The Boss DM-100 is a unique delay/chorus effects processor from the early 1980’s. Just as the 80’s were a time of transition from analog to digital, this piece of gear falls along these early hybrid lines. The electronics are based on a “Bucket-Brigade” design, named for the similarity to the way fires were put out back in the day by passing buckets along a line. Though the delay sound is stored in analog components, it’s timed through digital ones. This early and limited digital technology accounts for the short delay times and highly low-passed sound quality. Though a limitation by today’s standards, these same “shortcomings” result in a musical character that more than a few find desirable.
As soon as one comes across a DM-100, the differences between it and modern gear are striking. It seems not to just come from a different era, but a whole different dimension. Most obvious is just how huge the front knobs are. In use, their size is a direct reflection on the drastic effect each one has on the processed sound. And there are no hidden features (that is unless you consider the tiny chorus rate knob on the back). WIht the DM-100, what you see is what you get, similar to most synthesizers and studio gear of that era.
But if you were to judge this book by it’s cover, you might miss the point. The true beauty of the DM-100 delay is how it’s interface changes the experience of using the machine. The knobs and huge effect on the sound that turning them have, creates a sort of effects instrument to be played rather than tweaked. The instant and bold access to delay time, rate, and mix level through the knobs lends a natural tendancy to play and perform. And with this tendancy comes more immersion into the sound and an overall interactive experience.
An interactive sonic experience is always desirable, yet rarely found on modern instruments. Even ones that do have this require quite a lot of assigning macros, manual reading, etc. In this aspect, the DM-100 is a good reminder of just what we aim for. Also, in recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on effects as part of the synthesizer design. Once again, a simple machine from a quarter century ago shows us that we may have forgot what was very obvious in an earlier era.