The Boss DD-3 is a digital delay pedal that was first released in 1986. Simple and effective, it’s been the go-to for any guitarists who wants a great sounding, reliable, and no-fuss delay pedal.
I’ve had my Boss DD-3 for around 10 years now, so I’ve written this detailed review to tell you my experiences, and what I’ve learned from using it.
The Boss DD-3 is simple in its design, but comes with all the features I’d expect from a Boss designed delay pedal. This includes:
- Four plastic control knobs
- Heavy-duty metal body
- ¼ inch jacks for input, output, and “direct out”
- High-quality analog to digital converters
- Cavity for a 9v battery
- Power adaptor (Boss 9v PSA)
- Red LED “power” light
While it has the essential features, and a little more, the Boss DD-3 lacks some of the more modern features us guitar players are used to, like analog emulation and tap tempo. But, this pedal laid the groundwork for all that followed it – so it can be excused.
Most of the features are self explanatory, so I’ll cover the one stand out feature: the direct output.
The direct output jack on the Boss DD-3 allows you to immediately output the input signal without the delay effect.
I find that this gives me great flexibility when performing or recording. For example, it’s great if I want to record both the original dry and wet signal. This means that I can preserve the original signal, in case I change my mind about having the delay. It also means that I can add effects to just the “wet” signal to create some more interesting sounds.
Direct output is also useful if I want to send the echoes to one amp and have the direct signal sent to another amp or speaker system. Again, this is great for adding something a little different to the delayed signal to give it an edge.
The direct output feature is missing from future models of Boss delay pedals, which is unfortunate as I think it’s one of the most useful features on this pedal!
The Boss DD-3 follows the standard Boss “stompbox” pedal design: a solid metal body that’s roughly 3 inches wide, 5 inches deep, 2.5 inches high, and weighs about 1lb.
The metal body is able to handle the hard knocks and bumps without cracking or breaking. I’ve had this pedal for a long time, and use it frequently, and I’m yet to see a chip or crack.
The plastic control knobs are made from a thick plastic which can also handle bumps and scuffs. Still, they are plastic, so any heavy blows may crack them. The knob mechanisms themselves are quite firm, so they’re not going to slip out of place easily.
The bit you stomp on is also heavy duty and hard wearing, likewise the heavy duty spring shows no signs of giving out just yet.
It also has a thick rubber base that provides some resistance against it sliding around. But, in my experience, I find that it’s best used with some velcro on a pedal board.
Its input and output jacks are very sturdy and haven’t come loose in the slightest.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the build quality of the Boss DD-3. It’s solid, sturdy unit that can easily handle vigorous use.
The Boss DD-3 has four control knobs that control the effect level, feedback level, delay time, and a mode selector.
The effect knob controls the amount of the delayed (“wet”) signal and original (“dry”) signal. A lower setting means more dry signal, and a higher setting means more wet signal. There’s plenty of room between the min and max settings, giving you lots of options when blending the two signals.
The feedback knob controls how many times the echo repeats before fading out.
If you use a little, you can get a slap-back delay effect, which is great for classic country and rock tones.
Turning it up all the way will get you an endless tunnel of delays. Unfortunately, turning it too high can cause it to produce unwanted feedback, which overpowers your signal. But, I’ve never needed to turn it above 2 o’clock.
I’ve tried using it above 3 o’clock, but it begins to self-feedback which completely overpowers my guitar signal. If you can find it, there is a sweet-spot somewhere between 2 and 3 o’clock that gives you an indefinite delay – but it’s temperamental!
The delay knob changes the length of time in-between the repeats. The minimum setting on the delay time knob means a smaller gap between echoes, and a max setting means a longer gap.
The mode knob has four settings: three that control the minimum and maximum times for the “delay time” knob (short, medium, and long) and a “hold” function.
The three delay time settings are easy to explain. Each setting sets a different range of times for the “delay time” knob:
- Short (12.5 ms – 50ms)
- Medium (50ms – 200ms)
- Long (200ms – 800ms)
So, setting the “mode” knob to “short” and the “delay time” knob to minimum creates a rapid, tremolo style delay. Setting the “mode” to “long” and the “delay time” to max gives you a very spacious, drawn out echo.
This gives you a wide range of delay possibilities.
I spend most of my time in either the “medium” or “long” modes, as I find that “short” really is too short. But, it’s great to have it as an option, as it’s great for sound design.
The “hold” function is interesting. It creates a very (very) short sample based on the previous x seconds. So, you play something and press and hold the pedal down, it’ll repeat that sample over and over, indefinitely.
Practically speaking, it’s not that useful. You only have enough time to sample a single chord or quick phrase, and it’s hit-or-miss as to what you get to repeat.
I think it’s fun for sound design, and adding some interesting texture to live performances, but these are very niche use cases. I’d rather it had something like a phrase looper, though this was added on future models of the Boss DD series.
From a user perspective, I find the controls really easy to use. They’re also really responsive to “in-the-moment” changes, so you can quickly adjust your sound on stage or in the studio if you need to.
How it sounds
Now we get to the important bit: how it sounds. The Boss DD-3 is a digital delay pedal, so it produces crisp and clear echoes that faithfully repeat your original signal without adding any color or character to it.
The range on this pedal is incredible too. In just a few knob twists you can go from country slap-back tones to out-of-this-world swirling echoes. Both the feedback and mix knobs also have plenty of room to dial in the specific sound you want.
Here’s how the Boss DD-3 sounds set to a quick, slap-back delay:
Next, here’s an example of me playing “Soothsayer” by Buckethead. I increased both the feedback and delay time to create the ringing echoes that add so much soul to the song.
Finally, here’s how it sounds with a longer, fuller delay. Again, I increased the feedback and delay time.This is great for adding a little something to otherwise dull chord parts.
Some people (not me) have a problem with digital delay, as it converts your guitar’s signal from analog to digital (A/D), and then back to analog (D/A). From my experience, the converters on the Boss DD-3 have plenty of resolution, and there’s no noticeable loss to the audio signal when it’s converted.
Like any other pedal, however, I find that it’s best to use it sparingly, as it can easily overwhelm your sound!
I think that the Boss DD-3 is a great digital delay pedal for both beginner and professional guitarists. If you’re looking for a no-fuss, ready-to-go pedal – then it’s the one for you.
While it does lack some of the features of more modern delay pedals; the Boss DD-3 is undeniably a worthwhile addition to any pedal board. What it does do, it does it well.
It’s worth noting that this model has recently be revamped as the Boss DD-3T, which includes a few extra “quality-of-life” like tap-tempo (finally!).