Santa brought me a Boss BP-1w 🙂
What do I think of it? Read on for my (lengthy!) first impressions.
Table of Contents
- What Did You Get?
- Why Was It On Your Christmas Wish List?
- My Signal Chain Today
- CE Mode W/ A Strat Is An Instant Win For Me
- RE Mode Or CE Mode With My Telecaster? Yes Please!
- The Klon Is Still King For Us Middle Position Players
- Playing On The Bridge Pickup? The BP-1w Appeals More
- What About As A Clean Boost?
- Final Thoughts
What Did You Get?
I got a Boss BP-1w Booster / Preamp pedal, from Boss’s Waza Craft line of premium guitar effects pedals.
The BP-1w contains three different circuits:
- NAT – a clean boost that offers minimal tone colouring
- RE – the preamp circuit of the Roland RE-201 Space Echo unit
- CE – the preamp circuit of the Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble unit
plus two types of buffered bypass: vintage and standard. (Like all Boss pedals, it’s buffered-bypass, not true bypass.)
Mine was a Christmas gift from Kristi. It was brand new from a guitar store. The pedal only came out a couple of months ago; I haven’t seen any second-hand examples to date.
Why Was It On Your Christmas Wish List?
Regular readers might recall that I love getting guitar tones by using two pedals (or a pedal and a dirty amp) at once:
- one pedal to shape & colour the tone (aka a boost pedal), into
- one pedal to provide the overdrive (aka an overdrive pedal)
While my go-to boost pedal is my beloved Klon KTR, it doesn’t suit every pedal that I’ve tried it with. It’s nice to have other boost pedals to audition.
But why this pedal in particular?
One of my first boost pedals was the Xotic EP-boost, which is based on the preamp of the vintage EP-3 tape delay unit. These vintage units add a character to the sound that (in my humble opinion) elevates the regular tone of most overdrive pedals.
The BP-1w brings two more of these vintage preamps to the market: the preamp out of Roland’s RE-201 Space Echo, and Boss’s legendary CE-1 Chorus Ensemble – all in a single pedal. That’s like two for the price of one, making it a bit of a bargain as these things go.
At the time of writing, the BP-1w seems to be the only pedal that’s sold in the UK that offers either of these vintage preamp circuits.
My Signal Chain Today
Today, I’m playing:
- a couple of guitars
- into the Axe-FX 3 (mostly for the tuner)
- out to my pedalboard
- back into the Axe-FX 3 (for amp, cab, delay and reverb)
- out to my audio interface
and into my DAW. There is no post-processing (EQ, compression, or effects) applied in the DAW at all. I have adjusted volume levels to avoid the louder-is-better bias, but that’s all.
For guitars, I’m using my PRS Silver Sky (2022 spec) (aka the Silver Fox), my Gibson Les Paul (aka The 59) and my Squier Esquire w/ Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickup (aka The Squirrel).
On the pedalboard, I have the Boss BP-1w, Mad Professor Little Green Wonder (LGW for short) overdrive pedal and my beloved Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short). Each pedal is in a separate loop of my trusty old Gigrig G2, so that unused pedals cannot colour the signal at all.
I’ve gone with the LGW because it was already on the board for a Tubescreamer post that I’m working on. And I’ve grabbed my beloved SHOD because I want to know whether or not the BP-1w will work with my #1 drive pedal.
The BP-1w is in Standard buffer mode unless specifically mentioned.
CE Mode W/ A Strat Is An Instant Win For Me
To start with, I’ve grabbed my Silver Sky, and I’m going with the CE mode of the BP-1w into the Little Green Wonder.
Although it’s based on a Tubescreamer, the LGW has its own sound. To my ears, the note attack is somewhat softer, and it doesn’t cut anywhere near as much bass (if it cuts any at all!).
Here’s how the LGW sounds on its own, with the neck pickup of the Silver Sky:
If you’re familiar with TS-type pedals, you might notice how the LGW has quite a bit more low-end than these kinds of pedals usually have.
I’m in two minds about it: at times in the demo track, I think the amount of low-end suits the neck pickup, and sometimes I want to dial it back a bit. Unfortunately, the LGW’s unique tone circuit (labelled Body) doesn’t make that easy to do. I’ve already got the Body control cranked very high. If I turn it up any further, I find that the signal is too harsh for my taste.
I do think it works well with the bridge pickup, though:
I normally don’t go anywhere near a Strat’s single-coil bridge pickup; I find them too bright and spiky. To my ears, the LGW is taming that nicely, maybe because it’s let through so much low-end?
Now, I’m going to add in the BP-1w on the CE mode. I’ve got the Level at around 9 o’clock and the Gain set at 12 noon. I haven’t touched any settings on the LGW or my Axe-FX 3; they’re the same as in the demos you’ve already heard.
Here’s what the BP-1w (CE mode) is doing to the signal, with the neck pickup of the Silver Sky. I’ve adjusted the audio level in post by -2.8 dB, to match the volume of the original demo.
I’m hearing three differences between this demo and the demo that doesn’t use the BP-1w.
- The CE mode on the BP-1w has tightened up the low-end just a little.
- There’s a little more emphasis on the upper-mids now. I can’t tell whether that’s caused by the tighter low-end alone, or whether there’s also a tonal shift caused by the CE mode.
- The overall overdrive characteristic is a little grittier now, not as smooth as before. The only way I can think to describe it is to say that it sounds more broken up to me.
The one difference that you can’t hear is how the feel improves. The BP-1w in CE mode is adding a little bit of compression, and I found that it was making the overall signal chain a little nicer to play through. So much so, that towards the start of that demo, I stopped performing the piece for a moment just to listen to the difference 🙂
What about with the bridge pickup? Here’s the BP-1w (CE mode) with the bridge pickup of the Silver Sky. I’ve adjusted the audio level in post by -2.6 dB, to match the volume of the original demo.
- I can’t hear any real difference in the low-end after adding the Boss BP-1w to the signal chain.
- I think the emphasis on the upper-mids is very clear now (in a good way). I guess this proves that the CE mode does introduce a tonal shift too. Maybe that’s caused by the buffer?
- In the room, it sounded like the BP-1w had added a lot more overdrive. Listening back? Not so much.
Feel-wise, I don’t think the difference is as pronounced as it was with the neck pickup. I can see from the waveforms that there is some compression going on, but I didn’t really notice it while playing.
I do notice it whenever I switch off the BP-1w though, and quickly put the BP-1w back on!
So yeah … with my Silver Sky, I think the CE mode of the BP-1w is a win. I think it falls into the ‘make better-er’ camp of always-on pedals. It is subtle, though.
RE Mode Or CE Mode With My Telecaster? Yes Please!
Let’s move on to a Telecaster: my Squier Esquire with a Seymour Duncan Antiquity as the bridge pickup. (It doesn’t have a neck pickup at all.) This is the guitar that I’ve been using for all of my tweed amp comparison demos this autumn. I don’t care that it doesn’t say ‘Fender’ on the headstock; this is the Telecaster that I play the most right now.
Once again, I’m going into the Mad Professor Little Green Wonder. I haven’t touched the controls on the LGW; they’re exactly the same as I used for the Silver Sky demos. What I have done, though, is switch to a different scene on my Axe-FX 3 pedal platform patch. This scene is voiced for bridge pickups (mostly by adjusting the virtual mics in the Cab block).
Here’s how my Telecaster sounds into the LGW:
I think that’s quite a nice low-gain rhythm sound in and of itself. Perhaps I’d prefer a little less low-end and a little more top-end. Maybe it just needs a fresh set of strings on it to sort that out? Well, I’m writing this on Christmas Day, and I can’t get any today …
… so maybe the CE mode on the BP-1w can help me out here? (Here’s the same signal chain, with added BP-1w, and -2.6 dB in post to avoid louder-is-better bias.)
I’m hearing the same things that I heard with the Silver Sky neck pickup demo:
- The CE mode has tightened up the low-end quite noticeably, and I think it’s all the better for it.
- The added upper-mids emphasis really suits this guitar and signal chain.
- The grittiness of the overdrive now sounds far more interesting – and dare I say more amp like? – to me.
And, as before, the signal chain also felt nicer to play through. I didn’t feel like I lost any dynamics to the extra compression either.
But what about the BP-1w’s RE mode? Here’s how that sounds:
With fresh ears, I can hear some differences between the CE and RE modes. They’re not dramatic differences, and it doesn’t take long before I can’t tell them apart. I can understand anyone who says both modes sound the same.
What are the differences? To my ears, the RE mode has slightly less top-end and slightly more lower-mids compared to the CE mode. And I do mean slightly.
In the room, I did preferred playing my Telecaster through the RE mode. It was the feel as much as it was the sound. As a rhythm player, this is a signal chain that I want to return to and explore some more in the future.
The Klon Is Still King For Us Middle Position Players
I don’t use Tubescreamers as overdrive pedals very much (although maybe I should? That’s a topic I’m exploring in the new year!). I prefer to play tweed-tone pedals, and my #1 overdrive pedal is my beloved Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short).
Here’s how the SHOD sounds, with my Les Paul. I’m in the middle pickup position, with both volume and tone controls rolled down a bit for taste.
Precisely because I prefer to play in the middle pickup position, I need a boost pedal to shape the tone a bit – to stop it getting muddy and add in a bit more top-end. I’ve been using my Klon KTR for this with my SHOD for almost a decade now:
That, for me, is my happy place. The combination of (the right!) Les Paul > Klon > SHOD is the guitar sound that I’ve been looking for all my life. If I thought that tomorrow was my last day on Earth, I’d spend it playing through that signal chain.
However, here in the UK, you can’t walk into a guitar store and walk out with a KTR. (I’m not sure you ever could?) Your only option is either a second-hand KTR (at vastly inflated prices) or a klone pedal (most klone pedals don’t do the clean boost setup accurately in my experience).
And, let’s be honest: not everyone likes the sound of a Klon. So I think it makes sense to hear how the BP-1w works as a boost pedal into my beloved SHOD.
Let’s start off by swapping out my Klon KTR for the BP-1w in CE mode:
Before I discuss what I’m hearing, let’s flip the BP-1w into RE mode and hear that too:
Of the three boost options, I personally still prefer how my Klon KTR shapes the overall tone. To my ears, it is cutting the most low-end and adding the most clarity on top.
For me, both the CE mode and the RE mode aren’t adding enough top end, and the RE mode in particular is leaving too much low-end in the signal to suit my Les Paul’s middle position.
Playing On The Bridge Pickup? The BP-1w Appeals More
But that’s the thing: I’m playing a Les Paul that has a particularly powerful low-end, and doing so with both the neck and bridge pickups active at once. Honestly, while it’s what I love, I doubt that it’s a normal signal chain for most players.
Most Les Pauls (and, from my experience, all PRS humbucker guitars) have less low-end than my Les Paul of choice. Also, I’m not sure how many people play with both pickups active like I do? I suspect I’m in the minority there.
I imagine most people who reach for a Les Paul or equivalent are only playing on the bridge pickup, with volume and tone pots all the way up. If I mimic that by grabbing a couple of PRS guitars for a moment, that changes which booster pedal I prefer.
With my PRS Paul’s Guitar (aka The Earl), the RE mode suits the bridge pickup really well. I really like what it’s doing to the top-end, while also adding in that firm low-mids foundation that I personally love. And with Deadnote (my McCarty 594), I’m finding myself drawn more towards the CE mode. The RE mode works too (especially if I turn the bass down on the amp a bit), but I like the extra detail that comes from the CE mode.
I do find myself wishing that the BP-1w had some sort of EQ stack, though. With my Klon KTR (and klones), I can tweak the Treble control to suit different guitars and different signal chains. It’s very powerful, and the reason why the Klon is still king for me.
The BP-1w is much more of an on/off effect. Perhaps a BP-2w one day, Boss, please?
What About As A Clean Boost?
Up until now, I’ve been using the BP-1w with the gain up around 12 o’clock. This produces a bit of overdrive. But I use my Klon KTR in the classic clean boost configuration, which doesn’t sound overdriven on its own. Perhaps a fairer comparison would be to dial in the BP-1w as a clean boost too.
In both the CE and RE modes, I couldn’t get the BP-1w to sound both completely clean and usable. I ended up compromising with the Level at around 12 o’clock and the Gain at around 9 o’clock. This produced a sound that still added a bit of grit while still being lively and musical.
For comparison, here’s how my KTR sounds on its own in the clean boost configuration:
Here’s the clean-ish boost configuration that I dialled up on the BP-1w. First the CE mode:
and here’s the RE mode:
I think hearing them all soloed like this does a great job of demonstrating the tonal differences between the three. I hear the KTR as sparkly and uplifting, the RE mode as fat and rounded, and the CE mode as somewhere in between.
So how do things sound when I use the BP-1w to boost my beloved SHOD?
For comparison, once again here’s how my beloved SHOD sounds when boosted by my Klon KTR.
Well. That’s a lot closer than I expected! To my ears:
- The KTR > SHOD demo has the tightest low-end and most clarity around the note attack.
- The CE-mode > SHOD demo is very close on the note clarity, with slightly more low-end audible.
- The RE-mode > SHOD demo has noticeably more low-mids again, with less clarity around the note attack.
Most importantly, I can only hear the KTR’s upper-mid boost when I’m listening back with fresh ears. It’s nowhere near as obvious as I was expecting … and I’m mostly experiencing it as a mid-forward thing. The KTR demo just sounds more forward to me than the CE demo, which sounds more forward again than the RE demo. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the differences.
What an interesting pedal! I’m so glad Kristi got me this for Christmas. It’s definitely a keeper. I suspect it will get a lot more use than the Rat-style pedals that were also on my wish list!
When I’ve used my Klon KTR to record in the past, I’ve sometimes struggled with the mix, because the guitar ends up competing with the vocals quite a bit. I certainly want to try recording rhythm guitars with both the CE and RE modes to see if they sit better in a mix, and reserve my Klon KTR for more featured passages perhaps.
If – like me – you’ve already got a few boost pedals in your collection, and you’re looking for something new to try, then I definitely recommend the BP-1w. It gives me something that I don’t believe I have from anything else.
As your first boost pedal, though? If you’re chasing the sound of an artist who is known for using either of these preamp circuits, then definitely. Otherwise, I suspect you’d be better off with a pedal that’s less subtle (like the TC Electronic Spark), which will help you explore and learn more about using a boost in front of your main source of drive.