Boss’s new Waza Craft line finds the venerable pedal pioneers updating a few of their select classics with discreet components and additional voicings. Among the pedals getting a polishing is the Blues Driver, which is a more recent addition to the Boss family than the other Waza Craft beneficiaries, but it’s easy to see why it made the cut: If Waza Craft is the flag Boss is planting to mark its territory in the world of boutique pedals, then it makes sense to include the company’s entry into the ever-popular “transparent overdrive” category.
This edition of the Blues Driver—the BD-2W—includes the original’s controls for Volume, Tone and Drive and, as with the other Waza Craft pedals, it includes a switch to activate Standard mode (denoted by the “S”) or Custom mode (indicated by the “C”). Standard mode captures the original Blues Driver’s tone and the pedal’s EQ response is relatively flat in this settings. Turned to the right, the tone control has bite—more C&W than Blues, to my ear—but it avoids getting shrill. Turn the Tone control to the left and you add more low mids but, in general, there’s a fair amount of low end on tap throughout the taper, and it’s loose, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Turning the Drive control up adds teeth but not compression.
At low-gain settings I got some great, responsive tones that would work well in the aforementioned genres, or for any music that needed articulation and a little bit of hair around the edges. However, because the BD-2W is both less compressed than most Boss drive pedals and has more low end, it can get woofy very quickly at higher gain settings, but that’s where the Custom mode came in handy.
Boss says that Custom mode “adds sustain and body.” I didn’t hear more sustain (and Standard mode has plenty on tap as it is), but I did hear a hearty dose of low mids enter the signal, and this proved to be very helpful when cranking the drive with single coils. I found the accentuated low end in Custom mode really rounded out the Drive control’s character, moving from a “your tone with hair” approach that favors lower gain settings, to approximating the effect of amp tubes and cabinet speakers getting pushed. This allowed me to cop some more natural high gain settings with single coils.
I felt that humbuckers got more mileage out of the Standard mode; I could easily get Stones-y bite up to AC/DC-ish crunch in that setting, and the bright tone control was very flattering to a neck humbucker. Moving to Custom mode, I could get fatter, late ‘70s proto-Hair gain, but, between the sharp tone control voicing and the now-massive body, it was easy to lose control of chords, teetering toward splatty or mushy on either end. Ultimately, I preferred any setting that let me maximize the pedal’s clarity and dynamic response, because, even at high gain settings, the BD-2W is very dynamic: Dig in and it bites, ease off and it cleans up nicely.
What we like: The BD-2W offers several gain solutions for a variety of guitars, and the upgraded buffer really shines when added to a pedalboard. Boss’s bulletproof pedal construction remains unchanged.
Concerns: The high end of the Tone control is very focused and aggressive, which is helpful in some situations, but not all.