 with the old style adapter jack, it could be a really old one or one of the new SMT Malaysian made ones. So check for an ACA or PSA sticker, double check the bottom plate etc if you’re looking at a used one and want to know what you’re buying.

”Malaysia” label

One upside to the new construction could be that the old problem with noise (mainly hiss) from the GE-7 may be gone – after all, most of the hiss comes from the use of older/noisier op-amps, and I have tried/used modern takes on this basic design (Danelectro Fish&Chips and the Behringer EQ700, for instance) that have been dead quiet. But that remains to be seen – I haven’t tried the new GE-7 (yet). Of course, any other mods – changes to the input buffer stage, center frequencies in the EQ etc – would be quite hard to do to the new one, due to its construction. So if you’re looking for a GE-7 to mod or have modded, knowing which version you’re looking to buy is essential.

TR-2 Tremolo

Old vs new TR-2 (image cred:

This pedal has already had one redesign in its life – in mid-2006, in order to meet the then new European RoHS standards, Boss were forced to replace certain components. That meant slightly redesigning parts of the circuit board, but since then it has stayed the same. Until around 2021, when a new Made in Malaysia TR-2 appeared, again with the ”external” type adapter jack. And yes, it is also a redesign using SMT parts. I have modified many TR-2’s in my days, mainly to combat the volume drop thing. Again, this new version will be hard to modify – even though I plan on spending some time practising my surface-mount soldering skills, I will most likely limit myself to replacing parts. If at all… In any case, for the foreseeable future, running wires to off-board switches or pots seems to be a few steps too far…

Anyway – if you’re looking to buy a TR-2 to mod, look for a Made in Taiwan bottom plate (silver label) and the ”internal” style adapter jack. I haven’t seen one in the flesh, so I can’t say if the Malaysian TR-2 has the same clear LED as the new SD-1, but the adapter jack and bottom plate will be more than enough to pick it out of a line-up.

What does all this mean, then?

Well, the cheaper construction methods might point towards Boss trying to be slightly more competitive price-wise. But at the same time, they have kept the overall design brief with wire connections for the switch and jacks. That is really good, from a durability standpoint.

This does not seem to be the new overall design brief for (new) Boss pedals – their new designs (SY-1, RE-2, DD-3T etc) seem to use the same basic design as before, with a circuit board that covers the entire footprint of the pedal, and a board-mounted adapter jack poking out through a cutout in the box. The redesigns mentioned in this article share a different layout, with a vertical power board carrying the adapter jack and power components, and the main board (carrying both the main circuit and the pots) underneath. This will work fine for simpler circuits, and there might even be room for a second board above the main board. But as mentioned, new pedals that have been released recently have kept the regular ”circuit board covering the entire base” design.

The new GE-7 being built in Malaysia is interesting – previously, Boss tended to build all new pedals in Japan, and then moving them over to Taiwan after a while (ostensibly to make room for new pedals to be built in the factory in Japan). The other redesigns – BD-2(B), DS-1(B), SD-1(B) – are all built in Taiwan (or at least were, when the pictures were taken). But it could be that they too will eventually move over to Malaysia. Or not – they might decide to fill the capacity of that factory with other things (the DD-3T is built there, I noticed). Time will tell, as I usually say.

But I digress… In any case, for those of us who want to mod pedals – or have them modded for us – this change is not so good. Yes, it can still be done. The circuit is still there, and can be changed the same way as before. But you will need a really big magnifying glass and an extremely stable hand, to replace these tiny components. They are so small, that even seeing the numbers (to determine what kind of component it is, and its value) is really hard. And I haven’t seen any service manuals for these ”(B)” versions leak out on the internet yet, so identifying individual parts of the circuit will be a little harder. Finally, adding off-board components (such as different clipping diode options on a switch) will be much harder to do. Thus, I suspect most modders will take a pass on these. And the same goes for repairs, sadly. While Boss compacts have a reputation for being sensationally sturdy, even they will sometimes fail – usually by the hands of owners who accidentally use the wrong power adapter 🙂 And while fixing pedals damaged that way used to be quite simple, it will be much harder with these new designs.

How do I know?

Many of the new design pedals can be easily identified from the outside, since the adapter jack is the old style – the type that sits partly on the outside, rather than poke through a cutout in the box. The pic below shows two different DS-1 pedals – to the left, the new DS-1(B) and to the right the DS-1(A). On some Boss models, the internal jack type is slightly wider/more square, but they still count as ”internal” (since they are board mounted).

”External” vs ”internal” type adapter jacks

So both the BD-2(B), DS-1(B) as well as the new GE-7 and TR-2 will have the ”external” type jack with PSA stickers. These can not be modified/repaired (at least not easily). Either pedal with the ”internal” type jack, or the ”external” type + an ACA sticker (identifying it as a pre 1994 model) will be the older type. Also, the black 40th Anniversary DS-1 model has the older circuit, and can be modified/repaired as before, while the 40th Anniversary SD-1 has the new construction.

Classic SD-1

The SD-1 has always had the ”external” type adapter jack, so with those that can not be used as an indicator. As mentioned earlier, the back plate and decal is enough to tell which is which. But you can of course also tell by removing the back plate to check which circuit board it has. You don’t need any special skills to do this – if it looks like the one pictured to the right, it’s one of the old ones.

I’ll keep updating this page as and when new information surfaces 🙂

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