So within my pedal chain I have 4 key low-to-mid-gain overdrives ranging from Klon Style, to Tube Screamer Style, to Dumble Style and onto Blues Driver type - the way I have it each gets progressively gainier, in fact I have a 5th medium gain overdrive - which used to be an OCD, but has now been displaced by the Hamstead Intergalactic Driver. The idea is to have the most suitable pedal in each slot - one that combines superb dynamics, tone, versatility and smart form factor and features.
The first ’Blues Driver’ I had was the diminutive Mooer Blues Mood - in fact a Mooer mini clone of the Keely Blues Driver mod - which added a ’Fat’ switch to boost the low-end frequencies and upgraded some of the cheaper components to give a more rounded and even tone profile. In any case I loved, still love the Blues Mood, and it served me well in that slot for quite a while, it was displaced at the end of last year by the Boss Angry Driver, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here - let’s return to the original Blues Driver.
Introduced back in 1995, the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver still remains an active part of the Boss compact pedals range, in fact it was joined exactly 20 years later by the Waza Craft version which offers up a 2-way voicing toggle with Standard and Custom modes - and improved internals / components.
In fact for some strange reason the Blues Driver has ended up as one of the world’s most modded pedals - key pedal-makers Brian Wampler (Wampler Effects), Josh Scott (JHS Effects), Mike Piera (Analog.Man) and Robert Keeley (Keeley Engineering) have all supplied modified versions at some stage, and Mike Piera still does.
If you are going to buy an original BD-2, you’re probably best off with the BD-2w, for a modified version I would recommend the JHS Blu-Drive Mod - which gives you a 3-way toggle that offers 3 different voicings - stock, fuzz and distortion - so the most versatility for you buck. As mentioned, the Keeley mod is the fat switch - now part of Robert’s own Super Phat Mod pedal, while Brian Wampler’s and Mike Piera’s modifications were/are more in the component area - smoothing off the brittle top end and giving a more rounded and even-tempered overdrive - so horses for courses really, but I really like the core BD sound, and thus would prefer voicing options in addition rather than a core change in tone. Most of the modified pedals are currently out of production, but a fair few turn up regularly on Reverb.com. My current Blues Driver of choice is actually the new hybrid dual Blues Driver / Angry Charlie - JB-2 Angry Driver pedal - which gives you superb tone-sculpting options by combining the Blues Driver circuit with the JHS Angry Charlie Circuit - both ways in series and in parallel! Definitely the best available choice - although I may just get a JHS modded BD-2 also at some stage.
While most of the pedals in this listing purport to be clones of or inspired by the Blues Driver, 2 or more here most definitely are not, although they cover similar territory - while being based on the Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal instead. These include the Analog.Man Prince of Tones and the Rockbox Baby Blues. Both of them have plenty of gain on tap via voicing toggle/s - and thus cover a lot of similar territory to the Blues Driver although the frequency profile is slightly different - for my purpose all these pedals would apply for the number 10 slot in my pedal chain and are thus fair game for consideration here.
So beyond the ones mentioned we have the more obvious inspired-by-Blues-Driver - Barber LTD SR, CMATMods Signa Drive and Mojo Hand FX Bluebonnet, while I’m not 100% sure about the Katanasound Albatross and MI Audio Super Blues Pro - as they seem to have elements of each really. So this category should really be called ’Blues Pedals’ or perhaps Blues/Breaker/Driver pedals!
In any case I’m really happy with this selection which provides plenty of inherent variety. As mentioned I already own a Blues Mood and Angry Driver, I’ve had a Prince of Tones on my wishlist for quite a while now, and have recently added the BD-2 JHS Mod and MI Effects Super Blues Pro - oh and the Rockbox Baby Blues - all those really fit suit my requirements - so basically - have 2, want 4! I really love the MI Audio pedals and have two in my sights - The Crossover, and this Super Blues Pro - they might both be pipped though by the Prince of Tones or Baby Blues - the latter of which goes for as little as £100 on Reverb.com.
Originals listed first, then alphabetical.
I would choose the Waza Craft over the standard BD-2 - because of its improved internals and voicing toggle switch - it's just a better standard-ish Blues Driver than the default version. Although if I were getting an actual Boss Blues Drive, I would actually rather go for the JHS modded one than any of the existing stock models.
Got this in December and really love it - has such a broad variety of tones on tap, and the Blues Driver and Angry Charlie tones complement each other so well - whichever direction in series you go, and especially in parallel. Even though each has just 3 dials - independent stacked Level, Tone and Drive - you can achieve so many variations by using just a tiny flavour of some key frequencies form each circuit - into or on top of the other. I still think there is some modification that can be done here - i.e. the Blues Driver circuit could still benefit from a fat switch (low-end boost), but it all sounds rather glorious - and is the most versatile Blues Driver to date.
As stated in the intro, my choice of the modified versions would be the JHS 'Blu-Drive' with 3-way voicing toggle - giving you Stock, Fuzz and Distortion tones. In short - a more versatile standard Blues Driver - also with improved internal components. There are actually two version of this - with and without Bass Boost - so the Keeley-style 'Fat' mode in effect - definitely go for that option!
Based on the original Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal - this also has a 3-way voicing toggle which takes you between Boost, Overdrive and Distortion. Been on the wishlist for a while - it runs quite a bit louder and gainer than the dual / boosted King of Tones - and has its voicing switches on the surface - so my Bluesbreaker of choice - or is it?
The Limited SR (Special Recipe) was very much a refined Blues Driver type pedal in a medium-sized enclosure - with the same controls as the original and very similar tone - but smoother. It has now been discontinued for a while, although does pop up now and again on Ebay and Reverb.com
Not specifically a Blues Driver clone, but has elements of Bluesbreaker and Driver - via 3-way voicing toggle - goes from a clean boost to a decent sort of Marshallesque crunch.
Japanese-made pedal available from US distributor on Reverb.com - circa £300 including delivery (Duty extra). Has very wide range of British Bluesy tones and a broad range of gain from low boost to crunchy distortion. Not exactly either Blues Driver or Bluesbreaker, but touches on both (no embeddable video available yet - will update in the future).
Robert took the blueprint from hits own Boss BD-2 modification - 'Fat Mod' and has improved and evolved that and incorporated into his own Blues Driver style pedal. No longer any point in getting the Keeley modded Blues Driver, you may as well get this instead. Or the excellent Mooer Blues Mood which is based on the same original mod.
A bluesy pedal with dual 3-way clipping switches which give it a wide variety of tones - also a sort of 3-band EQ but by a different name - Detail, Body and (Treble)Cut - each of which allow you to target a different range of frequencies. I already have 2 MI Audio Pedals - the Super Crunch Box V2 and the Megalith Delta - both excellent, so I would not hesitate to acquire this too.
For certain a Blues-Driver-esque pedal with the usual 3 control dials, plus an additional 'Diode Lift' toggle which gives you less compression and more headroom and volume. Sounds very Blue-Driver-like to me, and is certainly worthy of consideration.
My original and once main 'Blues Driver' - this is still probably my favourite Mooer pedal - still sounds wonderful, and would recommend to all. It has been displaced by the JB-2 Angry Driver which gives me a little more versatility, but is lacking the 'fat mod' of this pedal - as 'borrowed' from the Keeley Modded Blues Driver - the Blues Mood in fact being a clone of that.
This pedal supposedly has the Marshall Bluesbreaker as its inspiration - in some ways it can be seen as as a Prince of Tones+ - as with its 4 different voicing toggles it offers a few more options than the Analog.Man equivalent. I'm still interested in acquiring both this and the Prince of Tones at some stage - excellent value.
These are all essentially wide-gain-ranging bluesy pedals, some with really clever voicing options. Some people don't like the slightly brittle nature of the original Blues Driver - in which case I recommend the Analog.Man modded version. Or if you like it smoother, then probably Bluesbreaker clones are preferable to you than Blues Drivers. I like both, and will have both.
Of those featured there are probably 4 I would like to get my hands on - the BD-2 JHS Blu-Drive Mod, Prince of Tones, Super Blues Pro and Baby Blues. If I had to have just one, I would stick with my Angry Driver - which is amazing, just waiting for a modded version of that to come through, I'm sure these super-smart engineers can do something even more clever with that!