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The development of guitar distortion was one of the biggest things that happened to modern music. However, it actually took a while for it to evolve after years of guitar players pushing their tube amps to their limits and sometimes even damaging them to achieve this growling tone.
It was in the ’60s and the ’70s that compact distortion pedals came into the spotlight. The one that stands out and that is still being produced to this day is the legendary DS-1 by Boss.
Boss, however, began making an improved version of it, called DS-2.
Released in the late 1980s, it’s one of the company’s most popular products and is used by some famous guitar heroes as well, including Dave Navarro, Satchel of Steel Panther, Steve Vai, and many others.
Since this is a pedal worthy of praise, we decided to take a closer look at it and check out some of its basic features. After all, the popularity of DS-1 is not unjustified and a pedal that’s basically its successor is definitely worth reviewing.
Most of the guitar players out there are familiar with the classic DS-1 and its features. Being a regular distortion pedal, it has the level, drive, and tone pots. Its tone was something that made it so special, as well as its ease of use.
Back in the ’70s when it came out, it was certainly one of the most practical distortion devices out there, especially due to its compact size and durability.
But Boss decided to try out something new with this classic pedal back in the late 1980s, so they came up with a solution to add some more features to it. First off, the type of distortion itself is different.
The idea was to have a different type of clipping and something that would add more aggressiveness to the tone without becoming too blurry or fuzzy like those old distortion devices of the 1960s.
Looking back at that era of music now, it was only obvious a big company would decide to make such a product.
In addition, they added another switch that changes the color of distortion, making it significantly more versatile compared to many other distortion pedals. The switch has two modes, labeled as “I” and “II.”
But what is also really exciting is that they squeezed in another feature here. There’s an additional jack for an external footswitch. With this option, players are able to switch between the mode I and II by just one press of the button.
However, this also means that you need to buy that separate footswitch and find room for it on your pedalboard.
There’s not much to say about the design if you’re familiar with Boss pedals. The casing is the same old one that you see with most of Boss’ products even to this day.
The DS-2 has the same design as all the other Boss pedals with 4 knobs. The shade of orange color is different compared to the DS-1 but it still reminds us that it’s a successor of the old classic pedal.
In any case, it’s a great looking and a very durable distortion unit. Not like you would expect anything less from Boss.
Now, the pedal clearly is an advancement compared to the company’s older stuff. The first obvious thing in its performance is the different tone. We don’t want to say an “improved” version as both pedals sound great. They’re just different.
Although it relies on the classic DS-1, the tone is a bit harsher and the whole idea here is to replicate the sounds of some classic British amps and stacks.
Although it clearly is a bit stronger, the clipping doesn’t go down the road of the classic fuzz effects and remains compact enough for both heavy riffing and soloing.
Things get fun with the second mode where the pedal adds a different flavor to the tone and give even more aggressiveness to it. This is what you would want to switch to for some lead sections in heavy metal songs.
However, practically speaking, the mode is only useful if you get an external footswitch. If you’re doing a live show, kneeling down to switch the knob for this other part of the song would be a chore.
But while getting a footswitch is a good idea, it also comes as an additional expense and you’ll definitely spend some time squeezing it all in on a regular pedalboard.
If you’re up to it, it’s a good solution for lead guitars and the tone you’ll get from both modes will be more than decent. Just bear in mind that there’ll be some more investments involved here.
While DS-1 is still pretty much one of the most popular guitar pedals of all time, its successor DS-2 should not be overlooked. With the price between 60 and 80 dollars, it’s certainly not expensive compared to other stuff these days.
Besides, the tones that you can get with it are pretty good, and with the two modes, you’ll get more sonic options. Add an external footswitch, and it definitely comes in handy for live shows.
As for the tone, the Boss DS-2 is something you’d want to use for metal or grunge music. At the same time, guitar players like Dave Navarro and even John Frusciante have used it over the years for some of their lead parts.
Overall, it’s a good bang for the buck and you won’t regret getting one for your pedalboard. But if you’re looking for a versatile dirt box, there are some pedals out there these days with the two-stage distortion in case you’re willing to pay double the price.
If you’re looking something for blues-rock or classic rock, then the DS-1 or a classic overdrive would be a better choice. Either way, it’s a specific pedal and we recommend that you try it out yourself. Maybe you’ll find a completely different use for it.