I'm a huge fan of John Frusciante and I know he uses the Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion a lot. I read a review that said this pedal really doesn't go well my amp, a Vox AC15, but I'm not sure if maybe the guy just didn't like the pedal in general. So has anyone liked the DS-2, and then not liked it played through a Vox? I know its kind of a specific question but I figured it was worth a shot.
The DS-2 doesn't "go" well with most amps really, it's sort of a nasty gnarly effect. It's not surprising that it would be unsatisfying for someone just looking for a conventionally great sounding distortion.

TBH the Frusciante live sound has way more to do with 400 watts of 80s vintage Marshalls and a ton of volume than a particular pedal, and I'm not sure the DS-2 is going to make you happy if you're missing the rest of the equation. Frusciante used a huge number of drive pedals live: Big Muff, English Muff'n, DS-1, DS-2, FZ-3, Micro amp, Metal Muff, Fuzzrite, Fox Fuzz, probably a bunch more. The important thing to know is that for the most part, the pedals were simply a way of goosing those amps with a ton of input and fuzziness. John's live tone with a DS-1 isn't all that different than it is with a Metal Muff because all he's doing with them is accentuating that unique OD the Silver Jubilees have. It's very loose, bassy, and has a particular fizz in the high end that isn't going to come out of any pedal I've ever heard. Pretty much any distortion pedal will make a Jubilee do that, but since you don't have a Jubilee you need a different approach.

My advice would be to try a Big Muff or a Double Muff. They've got a big wooly sound that should at least begin to approximate what you hear on the live albums. A DS-2 would not be my choice with that amp, you need something with more bass and looser response.
I actually prefer his sound on the recordings much more than his live tone. And I've seen videos/interviews where he claims to use the DS-2 exclusively for certain songs. But I get what you are saying about most of his live sound coming from the amp itself.
He records with the Marshalls too, for the most part. Trying to cop studio tones with an amp and pedal is often futile, especially if you're looking at the later stuff which is often heavily multitracked and tweaked. Some of the earlier tones are within reach with a fairly generic distortion sound, or even just your amp's OD in a lot of cases. John's sound was pretty bare bones up until Californication and even then it's more studio manipulation than specific effects. There's often a lot less distortion than you might initially think on many tracks. The AC15 gets reasonably dirty all on its own, I bet the amp alone would get you close to most of the album tones.

A DS-1 or DS-2 would probably be just fine if you just need to approximate the basic early studio tones.
I'm mainly after his sound on the earlier records anyway. The AC15 has a good amount of gain, but the problem is there is no way of switching between clean and dirty without adjusting settings on the amp. Lowering your guitar's volume doesn't work enough for going from full-on distortion to completely clean.

I was also looking at the MXR Super Badass Distortion, but I feel like I'd always wonder "Would I sound closer if I just got the Boss?"
I dunno about the DS-2, but the DS-1 DID NOT work well at all with my AC30.
Even with Keeley mods done to the DS-1.

The ZVex Box Of Rock however, works great with my AC30. YMMV.
The reason the DS-2 and the Muff have been on John's boards so consistently is that they have a particular singing quality to them that he uses for live solos, I imagine partly because it's a bit harder to get consistent sustain over crowd noise or just from stage acoustics. The Muff is more bass-heavy and wooly and the turbo mode on the DS-2 is more mid-heavy with that violin type sustain going on. Honestly I can't think of anything off the top of my head that sounds like a mode II DS-2 on a studio album. The Fortune Faded intro would be closest but I still don't think it's actually that pedal. It's all over the place on his live solos though. If you've got a particular song or tone in mind I could probably tell you what would get you closest.

So, I don't see a point to getting the DS-2 if you want his early (or even later, really) album sounds because those are mostly clean anyway, or if there is distortion it's pretty raw like on Mellowship Slinky or Emit Remmus, and you don't need a DS-2 for that. I think it's a DS2 plus a wah but you could approximate that with a fair number of distortion boxes. So what you really want is probably just a good standard OD, because the way John used the DS-2 isn't really relevant to your needs.

Here's what the II mode on the DS2 sounds like (from 1:45) if you don't need that specific sound you should get a different pedal.

I haven't played the Custom Badass but the MXR distortion 3 suits Vox type amps very well and if the Badass is voiced like it but with an EQ, that would be a great choice. Otherwise the Distortion 3 would be good, something generically marshally like the Lovepedal Superlead or the box of rock would work, or a DS1 is hard to argue with if you want to save money.

Sorry if I am writing way more than you need here, Frusciante and El84 amps are basically my two favorite things in the world.
No worries, I don't mind reading a long post.

Think of "The Righteous and the Wicked" or the solo in "Funky Monks". I'm fairly certain that's a DS-2. Also on "Dani California", I saw an interview where John said he used it for the solo. I can't really get anywhere near that sound using just my amp. The distortion on my MG doesn't sound like it either. Do you still think I could get that with just any old OD pedal? Maybe you're right.

Btw, I'm not a fan of pedals that try to emulate the sound of an amp. I don't see how they are any different than all the modeling amps that everyone (including myself) hates.
Last edited by 757ian123 at Jan 22, 2014,
Righteous and the Wicked could be either a DS2 and a wah or a Mosrite fuzz. I feel like it's the Mosrite but that's just a hunch.
Funky Monks is almost certainly a DS2 and a WH10, good ear on that one.
Dani California's got all sorts of stuff on it, the solo is at least double tracked and has a wah on top of it but there's definitely a DS2 in there too. Unfortunately all that studio magic means that the DS2 is not what's holding you back from that tone. I feel like the hard-panned double tracking is what makes that tone, and there's no real way to replicate that live.

Guess there's more of that pedal in the studio than I recalled at first. Dani California isn't exactly early peppers though is it

The DS2 plus the WH10 is distinctive. You could get close with another wah but the way the WH10 glitches out with distortion is unique. I think the issue with the DS2 is that besides that one sound, it's nothing but a $75 DS-1. I'm a big Frusciante fan but I just don't think I could pay that much for a pedal that sounds crap unless it's got a wah and a cranked amp behind it, and may sound particularly bad with your amp. So your options are either go whole hog and lock yourself into the DS-2 for that one specific sound, or spend the same on another distortion that might not nail that tone but is far more useful outside that context. Depends on how serious you want to be about it, I guess.
I really like the WH10 but I couldn't get past the tone sucking. I may still get one eventually.

As for the DS-2 it looks like it's going to be a one trick pony. I kinda figured that, and I don't think I'd pay full price for one anyway. There's one for $45 on CL that has been tempting me. I guess the "smart" thing would be to spend more money and get a more versatile distortion pedal.
That's why I got rid of mine. The bypass was terrible. Wilson makes a clone with nicer parts and true bypass, more expensive obviously but it's an option. You can also mod the WH10 for true bypass but the switching on it was so tenuous already I didn't want to mess with it more.

$45 is a decent price for a DS2, you could probably resell it with no loss if it didn't work for you. Might be worth a try.