Tuesday, August 9, 2016

BOSS CS-2 Compressor Sustainer Guitar Effect Pedal Review


Awhile back I reviewed the BOSS CS-3 Compressor Sustainer pedal, and recently lucked into a Japanese-made CS-2, so I thought it would be cool to do a comparison between the two. There is a bit of derision towards the CS-3 so this is also a good chance to see what all of the fuss is about.

Effect pedals come in all price ranges, all the way from total junk on up to You can pay anything you want for guitar effect pedals, and the choices include boutique pedals with prices so high that they must use unicorn hair for wiring. Somewhere in between are BOSS pedals, which are reasonably priced, good quality, and the mainstay of many working musicians. The BOSS CS-2 we are looking at today is a perfect example of this.

What exactly is a compressor sustainer pedal? Well, this one compresses louder signals and boosts softer signals, resulting in more even output. At the same time it can sustain your notes, making them sound longer. Putting these two features can result in a smoother sound, and this will work with either guitar or bass.

The CS-2 is a standard single-space sized pedal, measuring 2-7/8 inches wide by 2-3/8 inches tall by 5-1/8 inches long. Take that, metric system! In that same vein, it weighs in at around 15 ounces. This pedal runs on a single 9-volt battery or it takes the optional BOSS PSA adapter. It draws 4 mA at 9 volts (vs. the 11mA of the CS-3), in case you are thinking of hooking it up to a pedal board power system.

By the way, if you run the unit on battery, make sure you unplug the input when you are not using it, as the input jack acts as the power switch. It has the same general style as other BOSS pedals, but this one comes in a lovely shade of blue. The outside of the sturdy metal case has a single 1/4 input, a single 1/4-inch output and a jack for the aforementioned AC adapter.

The expected BOSS high quality is to be found here, with a smooth finish, clean wiring, and knobs that have a nice feel. These knobs include Level, Tone, Attack, and Sustain, so it is not too complicated. Here is what they do:

Level: adjusts output level, not input level

Attack: enhances the intensity of each note by controlling how quickly the compression activates.

Sustain: adjusts the sustain time. If turned counter-clockwise it acts as a limiter.

Note that there is no Tone knob on the CS-2, on the CS-3 this controls high frequency boost and cut.

My old CS-3 pedal is at its best when it is asked to provide a high level of compression, and combining it with the right guitar/amp combination (think Les Paul and a Marshall). It certainly can squish things down, and there are definitely usable ranges, to be found though I would avoid anything outside of the 9:00 to 3:00 range as there is too drastic of a difference in tone when the unit is switched on. Increasing sustain seems to enhance the compression effect, so I usually keep it below 10:00. The tone control is very useful, and it helps dial out most of the muddiness that comes bout from the compression. With these settings the attack can be spot on without a ton of mush. But, I found that the pedal is best used for hard rock and metal, as this pedal clouds the sound with a lot of gain, which gives out a very edgy and uneven tone.

The older model CS-2 is a LOT smoother, and is better suited to the country and classic rock that I am mostly playing these days. Also, I do not have to get as extreme with my amplifier settings and am able to dial in less bass and enjoy a bit more treble. Also, it does not add nearly as much noise to the signal chain. My other effect pedals work better with it, and for classic Telecaster sounds this pedal really delivers the goods.

There is only one downside, but this it is common to pedals in this price range. Like the CS-3, the CS-2 does not have true bypass, which is something that everybody and their brother wants. In truth, there is some color added to the straight tone when bypassing the pedal, and gear nuts are fanatical about this.

So, there really is a difference between the two pedals, and if you are not looking for an extreme sound the CS-2 is the better choice. These pedals were discontinued years ago, but there are still tons of them on eBay with reasonable prices that range between $60 and $100. They are the real deal, and I heartily recommend this pedal! If you get a chance to try one out, be sure to let me know what you think!


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