Review: Boss DA-2 Adaptive Distortion Pedal (World Exclusive First Look)

A distortion that adapts to the way you play... say what?   20-Jan-13

    MP4 16:3 mins    

Boss have announced three new pedals, one of which is the Boss DA-2 Adaptive Distortion, a brand new distortion pedal with a little bit of a twist.


What's the twist? Well... The Boss DA-2 is an Adaptive Distortion. It's a pretty cool concept, the processor inside the pedal constantly analyses the input signal, and depending on a number of variables, it tweaks internal parameters to produce a constantly adapting distortion sound.

These parameters include compression, multiband EQ, and gain. For example, if you are kicking into a solo, the pedal will analyse the frequencies of the input signal, and see that you are using a lot of frequencies in the higher mid-range.

It will then eliminate, or reduce, a number of lower frequencies from the output signal altogether, so you don't get any low-end feedback whilst you're on the higher strings.

On top of this, it will also boost the mid frequencies, so that you're solo will cut through the mix when you are playing live with your band.

Pretty cool eh? We thought so. There is also an advantage to having a compressor within the Boss DA-2.

When playing at lower volumes (and therefore putting a lower input signal into the pedal), you get a slight boost in volume from the compressor, but the tone still sounds organic because you still get the effect of not clipping the signal so much and therefore having less gain.

The harder you play, the more distortion you get, because a hotter input signal is leading to more gain.

But the compressor keeps your distortion tight on the low-end, so that when you play chuggy power chords, you can still hear the timbre of the plectrum on the strings, and you get a tight punchy tone without the low-end fuzz sometimes produced at high gain levels.


These adaptive processes are brilliant, but they would be pointless if the Boss DA-2 didn't actually sound any good.

Boss' reputation in the pedal world is predominantly for their compact time-based and modulation effects, not to forget their RC-3 looper. Their digital delay pedal has dominated footprint space on pedal boards for a very long time now.

But it's the boutique guys who usually have the runaway success with distortion pedals. Perhaps the DA-2 will change this, because it is genuinely inspiring pedal to play through.

It walks a fine line between offering a classic loud and proud rock n' roll distortion sound, and a post-production distortion sound.

It sounds as though a Marshall JCM900 has been recorded in a studio, and then the recording has been tidied up and polished by the producer.

The effect of an adaptive distortion is that your playing and your tone is constantly being cleaned up for you, and it doesn't sound clinical, or over the top. The changes made to internal parameters by the processor are subtle, but effective.

Overall, it's just fun to play through. It's a big sound, and it will have you playing Thin Lizzy or AC/DC riffs within about 30 seconds.

The tonal variation in the EQ is impressive. Turn the 'high' knob to 3 o'clock, keep the 'bass' on noon, and you get a plucky Strat tone.

For a smooth Les Paul rhythm pickup sound, turn the 'bass' knob up to 3 o'clock, keep the 'high' on noon, and voila.

Build Quality

If you've ever owned a Boss pedal before, you know what to expect. It's the exact same housing as their other compact pedals.

Boss pedals have always offered the advantage of being lightweight, but also being sturdy and having the actually switch for the stomp hidden underneath the casing.

It means you can stamp on the rubber layer of the paddle through numerous live shows, and they rarely go kaput.

Round Up

We don't know the cost yet, because when we reviewed the new Boss pedals, Boss hadn't even announced the existence of the new effects to the public.

Boss pedals are always competitively priced though, and there's no reason that the Boss DA-2 should be any different.

There are very few negatives with this pedal, but if we had to pick something out (and we're scraping the barrel here), then it would be that a certain element of user control is taken away. The split pot dual control knobs on the EQ controls of other Boss pedals are sometimes fun to play around with.

But the point of the pedal is that the processor does all of this for you.

Pro: Brilliant sounding distortion pedal, adaptive compression and EQ make you sound slightly better than you actually are.

Con: A certain element of user control taken away, but not something to really lose sleep over, unless you are a control freak.


Review by Richard Beech

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