Two overdrive titans combine to become a hydra-headed beast of dirt tones.
0:00 – Pedal off
0:08 – JHS mode (Level 45%, Tone 50%, Drive 50%)
0:30 – Boss mode (Level 45%, Tone 50%, Drive 50%)
0:51 – Parallel Mode (Level 45%, Tone 50%, Drive 50%)
Two classic and great-sounding overdrive and distortion pedals packed into one compact pedal, with outstanding versatility via several series and parallel modes.
Ease of Use:
The impressive new Boss/JHS JB-2 Angry Driver overdrive and distortion pedal is a celebration of several things simultaneously: It heralds Boss’ 40-year anniversary in the compact pedal business, the friendship between Boss president Yoshi Ikegami and JHS founder Josh Scott, and the success of the Boss Blues Driver and JHS Angry Charlie in their respective niches. The collaborative effort between the Japanese and American companies effectively combines the Blues Driver overdrive and Angry Charlie distortion in a single pedal that’s ridiculously versatile for its size and capable of many cool variations of the two original circuits.
Housed in the iconic Boss enclosure and manufactured in Japan by Boss (but also stamped with the JHS Pedals logo), the JB-2 contains circuitry that enables independent or combined renditions of the two effects. Dual-concentric potentiometers control drive, tone, and level for each effect, while a 6-position mode switch activates the JHS Angry Charlie, the Boss Blues Driver, a mode in which you can toggle between the two, two series modes in which you can run JHS into Boss or Boss into JHS, and, lastly, a mode for running the two circuits in parallel.
Alongside the input jack is another 1/4" jack via which you can connect a remote single-button latching footswitch (not included). That lets you toggle between the JHS and Boss effects without using the mode knob, or turn the pedal on/off when the pedal’s in toggle mode.
Elsewhere, it’s standard Boss fare: a rugged steel enclosure, a thumb wheel to open the large stompswitch and access the internal 9V battery, and a standard center-negative jack at the front of the unit for connecting an external power supply.
I tested the JB-2 by running the pedal into a tweed Deluxe-style combo and a Freidman Small Box head and 2x12 cab. Using a Gibson 1958 Les Paul reissue and a Fender Telecaster, the JB-2 stood out as the most versatile pedal overdrive that I can recall playing in quite some time—maybe ever. And it was joy at every turn for an OD enthusiast like yours truly.
The JHS mode proved true to the juicy, mid-saturated, cranked-tube-amp lead tones of the Angry Charlie, which always struck me as feeling more natural and dynamic than many pedals billed as distortion. And while Angry Charlie users will note there are fewer tone-manipulation controls on the JB-2 than on the Angry Charlie V2 or V3, I didn’t feel the absence of extra control much, given all that the JB-2 offers. And the Boss mode effortlessly replicated the low-to-medium-gain drive, organic lower-mids, and sparkling highs that have made the underappreciated Blues Driver a great alternative to the Ibanez Tube Screamer for so many players. Whether setting up the Blues Driver to kick the amp over the precipice at edge-of-breakup tone, pushing it harder for warm blues-rock leads, or switching to the Angry Charlie for a more grunge- and alt-rock-approved snarl fest, the JB-2 does many jobs beautifully, and with great clarity and touch sensitivity.
The JB-2’s unbridled versatility really comes into play when using the series and parallel modes. Fans of overdrive stacking will know the enormous potential of stacked drive circuits already. But what surprised me was how good the JHS, set pretty hot and stacked into the Boss set for lower gain, sounded—delivering a tightening lift and extra sizzle to an already meaty rock tone. The Boss/JHS toggling options are brilliant, too. But the biggest surprise here might be the Boss/JHS parallel mode, which allows you to dial in major gain via the JHS while retaining low-end thump and high-end clarity from the Boss. That’s just one of the excellent voices on tap in this mode, however. And there are many sounds that few single-mode OD pedals can obtain on their own.
It’s hard to sufficiently emphasize the versatility of the JB-2, which really is not just a superb two-in-one pedal, but capable of every routing configuration for these two circuits that you could conceive of. If you simply don’t like either the JHS Angry Charlie or Boss Blues Driver on their own, fair enough—this unit might not excite you. But even then I suspect you’d be surprised by the entirety of “otherness” that the two circuits can achieve in parallel. It’s difficult to imagine any OD-loving guitarist not having a ball with this thing.