Price paid: A$ 49
Purchased from: Ikebukuro, Japan
Sound — 9
As I've mentioned, the sound to this pedal is incredibly difficult to mold, as it changes so drastically with each EQ, Drive and level setting. I find that anything above about 9-o'clock on the EQ settings turns the pedal into a noisy, tinny fuzz box, and turning the Drive up to max only results in even more noise. That said, when it's on the right settings, it's oh so right. I use a Sterling [Music Man] JP50 through a Line 6 Spider on a clean channel, with a BOSS DS-1 as an extra boost, with the HM-2 settings at Level: Full, EQ (bass): 9-o'clock, EQ(treble): zero, Gain: 12-o'clock, and it's a really satisfying Modern Marshall Drive that comes out of it. Add the DS-1 boosting at about 12-o'clock on each of your settings [before the HM-2, as it'll buzz and whir if you put it after], and you'll end up with a driving Rock and Metal tone, akin to Alter Bridge for its balls-iness and Lamb Of God/Slayer in accenting and elocution. I'm a metal player as you may have guessed, and this pedal sounds great for it. I understand a lot of Scandinavian metal bands use the HM-2 as the basis for their driven sounds, and after a long time, I can finally see why.
Overall Impression — 8
As I mentioned, I'm a metal player. Until I rediscovered this baby, I used a Zoom multi-fx to get my tone going. It has to be said that this setup of pedals is a lot quieter and a lot less temperamental than the multi-fx ever was, and it produces a satisfying distortion tone for its price. I've mentioned my gear above, and this setup works well at low volume, and only gets better as you push the amp harder. The main thing that I would suggest would be to spend maybe $20 on eBay or at your local shop and get an AC adaptor, and about $10 on eBay getting a an AC daisy chain for it, as I'd expect it to run through the batteries pretty quickly. If someone stole this thing from me, I'd be pretty pissed. They're a little harder to find now than a couple of years back, and I'm glad that I finally found a good tone out of the one I found in Japan in 2008. It's just a shame that such a solid distortion box is hindered by such temperamental and disheartening controls, which really suck the fun out of the tone if you don't get it exactly right the first time. I've been playing for about six years, and I'll acknowledge that this isn't the be-all and end-all of distortion tone. What it is though is a relatively inexpensive means of getting a solid, ballsy Marshall distortion out of a cheap amplifier on a clean setting. I'd definitely recommend using it with another pedal to boost it, but maybe that's just my taste. All in all, a solid addition to your pedal chain.
Reliability & Durability — 9
It's a Boss pedal, so it will probably never die. It has a sturdy metal casing, and a satisfying foot-switch, meaning it'll probably survive a nuclear bomb dropping on it. That said, I bought this as a used pedal and I'd hate to find myself without a Drive sound midway through a gig, so I'd probably bring a spare, just in case.
Ease of Use — 6
Straight out of the box, I found this to be an incredibly annoying pedal to use. It's incredibly temperamental, and moving any of the settings by even a millimeter or two results in an incredibly different tone, which is a nightmare for first time users. I swore off it for about a year and a half because I couldn't get a god tone out of it. Flash forward to about two months ago now, and it's the backbone of my distortion sound. It's by no means a walk in the park, but once you get the hang of this pedal, you'll be really surprised as to what it can do to your sound. That said, based on ease of getting a good sound, this is a difficult pedal to use first up.