Pros: Build great, smooth tone...classic over drive type sounds.
BD-2: Blues Driver
It’s beensome time since I’ve written a review. When I last wrote on e-pinions, they still didn’t have a lot of guitar products on line other than guitars and some amps. It was a nice surprise to come back and find they have added several more guitar products and accessories. While searching through several I found the BD-2: Blues Driver and remembered “hey I have one of those.” So I decided today would be a good day to pull it out, dust it off and play it again and write a new review.
Boss has been making guitar pedals for over 30 years and is a division of the Roland Corporation. Roland was founded by Kakehashi in Osaka on April 18, 1972. The business was originally a repair shop for electronic goods. The earliest Boss product was called B-100 The Boss, released in 1977. This was a clip-on pre-amp and a pickup to amplify acoustic guitars. Boss's line of compact pedals began in 1978 with the release of three pedals:an overdrive pedal (OD-1), a phaser pedal (PH-1) and a parametric equalizer called the Spectrum (SP-1). Later in 1979 Boss released the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble. It was a fairly large, AC-powered unit.
From their own statement Boss claims “Known around the world as the company that put the ‘stomp’ in ‘stompbox.’” My first Boss pedal I ever bought was the original Boss Flanger, which I still have. I have always been impressed with the construction, quality & sound of Boss pedals. They are built in a metal chassis and have solid dependable, noise free switching. With how solid these pedals are built they are made to last for a long time and you can definitely stomp on them with out worry of breaking them.
According to the Boss website for the BD-2 they state “This popular pedal provides instant access to the kind of warm overdrive and emotive distortion usually reserved for 30-year-old tube amps.” Seems like a pretty bold confident statement huh? But after you try the BD-2 Blues Driver you will be quick to agree.
Testing I chose 2 of my favorite amps and guitars for a fair testing. A late 80’s Fender American Standard Strat and my 1970 Les Paul Black Beauty. My amps chosen for the test was my original tweed Blues Junior and 1965 Fender Twin Reverb (reissue) to test the BD-2 Blues Driver through. For the first test I started with my Strat and Blues Junior amp. I set the amp with the bass, mid, and treble controls in the middle…straight up. I set the pre-gain just under where it would start to distort or add noticeable pre-amp crunch. The master was set to 3, well under where it would push the output tubes to distort as well. So basically getting a nice clean tone right on the edge to where if the pre-amp was pushed harder the amp would crunch up accordingly. Next the guitar tones and volume was set wide open. I set the BD-2 Blues Driver level straight up, where the have it marked as “middle” with the gain setting all the way down, also the tone control all the way off…or counter clock wise.
The first test I wanted to check was with the guitar through the pedal and the pedal off. Does the pedal add any coloration or level change in anyway? So I play a little, then un-plug the pedal and plug the guitar directly into the amp. The level and tone was the same, no apparent change. So the result is with the pedal off, it does not change your guitar tone. I have read some people complain that it does not have a true by-pass switching in and out. Well, it’s not a problem, when a pedal is designed correctly. The BD-2 Blues Driver is clean and quiet when it’s switched off.
Next test is playing and switching it on with the above setting mentioned. The gain was the same and I could hear just a faint crunch starting. It was very smooth and not real noticeable. More importantly for me I noticed that the overall tone stayed about the same... with the tone control off or set all the way counter clock wise. Meaning the pedal does not have an “over-bearing” tonal change when switched in. Let me explain further...
As a guitarist you probably have spent many years and money searching for that perfect amp that will become your sound. I play my Blues Junior for a reason. The way it sounds. So when I add a pedal for drive, crunch or distortion, that’s all I want it to do! Not change the tonal properties of my guitar and amp I have selected. Back to the test. I decide to add more gain on the BD-2 Blues Driver to a ¼ way up. Resulting in a light crunch natural sounding drive. I also noticed that the BD-2 Blues Driver was very responsive to how I played. If I played harder it crunched up more, if I backed off it cleaned up. Very much like playing through my Blues Junior with the gain set higher.
Next I adjusted the BD-2 Blues Driver’s gain in the middle…half up. This sounded great! I did have to adjust the level on the BD-2 Blues Driver down some to match the volume to where I was originally at. This is normal anytime you add pre-gain you are going to add a certain amount of volume as well. At half way the BD-2 Blues Driver delivered great drive and tube amp sounding crunch. Very natural sounding as if I was cranking the Blues Junior half way up with the tubes working harder. Depending on my pick-up selection on my Strat and how I played, it sounded very versatile from blues to crunchy classic-rock type chunky-rhythm guitar sounds. Also the BD-2 Blues Driver still remained very expressive, responding smoothly between light and heavy playing.
Next I cranked the BD-2 Blues Driver gain all the way up. Again I had to adjust the level on the BD-2 Blues Driver down a bit to match where I was at. With the pedal all the way up it really crunches up nice. Very much like a tube amp cranked up and pushing hard! I have to say I was surprised how much gain there is from half way up to full “tilt”. You really can get nice sounding Leads that are smooth and not harsh like a lot of distortion/crunch pedals. I felt for my taste all the way up was just too much but about 80% up way perfect for lead work. I did notice at this point I needed to adjust the tone control just a bit to brighten the tone for lead work. Not much, I adjust it to about ¼ up.
This is normal too as with amp/pre gain circuits when you add a lot of pre-gain, tones can become duller or “less-defined”. So by adjusting a little kept my tone where I was wanting it from the beginning of the test.
I will say that the tone control on the BD-2 Blues Driver has a lot of head room. You can really make it sound bright, to very bright to a little harsh if that’s what you like. I suppose this is helpful if you have a guitar with really fat/beefy or even dull sounding pick-ups. You do have a tone control that actually works here.
At this point I was pretty happy with the sounds I was getting out of my Strat through this set up so I dialed it back down to the original settings and swapped out the Strat for my 1970 Les Paul Black Beauty. Without rehashing everything from before, let me sum up that I went through the same steps and the BD-2 Blues Driver performed with shining results as before. My amp still sounded like a Blues Junior should and the Les Paul sounded as it should. The BD-2 Blues Driver sounded very smooth and musical following how I played the Les Paul and all settings.
Next Test was to try the same test set up using the 1965 Fender Twin Verb. To summarize…….the BD-2 Blues Driver sounded great. Especially with the gain on the pedal set at 50%. Using both the Strat and Paul sounded very crunchy and punchy through the Twin Verb. Infact the BD-2 Blues Driver really made the Twin Verb sound like it was cracked on about “7” and overdriven, but at a lot less volume. The twin I had set on 2.
The Final Word
I’m really not sure why I haven’t used the BD-2 Blues Driver more often. I’ve had it for some time and used it maybe a few times in the past, but it was with another combination of pedals. So maybe the other combination of pedals altered too much of what I was trying to do with the BD-2 Blues Driver? I’m not sure, I can’t really remember. But I will say this pedal sounds great. It does what it says; it drives your amp or adds drive/gain to your amp. It really does make a tube amp, set on clean sound like it would if it was overdriven at different stages. So let me point out a few things to maybe the reader who have less experience or understanding of tube amps.
#1. The BD-2 Blues Driver is not a distortion pedal. It is a drive or “overdrive” pedal. There is a difference. Thus probably why Boss called it the Blues Driver. As most blues guitarist are known for getting that juicy, creamy blues tone by taking small tube amp combo’s like the “black face or tweed” fender amps; Princeton, Band master, Bassman, Deluxe or other small tube amp combo’s like that and cranking them up to 6 or 7. Getting that natural pre-amp drive with a soaked power amp overloaded distortion. The BD-2 Blues Driver does this with your amp set to clean.
#2. I feel maybe Boss should change the name from Blues Driver to maybe “Classic Driver.” By putting the name blues on it may make you think that it’s just meant for blues players…or only produces blues tones. BD-2 Blues Driver does do that very well, you can get great blues tones and sounds from it. But it does great for getting classic crunch and overdrive rock tones as well and would serve well in any rock and roll rig set up.
#3. With that said also by calling it the blues driver one may think that if I by this pedal it will make my rig sound like a blues rig. But the reality is that will depend on what you are playing this pedal through. For example; if you are playing a 100 watt high-gain Marshall head through 4X12 cabinet or something similar (Mesa boogie, Randall ext) and think by using the BD-2 Blues Driver is going to make your rig sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan or Buddy Guy, then your mistaken. Mostly because those amps are so distinctive sounding and traditionally used for rock. I’m not saying the BD-2 Blues Driver won’t sound good through that type of set up but just probably not as good as say a smaller combo set up.
Remember it this way.
As I mentioned before during testing. The BD-2 Blues Driver does not have an overbearing tonal “sound” of its own. For example; the BD-2 Blues Driver does not claim to sound like 1958 Fender Bassman, or Fender Deluxe or a Vox AC 30. What it does claim is to provide classic over-driven type tone (drive) to what ever amp you are using.
So if you are playing a high-gain 100 watt Marshall head and crank the BD-2 Blues Driver through it, it’s gonna sound like a cranked up high gain 100 watt Marshall head. Which are not usually common on most blues recordings or settings. In closing, whatever you ended up calling it, the BD-2 Blues Driver is a very good sounding “driver” pedal that can bring out the best qualities with whatever amp you are using. It’s not going to make you sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray or B.B King…but what will?
Only you can sound the way you do and play the blues your way. Using the right gear like amps, guitars and pedals will help you get closer to that sound you want.
The BD-2 Blues Driver is one of the tools that can definitely help you get there. It’s earned a permanent spot back in my guitar rig line up!
To listen to a demo of the BD-2 Blues Driver click here.