Boss DD-500 Digital Delay Review
$299.99 on Amazon.com
Boss DD-500 Digital Delay
• Great delay tones
• Huge array of available sounds
• Highly customisable
• Competitively priced
• Not every buyer will need the enormous array of options included
The Boss DD-500 is the company’s current flagship delay pedal. It was released last year and appears to be designed to compete with boutique delays like the Strymon Timeline. With its triple-footswitch design and the layout of the controls, it even looks like the Timeline. At $299, it’s two-thirds of the price, but does it deliver the goods?
Boss build on previous successes
The DD-500 is quite a powerful pedal and improves on the design of the older Boss DD-20 in a number of ways. It has more delay modes, deeper editing controls and a far greater number of customisable presets. The DD-500 also gives you the option of buffered bypass or true bypass operation, which will help it fit in with different set-ups. The company appear to be winding down manufacturing of the older dual-footswitch pedal. A number of retailers now list the Boss DD-20 as unavailable, although you can still pick it up if you shop around a bit. The DD-500 has 10 seconds of delay, less than the 23 seconds offered by DD-20. I can’t think of any application for which you would need more than 10 seconds though.
Huge range of tones from Boss DD-500
The general character of the pedal is clear and crystalline, unsurprising with the unit’s 32-bit/96kHz digital sampling. If you wish to dirty things up, there’s certainly the option there though. Boss have packed the DD-500 with 12 delay modes, which are: Standard, Analog, Tape, Dual, Reverse, Vintage Digital, Pattern, Tera Echo, Slow Attack, Filter, Shimmer and SFX. The first five of these modes may be familiar to those who have played other Boss pedals. New additions include Vintage Digital, Pattern, Tera Echo, Slow Attack, Shimmer and SFX. There’s a huge variety of sounds included. Some are better than others but they are all usable and there’s some stunning sounds available with minimal tweaking.
‘Standard’ is a clear digital delay. ‘Analog’ adds a mild analog timbre to the delay. ‘Tape’ provides the warm, wavering sound of tape echo. ‘Dual’ provides two delays which can be connected in series or parallel. It’s more versatile than the dual delay on the DD-20, which limited the second delay to 100ms. ‘Reverse’, naturally, plays back the delay in reverse for an experimental effect. ‘Pattern’ provides sixteen delay lines which can be independently set for rhythmic effects. ‘Tera Echo’ is a spacious ambient effect inspired by the Boss TE-2. ‘Slow Attack’ suppresses the attack, as if the volume is being faded in. ‘Filter’ adds a swept filter. ‘Shimmer’ mixes in a pitch-shifted sound. ‘SFX’ adds a unique sound-effects character to the delay. ‘Vintage Digital’ adds a warm sound, and is modelled on the Roland SDE-3000 rack unit and early Boss DD-2 pedal.
Boss provides a backlit graphic display to keep track of the delay parameters. The menu is well set-out and allows you to navigate the huge variety of editing controls within the pedal. The physical controls on the unit will be enough to satisfy the requirements of many guitarists, although the deeper editing options are there if you want to get technical.
Related: Finding the best Boss delay pedal
Flexible approach to triple-footswitch design
As mentioned the Boss DD-500 has three footswitches. The standard set-up allows control of two patches, bypass, tap tempo and delay bank selection. The switches also control the looper function. The switches can be re-assigned to different roles, for example to enable the layering of two different patches. In standard operation the pedal has 198 patch banks (99 banks x 2). It is possible set-up the pedal to extend the number to 297 (99 x 3). The footswitches can even be assigned to provide more bizarre effects like ‘Warp’ and ‘Twist’, which were seen on the DD-20. I’m not sure if anyone was really hankering for a return of ‘Twist’, but a number of players found the infinite repeats of Warp useful in certain applications. If you feel the need for greater control on the fly, the pedal can be expanded by the use of the optional expression pedal or dual or single external footswitches. The pedal also has a MIDI I/O for additional control options.
Boss have moved away from their traditional wide footswitches in favour of the narrower metal footswitches, presumably to save space. There’s LEDs attached to each footswitch which helps make the pedal stage-friendly. The DD-500 has a tough metal chassis as you would expect from Boss. The controls are angled and have clear white markers which have good visibility. The knobs aren’t recessed, although the footswitches are angled and set away from the knobs, so they are well-placed to avoid mishaps. The control scheme is clear and well set-out. The controls are: Mode, Time/Value, Feedback, Effect Level, Tone and Mod Depth. There’s also four buttons to control the editing parameters.
Stage-ready looper included
There’s a number of parameters which can be tweaked for the included looper. In standard operation the loop is 60 seconds, in 96 kHz for mono and 48 kHz for stereo. You can extend it to 120 seconds in 48 kHz mono. The looper can be operated with or without delay. It’s pretty handy and unlike some loopers tacked on to delay pedals, it could be utilised effectively on-stage. Naturally if looping is integral to your set, it’s not going to cut it and you should get a dedicated looper. But for limited live applications it would work fine.
The unit gives users the options of running it via four AA batteries or an AC adaptor. It has a battery life of approximately seven hours. As usual Boss ship batteries with the pedal but no adaptor. So be prepared to spend a little extra if you want the reliability of running the unit with an AC adaptor.
The Boss DD-500 is a winning proposition and the pedal will no doubt be a major player when it comes top-level delay units. It sounds beautiful and has a large range of tonal options. There’s a huge amount of customisation available but Boss have packaged it all into a user-friendly format. Some have claimed the pedal is a Strymon Timeline killer. Personally I think no delay can touch the sublime sounds the Timeline produces. That said, if I was in the market for a top-notch delay and I wasn’t in a position to drop $449 on a pedal, the DD-500 would be a very appealing option.
United Kingdom: Gearsformusic
International: Ebay, Thomann, bhphotovideo
This is fantastic digital delay. The sound quality is awesome and the flexibility is astounding.
Absolutely love this delay, fully MIDI controllable and easy to navigate switching and interface. Last delay pedal I'll ever need.
The editor is gorgeous and super easy to handle, almost each parameter of the delay effect can be altered accordingly.
Tons of space for presets or programming your set lists in. Tons of options. Super easy to figure out. Sounds great.
- Sampling Frequency: 96 kHz
- AD/DA Conversion: 32 bits
- Processing: 32-bit floating point
- Maximum delay time
- 10 sec.(depends on delay mode)
- Phrase loop: 60 sec. (96 kHz/MONO, 48 kHz/STEREO), 120 sec. (48 kHz/MONO), Delay can be applied.
- Patches: 198 (99 banks x 2 [A] [B]), 297 (99 banks x 3 [A] [B] [C])
- Bypass: Buffered bypass or True bypass (with relays)
- Connectors: INPUT A/MONO, B jacks: 1/4-inch phone type, OUTPUT A/MONO, B jacks: 1/4-inch phone type, CTL 1,2/EXP jack: 1/4-inch TSR phone type, USB COMPUTER port: USB type B USB-MIDI, MIDI (IN, OUT) connectors, DC IN jack
- Power Supply: Alkaline battery (AA, LR6) x 4, AC adaptor
- Current Draw: 200 mA
- Expected battery life under continuous use: Alkaline: Approx. 7 hours
- Accessories: Owner's manual, Leaflet "USING THE UNIT SAFELY", Alkaline battery (AA, LR6) x 4
- Options (sold separately): AC adaptor: PSA series, Footswitch: BOSS FS-5U, FS-5L, Dual Footswitch: BOSS FS-6, FS-7, Expression Pedal: BOSS FV-500H, FV-500L, Roland EV-5.