Boss OS-2 Overdrive/Distortion Mini Review

Discussion in 'Pedal Pushers Forum' started by Synchro, Jul 31, 2021.

  1. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    When it comes to overdrive pedals, my relationship to these devices has always been a bit tentative. Some of the early Fuzz Boxes, heard on recordings really assaulted my senses and it took a while for me to come to terms with the fact that not every overdrive was little more (or less) than a square wave generator. As the ‘70s wore on, I began to hear recordings where the overdrive was much more touch sensitive and filled with harmonic overtones. Slowly, I began to learn that overdrive and distortion are broad terms, at best, and that within those terms lie a wide variety of sounds, some of which I liked.


    The Boss OS-2 is a bit of an outlier, being a pedal that offers both overdrive and distortion, which are controlled by a panning potentiometer, which mixes the proportion of each effect. That still leaves us with the definition of overdrive, vs distortion, which may end up in the Supreme Court. :) I’ll return to this point later on.


    So the pedal has the same three controls as virtually every basic overdrive: Level (Volume), Tone (of the wet signal) and Drive, plus the aforementioned pot to mix the proportions of overdrive and distortion which is labeled as Color. The output level of the pedal is primarily by the Level control, but as you increase the Drive, the Level control may have to adjust the Level control downward to maintain a consistent volume. As the Drive is turned up, the output level increases as well, though the taper is not the same. If you set the Drive to taste and then set the volume, you’ll be good to go.


    Now, onto the Color control, which seeks to balance Overdrive with Distortion. My own use keeps this control fully CCW, in the Overdrive mode. For the purposes of this test, I tried the control in the fully CW position and fully in Distortion mode. The biggest difference my ears could detect was that in Distortion mode the sound was somewhat smoother, more compressed and less responsive to the dynamics of the signal coming in from the guitar. One thing I noticed is that the blend between Overdrive and Distortion didn’t seem all that subtle. At the 25%, 50% and 75% points I didn’t really see all that much of a difference. The main reason I would dial in some Distortion would be to reduce the touch sensitivity slightly, and 50 - 60% would do the trick. Much less and there would be little discernible effect and once you get to 75% distortion you might as well just dime it.


    In the Overdrive mode, the response to dynamics is very apparent. It cleans up if you use a light attack and really drives hard if the guitar is played aggressively. It reminds me of a cranked ‘59 Bassman, when it comes to both sound and response. You can’t easily hide behind the Overdrive, but the Distortion covers a multitude of shortcomings. There apparently is a degree of regeneration in the circuit, because the sustain seems enhanced. Whatever the details, the overall effect is one of responsiveness and this pedal, at least in Overdrive mode, serves as an extension of the guitar, instead of a black box device that the guitar hides behind.


    The price point is quite low, $102 as of this writing, in July of 2021. Like all Boss pedals I’ve owned, the quality and durability are top shelf. It is buffered and the buffer does not seem to color the signal at all. I tested it in bypass mode against just a patch cable with no effects in line and there was no signal loss that I could hear with the pedal in bypass. A good buffer will do that.


    Overdrive pedals run the gamut. There is a proliferation of these pedals, ranging from very transparent to heavy overdrives with a highly saturated sound. There are a lot of solutions with various approaches to clipping and preamps. No one size fits all. This is one solution and I find it to my liking, but it may not be to your liking. The best way that I can characterize the sound is to call to mind the final guitar solo in the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s remake of Spooky, circa 1978. For me that works well. It’s worth a listen.
     
    Jeff67 and sgarnett like this.
  2. Jeff67

    Jeff67 Country Gent

    Age:
    54
    Nov 3, 2019
    Crockett, Texas
    Great review! I've always been fond of my DS-1 and BD-2, but I've always been curious about the OS-2. Gonna have to pick one up!
     
  3. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    This is a lot less grainy than the BD-2.
     
  4. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    62
    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    Starts at about 2:30

     
    Robbie likes this.
  5. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    62
    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    Great review . This is the Overdrive - Distortion one on my board . I love the " silent / soft touch " foot switches too

    Screen Shot 2021-07-31 at 8.32.19 PM.png
     
    GlenP likes this.
  6. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    Sandy Eggo
    slight mods on boss pedals can make a huge diffo in a positive way
     
    thunder58 likes this.
  7. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    62
    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    Absolutely
     
  8. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    That’s the one!
    My overdrive/distortion pedal can beat up your overdrive/distortion pedal. :)

    Actually, that looks like a nice piece of kit.
     
    thunder58 likes this.
  9. Viking Power

    Viking Power Synchromatic

    533
    Jun 11, 2018
    Mountlake Terrace, WA
    Owned an OS-2. Never got along with it.
     
  10. Robbie

    Robbie Friend of Fred

    Age:
    68
    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    I’m OD pedal hesitant but the OD-2 sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.
     
  11. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Actually, I use overdrive rarely. I have experimented with some of the more transparent options which sound like Dumble barely breaking a sweat. The only limitation with these is that they tend to either get very grainy or very thin if you drive them hard.

    For me, this is a set-it and forget-it pedal which I can click in for a medium drive, such as the Atlantic Rhythm Section solo referenced above. I use it on two songs in our setlist, a cover of the ARS’ version of Spooky, where I outro with a similar solo, and an instrumental cover of LaGrange.
     
    Robbie likes this.
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