Keeley Boss Blues Driver BD-2 Review
Original author: Hardtail
Model: Keeley Boss Blues Driver BD-2
Price: Price New: $149 US, Price Paid: $95 US off Ebay
Personal Musical Style: Clean chord work, Blues, Blues/Rock, Rock
Keeley has proposed to take a standard Boss Blues Driver BD-2 and upgrade several of its components, change it's clipping (saturation simulation) characteristics, and widen it's frequency range to be more transparent. The exterior of the pedal is unmodified except for the "Keeley Electronics" sticker near the power plug.
Once you remove the bottom plate of the pedal you can see Robert Keeley's contact information so you can get a hold of him forever. Before purchasing the pedal I sent several emails to Keeley Electronics and always got back kind, informative responses. You can also see on the plate the initials of the person who did the mod and what date (ie - "DH" 10/05/05)
Upon looking inside I inspected the solder work and overall fit of the components within the pedal. This is a good indicator of how long the pedal will last. I found one component that seemed bent but upon further inspection I realized it was installed that way on purpose to make room for the ribbon cable when the pedal case is shut. It may be hard to tell from the pictures what I am talking about but at least you have proof that I inspected it. Also, there are many Keeley "fakers" out there and looking for the information under the plate will be a sure bet if it's authentic or not.
The pedal comes with 3 knobs like most overdrive pedals and a "Phat" switch. Level: This knob simply controls the output volume on overdrive/distortion pedals. At 2 O'clock and above I noticed considerable hiss coming out of the pedal when the Drive knob was being heavily driven. BUT, you must remember that when your driving the pedal that hard you are boosting the signal about 3 times. I tend to run the Level at about 8 o'clock for my level of drive. This produces about a 5% increase in volume and absolutely zero hiss. Tone: This is where one of the big differences in Keeley's BD-2 comes into play over the stock version. The Stock version sounds Very "woof" like at low tone settings and very "crystal" at high tone settings. The problem with the stock one is that when dialing from one side to the other the pedal actually CUTS the opposing frequency which limits the overall frequency range of the pedal and makes it VERY hard to dial in desired tone. Keeley's mod seems to have done away with this completely... I am blown away by how transparent this pedal is. It sounds almost like I wasn't even using it and I just fidgeted with the knobs on my actual amp when I click it on. Gain: Keeley also changed the way the pedal clips from the stock version. In Keeley's own words: "This pedal has been modified to have slight asymmetrical clipping. This mod gives you 2nd order harmonic distortion." Long story short, the gain on this pedal sounds more like you tube amp being overdriven than the stock one did. Also, this type of distortion will "feel" more natural to your power tubes and the saturation they apply will be more natural to the sound curve. This pedal also responds much better than I ever expected to pick attack and guitar volume... a testament to the fact that the pedal isn't forcing itself on your sound but rather working with it. Phat Switch: The intent of the Phat switch is to boost the lower frequency range for a fatter sound when kicked on. I was intending to run the switch off before I got the pedal because my humbuckers already give off a fat sound. But when I got to messing with it I realized the Phat Switch is so subtle it makes almost no difference. And there is the key. The "subtle" factor of this pedal is what makes it such a beauty for dialing in your own unique sound.
From the perfectly mounted "Phat switch" to the custom Blue LED light everything about this pedal says "this aint yo mommas Blues Driver". An extremely wide frequency range lets your guitar breath through without coloring or compression. Boss durability and Keeley mods make for one hell of a combination on this pedal. If your looking for a pedal to kick on and still be able to do chord work and soloing at the same time this is the pedal for you. What it won't do is compress your sound. If your looking for screaming overdrive with slight compression try a tubescreamer, they sound fantastic! Also, I wouldn't recommend this pedal for fuzz distortion because of it's attack response and lack of compression.
Hardtail Editorial note: published 1 Oct 2007