Review: Boss JB-2 Angry Driver Pedal

Behold the result of an interesting partnership between Boss and JHS Pedals.
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Behold the result of an interesting partnership between Boss and JHS Pedals.
"One incredibly versatile dual-mode pedal"

"One incredibly versatile dual-mode pedal"

One of my absolute favorite overdrive pedals has been the tried-and-true Boss BD-2 Blues Driver. Its dimensional crunch contains all the warmth of a tube amp bursting into overdrive but with a top-end clarity that sets it apart from Boss’s other popular pedals, such as the DS-1 Distortion and SD-1 Super Overdrive. 

Indeed, I’ve always found that Boss injects a sonic signature for their gain pedals that falls somewhere between analog and digital but with all the desired harmonic overtones that make them sound inherently unique. Considering there are hundreds of boutique pedal companies that build Tube Screamer replicas and Klon clones, very few have ever emulated a Boss overdrive or distortion pedal. Not to say this is a good or bad thing, but Boss has always been fi ne in their “gainful” space.

So, in what might seem an unprecedented move, Boss partnered with the boutique pedal company, JHS Pedals, to create the Boss JB-2 Angry Driver. The result is an extraordinary new pedal that combines the overdrive circuits of the Boss Blues Driver and the favored JHS Pedals Angry Charlie, making it one incredibly versatile dual-mode pedal. What’s even more remarkable, aside from its two very distinct crunch circuits, is the added operation to use each one independently, or combine and stack them for a plethora of overdriven colors.

FEATURES The JB-2 is housed in Boss’s familiar compact pedal chassis, but what’s instantly striking is the pedal’s red control knobs, a colorful addition not found on any other Boss pedal. The pedal features three dual-concentric controls for level, tone and drive. The tops of the knobs govern the JHS circuit, while the bottom halves control the Boss section, allowing for independent settings for its separate overdrives. 

A six-position mode knob selects the overdrive and configurations (JHS, Boss, JHS/Boss, J>B, B>J and Parallel). Here you can run each pedal separately (JHS or Boss), or toggle between the two (JHS/Boss), or route the order of them in series mode (J>B or B>J) or run the pedal in parallel mode. The JB-2 also features an LED indicator that shows which effect is active (blue for Boss, red for JHS and purple when both circuits are activated). Apart from the 1/4-inch input and output jacks, there’s also a remote 1/4-inch input jack that allows you to connect an optional footswitch to select between two types of overdrive, or turn them on/off individually. A 9-volt battery or 9V adapter powers the JB-2.

PERFORMANCE I must be up front and admit that I own at least eight Boss Blues Drivers (I have a problem), so as expected, the Angry Driver makes me feel right at home with its included circuit. All the tone of the Blues Driver is intact here—the low-to-mid grind of its drive sound, a full bass response and a brilliant top-end sheen. On the flip side, the Angry Charlie has a more assertive voice, with a huge midrange bump and tube-like touch sensitivity in its medium-gain drive. It’s definitely a more boutique overdrive sound many players gravitate toward. Depending upon how you set the drive on its individual circuits, both series modes offer plenty of molten distortion sounds and fully cranked lead tones with cutting mids. Because you’re stacking circuits, it’s a beautifully unbridled tone that also works well for coaxing glorious feedback. Parallel is a great set-and-forget mode where I was able to dial in an arena rock distortion that sounded big and ultra-smooth.

However, I found the best way to use the Angry Driver is to set the mode switch to toggle between the JHS/Boss circuits. Setting the gain low on the JHS works well for clean and rhythm tones, and pushing the drive around two o’clock on the Boss circuit is ideal for soloing.

STREET PRICE: $199.99
MANUFACTURER: Boss, Boss.info

● The JB-2’s three dual-concentric knobs provide independent drive, tone and level control for each overdrive type.

● The six-position mode selector allows each overdrive to operate independently, or combine them together in series and parallel configurations.

THE BOTTOM LINE
The Boss JB-2 Angry Driver combines two signature overdrives; the Boss Blues Driver and JHS Pedals Angry Charlie, into one versatile pedal capable of touch-sensitive gain and smooth distortion.