Category Archives: Video Demos

All my video demos here

Boss DS1 Match: Stock vs Keeley vs Analogman

The Boss DS-1 is one of the oldest distortion boxes on the market. Released in 1978, it is revered by some and loathed by others. Being a distortion, it offers more gain and more “hair” than a traditional overdrive pedal. Is it often used with a clean amp but it can be used to boost an already overdriven amp.

Amongst its supporters, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai are probably the most faithful and the most famous. Although both of them have released signature distortion pedals with manufacturers other than Boss in 2008 (Vai with Ibanez and Satch with Vox), the DS-1 could be heard at their gigs or on countless of their records before that.

The DS-1 and two of its most popular "mods" by Robert Keeley and Analogman

I see a lot of comments on forums and on Youtube destroying the little orange box, labelling it as “synthetic sounding” or “shrill”.

Match of the mods

I do not know if it is because of that bad rep but the DS-1 is one of the most modified pedals on the planet. On my quest for tone, I acquired a DS-1 modified by Analog Man and a DS-1 modified by Robert Keeley. I also own a stock DS-1 and before I go into the merits of modified pedals, here is a video I have recorded. It shows the differences in tone between the three pedals. For this video, I have used my Gibson SG 61 Reissue and my Fender Champ amplifier. Delay and Reverb are courtesy of a Boss DD-3 and a Boss RV-3 (See after the video as to why I have used some delay and reverb on the video).

Why I used some delay and reverb

First, I owe you an explanation as to why I have used a Boss DD-3 delay and a Boss RV-3 reverb placed after the DS-1(s) while shooting the video. I think a large part of the bad rep of the DS-1 is due to the fact that probably too many people think that getting a DS-1 and using it on a dry amp will get them the tone of Satriani. News flash: it won’t.

To me, the DS-1 on full gain combined with Humbuckers is good at a certain type of lead tone but you have to consider the rest of the chain carefully. I think the DS-1 does benefit from some ambiance whether it is delay and/or reverb. Both Satriani and Vai often use some amount of delay in their lead tones.

This is where I disagree with a lot of distortion/overdrive pedal demos on youtube where people insist on close miking an amp and use no ambiance at all. It is quite unrealistic as there is 99% chance that on your favorite guitar record, at least some reverb was used to alleviate the super dry tone of a close miked amp. And when you go see a band live, you get the ambiance of the room, even in a small club.

Is it worth getting a modded DS-1?

Before blowing 150 bucks on a modified pedal, it is quite normal to question the advantages of a modded pedal. From the video above, you will have noticed that the modified pedals retain the essence of the DS-1. It is more about enhancing than radically modifying the tone. I must also say that modded pedals are a bit less noisy than the stock version. But if you really cannot stand the tone of a DS-1, chances are modded versions will not suit you either.

As to my opinion, I think the Keeley mod is about getting an edgier, more precise tone while the Analog Man brings the tone closer to a Marshall type amp. I personally prefer the Analog Man for its warmth and it comes close to the Pro Co Rat 2 as my favorite distortion box. But the Keeley might suit you better if you are looking for a more “Vai-esque” DS1 tone.

Note that both Keeley and Analog Man have more advanced mods than the ones I am showing in this post. My Keeley version is called SEM (seeing eye mod) and its current version has a toggle switch to go from this mod to another circuit called “Ultra”.

The Analog Man DS-1 I show in this post has the Pro Mod which is still available but you can now get a 4th knob to modify the midrange response.

Finally, please know that there are other modifications out there like Monte Allums’ which seem pretty popular.

The DS-1 on “Fiction”, my first album

I have used the Keeley SEM DS-1 on the lead tone of “The Color Purple” and the Analogman DS-1 Pro on “Electric Rain”. You can find “Fiction”, my first album on cdbaby. On both songs, the pedals were plugged into a Marshall JMP-1 Preamp set clean and an MXR Phase 90 was placed before the distortion.

Tube Screamer Alternative: The Keeley modded Boss BD-2

After the super boutique BB preamp and the more mundane Boss SD-1, the next Tube Screamer alternative to be featured on Guitar Tone Overload is somewhere in the middle. Born in the Boss factories and modified in the workshop of mister Keeley, the Boss BD-2 “Blues Driver” overdrive is not a Tube Screamer copy but a different machine as you will gather from the demo videos below.

I will begin straight away with the videos and will give my thoughts afterward.

Here is how it sounds using single coil pickups, followed by a quick comparison with a Tube Screamer (here an Analogman modded TS9). I have decided that instead of changing the gain on the pedal, I would leave it on three o’clock and change the amount of dirt using the volume knob of the guitar and varying picking dynamics, blues style. This is a testimony to the quality of the pedal as this is not something that every overdrive pedal will do well:

And now here is how it sounds with humbuckers:

My Thoughts about the Keeley BD-2

Robert Keeley took a good overdrive pedal to start with and fine tuned it. When a friend lent me his stock BD-2, it gave me the opportunity to compare it to my Keeley modded one and, of course there are differences but both share the same basic tone. If you cannot afford a Keeley model, chances are that what applies to it will stay  more or less true with the stock model.

Here is what the modification brings: a lot more output volume, an “edgier” tone and I would say a bit more gain while being very silent. The relative absence of noise is a quality that most “Boutique” pedals have when compared to mass produced models. There is also a little switch that will make the sound a bit fatter when on and let’s not forget the super bright blue lead!

How does it fare as a Tube Screamer alternative?

The Keeley BD-2 will appeal to people who are looking for a grainier, edgier overdrive pedal. It is not as smooth as a Tube Screamer but in a good way as you have probably noticed from the videos. I even find that with Humbuckers and a little delay, there are some similarities to Robben Ford’s tone. I am not saying it is the same but it is reminiscent of it (in order to get the same tone, you would need his fingers of course).

And there is also a big difference in terms of available gain compared to a Tube Screamer (here an Analogman modded TS9). With the gain on 2 o’clock, the BD-2 matches the gain of the Tube Screamer on max. With the gain on 3 o’clock or more, the Keeley BD-2 comes close to a distortion pedal. This is especially true with Humbuckers (see above the video that I recorded with the Gibson SG).

Also, like any good overdrive pedal, it is very efficient used before an already distorted amp or another distortion pedal in order to give it a kick.

All in all, a worthy alternative to the Tube Screamer if you are looking for a gainier overdrive tone while retaining a blues/rock feel.

How to use Modulation Effects Part 3: The Chorus

After the Phaser and the Flanger, part 3 of this series of posts dedicated to modulation effects will focus on the Chorus. Used and abused with clean tones in the eighties, it seemed to have lost its popularity in the early nineties but it remains a classic. I have prepared a few videos to show you how useful a Chorus is for clean and distorted tones. I have used for this purpose my “modern” Boss CH-1 as well as my vintage Boss CE-2. You will find at the end of this post a short selection of chorus pedals.

The Boss CE-2 (discontinued) and the Boss CH-1 (still in Production) - Photo by Pia Jane Bijkerk

The Chorus effect occurs in the real world when two musicians (or singers) play the same piece in unison. Because the two don’t have exactly the same pitch and timbre, it creates a “choir” effect. Electronically, the effect is produced by mixing the incoming signal with a slightly delayed and detuned copy of itself. The pitch difference is modulated to create oscillations.

What is the difference with a Flanger then? One of the chief differences (but not the only one) is that the delay time on Flangers is shorter than it is on Choruses. Flangers have a “jet plane” type of sound but Chorus pedals don’t. Nevertheless, Flangers and Choruses can sound similar depending on how they are set.

Back to the Eighties

The first acknowledged chorus pedal is the Boss CE-1, released in 1976. It actually started the Boss brand, a subdivision of Roland. Somehow, it sounded so cool that everybody started using it. When the eighties arrived, every guitarist in almost any genre had to have a chorus pedal in their arsenal. It was a must for clean tones as it made them sound fatter, akin to a twelve string guitar. Andy Summers of The Police is a known user of the Boss CE-1 and you can hear its chime in a lot of  The Police records. But the use of Chorus was not limited to pop, it was also used in rock, funk and jazz.

Actually, the Boss CE-1 is based on the integrated Chorus circuit of a Roland amplifier which is still a reference amongst transistor based guitar amplifiers: the JC-120 aka Jazz Chorus 120. It is fitted with an integrated stereo chorus effect. This amp was used by countless artists and not only in Jazz, Robert Smith of The Cure as well as Joe Satriani used it at some stage in their careers.

Setting Knobs and Placement in the Effect Chain

Most Chorus pedals have at least two settings: Depth and Rate. The Depth setting controls the intensity whereas the Rate setting controls the speed of the oscillation (the amount of swirling). The Boss CH-1 that I feature in the videos below has another two settings which are quite rare on most chorus pedals: MIX to control the amount of direct sound and chorused sound and EQ which controls the brightness of the effect.

When it comes to placing your chorus in your effect chain, it is usually recommended to place it after your distortion or overdrive (or in the effect loop of your amp). Nevertheless, it is also usable before a distortion/overdrive, the effect will be less “precise”.

Using a Chorus with Clean Tones

It is quite important to realize that some chorus pedals are really warm sounding whereas others are more transparent. If you are looking to emulate the sound of Kurt Cobain in the intro of “come as you are”, forget about using a pretty transparent chorus pedal, you need the dirty analog type (for the record, he used an Electro Harmonix Small Clone). Some guitarists hate that type of very fat chorus and prefer the transparent type.

In that respect, the two pedals I am using in the videos below represent quite well these two types of tones: the CE-2 is warm and fat while the CH-1 is pretty and transparent unless you really push it. Also note that the CE-2 is mono whereas the CH-1 can be used in stereo.

I show here mild as well as extreme settings with both my BOSS CE-2 and BOSS CH-1. My basic tone features some compression courtesy of an MXR Dynacomp. Note how I have to put the level fairly high on the CH-1 to get a pronounced chorus effect.

Gear used for the demo besides chorus pedals: 1978 Fender Telecaster with stock pickups, MXR dynacomp (OUTPUT at 3 o’clock, SENSITIVITY at 9 o’clock), 1974 Fender Champ. Some compression and reverb were added in Cubase.

Using a Chorus with a Distorted/Overdrive tone

Putting a chorus after a rather distorted tone will transport you back to the shredders of the eighties. Not all of them used a chorus for their lead tone but some definitely did.

I personally prefer to use a transparent Boss CH-1 with distorted tones rather than a CE-2 but it really is a matter of preference. What I like is that the CH-1 has a Depth as well as a Level control. I like to back down the Level on distorted tones. I show in this video how the Level knob affect your tone:

Gear used for this demo besides chorus pedals: Custom Made guitar by Robin Bully, bolt on neck equipped with Schaller Pickups (Golden 50 in the bridge position), Analogman TS-9, Analogman DS-1 and Fender Champ. Some eq, compression and reverb were added in Cubase. I used a graphic equalizer to scoop the midrange and get a more “metal” tone out of my Fender amp (more on this in another post).

Chorus pedal selection
  • Boss CE-5, CH-1 and CE-20: with these three models, Boss covers the whole spectrum of chorus sounds. The CE-5 is the last in the CE line, the CH-1 is probably more transparent. As to the CE-20, it is a sophisticated digital modeling pedal that can emulate the sound of different models including the CE-1. All these pedals are stereo.
  • Electro Harmonix Small Clone: the sound of Kurt Cobain on “Come as you are”, analog and fat.
  • Line 6 Space Chorus: a digital pedal that I had the chance to try. Very versatile, I especially like the “Tri Chorus” emulation which is based on a rare 80s unit.
  • Ibanez CS-9: a stereo analog pedal, it is a reissue of an 80s classic.
  • MXR Micro Chorus: recently re-issued, it is a simple and small one button pedal which offers a lot more different sounds than you would think.
  • Retro Sonic chorus: Retro Sonic has made a specialty of recreating classic models. Their chorus is a faithful recreation on the Roland/Boss CE-1 in a more compact form.
  • Analogman Chorus: the father of all boutique manufacturers offers some popular and tasty analog chorus pedals.

A note about stereo chorus pedals: In order to use this capability efficiently with the guitar, you need two amplifiers, a stereo amp (quite rare) or a stereo rack system.

How to use Modulation Effects Part 2: the Flanger

In Part 1 of this series of posts dedicated to modulation effects, I presented the Phaser. In Part 2, I will focus on an effect that has been around since the 60s: the Flanger also known as Flanging. We will see how it can be useful to us guitarists and in what style it is more prominently used. As always, I have prepared a few videos to demonstrate the Flanging effect, for which I have concocted some cool settings on my trusty Boss BF-2.

Now discontinued, the Boss BF-2 is a classic Flanger pedal - Photo by Pia Jane Bijkerk

How Flanger pedals came to be

The Flanging effect originated in studios in the sixties. It was generated by recording then playing back one piece simultaneously on two tape recorders. The result of the two tape recorder playback was recorded on a third tape recorder. Because the two tape recorders reading the piece were slightly out of sync, it created a phasing like sound. This could be emphasized by pressing on the “flange” or rim of one of the tape reel to slow down the playback. The delay between the two tape recorders would then be more pronounced and create a “jet plane” effect that came to be known as “flanging”. It was used at first to enhance whole mixes, the end of “Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix is the first example of stereo flanging in history.

Progress in electronics allowed engineers to recreate this effect without having to use bulky tape recorders and make units that could fit in a pedal. The trick used by Flanger pedals is to use a very short delay and some oscillator to slightly vary the delay time. Analog models use bucket brigade components, see my posts about delays for more information. Actually, if you set a delay pedal with a very short delay time, say 1 ms, you will start to get a hint of flanger effect but not as pronounced since there is no oscillation.


Most Flanging pedals have at least a Depth and a Rate or Speed knob. Depth sets the intensity of the effect whereas Rate sets the speed of the oscillation. The Boss BF-2 that I use in the videos below is more complex and has no less than four controls: Depth, Rate, Manual and Res. Res is a resonance setting which can be labeled as “regen” or “feedback” on other models. It controls how much of the processed signal is re-injected into the effect to get a more intense result. The Manual setting is specific to the BF-2 and apparently affects the amount of delay but I have no proof of that.

A generic word of advice for pedals which offer 4 or more settings since it can be overwhelming at first : try putting everything half way first, then adjust from there.

Clean tone and Flanger

Flanger pedals really became mainstream in the late 70s and were primarily used by rock guitarists. Before I show you how it sounds with a distortion, let’s see how it sounds with a clean tone.

If you are as old as I am, it should propell you right back to the early 80s and “new wave” bands such as The Cure or pop bands such as The Police. Flanging (and also Chorus) gave an ethereal quality to arpeggios and chords which suited their music perfectly. Both slow and fast rates are interesting in that respect as I demonstrate here . Note that it also suits funk rhythm licks:

Gear used for the video: Fender American Classics Custom Shop Stratocaster with Kinman AVn Blues pickups, 1974 Fender Champ Amplifier (Volume at 2, Bass at 10, Treble at 2.5).

A while back, I wrote a piece describing the tone of Robert Smith, The Cure’s guitarist and created this little rendition of “A Forest”, using a Boss BF-2 Flanger and a Boss DD-3 Digital delay:

Audio MP3

Distortion and Flanger: Before or After the Distortion?

As I wrote in my Phaser post, Eddie Van Halen used a phaser a lot but little is known that he also used a flanger to create some of his best tones. “Unchained” is probably his most recognizable Flanger tone. Queen’s Guitarist Brian May is also a big flanger fan, listen to “Keep Yourself Alive” for a fine example of tape flanging.

The Flanger effect is usually placed after overdrives and distortions in the chain but it can also be interesting to place it before, which is something that Prince does for instance. I will show you in coming videos the difference between the two placements.

First, here is how it sounds placed after the distortion. I show another three example settings using my BF-2. A bit of warning here, the BF-2 is a quite strong effect which also tends to boost the volume especially when the Depth knob is set past 12. Flangers, much like phasers, tend to create “volume” spikes by nature. The first setting is an example of how a low “Rate” (or speed of modulation) fattens the tone. Using higher speeds tend to create a wobblier effect that I think is not as fattening but almost resembles the sound of an organ:

Gear used for the video: Fender American Classics Custom Shop Stratocaster with Kinman AVn Blues pickups, 1974 Fender Champ Amplifier (Volume at 2, Bass at 10, Treble at 2.5), Analogman modded Boss DS1 Distortion (Dist at Max, Tone at 8 o’clock and Level at 10 o’clock).

And here is how it sounds placed before the distortion, the effect is less pronounced but a bit crazier at the same time. I think it is interesting to get an “out of control” tone:

Gear used for the video: Fender American Classics Custom Shop Stratocaster with Kinman AVn Blues pickups, 1974 Fender Champ Amplifier (Volume at 2, Bass at 10, Treble at 2.5), Analogman modded Boss DS1 Distortion (Dist at Max, Tone at 8 o’clock and Level at 10 o’clock).

Which model to choose?

There are a lot of Flanger pedals to choose from on the market, here is a short selection:

  • The MXR Flanger is one of the oldest flanger pedal designs around and has been reissued recently. Since Van Halen used it quite a bit, MXR has released an EVH model.
  • The MXR Micro Flanger was recently re-issued and packs a lot of good flanged tones in a tiny package.
  • The Electro Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress has been used by David Gilmour but also by Andy Summers. Rumour has it that what everyone thinks is a chorus in some of The Police’s clean tones is actually an Electric Mistress flanger.
  • The Boss BF-2 which I have demonstrated in this post is sadly discontinued but it is relatively easy to find on the second hand market as it was in production for 20 years (between 1980 and 2001). It is quite versatile and is especially great for early 80s new wave clean tones à la The Cure.
  • The Boss BF-3 has replaced the BF-2 in the Boss range. Although it is not clearly stated on the Boss website, I am pretty sure it is a digital pedal which gives it two rare particularities: it is stereo and there is a “tap tempo” feature to set the speed of the oscillation just by tapping a footswitch.
  • The Ibanez FL-9 is another classic 80s design which has been reissued. It gives a warm but high quality flanging tone and has its own personality. I personally own one and I will probably do a BF-2 versus FL-9 post. You can also spot it at around 4:35 in this video presenting the gear Joe Satriani has used on the Chicken Foot tour. Maxon, the manufacturer which used to make the Ibanez pedals in the 80s, has also an FL-9 reissue in its range. I could not tell you which one is better and/or more authentic.
  • Flanger is not huge on the “boutique” market but there are a few models, check out the Strymon Orbit or the T Rex Twister and Tonebug Chorus Flanger.
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