|The Boss Blues Driver is one of those pedals that everybody has owned or at least played through once. I’d venture to say it’s nearly as popular as the beloved Tube Screamer. While many players like the sound of the stock pedal just fine, many other guitarists like the basic tone but just want it better—more organic, responsive and dynamic. Some feel that there are just way too many high frequencies in the pedal, making it sound brittle, especially with a single coil guitar into a clean, Fender-type amp. Luckily, there are modifications we can do to make the pedal much better.
Before we get into the mods, let’s break down the circuit a bit and see what is going on. Looking at the schematic we see that it is essentially two cascaded discrete opamps, which are then followed by a standard opamp for gain recovery, bass boosting, and buffering of the signal. Of course, this is after it goes through a discrete buffer.
In layman’s terms, a discrete opamp is similar to the IC chip version. It does the same thing, just in a simpler fashion that some feel is more responsive and less “sterile” feeling and sounding. It uses two FETs facing each other followed by a bipolar transistor. There are two of these types of gain stages in the BD-2, controlled by a dual gang 250k pot wired as a variable resistor. Just like the IC opamp circuits, there is a resistor/capacitor pair going to ground that will also help set a frequency to clip. This pair will also help set the gain, though they are fixed values in the BD-2. R31 and C22 are the pair for the first stage, while R15 and C9 are the pair for the second stage.
We know that EQ before clipping determines the clipping feel, tonality, and response (distortion/overdrive) quite dramatically. For example, if we want a fuzzier type of distortion, we want to increase the bass before it is clipped. Then, we clip the signal as much as possible without creating a lot of noise or oscillations.
R31 and C22 in this first gain stage set a frequency of just a hair over 700hz. This is a normal frequency for most overdrives and distortion. If you want more fuzziness, increase this cap to .22uf (microfarad) or larger. If you want a tighter crunchier type of tone, make the cap smaller. If you plug in these values to my calculator at indyguitarist. com/filter.htm you will see the frequencies you can affect.
BD-2 tonestack (left) and Traditional Fender tonestack (right)
After this first gain stage, we go through what first looks like an odd tone filtering stage. It is actually a Fender-type 3-band tonestack with fixed values (with the treble on 0 and the bass and mid on 10). This is a really cool thing to mess with if you want to go hog wild, because you can add trim pots in place of R37 (use a 250k trim pot for treble), R50 (use a 1M trim pot for bass), and R51 (use a 25k trim pot for mids). In addition, you can change the ‘slope’ resistor, R36, to a 33k, C34 and C35 to a .022uf, and change C26 to a 470pf in order to get more of a Marshall type of tonality before the signal is clipped. When you are replacing these resistors with trim pots, just connect one hole to pin 1 on the trim pot, and the remaining resistor hole to pin 2 on the trim pot. Leave the third lug untouched.
The BD-2 EQ before clipping looks like this due to this filter:
Notice how there is a ton of bass present? That is before the majority of the clipping is happening, so it’s no wonder the pedal sounds fuzzy when the gain is turned up!
A good mod at this location is to make R50 a 100 ohm, and change R36 to a 47k. That will give you a much flatter EQ response.
After that the signal is clipped by diodes connecting to ground (D7, D8, D9, D10) with two diodes on each side and fed into another discrete opamp. This opamp is nearly identical, except the frequency response is a little different. There is more gain in the bass (set by R34 and C24, frequency is about 72hz) but it works exactly the same. Notice that since the bass is boosted yet again here it’s really no surprise that the BD-2 would be so fuzzy with the gain turned up.
C17, R25, and C19 form both a highpass and low-pass filter, which will get rid of some high harmonics about 5k or so, as well as to get rid of some of the bass content that was created by boosting the lows so much previously.