First Impressions: Boss FDR-1 Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb Overdrive Pedal

I recently picked up another of the Boss Legend Series pedals: the FDR-1.

Is this dinosaur of a pedal a dud or a delight? As with its sister pedal the FBM-1, it all depends on what guitar you play … and what you want to use it for.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a second-hand Boss FDR-1 Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb overdrive pedal. The FDR-1 was in production from 2007-2013. It was part of the Boss Legend Series; a collaboration with Fender.

It aims to recreate the tone of the legendary Fender 65 Deluxe Reverb amplifier. That’s the amplifier we mean when we talk about the “Fender blackface sound”. A genuine Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue (DRRI for short) is my all-time favourite clean amp to play through.

The pedal does both clean and overdrive, and also brings a digital spring reverb and tremolo emulation too.

Why Did I Buy It?

Last summer, I got its sister pedal, the FBM-1 Fender ’59 Bassman … and I had fun with it. Not so strong with my Les Paul, perhaps, but with my Telecaster? Mmm yes.

That got me curious. If the FDR-1 is as good as the FBM-1 pedal, I’m going to get a lot of pleasure out of it.

What’s My Signal Chain?

I’m using a pretty straight-forward signal chain:

  • Telecaster x2
  • into the FDR-1
  • into a pair of Neunaber Slate pedals (adding a bit of delay and reverb)
  • into my Blackstar Studio 10 6L6

All the pedals are routed through their own loops on my Gigrig G2, so that I can take them completely out of the signal chain when they’re off.

For guitars, I’m using my 2017 American Special Telecaster, and my 2019 Vintera 60’s Modified Telecaster. The American Special has the stock Texas Special pickups, which feature a fat powerful midrange. The Vintera has the stock Hot 60s pickups, which are a bit more balanced than the Texas Specials.

I’ve gone straight to my Telecasters because I learned that lesson the hard way with the FBM-1. These pedals were designed in conjunction with Fender, and to get the best out of them, I think it helps to use them with a Fender-style guitar.

Why am I using two guitars? Because one of them sounds great through the FDR-1, and one of them … not so much.

A Surprisingly Cold Sound

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been playing my beloved Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short) pedal all year, I don’t know. I was just really surprised at how cold the FDR-1 sounds.

I was expecting a bit of a mid-scoop. After all, that’s a key part of the blackface clean sound. What I wasn’t expecting was a bass cut that I can’t dial out. Even with the Bass tone control on max, this pedal really sucks the warmth out. It’s like someone trapped Sub Zero in there or something, it’s that cold a sound.

And yet, with the right guitar, it works.

Clarity For Your Muddy Neck Pickup

Together, the mid-scoop and bass cut turns my clean playing into a crystal clear sound. The whole piano-like articulation that I love from a clean Fender guitar becomes front and centre. If that’s your thing, you might love this pedal.

You just need to pair it with the right guitar. For me, that’s the fatter sound of the American Special Telecaster.

With the Vintera, the FDR-1’s mid-scoop and bass cut together take away just a little too much for my liking. There’s just too much missing from the lowest two strings to be satisfying. It’s probably great to work with in a mix, but at home in the room? It’s not to my taste.

However, the FDR-1 really cleans up the much muddier neck pickup in my American Special Tele. The Texas Special pickup has such a fat mid-range that there’s still plenty of character left even after the FDR-1’s mid-scoop has had its impact.

Yes, I wish it had bass, but then the mud would be back.

What’s The Overdrive Like?

In a word: eww. If I was evaluating this pedal purely as an overdrive pedal, I would probably rank it as one of the worst overdrive pedals I’ve tried in recent years.

The problem is, there’s so many frequencies missing from the overdrive, it just doesn’t sound real. It lacks presence and punch in the room. There’s none of the interaction between gain and the EQ controls that you get from a good all-analogue dirt pedal. It’s a digital model, and very much of its time.

Some people like that kind of thing. I’m not one of them.

What’s The Reverb Like?

First, a caveat: even today, most digital spring reverbs aren’t great. Heck, the Line 6 Helix only got a convincing spring reverb effect earlier this month, and that’s one of the leading state-of-the-art modelling units around. So don’t expect a lot from a 15 year old piece of tech that was never intended to be this pedal’s main feature.

I wouldn’t buy this to be my reverb pedal. It’s notorious for over-reacting to transients: dig in, and you’ll get weird pops and artefacts that are often described as sounding like someone knocking a spring reverb tank. It’s not just that these artefacts are a bit random, I’m finding that they cause the overall volume to be louder too.

If this was a deliberate design choice, it’s a baffling one.

The reverb isn’t entirely useless. I’ve tried running a little bit of reverb from this pedal out into my two Neunaber Slates (so reverb -> delay -> more reverb). As long as I keep the reverb dial down around 8 o’clock to minimise those weird artefacts, I really like the overall effect.

I think the same setting on the FDR-1 (reverb around 8 o’clock) also sounds nice into the Studio 10 6L6’s reverb. It adds a nice character to the pretty bland-but-functional reverb built into the amp. It is a subtle change, but I like it.

What About The Tremolo?

Tremolo isn’t my thing. I don’t use it, and I don’t pretend to understand it as an effect. I’m really not qualified to share any sort of opinion on it, sorry.

Does It Klon?

No, no it does not.

The good news: the FDR-1 does have enough input headroom to take a boost in front of it. In that, it’s ahead of (say) Wampler’s Black 65 pedal. Unfortunately, I can’t really take advantage of that headroom.

I’m running my Klon KTR into the Boss FDR-1. As always, I’ve got the KTR setup in classic clean boost configuration: treble at 1 o’clock, gain below 8 o’clock, and volume just above 9 o’clock (around unity volume).

And I can barely hear any difference. I’ve just pulled my G2 off its shelf to double-check that the KTR was definitely in the signal path. Yep, it’s on. It might as well not be.

The FDR-1 just sucks all the magic out of what the KTR does for me.

Does It Take Overdrive Pedals In Front Of It?

No, no it does not.

Again, the problem is that bass cut. Most overdrive pedals cut bass anyway. Feed them into the severe bass cut on the FDR-1, and (for me) the result is just no fun to play at all.

I’m sure there’s a drive pedal or two out there that might benefit from this. I can’t think of one off the top of my head, and I dislike the sound so much I’m just not motivated to try and find a pairing that works here.

How Does It Compare To The Blackstar Studio 10 6L6’s Natural Sound?

The Studio 10 6L6 is a blackface-style clean amp. The FDR-1 is Boss’s and Fender’s joint take on the classic blackface clean tone. How do they compare?

I guess the real question is: is there any reason to use the FDR-1 if you’ve already got that kind of sound from your amp?

Honestly, it depends on which guitar I’m using. With the American Special Telecaster:

  • Clean notes through the Studio 10 6L6 have weight to them, thanks to the more extended low-end in the signal. Even notes higher up the neck on unwound strings have it. There’s also a bit of mid-range congestion, which is easily sorted by reaching for the Klon KTR once again.
  • The FDR-1’s bass cut eliminates a lot of the weight on clean notes. Hearing this side-by-side with the raw Studio 10 6L6, it makes me wonder if the FDR-1’s digital model throws those frequencies away, rather than simply EQ’ing them. The mid-scoop that’s built into the pedal does add a nice clarity to each note.
  • I’d say that the Studio 10 6L6 + KTR together sound a bit sweeter than the FDR-1 does … but somehow I still prefer the sound of the FDR-1 here.

With the Vintera, it’s a completely different story. Here, going straight into the Studio 10 6L6 is the clear winner. The more tonally-balanced Hot 60’s pickups don’t need much help to sound great, and the tonal shift of the FDR-1 adds nothing good while taking too much away from what makes the Vintera sound so good.

What About With Stratocasters?

I gave it a quick go with my Stratocaster, and didn’t like it at all.

I will sit down with it for a few hours and give it a proper try out with my Stratocaster at some point. Maybe. No guarantees.

As with the FBM-1 pedal, I think this is a pedal for Telecasters first and foremost.

Final Thoughts

Is this pedal worth the inflated prices that sellers routinely ask for? In my opinion, no. I’m very glad that I was patient, and waited until I could snag one for a more reasonable price.

The FDR-1’s overdrive sound is (at best) an acquired taste. I think the severe bass cut greatly limits which guitars it works well with. The reverb is (at best) quirky. And the pedal just doesn’t play well with others.

This is a pedal that has not aged well.

That’s not to say that the FDR-1 is without merit. It may be a dinosaur, but in the right circumstances, it does offer a different option – and I love having options to choose from.

If the blackface sound is your thing, if you enjoy playing clean, and if you’ve got a fat-sounding Telecaster with a bit of a muddy neck pickup, then the FDR-1 definitely has something to offer you.

That’s exactly how I’m going to be using it: as a go-to pedal for clean tones with my American Special Telecaster.

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