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Boss DC-2

Some 12 years ago, I was working at a music store here in Portland, when someone brought in a pedal I had heard of, but never seen in person. This person entered the store, walked right up to the front counter with the pedal, set it on the counter and said, “How much would you give me for this? It doesn’t work.” My boss offered him $30 and he took it. I bought it immediately for a $20 markup. It needed a battery.

This pedal was the Boss DC-2, otherwise known as the Dimension C, still one of my favorite pedals ever.

44 years ago in 1976 (yep), Roland yanked the chorus section from its venerable Jazz Chorus amp, slapped the Boss name on it and turned it into the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble. Even at nearly half a century old, the CE-1 is still the gold standard for aficionados of the effect. They remain collectible and extremely expensive to this day. I have a lot to say about this unit, so perhaps one day I will pull it out of the cabinet and say my piece.

However, it was a bit overbearing. In 1976, the idea of having a large pedalboard was still a ways away. Many pedals required an AC receptacle and were huge. A Pedaltrain board that can accommodate four CE-1s can also fit 18 Pro Co Rats or 16 compact Boss pedals instead, so a board filled with vintage effects was all but out of the question. Then there’s the features: there’s an input attenuator switch, level control and switchable chorus and vibrato modes. Many modern pedals eschew the first two features (though they maybe shouldn’t) and the switching system could have been streamlined just a bit.

Just three years later, Boss revamped the CE-1 to fit into a compact pedal, the CE-2. The powers that be stripped the CE-2 of its input attenuation and level control, serving up two knobs: Rate and Depth. This pedal became the poster child for chorus effects for decades to come, and its shadow all but blocked out the sleekest and most misunderstood member of this spatial family—the Dimension C.

No, it wasn’t an officially designated CE-X pedal; the third in that line was released three years prior to the DC-2, and I’m not going to talk about it. Just as Boss had done with the CE-1-to-CE-2 and SDE-3000-to-DD-2 (1983) miniaturizations, the DC-2 was a direct descendent of the SDD-320, a big ol’ box with not a lot going on outside of four pushbutton switches and a level meter. This barren interface made it ripe for compactness and Boss did just that, ditching the big red “OFF” button and the level meter, yet retaining the four radio buttons; the only Boss pedal to feature them.

Each pushbutton engaged one of four “Dimension” effects of varying intensity. Japanese gear designers were not ones to mince words back then. Like the Special Fuzz and Psychedelic Machine by Honey, the Roland Dimension series offered just that: subtle yet engrossing spatial exploration. When you ran either one in stereo, it felt like playing in 4-D.

In reality, this switching scheme only changes two resistors per push, altering the values by placing other resistors in parallel with the existing ones. With that said, intrepid modders can have a field day swapping values in and out should they see fit.

Despite its drab aesthetics, the circuit was rather expensive to make and deceptively complicated, relying on two separate BBD-equipped delay lines to process its truly atmospheric textures. Featuring 13 ICs, including two BBD lines and two companders, the DC-2 is one of Boss’s most complicated compact pedals, if not the most. The key to the operation is the compander circuits that, for lack of space, compress the dynamic range of signal up front and expand it in the back, hence the name and the circuit’s lush, room-filling tonality.

The effect is so unlike anything else in stompbox canon that many players—even DC-2 enthusiasts—may not recognize that the strength of the effect increases from left to right. To some, mode 3 has the most dramatic expansion effect, when it is in fact mode 4. Such is the sheer power of this alternate dimension; the horseshoe effect is on full display.

Boss’s DC-2 was released at just the right time in musical history, when atmospherics and nuance began to take hold in popular records. It may even be a bit before its time, as peak shoegaze hadn’t really gotten its foothold quite yet. But the DC-2’s legacy is such that Boss released it as part of its Waza Craft series, introducing this forgotten classic to a whole new generation of pedal-hungry players.

 

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