Does The Boss SDE-3000D Live Up To The Original’s Reputation?

There are few guitarists who have left a legacy quite as big as that of Eddie Van Halen, but a legacy wasn’t all he left behind he also left a real mystery that guitarists have been trying to decipher for years – his tone. 

The famous “Brown Sound” is a tone that many have gotten pretty close to, but not so many have actually cracked, and this is partially down to Van Halen’s tendency to keep his gear a secret. Over the years, people have figured out or found out some of the equipment in his rig, and one of the more notable bits of kit was the Roland SDE-3000 rack mounted digital delay unit.

The SDE-3000 became hugely popular in the ‘80s, and like a lot of iconic vintage gear, has become a highly sought after collector’s item. The biggest issue with a vintage nostalgia trip like the SDE-3000, though, is the sheer bulk of it. All hope isn’t lost quite yet if you’re looking for those massive ‘80s delay tones, because under their Boss brand, Roland has now rereleased the SDE-3000 in a convenient pedal form factor.

That pedal is the Boss SDE-3000D. Roland was kind enough to send us an SED-3000D for the purposes of this KillerGuitarRigs review. They didn’t ask for any input, and as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own. 

Does this pedal live up to the reputation of the rack mounted classic? Join us as we find out!

Read more about our review process.

Boss SD-3000D: Who is This Pedal For?

The Boss SDE-3000D is the perfect pedal for anybody trying to recreate the Van Halen tone. EVH made it famous, and had this been the original rack mounted version, we’d probably have been telling less advanced players to steer clear, but this new pedal form even newer players should be able to navigate its features and dial in some amazing ‘80s style digital delay.

Appearance / Features / Controls

As we’ve mentioned already, the Boss SDE-3000D is the pedal version of the iconic Roland rack mounted unit. As there’s quite a lot packed into it, it wasn’t surprising at all to find that it was a hefty pedal, though. At around 2” x 8” x 5”, it does take up quite a bit of space on a pedalboard, and at 2.4lb, it’s no lightweight – but if you’re OK with the bulk this shouldn’t really be a concern.

Unlike the original rack version, the SDE-3000D features 2 digital delays. It featured stereo in and stereo out, which allowed us to run it in 2 different parallel modes, and 2 different serial modes. In parallel we were able to run both delays simultaneously or one in the left channel, and one in the right, and in serial mode one delay actually cascaded into the other for a really interesting effect.

The large LCD display was clear and easy to read, with indicators for time, feedback, output, rate, and depth, with all parameters being controlled through the switches on the right hand side. 

Under the LCD we found the array of rocker switches, which any users of the original SDE-3000 will find quite familiar. The rocker switches made fine adjustments to the pedal settings an absolute breeze, which should be a relief for anybody who might be feeling intimidated by the sheer number of controls on this unit. 

Up on the top right there were 2 banks of memory switches, Bank A 1-4, and Bank B 1-4 for a total of 8 slots. These buttons made recalling previously saved settings really easy, and unlike many new digital pedals, we didn’t have to go fishing through menus to find what we were looking for. Interestingly, Boss had actually buried a “C” bank into the menus, though, and that featured an additional 92 spots for storing settings. 

As for connectivity, it had MIDI capability thanks to the pair of 3.5mm mini jacks, and the ¼” TRS sockets let us plug in expression pedals and external footswitches, making this an extremely versatile pedal.

Like pretty much anything Boss makes, it was absolutely rock solid. The build quality was just as we’d hoped for from a pedal at this

Performance / Sound

We ran the pedal in stereo through a pair of Fender Twin Reverb sims in the Axe FX and we were unsurprisingly impressed with the results. We’ve long been fans of the original rig, and we noticed no discernible differences in terms of tone from the rack mounted Roland version. 

Stacking the digital delays in parallel gave us a much shorter, sharper effect, which was much more useful with higher gain. In serial, the cascading effect was much more atmospheric, and we found that it really served up those elusive ‘80s tones.

The depth of control we got over the delay from the pedal was absolutely massive. It wasn’t unexpected, as it’s effectively a portable rack mounted unit. Until this pedal came along, a lot of players were subbing in the Eventide Rose, which is an amazing unit, but if you’re really looking for the ‘80s Van Halen type tone, this Boss is the pedal for you. Of course, it does so much more than Van Halen, too – it does Pink Floyd, Rush, GNR, pretty much anything from that era. It paired really well with both physical pedals and digital rigs, and sounded particularly good with practically any amount of overdrive.

Final Thoughts on the Boss SDE-3000D

The Boss SDE-3000D really is a game changer for anybody who wants an authentic ‘80s type delay tone, but who doesn’t necessarily have the room (or the money) for a rack mounted rig. It was made famous by some pretty big names, but in reality it’s the quality of the tones and the variety of delay sounds that you can squeeze from it that have made this pedal a classic.

If you’re specifically into the Van Halen sound, there’s also an SDE-3000EVH version available – we didn’t test this particular model, but the major differences are that it comes with some classic Van Halen presets built in, plus expanded connectivity to help to really replicate Eddie’s live rig.

We really enjoyed playing with this pedal, and it’s definitely going to see a lot of use at KGR HQ!

  • Simon Morgan

    Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and played the local scene throughout his teen years before running away to work on ships. These days his passion is budget guitars, amps and pedals - though he's not afraid of the finer things.

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