Boss HM-2W Heavy Metal Waza Craft Review
The HM-2w's Swedish chainsaw metal tone has more sustain than any distortion pedal we've tested. It's aggressive, thick, and gets you close to that modern tube amp punch that's hard to find in a stompbox. It's definitely our favorite Boss distortion and makes a case for our favorite overall.
The most evident feature of the HM-2w's tone is sustain.
It produces a ton of it.
Even on lower gain settings, you can't really miss the sustain, which trails back with a growling quality, or what some might call the "chainsaw" Swedish metal gain style. This pedal's analog tone, like the original HM-2, gets close to the same sound you hear out of modern tube amps like the Mesa Mark V.
Here's what you're getting in the HM-2w:
- High gain
- Saturated distortion
- Lots of low-end
- Swedish metal style
If you're after these qualities, the HM-2w is a good fit. Bad fits would be lower-gain environments like blues or even classic rock. You almost can't get a subtle style out of the HM-2w, which makes it less flexible than pedals like the Empress Heavy, which can do both tones very well.
But that's probably not why you'd buy the HM-2w. That's not what it was made for.
We'll get into the fine print in our full HM-2w review.
Drop questions in the comments section below the article.
We tested the HM-2w, pedal in hand, took our own photos, and recorded our own demo for this review. If you have questions about our review process, please feel free to ask. Also note that we earn money through partner links to Sweetwater and other vendors we trust. If you click through our orange buttons and make a purchase, we might earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Compare to Other Boss Distortion Pedals
There are a lot of distortion pedals in the Boss lineup. In this section you can see how some of them compare, both in pricing and basic specs. Note that the price of each pedal is updated live.
Boss HM-2w Price Guide Section
Price updated Tue, December 05th, 2023.
Pricing from Sweetwater
Price Alert Tool
Price History for Boss HM-2W Waza Craft Heavy Metal Distortion Pedal
|Current Price||$119.99||December 1, 2023|
|Highest Price||$199.99||June 21, 2022|
|Lowest Price||$119.99||November 17, 2023|
Last price changes
|$119.99||November 17, 2023|
|$149.99||July 6, 2023|
|$169.99||June 10, 2023|
|$152.65||June 8, 2023|
|$169.99||June 2, 2023|
IDEAL FOR: Any heavy metal, modern rock or new age metal styles, drop tunings, Swedish metal, and pairing with tube amps.
Gain, Tone Quality, and Overall Sound
As I've alluded to already, this pedal is all about saturation and sustain. You almost can't get a low gain tone out of it, even with the DIST knob turned way down. On almost every setting I tried, I had punch and a long sustain trail.
There wasn't much I had to do out of the box to get it sounding the way I wanted. I'm a metal and hard rock guy, so the default tone sounded great to me.
On some settings with the gain higher, it had less shape than I would have hoped, where the percussive palm mutes and power chord would give sort of lose their definition.
To dial this back, I just pulled the gain down and bumped up the bass and midrange.
But this is a preference and not a quality issue.
The sustain trails sound heavy, power chords sound punchy, and the saturation levels are high, to the point where they have a ripping quality to them.
Here's my own demo.
Amp and Clean Tone Setup
As usual, I tested the pedal with my PRS CE 24 electric guitar and a Boss Katana 50 amplifier. As a result, the sound in the room wasn't as good as it would have been with my Mesa Rectoverb, but the Katana did a good job on the recording.
To set this up I used the Katana's clean channel and then a direct out going to a Scarlett Solo USB audio interface so I could record on a MacBook.
I noticed it was odd that I didn't get much feedback, even on the higher gain settings. Yet, the harmonics were really full and easy to draw out.
Usually when you have clear harmonics like that, you'll get some feedback.
This was not the case with my setup.
Fast Palm Muted Power Chords
I really liked the sound of fast-paced, palm-muted power chords.
They were clear, easy to differentiate, but also very percussive.
They just sounded metal, even when in a meager drop-D tuning. I didn't have to tune lower to get the metal sound I wanted.
Review of the HM-2w Controls
Like most Boss distortion pedals, the HM-2w's control scheme is very simple. You have a level and distortion control where you'll modify the gain levels and output.
Next you have a two-band EQ labeled under Color, which gives you a lot of flexibility.
The hi pass control seemed to have a lot more variety than the low dial.
For the most part I set the bass around 3 o'clock, about 75 percent of the way up.
Again, the controls are simple. You can just set and forget once you find something you like. The controls on the pedal should be set after you set the EQ on your amplifier, preferably on a clean channel with really low gain. Once you do, let the HM-2w take over and handle all the gain.
What power supply does the HM-2w use?
The Boss HM-2w uses a standard 9V DC power supply, though Boss does not include these when you purchase any of their pedals.
We'd recommend an isolated power source and to avoid using shared power.
A 9V battery is another viable source of isolated power.
Where does it rank among other Boss distortion pedals?
Boss has made a lot of different distortion pedals to cater to a lot of different styles, so identifying the "best" one is mostly a question of the style of music you're involved in.
For example, blues and metal require two very different types of distortion.
But overall, I've put the HM-2w at the top of the pile. You can read my reasoning here.
Read more: Best Boss distortion pedal
Can you still get the original HM-2?
The original HM-2 is still available in most used markets, primarily Reverb and eBay. You'd probably be looking for the 1987 version that was made in Japan, like the new Waza Craft pedals.
Since it's pretty rare at this point, it usually retails higher than the HM-2w.
Between $180 and $200 is not unusual, at least as of early 2023.
That price could go higher as the HM-2 units get even harder to find. As time goes on, discontinued pedals keep getting more rare and increase in value.
Keep an eye on Reverb and eBay if you want to snag one.
ShopGoodwill.com is a long shot, but you can check there as well.
What's the best amp to use with the HM-2w?
You won't need much gain - if any - from your amplifier. This means you'll be using the HM-2w to distort a clean tone.
But that doesn't negate the quality of most amps we'd recommend.
Anything from the following brands could be a good fit:
Any kind of modern-voiced amp with a solid clean tone will do the job.
Read more: Best guitar amps overall
Price and Value
For an analog distortion pedal the cost of the HM-2w is reasonable. Check the price guide above to see updated numbers, but at the time of publishing our review the retail was on par with market comparisons. In fact, a lot of other analog distortion pedals were significantly more expensive.
It's worth the investment if you're using the HM-2w as your primary distortion source.
I wouldn't go this direction if you are looking at it as a backup or a secondary option.
Best Style Fit
As I've alluded to already, the HM-2w does modern metal and hard rock, and that's it. Don't buy it and assume you'll have some style flexibility. It's really designed for one job, and it executes that job very well.
So in conclusion, the HM-2w has limited application but that's by design.
Don't buy it for stylistic flexibility. Buy it for heavy distortion, sustain, and the styles that apply these sounds.
It's a fantastic pedal.
If you have questions about our Boss HM-2w review, or our review policy and process, I can help out via the comments section below. You can also share your own stories if you've bought and/or used the HM-2w.
We'll see you there.