Boss Turbo Distortion DS-2 Overview
I acquired this pedal second hand, with a view to building up some key pedal FX to use in front of the Maggie366 amp to create my own individual setup with a view to live performance. I was going to build my own boost pedal, but for the cost of a pedal -when less than about 30 pounds – it would cost as much or more for the components and chassis alone, so is not cost or time effective, and with units as complex as this, it isn’t worth it except for educational purposes:
I was hoping this had enough none distorted drive to push the Maggie pre-amps to distortion, so I would not have to use the Boss digital OD sound at all. Alas, it doesn’t, as the bulk of the gain comes from the distortion knob, not the Level knob. This is because the unit attenuates the signal to zero with the Level control at minimum, so with the usual FLS 200mV test wave at the input, you need to have full Level and a bit of the distortion up to get back to unity gain. Disappointing.
There are 2 modes of overdrive that are quite different – Remote 1 and 2 – which are switchable via a jack socket from a stomp type on/off footswitch when set to remote 2 position, but mode 2 is twice the level!. Not good.
You can get a smoother distortion with softer clipping with a lower Distortion control setting:
On full for both modes you get the typical squares ,but a high frequency leading edge on mode 2:
After hearing the cleaner and smoother distortion of valves for the last months, digital distortion sounds horrible to me at this point! To be fair, you never know if a second hand unit is performing as it should, as this pedal gets some great reviews and has a longevity since 1988 that speaks for itself. This unit had a metal bead and a piece of plastic rattling around in it for a start (kids poking stuff in holes is my guess), and the output jack crackled and lost volume with movement. I undid this, and fixed it by filing a clean chassis ground, and bent the jack connection ground pin so that the chassis wedged against it when tightened, and also tightened the input nut. This fixed the problem.
This unit does grow on you, and sounds good through a delay, which takes the harsh edge of the digital distortion somewhat. The mode 2 is odd – it sounds like it is slightly phased/filtered at times. I have been getting used to it with my new Marshall Echohead pedal, which has a Tap Tempo option (and absolute necessity for any delay box in my opinion – twiddling knobs for musically synch’d delay times is not an option worth contemplating!). I’ll review that another time maybe – speaks for itself really – has a sturdy Marshall quality about it you would expect – required against the Boss build reputation, and other cheaper makes of any pedal type.
The main problem with this OD pedal is the 2nd mode of OD being much louder than the other as mentioned above with the mode 2 signal being twice the voltage. This makes setting Clean, OD 1 and OD2 modes to equal volume levels impossible. You can set clean and mode 1 the same with the Level and Dist knobs fine, but 2 is too loud relatively. If you set to mode 2 you can use a latching type stomp switch to change between the 2 modes, which is a great idea in a foot pedal, but you need to be able to set relative volumes to suit yourself really, as not every style of guitar solo needs to be much louder than all else. Shame.
The only way round this that I can think of at the mo, is to try with a compressor immediately after the DS-2, so that mode 2 is squashed but Clean and mode 1 are not? I will try this when my Marshall ED1 Compressor arrives. If you don’t set the distortion to full, you can get a nice balance of OD crunch where you can still clearly hear the different pickup switch tones from the guitar, but get the pinched harmonics and a good lead tone as well, which is better than I expected to get from a digital overdrive.
On the whole a good pedal, which are quite cheap at 20 quid up on Ebay. It certainly seems “unique” in its tone compared to say, the Boss ME10 OD sound, but it is still raw digital, and pretty nasty on its own in my view – but playable nonetheless because it is dynamic enough, and has a range of tonality rather than just clean or full on, so you can hear your guitar’s sound still. The main practicality for me at present is being able to play OD quietly which I can’t do with the valve Maggie, which is just too loud for the neighbours. (Yes – I can always use the Vox AD30VT I know – but I’m exploring pedal usage with valve amps at present).
I’ll reserve final judgement against it when the Marshall Guvnor 2 pedal arrives from Ebay. I lost out on an Ibanez Smash SM7 which sounded interesting – it has 2 levels of noise gate also which would be handy in a Pedal FX chain – much cheaper in the States than here.
I will do a vid of the raw sound of this pedal, with then without the delay, just so you get an idea of its tone, but I will wait until the Guvnor 2 and the Fender Bassman 58 arrive so I have a direct tonal comparison for all these pedals.