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Boss DSD-2

Article from One Two Testing, August 1985

BOSS DO LIKE putting things into footpedals. Suppose they can be forgiven, since it is their job. Wouldn't be much point them squeezing flangers into hand thrown pots.

Recently there was the DD-2, the first digital delay line to be compressed into a footpedal. Now the DSD-2... the first digital sampler to be etc, etc?

No one should be that surprised. A sample is only an echo played once, as some literary giant will doubtless pronounce one day. The £200 DSD-2 offers normal digital delay with a max repeat time of 800ms, and the opportunity to freeze one echo and spit it out, not according to the settings on the level and feedback controls, but from the action of stamping down once on the footpedal, or from the trigger signal of a connected drum machine.

Monophonic digital sampling for £200, you yell at the gerbil across the dinner table. Hang on, don't throw the bread roll yet. Where the DSD-2 stops short is in having any method of playing back the sample at different pitches. There are no MIDI or CV/gate connections waiting for a humble keyboard. You can alter the pitch manually by repositioning the delay time control and pressing on the footpedal again. But that's it.

However, it should not be beyond the bounds of possibility for a smart electronic-type reader to substitute some pre-set values for the delay time pot, and trigger the sample from an outside source — a perfect mod for an old CV/gate style mono keyboard, in fact.

To begin with, the quality of the echo from the DSD-2 is superb, undoubtedly the best I've ever heard from a footpedal (I would imagine the DD-2 with identical spec, is the same). Echoes are clear, crystal sharp, suffering very little loss in treble or increase in hiss, and vary from slapback (unusually good at mimicing reverb) to the full 800ms, which is generous as foot pedals go. Setting the feedback control to loop (fully clockwise) will eventually lead to a degradation in the repeated signal, but does preserve the quality far longer than an analogue effect.

Very fine, but obviously twice as much as you'd pay for an analogue 300ms job, though less than a rackmounted home recording version.

To sample, you switch the right hand control to 'rec/play' (the other three knobs are effect level, feedback and delay time). Here the DSD-2 begins to show its compromises. Press the footpedal once and the single red LED indicator will light and then expire at the end of the 800ms 'catch' time. During those moments you can strum your guitar chord, thwack your bass note, thump your bucket of gravel, or whatever. Problems here are that, if you leave your foot pressed down on the pedal it will repeat the sampling loop — if you're not fast enough, you'll find the 'catch' coming round again, and attempting to record the decaying moments of your strum. And the heavily sprung pedal can be unwieldy if you're trying for the longest possible sample which involves making the noise a split second after hitting the switch. Any hesitation and the playback will include your moment's silence at the start of each repeat. Sneaky sampleists will undo the screw at the bottom of the hinged footplate, reach inside and press the small, light switch it rests on which actually does the work — much slicker especially for those 'na-na-na-na-not working' fast playbacks.

Turn the control to 'play only' and now each time the pedal is punched, out comes your sample. Here lies my only real, practical criticism of the Boss. While you keep your foot on the pedal the sample will repeat every 800ms, just like an echo without the original sound or feedback. It shouldn't have been impossible for Boss to include a option for once-only playback. You wouldn't have had to worry about your footwork quite so much.

You get the max 800ms by setting the time control fully clockwise before sampling. Later fiddling can raise the pitch, but to lower it, you'd have to record originally at, say, 400ms then lengthen the time on playback.

In truth 800ms is long for an echo, short for a sample, though the quality is high. Your most immediate use for the DSD-2 would be percussion samples, hence the handy tie up with a drum machine using — in the case of other Roland gear — the programmable accent triggers to drive the DSD at appropriate moments so tying the echo/sample speed in with the rhythm. A real bass drum or snare would record fine, but it's too short for a cymbal. The real skill is in the button pushing — hitting the Boss fast enough to give you an unhesitating sample.

Frequency response for the delayed/sampled signal is 40Hz to 7KHz, not ungenerous. Expecting MIDI-type pitch control on a device this price is perhaps over-optimistic. At the same time it might bring you out in a sweat to pay £200 for what is a small, silver grey box 120mm long. Yet the quality is excellent, and the sampling capability a definite draw. Go by the sound, not the size.

BOSS digital delay/sampler: £200

CONTACT: Roland UK, (Contact Details).

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Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Aug 1985

Donated by: Colin Potter

Gear in this article:

Guitar FX > Boss > DSD-2 Digital Sampler/Delay

Gear Tags:

12-Bit Sampler

Review by Paul Colbert

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