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Boss ST-2 Power Stack Pedal Review

A distortion box that specializes in heavy

Download Example 1
Les Paul Metal tone
Download Example 2
Godin Redline Shred tone
Download Example 3
Hamer Korina Special, classic rock tone
Clips recorded with a Shure SM57 into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre directly into Pro Tools.
Boss effects are one of the great friends of the working musician—built like tanks, easy to buy anywhere, and in some cases, the source of truly inspiring sounds. Boss pedals like the DD-series delays, BD-2 Blues Driver, TR-2 Tremolo, VB-2 Vibrato, and even the ubiquitous DS-1 Distortion have worked at the feet of pub rockers and superstars alike. With the ST-2 Power Stack, Boss is taking aim at players that need to get huge stack tones out of a combo amp.

Looks Boss
The ST-2 comes in the same aluminum casing Boss has used for an eternity, but in this case it’s entirely black to convey its strictly rockist intentions. The pedal uses Boss’ excellent silent footswitch, and the relatively simple control set includes Level, Bass, Treble, and Sound. As you’d expect, the Level control is an output knob you can use to match the volume to your clean setting or hit hard to push the front end of your amp. Bass and Treble offer wide-sweeping EQ to fit many different tonal profiles. The Sound control ranges from Crunch to Drive and then Ultra—in other words, light distortion to extreme metal gain.

Built for Heaviosity
I spent the vast majority of time with the ST-2 playing my ’74 Les Paul Custom into a 3rd Power American Dream amp switched to the amp’s exceptionally clean blackface channel—an ideal blank slate for evaluating the ST-2’s distortion characteristics. With all controls set midway, the pedal already sounded aggressive. And the halfway mark on Sound could easily be the full up setting on many gain pedals I’ve played. When cranked, ST-2 turned into a screaming banshee!

Because there is such a wide throw on the Bass and Treble controls, they can boost the volume significantly—necessitating adjustments to the Level knob. As mentioned, Sound changes the character of the distortion, thickening the sound more and more as you turn it clockwise. Right around 11 o’clock, I dialed up a pretty mean approximation of Ritchie Blackmore’s “Man on the Silver Mountain” tone that remained fairly dynamic and responsive to a varied pick attack. And that’s one thing that’s consistently impressive about the ST-2: Every note is sharp and percussive, and pick attack nuances only become more defined as you increase the Sound settings.

Perhaps the ST-2’s only shortcoming is a lack of midrange control. There is an inherent midrange heaviness that can sound like a half-cocked wah depending on your amp and guitar tone settings, and this can be a challenge to get rid of. And while the added presence surely adds something to the pedal’s capacity for note articulation, it could be the difference between certain players loving or having little use for the ST-2.

The Verdict
The ST-2 is a kind of embodiment of the go-big-or-go-home concept. It’s clearly a pedal for making your tone heavy. And given that there are plenty of gain/overdrive/distortion pedals in the Boss line for creating more sedate overdrive flavors, it’s pretty cool to have such a heavy-hitting specialist in the mix. The ST-2 may not be for everyone, but for those who want portable, raging tone and killer pick attack without hauling a 100-watt head and ten tons of 4x12s will be thrilled.

Buy if...
you need access to aggressive, heavy-gain voices in your combo amp.
Skip if...
your Blues Driver provides all the distortion you need and Extreme isn’t your middle name.

Street $99 - Boss US -

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