Yes, Boss

I started playing guitar in 1980. This was when the guitar was still the instrument of the proletariat. The empowering thing about guitar was that almost anybody could buy, learn, and express himself or herself with one. It didn't required an education, a pedigree, or a ton of money. It just required a fair bit of talent, a whole lot dedication, and a modest amount of money.

Vintage collectors existed but weren’t yet "a thing". The Gear Page didn’t exist. And I'm pretty sure the whole concept of Guitar Aficionado magazine (RIP, but can't say I'll miss you) would have been met with much laughter and contempt. As would ultra high-end guitar cables! There weren’t “boutique” builders. Small builders sure, but other than perhaps Alembic, they were building gear for normal people of normal means. This was when Tube Screamers, script logo MXR Phase 90s, and Boss CE-1s were just good tools that savvy players hipped each other to while talking between sets, not fetish items with obsessed fan bases wringing hands over every minute detail of their circuits, desperately seeking that one mystical component responsible for their magic.

Back then, Boss was near the top of the small heap of effects makers. They were actually a higher-end pedal maker of the time. If you lacked the money, you bought an Electro Harmonix or a Maestro. If you had more coin, you bought Boss, Ibanez, or MXR. And a lot of great albums and concerts have been made using Boss/Roland gear.

Nowadays Boss has a reputation for being decidedly pedestrian. The stuff that people who don’t know better, or don’t have enough money, buy. And in matters of commerce, perception is reality. If buyers believe that Boss is second rate, then it is. There’s no better proof of that than the fact that Boss introduced the Waza Craft line. It's a deliberate effort to recapture some high-end cachet, create a credible up-market brand, and raise their average purchase price.

Prior to buying my Tube Amp Expander, I had read more than one post on guitar forums expressing some disbelief that Boss is putting out something that not only competes with, but is better than the Universal Audio OX in many ways. Most remarks were things like, "Wow, Boss is really shaking things up!" which were positive, but also unintentionally backhanded because they spoke to Boss' down-market perception. I think it's fair to say that on every objective measure the TAE stacks up quite well compared to its competition, and it's a toss-up on the subjective measures.

But I’ve never completely bought into the idea of Boss/Roland as a low-end company. This is the company that made the Jupiter 8, JX-3P, GR-500, CE-1, JC-120, TR-808, TB-303, SG-1, DD-2, D-50, SC-55, VS-880, the Fantom-X – all groundbreaking products in their time. Roland/Boss has really never stopped being an innovative MI company in my opinion. They helped create a lot of the markets that more prestigious upstarts have now captured mindshare in.

I wish them luck. As in art, industries thrive by innovating.