1979 BOSS SG-1 Slow Gear

Model Description:

While it may look like other familiar BOSS stomp boxes of the time, the dark brooding all‑monochrome BOSS SG‑1 Slow Gear is a very unusual and very rare (possibly the rarest) compact effect pedal that was only made by Japanese company Roland in small numbers between May 1979 and February 1982. The Slow Gear’s name and controls don’t give any sort of hint about what it actually does, only adding to its shadowy enigma. In reality, there hasn’t been anything else quite like it before or since (except maybe the Mooer Slow Engine clone). At its most basic, the analogue SG‑1 is a filter intended to work like an automatic volume/swell pedal. Perhaps counterintuitively, the SG‑1 shares the same circuit as the BOSS NF‑1 Noise Gate, which is used to eliminate unwanted low‑level background noise. However, in practice the Slow Gear effectively works in the opposite way to a standard noise gate. An average noise gate is designed to silence a signal when it decays to a preset threshold, thereby eliminating the noise floor. The SG‑1 on the other hand, cuts the initial signal’s attack to a threshold set by the ‘Sens’ knob and the sound then increases in volume at a speed set by the ‘Attack’ knob. A compressor or overdrive can often be used in front of the SG‑1 to even out the variations in input signal level for more consistent operation. Likewise, a delay after the SG‑1 can help to create unusual bowed, organ‑like or backwards‑style sounds, great for aural experimentation. Despite many hints, so far, BOSS has not reissued the Slow Gear, meaning the only ones available are the already‑scarce originals. Good quality BOSS SG‑1 Slow Gear pedals are now very hard to track down and can attract very (even ridiculously) high prices because of both their relative scarcity and uniqueness, making them highly sought after and eminently collectable on the vintage market. The downside of the SG‑1’s acquired elite status means that it is elevated out of reach of many would‑be enthusiasts and its ability to conjure up incomparable soundscapes are generally unfamiliar to many.

Pedal Description:

Working its way into your consciousness is this demure little 1979 BOSS SG‑1 Slow Gear from the first year of its manufacture. This example is in superbly pristine condition, looking just like new, even after several decades. As a collectable pedal, the only snag is the lack of its original box and instruction manual. There seem to be two schools of thought regarding the mysterious characteristics of the SG‑1. The naysayers suggest that it is an ineffective, overrated and overly expensive one‑trick pony that does little more than a poorly implemented auto‑swell. Conversely, the yea-sayers realise that its strength lies not in itself but the way it interacts with other effects. What it works with and what it doesn’t depends on your musical imagination and the other resources you have to hand. It isn’t the easiest of effects to get ‘right’ and it will have a ‘sweet spot’ dependent on what it is partnered with. Playing style and dynamics are also key to success, for instance continuous heavy playing is pointless because the filter doesn’t have time to reset. Similarly, weak single coil pickups may not have sufficient oomph to work the filter hard enough. For the unwitting, it may behave erratically or awesomely, suggesting that some thought and care is needed in operation. The annoying momentary LED ‘Check’ light only adds to the puzzle. This lack of predictability is odd, given that there are only two controls to contend with. As a result, the Slow Gear has a finicky reputation and it requires a lot of experimentation and technical practice to create unique sounds. I agree that, on its own, it seems to be a pretty limited effect, which may partly explain why its detractors readily dismiss it, especially within the context of exorbitantly high values on the vintage effect market. However, with time, patience and persistence, the SG‑1 can earn its place on a creative artist’s pedalboard. It’s worth it. No wonder it has been a weapon of choice for alternative and indie rock guitarists over the years. In fact, its paradoxical and sometimes mercurial qualities are part of its appeal to the adventurous and open‑minded musician. Yes, it is a collector’s curiosity but it is also a distinctive musical tool. It may look like so many other BOSS stomp boxes out there but it really is in a class of its own. So… to summarise, the SG‑1 is clearly not for everyone, which is just as well, given that it is far from ubiquitous, at least until BOSS deems it deserving for an overdue reissue. Cool and rare? Absolutely!


  • Made in Japan by Roland Corporation in July 1979
  • The ‘Sens’ knob controls the sensitivity and threshold of the effect to the input signal
  • The ‘Attack’ knob controls the speed of the effect’s response to the input signal
  • BOSS treadle with clear footswitch turns the effect on and off
  • Momentary red LED ‘Check’ light to indicate when the effect is switched on
  • Standard ¼” input and output mono jack sockets
  • 12V ACA DC power supply input or 9V battery
  • Black ‘Made In Japan’ label on the base of the pedal
  • Silver battery compartment thumbscrew
  • ‘Long dash’ model name
  • Dimensions: 70mm (w) x 125mm (d) x 55mm (h)
  • Weight: 400g (0.88lbs)
  • No box or instruction manual)


  • Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins)
  • Marty Friedman (Megadeth)
  • Robbie Robertson (The Band)


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