ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion Pedal Review

Updated on June 19, 2013
The Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion features two modes, Normal and Turbo, which can be toggled by connecting the optional FS-5U footswitch.
The Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion features two modes, Normal and Turbo, which can be toggled by connecting the optional FS-5U footswitch. | Source

Overview

Standard Retail Price: $84.99
Typical Used Price: $40 to $70

Controls: Level, Tone, Dist, Turbo (modes I or II)
Power: 9-volt battery or Boss PSA adapter (not included)

Famous Users: Kurt Cobain (Nirvana); Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction); Prince (solo)
Further Information: The Official Boss Website; BossArea.com

Overall Value

4 stars for Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion

First Impression

Growing up and learning to play electric guitar in the mid-1990s, it's pretty much a given that the Boss DS-2 was my first distortion pedal. They were everywhere at the time, having been popularized by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana who famously used one for his buzzsaw dirty sounds on the squillion-selling Nevermind album. Back in the day, we all wanted that tone--switching from a pristine clean sound to a frighteningly loud, super-saturated distortion.

As with all Boss pedals, the DS-2 is built like a proverbial tank. As with its younger sibling, the DS-1 Distortion, the DS-2 comes in the same questionable orange color. In fact, it even sounds similar in its default "I" mode but the reason for releasing a sequel (of sorts) was Boss's addition of a "II" or Turbo mode. It must have come to Boss's attention that some players were using other pedals to boost or thicken the sound of the DS-1, and rather than lose business, they wisely added the Turbo option to the DS-2 to allow players to switch to a secondary sound using the same pedal. Turbo mode basically activates a bigger, nastier distorted tone that is not unlike the Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal.

Also, presumably learning from the mistake that had them re-releasing the OD-2 Turbo Overdrive as the OD-2R (which introduced the option to connect an FS-5U to toggle between normal and Turbo modes using one's foot instead of having to lean over and turn a knob), Boss cut to the chase and baked this option into the DS-2 right from the get-go.

John Frusciante, known mainly for his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, started using the DS-2 after Kurt Cobain's death. The pedal subsequently became a cornerstone of his sound.
John Frusciante, known mainly for his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, started using the DS-2 after Kurt Cobain's death. The pedal subsequently became a cornerstone of his sound. | Source

Ease of Use

Like all Boss pedals, one area where the DS-2 excels is in terms of operation, which couldn't be simpler. There's also an LED at the top of the control panel that brightens when the effect is on, and darkens when it's off.

Aside from the wide on/off footswitch that takes up the bottom 2/3 of the pedal, the DS-2 has four control knobs:

  • The "Level" knob adjusts how much volume is present when the effect is activated. Turn it to the left to lower the volume; turn it to the right to raise the dBs.
  • The "Tone" knob controls the EQ when the pedal is turned on. Turn it to the left to raise the bass frequencies and lower the treble; turn it to the right to mix in more treble and remove some bass.
  • The "Dist" knob decides how much distortion is present in the processed signal when the pedal is on. Turn it to the left to clean up the sound; turn it to the right to add more gain and saturation.
  • The "Turbo" knob has only two settings, I and II. When in mode I, the DS-2 produces a basic, fairly aggressive distortion sound not unlike that of Boss's DS-1. (Some people insist they're the same; I personally find them a little different, with the DS-1 being a little thicker in terms of tone.) On mode II, the character of the effect changes and acquires a more distorted, almost scooped-mid-range sound common to a lot of 80s metal and 90s alternative rock.

Additionally, there's a second input that allows for the connection of an optional Boss FS-5U that allows a player to toggle between the I and II Turbo mode by stepping on the footswitch. If you don't have the footswitch, then the only way to move between Turbo modes is by manually turning the knob.

Performance

As Frugal readers will probably know by now, I always like to consider a piece of gear's usefulness in the three main scenarios in which a musician will find him/herself: solo practice/writing, recording, and recording.

So let's look at solo writing and rehearsing first. The DS-2 is a lot of fun to incorporate into your practice, although there's more volume and gain on tap than you'll ever use at bedroom levels so it may be overkill for this kind of situation. Unless you have a dedicated rehearsal studio where you can crank the levels, you're unlikely to ever encounter the full range of sounds possible with this unit and it's probably not going to add much value to your practice time or writing. However, if you can let it rip a little bit, you may find that the Turbo Distortion's nasty tones inspire you to write certain kinds of riffs that sound a whole lot cooler when played a) loud and b) with this pedal exclusively.

In terms of recording, as I noted in my review of the Boss DS-1 Distortion, the DS-2 can be a little tricky to capture for all of the same reasons that make it a great live pedal. Unless you calibrate your microphones and gear toward the big, bold, ripped tones you'll undoubtedly be using the DS-2 to achieve, it's spectacularly easy to get a terrible sound when switching from clean to distortion. Additionally, this little orange pedal has a huge amount of headroom in terms of volume and gain, so while it can be tempting to crank it the way you would when playing live, in the studio, it's often best to back off just a bit. Don't worry, it'll still sound nasty but you won't lose articulation of your notes and chords. Unless that's what you're looking for--in which case, dial the Level and Dist knobs high for a super-saturated, sludgy mess of a sound. (It's kind of glorious.)

If you haven't guessed by now, I'm going to advocate for the live forum as the DS-2's most logical application. The contrast between cleaner, quieter sounds and cranked, wildly distorted grind was a huge component of 90s alt. rock, which was gestated in small, sweaty clubs and theaters in the Pacific Northwest. So it makes sense that this pedal found a home among the grunge set: being able to blow an audience away by suddenly hitting a footswitch is a powerful tool indeed. And when you don't have to worry as much about just how much distortion is too much--the heat of the moment is what counts in live music, right?--it's just too much fun to crank the Turbo Distortion and unleash the beast.

Mode I, as noted previously, closely resembles the DS-1 and if you like that pedal, in truth owning a DS-2 is like having one of these plus another pedal. Mode II is, however, where the magic lies and I know several players who exclusively use this pedal in Turbo mode. It's a very unique sound that I haven't really been able to duplicate with any other pedal or combination of other effects.

The Turbo Distortion definitely sounds best through tube amplifiers, as solid state amps don't seem to be able to properly handle it's highest-gain settings and just wind up sounding tinny and digitized. Hybrid amp owners will probably find moderately more success, although there's still some of that "fizz" in the treble end of the spectrum (probably caused by the solid state components that surround most hybrid amps' single tube).

Hotter pickups also work better with the DS-2. Stock Fender single-coils were a little too weak to really take advantage of anything the "Dist" knob has available past 12 o'clock; the tones were just too thin and plinky-sounding. However, on a Strat with a DiMarzio FS-1 in the bridge position, the Turbo Distortion sounded fantastically huge. Likewise with virtually any humbucker, even some of the stock models found in lower-end instruments. I personally found that there was more low-end available on the DS-2 than there was with the DS-1.

Conclusion

The Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion's only real drawbacks are the qualities that some players will view as strengths: the ability to dial in an extreme distortion sound that will cost you a bit in terms of note articulation, but make up for that with a very powerful, saturated buzzsaw grind.

I always felt that the lack of an included FS-5U was a shortcoming on Boss's part, but given that this would likely have raised the price $20 to $40, I can see why they kept this optional. It's a minor quibble at the end of the day, but going from a distorted sound to really distorted sound is one of the great joys this pedal will bring into your life. At least Boss didn't make the same mistake they made with the OD-2, and added the option to connect a footswitch right from day one.

All in all, though, the DS-2 is highly recommended for anyone playing punk, alternative or hard rock just because the pedal facilitates the sculpting of huge, gnarly tones with ease.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • The Public Image profile imageAUTHOR

      Nik Farr 

      4 years ago from Middleton, MA

      Once gain, D-S comes through with a great comment. I think there were two added elements that made Kurt's sound so massive: one was the fact that he used Hot Rails pickups, which are basically single coil-sized humbuckers; the other is the fact that he didn't generally use guitar amps, but instead stacked a Mesa Boogie studio preamp in front of 2 to 4 PA power amps. That'll tend to throw a lot of sound off, regardless of what kind of speaker cab they're fed into!

      Still, I've come pretty close to approximating his sound on a smaller scale using a thin-bodied guitar with beefy pickups and a cranked tube amp. The key seems to be pushing your mids as far as they can go. That gives the tone a fullness of presence that is the opposite of what most hard rock and metal guitarists are looking for, but which is hard to beat when playing over a really hot rhythm section.

      You can check out http://www.kurtsequipment.com/ for more information about what he used and when! Thanks for reading and commenting, you rock.

    • Electro-Denizen profile image

      Charles 

      4 years ago from Wales, UK

      I still don't know how Kurt Cobain got all of that sound out of this pedal. No wonder Chuck Berry was lauding Cobain's guitar skills. I've fiddled with it and haven't ever gotten anything like that enormous sound - but I guess, a small amp in a small room won't quite do it with single coil pickups. Cobain definitely picked heavily on the slower bits though. I kind of like the way its gone - there's distortion for every taste these days!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)