Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Boss OD-3 vs BD-2

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by JDO, Sep 19, 2012.

  1. JDO

    JDO Tele-Holic

    Mar 17, 2003
    Pittsboro, NC
    I have used a BD-2 for probably 10 years now. It has been my only/go to drive pedal. I've never really thought of having much else other than something with a lot more distortion to relive my heavy metal days. After reading here (and maybe TGP) I decided to give the OD-3 a shot. I'm not totally sure how I feel about it. I only had a chance to AB them in my house and haven't had a chance to try the OD-3 out in a band setting.

    My initial impressions... I'm not sure I would have seen the OD-3 as a BD-2 if I were not to have read it here.
    - There seems to be a slight "mid bump" in the OD-3 over the BD-2.
    - The OD-3 doesn't have as much "gain/distortion" as the BD-2
    ...... That can be fine because I usually set the Gain about 9 o'clock.
    - I usually use the BD-2 for playing chords where I can still hear the notes... yet the "blend" together. I guess the OD-3 will do that, I'll just have to see how it does FOR ME in a band setting.

    Are those two differences the two main ones you guys see? Why do you like the OD-3 so much more than the BD-2?

  2. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Friend of Leo's

    Mar 29, 2007
    Manassas Park, VA
    My findings (I'm a Blues Driver lover!) between a stock BD-2 and OD-3, are that the Blues Driver generally has a more transparent EQ (and gives me that great mild breakup, where your basic guitar>amp tone is left alone) at low Gain and the OD-3 has a smoother, less 'fizzy' overdrive tone at higher Gain settings. As I play a lot of 'cleaner' lead guitar (classic blues, country, R&B) than say all out rocking guitarists, the BD-2 is the winner, for me. For harder rocking stuff, I prefer other pedals (a Rat clone, or Barber Direct Drive) than either Boss. The guitar cleanup of a BD-2 is great too.

  3. JDO

    JDO Tele-Holic

    Mar 17, 2003
    Pittsboro, NC
    Good to know there's at least one who likes the BD-2 over the OD-3. The OD-3 is going to have to really impress me in a band setting to make me give up the BD-2.

  4. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Friend of Leo's

    Mar 29, 2007
    Manassas Park, VA
    Keep both- the BD-2 can be configured to be a pretty clean boost (a possible volume/sustin boost w/no added distortion) to an overdriving OD-3...

    I personally (when using my 'darker voiced', yet clean Blues Jr.) use my BD-2 ON all the time. With the Tone and Level Controls at NOON, and my Gain at 11-NOON (I will adjust this knob on certain songs to adjust the 'distortion ceiling', when my guitar is turned all the way up...), and my amp at moderate volume, I can adjust a clean>OD>distorted tone all from the guitar-it's that dynamic. The BD-2 gooses my high end a bit with some sparkle, but leaves my basic EQ alone, so when I turn up, I get a distorted tone that does NOT sound like I stepped on an OD Pedal. Good for lower/moderate gain stuff, but not soaring rock lead tone-other pedals for that!;)

  5. artdecade

    artdecade Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 6, 2010
    If you are digging the BD-2, why are you considering another pedal? Is there something that the BD-2 is not doing that you want?

  6. OlRedNeckHippy

    OlRedNeckHippy Friend of Leo's

    Jan 12, 2012
    South Jersey
    I don't think I'd give up my BD-2 for anything.
    I have an old MXR Dist + I add in occasionally for Extra Punch on cretain big crunchy leads. They seem to work well together. I'd imagine the OD-3 could be used the same way.

  7. Hiker

    Hiker Friend of Leo's

    Jul 20, 2008
    Stock with no mods? The OD-3 wins! I've owned both at the same time with A/B comparisons of my Tele with both pedals through multiple amps at home.

  8. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    That is all that really matters, right?

    Oddly enough, I think that is why some switch to the OD-3, because it doesn't become evident that it is a better tool until it is used in a gigging situation.

    That said, it's still subjective, and it has to work with your rig, what you play, and if it sounds right in the context of the entire band.

    I can only speak from listening in the audience on behalf of some guitarists. They will typically get a thumbs up from some band members as well as the soundman with a stock OD-3 over the stock BD-2, at least that is what I most commonly hear.

    And - I will usually (but not always) conclude the same thing - OD-3 seems to occupy a space that allows it to work within the *typical* band context "better" (I don't really have the words to quantify/qualify it beyond that). In isolation or at low volume, it can be kind of gritty or aggressive and have a bit of a funny EQ.

    I can recall firing up an OD-3 thru a practice amp at super low volume one night after not using one for a good long time, and it just sounded terrible, IMO.

    OTOH, lots of folks tend to relegate the BD-2 as just a slightly dirty boost, so it obviously has utility in that context. I just don't think of it as a "bluesy overdrive" by any stretch of the imagination. It can certainly be modified to do that, but it's not just a single little parts swap here or there (IMO). Once it's "gotten right," it can rival or surpass the OD-3 for some rigs/situations/preferences, but it's (IMO) an awful lot of work compared to a pedal that has a good cutting OD sound right out of the box.

    But many folks have no desire to try a modded BD-2, and obviously not all mods are created equal. So if it's just a matter of a convenient off-the-shelf solution, just go with the one that works at the gig. They are so common that even if you flip one, you could grab another later on if you change your mind, or if you change your rig.

    The OD-3 is like so many drive boxes in that the responses are typically mixed - some will bond to it immediately, but with others it takes longer or just will never be a good fit. Boss kind of IMO went out on a limb to come out with an overdrive that doesn't sound or behave like just any other overdrive.

  9. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Friend of Leo's

    Mar 29, 2007
    Manassas Park, VA
    ^^ "OTOH, lots of folks tend to relegate the BD-2 as just a slightly dirty boost, so it obviously has utility in that context. I just don't think of it as a "bluesy overdrive" by any stretch of the imagination."

    Here is where I may differ from 11 Gauge!;)

    For me, someone who likes (and uses) the sound of guitar>clean (not really overdriven) Fender amp- the Blues Driver IS my "bluesy overdrive", in that it is NOT transformational- it's not changing my tone, and it is not very distorted(at low Gain settings).

    For someone that likes the breakup heard on old swing blues, pre-Tele country, sounds produced by P-90 hollowbodies into tweed amps (relatively clean)- these sounds all preserve a clean tone with some breakup, and these are tones I try to emulate with Strats/Tele/Dano... So for me, 11 Gauge's "slightly dirty boost" IS my "bluesy overdrive!" It's not a wailing or saturated, or SRV, but if I'm playing blues, and it's not clean, what else is it? Just saying "bluesy overdrive" is not a monolith sound, it is something created/interpreted by the player.

    IMO, no other pedal I have tried (including the OD-3, Dano Timmy clone, and Barber LTD) seems to scratch that itch with the tone and dynamics (for me and I guess my own combo of guitars/amps) like the Blues Driver:)

  10. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    I think that you are the exception to the rule vs. the vast majority of folks who use it as a dirty boost and not a blues OD, or we are just caging ourselves in with the words we are choosing (probably me more than you in this instance!).

    It may simply be a matter of syntax or definition, but my point is that this very common way of using the BD-2 is a sort of reverse-engineered usage. From a standpoint of how it was designed, it doesn't really harness what the pedal is capable of. That doesn't mean that it's being used incorrectly, it's just a sort of kludge'y type usage, IMO.

    I admit that this comes from knowing the particulars of the circuit, and what it is capable of (in stock form), and what it is not. That may not amount to a hill of beans to when the rubber hits the road, but I'm trying to provide insight from a design standpoint as to why one pedal might be better for any given use.

    This all obviously goes out the window with individual applications, as you have illustrated!

    And I do understand that it's been a long precedent of folks using something that is designed as an OD and essentially running it with the drive at zero or approaching zero.

    As someone who analyzes these things from a circuit design vantage point, there is so much of the stock BD-2 circuit that could be eliminated that would indeed give even better performance (IMO) than simply running it w/the drive low. To me, it's kind of akin to taking a Dual Recto and setting the gain near zero - it's a cluttered signal path, even if it works. Does that make sense?

    I also realize that this probably falls into the realm of "ne'er the twain shall meet" when it comes to the perceptions of a user versus a design analyzer. But that is kinda the fun part of discussion IMO - because we can hit this from different viewpoints.

  11. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Friend of Leo's

    Mar 29, 2007
    Manassas Park, VA
    ^^ I think maybe I am the exception, as it just seems a lot of folks don't seem to really like the sound of just their guitar>amp, and can't wait to change I have a 'bug up my __' about the whole "bluesy overdrive" discussion. "How can I get a good blues tone?..." Answer: Play well!;)

    It's a good discussion, and it is very personal too, in terms of tone we like and can use. So I understand your take on the potential/improvement of what a BD-2 can do, and I must really like the 30% (low Gain) of what it is, or something!

  12. JoeNeri

    JoeNeri Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Clarkdale, AZ
    Good comments as always, Chiogtr4x, and always from a practical, gigging musician's point of view.

    As a bluesman, who has played with a whole lot of other bluesman, I believe the starting point of "blues tone" (whatever the h#ll that may be as it's slightly different for each player) is your guitar and amp. If you can't get 90% of your tone from these, you may have to make some fundamental changes.

    The BD-2 fills in that other 10%, as any good overdrive pedal should do, and I think it does it well both in stock and modded forms. Years ago in Los Angeles, I heard Rick Vito do a blues gig with a stock BD-2 and his tone would make you cry for joy.

    In reading on the history of the BD-2, Boss had a couple of objectives with this pedal, as a change from their previous overdrive boxes: (1) help with the early breakup of a good tube amp, and (2) clean up really well with the guitar volume knob. I personally think they achieved both objectives, and sales of this box, introduced in 1994, continue to be strong for Boss.

    The OD-3 is not, in my opinion, a natural evolution of the BD-2. It has a completely different circuit, i.e., you can't start with a BD-2 and easily modify a few components to come up with an OD-3. The OD-3, by Boss's explicit intention, is a whole different overdrive animal. It is by no means a modified BD-2.

    Which one is best for a "blues tone?" Both. Neither. Pick one. It all depends on the player. Use what you have and only make changes if you need to.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2012

  13. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    You are correct on both counts, IMO.

    I wouldn't call it natural evolution - it's more like a quantum leap as far as how Boss dropped some circuit aspects, added others, and basically took the op amp stage and "integrated it" with the final "class A" transistor stage. There is a pre-gain EQ treatment, and the clipping diode implementation is actually more traditional than how it was handled in the BD-2.

    ...The BD-2 has this goofy "hardwired simulated BF Fender tone stack" after the first gain stage. The problem is that the component values do not reflect how you could set the knobs on any BF Fender amp. Not only that, but "simulating a knob setting" requires a pair of resistors. Boss just opted for a single resistor in place of a pair (the Champion 600 and VHT Special Six are two GOOD examples of how to "hardwire a tone stack"). I imagine Boss went with the implementation that they did to try and minimize the parts count a bit.

    The BD-2 also has a pair of somewhat complicated gain stages that are both adjusted in gain with a single dual-ganged pot. The issue is that the first gain stage gets the bass cut like a TS, then it gets all screwed up with the faux tone circuit, then it goes to the clipping diodes. All good and fine if it ended there, but the 2nd gain stage has no heavy tone circuitry or clipping diodes. It's kind of akin to putting one horse on reigns while letting another just sort of run away from the cart...

    So the OD-3 puts the EQ shaping before the 1st gain stage, which really shows a lot of design thought - process the shape of the signal before you distort it. And, there's only the single one that really is capable of a LOT of gain - Boss "dropped" the second one. In order to get a more amp-like response, the next gain stage is a simple class A transistor, which is a bit like a single tube triode stage. But instead of tacking on a mild bass boost at the end of the circuit, Boss made the smart move to "integrate" the op amp stage on the "output of" the class A stage. So there isn't this see-saw gain thing going on, and the tone control and level come at the tail end of the circuit, which allows everything to be properly "massaged and managed."

    So you are right - the OD-3 isn't a modified BD-2 either. Boss literally took the best elements from the BD-2, discarded the unorthodox ones, and implemented each modular part of circuitry in a way that allows all the pieces to work together better, IMO.

    But it would behoove them to admit that the OD-3 is an improvement over the best selling BD-2. So there will be no mention of any evolution of design. It would require circuit analysis to reveal that, and a small number of people would do such a thing. Even then, it could get shot down as just being a hypothesis. But "circuits don't lie..."

  14. JoeNeri

    JoeNeri Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Clarkdale, AZ
    I believe the BD-2 outsells the OD-3, by a big margin. Not likely that Boss will do any new marketing that negatively affects sales of the BD-2. Interesting, though, that although Boss claims that the OD-3 is their "best" overdrive pedal, it's cheaper than the BD-2 at most retail outlets.

  15. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Friend of Leo's

    Mar 29, 2007
    Manassas Park, VA
    ^^ Now I wanna revisit the OD-3!

    Just from a pure entertainment level (my own), after being on TDPRI now for years it's interesting to peek into the 'relationship' between the Blues Driver and 11 Gauge- it seems like a love-hate, or intrigue/confound kind of thing, where Keith sees in Boss/BD-2 potential for a great original pedal design. but Boss scrambled some stuff and Keith (in earnest) must correct...You can tell '11' knows this pedal inside and out- literally!
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012

  16. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    One only need to understand that I am a bit of a Boss pedal nut. You could actually drop the word "Boss" as well, but I have spent some serious hours with so many pedals in their line that it is absolutely ridiculous.

    And while Ibanez/ProCo/DOD/Digitech/MXR all have their faithful followers "in my parts," it has primarily been the Boss line of stuff that are on the majority of pedal users' gigging boards. And for many, it is still that way to this day.

    So not only do I have regular discussions about this stuff on forums, but I have actual verbal discussions with local folks on a regular basis. My obsession tends to be their gear tweaking/insight "leverage," and I'm glad my state of what some would consider to be overboard and unhealthy really is useful to others. :lol:

    Anyway - this goes back years and years, needless to say. I have friends and acquaintances that have had SD-1's and DS-1's as long as they've been offered, and one of my first pedals was a CE-2.

    So as things progressed from the OD-1 to SD-1, to OD-2, to BD-2, to OD-3 - I've been paying careful attention. Along with those pedals, Boss has done some neat "cross pollenation" with elements in other pedals like the SD-2, elements from the HM-2 and MT-2, and even some of the FZ-_ series. And those are just the ones I can remember.

    Unlike many other pedal companies, Boss actually puts some engineering design into their stuff. This isn't meant to undermine the informally trained efforts of others (because those folks tend to pick up on stuff that the formally trained will miss), but 99% of the stuff offered by most other companies primarily takes modular standard elements and presents them in a way with IMO little hard core R&D variation.

    This is why the BD-2 looks kind of like a "Frankenstein project" to me. While there are other Boss pedals with some goofy stuff going on, it just really sticks out. I constantly remind myself that the end design was no doubt reflective of compromises to appeal to a wide range of potential users, but it's still something that confounds me, yes.

    Starting with the OD-2, Boss had some really neat ideas. Instead of using a standard op amp chip, they went with groups of three transistors that work in unison, to create what is called a "differential amplifier." An op amp chip basically works off the same principle, but the gain before clipping is much much higher, and it is typically incapable of asymmetrical clipping.

    Well, the OD-2 was a "2 channel" pedal. The normal mode had a single one of these differential thingies, and it had the same clipping diode setup as the SD-1/OD-1. There was very little pre or post filtering, and there was nothing to recover/boost after the single clipping stage.

    ...The turbo mode was really interesting. It had TWO of these differential stages, with each "voiced" differently. There were NO clipping diodes. And in smart Boss fashion, there was some nice EQ circuitry in between the stages (similar to what you'd see in things like the MT-2 or so many others). Also, just the first stage had gain adjustment, just like a TS or any similar OD. The second stage had a fixed resistor. But again, there was no recovery/boost stage, and the turbo mode cut the supply voltage down to ~5VDC.

    Needless to say, the OD-2 only had a mixed appeal, and it was canned. But running another drive pedal after the normal channel could sound pretty good, and running a boost after the turbo channel could be neat, too.

    When the BD-2 came along, Boss neither used clipping diodes in feedback loops, nor did they rely on proven methods of EQ shaping. They did bump the supply voltage up to 8VDC (or cut it down to that, I should say), which is an obvious improvement over the OD-2's turbo mode. And having a boost stage with a simple op amp that won't clip was a good addition, too.

    But the quasi-BF Fender amp tone stack, followed by a quad of clipping diodes shunted to ground was beyond odd, IMO. Because the 1st gain stage in all of these pedals (including the OD-3) actually cuts bass just like a TS. But the tone stack was set as if the bass were "beyond 10." So the two don't work hand in hand.

    And the second gain stage is increased in tandem with the first - they are both on a dual ganged pot. That is theoretically a good idea, but you've got to keep both stages relatively "balanced," or things kinda go out the window. You will typically end up with too much gain, and what is supposed to be an OD suddenly becomes a fuzz pedal. Does this seem like something you've experienced? ;)

    After the 2nd stage, there's a little circuit that kind of resembles a hardwired tweed/5E3/Princeton/etc. tone circuit - more weirdness, and it isn't going to do much of anything positive unless the gain is kept low. Next is a very simple tone circuit - basically the same as the OD-2. Only now with all of the add'l gain and different EQ, it is incapable of rolling off a lot of treble at higher gain settings.

    Then it is on to the level control, and that should be the end of it, but Boss put the recovery stage (which also boosts bass) after the level control. It kind of makes it "detached" or "not integrated" WRT the rest of the circuit, IMO.

    By the advent of the OD-3, Boss went back to their tried and true EQ circuitry techniques, just for starters. Along with that, they went back to using clipping diodes in the negative feedback loop. I should point out that the BD-2 had a pair of diode "outlier handlers" before the tail end op amp boost, but IMO they were "a day late and a dollar short." The OD-3 has a pair of these "guardrails" or "signal strength referees" prior to the first and second gain stages. That's not only smart, it's "double smart."

    ...Boss also seemed to realize that a pair of those "differential" amp gain stages was absolute overkill, especially with the gain ramping up on both simultaneously. So the 2nd gain stage in the OD-3 is a single jFET transistor in class A operation - it gives a bump in gain, has nice dynamic response capabilities, and again is capable of asymmetrical clipping. It is basically really similar to what you see in many of these amp sim pedals that use singular jFET transistors to emulate a 12AX7 triode gain stage.

    Finally - instead of tacking an op amp boost stage to the tail end, Boss "integrated" it, tying it to the output of the 2nd stage, and configuring it to boost more than just bass - it uses two op amp stages to filter a range of frequencies. Only after that does the signal go onto a tone circuit that is quite similar to the OD-2/BD-2, but Boss tweaked the component values a little, but in all the right ways, IMO. And then onto the level control.

    So "as you take a journey thru the circuit path," one can kind of understand what is happening behind the scenes, and why one combination of circuit elements will do certain things where another will not.

    Oh yeah - almost forgot - the OD-3 also has some pre-clipping EQ massaging. Again, SUPER smart IMO, because it is done basically at unity gain. Boss would typically do a sort of pre-clip EQ treatment in some pedals like the MT-2, which got a massive mid boost. But it was exactly that - a boost. With an OD design, that can really cause trouble, hence just unity gain shaping before any clipping happens.

    I should probably build block diagrams of each of these different animals, just so that it is easy to see at a glance what is happening. It sure beats doing a ton of typing... :eek:
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012
    joebloggs13 likes this.

  17. Tele-phone man

    Tele-phone man Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 11, 2006
    Asheville, NC
    I've been using my OD-3 for 12 years now, and it is in no danger of being bumped from my board. For bright, yet NOT buzzy, lead tones, I pre-drive it with my BD2 set to a mostly clean treble/volume boost. I use the OD3 by itself for a mild drive that still sounds like my guitar (no radical eq shaping). I use the BD2 by itself for a bright clean tone that cuts through, such as country-type chicken pickin'.

    They are both very good pedals that deserved to do well in the guitar market.

  18. Zagnut

    Zagnut Tele-Meister

    Mar 21, 2009
    Well this is depressing. (Just joking.) I just recently found out two of my favorite guitar players primarily use Boss. Billy Gibbons has a Boss SE-70 multi effects unit going into his solid state Marshall JMP-1s and Joe Walsh has about six of them on his pedalboard. Actually I have 2 BD-2s, a CS-2, and a CE-2 and they're all good. ( I must have some fixation on -2). :rolleyes:

  19. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

    Jun 19, 2009
    Nashville TN
    One of the things I really like about the Boss overdrives is their versatility and this thread bears that out. It seems like a lot of the newer pedals are designed for very specific tasks. A player might need a few of them to make it through the night's set list. With a little knob spinning, a BD-2 can do anything from clean boost to polite fuzz hitting all stops in between. Nothing wrong with mods, but I've heard a lot of guitarists absolutely slay with the stock pedal.

  20. telerocker1988

    telerocker1988 Tele-Afflicted

    May 2, 2010
    I like both of these pedals but I'd actually probably give the nod to the Blues Driver. The bass on the Overdrive just is a bit too much for me.

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