Boss’ Waza Craft pedals are the company’s brand-new all-analogue, top-of-the line compact effects. The Waza Craft range has been designed to give the quality-conscious guitarist the full boutique-pedal experience in the well-loved Boss format.
The Japanese word ”waza” can be translated as art, artistry or technology, and hints at the fact that the three new pedals (the overdrives reviewed here, plus the DM-2W delay) are a return to old-school, all-analogue circuitry, and that the effects are factory-modded for your convenience.
The Boss Blues Driver BD-2W Waza Craft (current price in Finland around 155 €) is a ”waza-treated” update of the popular Blues Driver overdrive.
In the late 1970s Boss came up with the now-legendary, compact guitar pedal format, which has since become an industry standard. The typical Boss pedal is made from a cast metal casing with the quick-access battery compartment tucked away beneath the pedal’s switch flap.
The BD-2W comes with the standard three controls for Gain, Tone and Level.
The Waza Craft range’s special feature lies in their twin mode set-up. You can use the mini-switch to toggle between Standard- and Custom-mode. Standard will give you a boutique version of the regular Boss Blues Driver experience, while Custom ups the ante by offering you a wider dynamic range, as well as a warmer tonality with added top-end sparkle.
The first clip gives you an idea of the BD-2W’s sound with the Gain control at 12 o’clock. The first half is played in Standard-mode, switching over to Custom-mode for the second half:
For the second clip I turned Gain up to full:
The Boss Super OverDrive SD-1W Waza Craft (current price in Finland around 155 €) is the top-of-the-line version of the company’s yellow-clad classic.
The name gives it away – we’re looking at an overdrive stompbox, so we should expect a dynamic performance with a dense mid-range. As a rule of thumb, distortion-type effects tend to have more bite and a creamier compression than an overdrive.
The Boss SD-1W, too, sports three controls – Drive, Tone and Level – and a mode switch. Standard-mode is meant to give you an upmarket counterpart of the regular SD-1 pedal, while Custom-mode promises a wider frequency range (especially handy for ultra-low tunings).
Here’s a clip of the SD-1W with Drive set to 12 o’clock. Standard-mode comes first, followed by Custom-mode:
And this will give you an idea of this pedal’s sound with Drive turned all the way up:
What do terms like ”boutique-pedal” and ”premium range” really mean?
In the case of the Waza Craft pedals the answer lies in both the sound and the ”feel” of these effects:
Both overdrive boxes sound even creamier than the standard versions, while also adding a small degree of clarity to proceedings. These premium versions also manage to keep hiss levels even lower than their ”ordinary” counterparts. Both the BD-2W and the SD-1W feel somewhat more organic and responsive, when compared to their (well-made) standard range brethren. The overdrive tones are very natural, and both effects react very nicely to changes in playing dynamics or guitar volume settings. You never get the feeling of the effect being pasted on, instead there’s a real interaction going on between the player, his guitar and the effect pedal.
In isolation Boss’ Waza Craft overdrives might even seem a little underwhelming, but when you A/B them with their standard series counterparts the differences become quite clear rather quickly. Don’t get me wrong, the standard versions are reliable industry standards with a more than decent sound, but for the ultimate Boss-experience you should take the path to Waza Craft.
Boss BD-2W + SD-1W Waza Craft
approx. 155 €
Finnish distribution: Roland Suomi
+ classic format
+ two modes
JAM Pedals’ products are all-analogue, built by hand from first-rate components. Some models even rely on hard to come by NOS-chips and -transistors for their sound.
Most JAM-models can also be ordered in point-to-point versions, or with customised specifications and/or artwork.
All JAM Pedals come in hand-painted, unique designs, and are delivered with a cloth sack for storage, as well as a JAM-logo’d plectrum.
All the effects tested in this review run on a nine volt battery or a (Boss-type) power supply (not included).
JAM Pedals offers four different versions of its Tube Dreamer overdrive pedal.
Their compact Tube Dreamer 58 is the company’s take on the ultimate Ibanez Tube Screamer 808 pedal. The circuit is built around an original JRC4558D-chip.
The JAM Tube Dreamer 58 (current price in Finland: 185 €) wins you over with a healthy dose of that classic, creamy Tube Screamer mid-range. The TD58’s forte, though, is the vastly improved dynamic range of the JAM-model, and the more organic, amp-like overdrive structure, achieved by using three diodes for asymmetrical clipping.
This sound clip – like all the others in this review – has been recorded using a Fender Stratocaster and a Blackstar HT-1R valve combo:
The flagship model Tube Dreamer pedal is called the JAM Tube Dreamer+ (current price in Finland: 225 €), and is the deluxe version of the JAM Tube Dreamer 72, which is designed a ”secret chip”.
The Plus-version adds a high-gain-/boost-circuit (left footswitch) on top of the moderate-gain overdrive section (right footswitch).
The Tube Dreamer+ is shipped with the high-gain circuit adding only more gain to proceedings, but you can also adjust the high-gain circuit’s internal trimmer to deliver copious amounts of signal boost, whenever it is switched on.
In terms of its sound, the Tube Dreamer+ gives more than a passing nod to 1970s Blues Rock and Heavy Metal. Despite its high-gain boost, this JAM-model hasn’t been designed for contemporary Thrash Metal.
JAM Pedals’ stompbox fuzz is called Red Muck, and it comes in a Soviet-inspired colour scheme, complete with hammer and sickle graphics.
The starting points for the Red Muck fuzz’ (current price in Finland: 209 €) tone were the classic, early Big Muff -sounds.
JAM has refined the original fuzz character to come up with a much more versatile pedal. JAM’s Red Muck reacts extremely well to changes in the guitar’s volume knob settings, while the overall delivery is noticeably fatter and creamier, when compared to many other fuzz-effects. This pedal also takes well to full chords, and doesn’t mush up so quickly.
I have to admit that JAM’s Red Muck has quickly become my favourite fuzz box.
Listen for the tonal changes, as I slowly raise the volume control at the beginning of this clip:
The JAM WaterFall (259 €) is a dual-function effect pedal, offering chorus and vibrato in one compact package.
The two effects in the WaterFall have been designed around two legendary Panasonic-chips (the MN3101 and the MN3007), on which some of the earliest Boss modulation effects were also based.
The mini-switch on the right is for selecting the effect – chorus or vibrato (v) – while the switch on the opposite side lets you choose between a milder, vintage (-) version of the chosen effect, or its more drastic, modern counterpart.
The WaterFall’s chorus is simply superb, sounding very natural and musical:
Vibrato may not be the most-commonly used effect, but the WaterFall’s reading must surely be one of the sweetest-sounding there is:
JAM Pedals’ The Ripple (199 €) is an easy-to-use phaser. There’s only a single Speed-control for the effect, and that’s all.
This is one lush-sounding phaser – you can’t get more musical than this! The Ripple has a rich and organic tone, broadening your guitar sound, yet it never seems to usurp the show or hog the limelight.
The Delay Llama?! The guys at JAM HQ sure do have a sense of humour!
JAM’s Delay Llama (265 €) is an analogue, lo-fi delay pedal in the spirit of the early Eighties.
The Delay Llama features a classic bucket-brigade circuit, which uses an updated version Panasonic’s legendary MN3205-chip. The maximum delay time offered is approximately 600 ms. An internal trim port allows you to adjust the maximum number of repeats available from the Repeats-control.
The Delay Llama will bring sonic fulfilment to fans of the BBD-sound – there’s plenty of grease on tap, and each new repeat degenerates noticeably from the one before. Factory settings even allow for the Repeat-control to cause infinite and distorting feedback loops, something for the fans of psychedelic and experimental music.
In my opinion, these JAM Pedals offer the genuine boutique pedal experience at fair prices! They sound great, they look cool, their noise floor is low, and the pedals consume surprisingly little (battery) power. Give them a try!
effect pedals from Greece
Tube Dreamer 58 – 185 €
Tube Dreamer+ – 225 €
Red Muck – 209 €
WaterFall – 259 €
The Ripple – 199 €
Delay Llama – 265 €
+ low power consumption