This is Analyzing The Hype, a series in which we look at some coveted pieces of old school gear and we look into why they became so damn popular, and what is out there that can get you some of that sound. First under the microscope: the Boss HM-2.

The Boss HM-2 was a distortion pedal launched in 1983 and discontinued in 1991, which was replaced by the HM-3 that year. The HM-2 is revered in some circles and used prices for a good one can get up towards $200 due to their rarity and aforementioned reverence, but why is this? Why are they so rare, yet so popular at the same time?

Well, let’s take a look into the history of the pedal…

The History

In the early 80’s, Boss wanted to capitalize on the burgeoning metal market and the success of their own DS-1 amongst players prompted them to launch a distortion pedal designed for metal, and what resulted was the Boss HM-2 in 1983. The pedal was not the success that Boss had probably imagined, though. It sold, but the DS-1 eclipsed it in sales.

No one reason is clear for why it wasn’t the big seller, but the visuals (compared to other Boss pedals especially) were dull, the controls were idiosyncratic (the gain control had a dead zone between 10 o’clock and 3 o’clock, and it had a very powerful active 2 band EQ which was very unique at time of launch), and the sound was not as desirable as the DS-1 (it wasn’t as present sounding and had a much chewier, thicker sound).

During the HM-2’s lifespan, the production of Boss pedals moved from Japan to Taiwan in around 1986, and sales were still not exceptional (some players also claim that Japanese Boss pedals are superior to the Taiwanese ones, but that’s a whole other issue).

However, by the time production ceased in 1991, the HM-2 had found some unlikely love in two very different music scenes…

Why Is It So Hyped?

Shoegaze groups and Swedish Death Metal bands both loved this pedal, with Shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine liking the pedals thick, chewy distortion sound (it was this pedal, along with the Marshall Shredmaster, that forms the majority of tones on the seminal Loveless album), and Swedish Death Metal bands like Entombed liking the pedal’s powerful EQ to achieve a serrated, edgy tone with a lot of gain and low end to balance that.

It was this second group of players that really cultivated the love of the pedal, and a lot of guitarists began stockpiling this now discontinued pedal, as they felt the direct successor, the HM-3, sounded too refined and not as aggressive, and the new stablemate, the MT-2, was just way too brittle sounding and lacked the thickness of the HM-2. This led to the pedal becoming near legendary in Death Metal circles and lent it the nickname of the “Swedish Chainsaw.”

This sent prices on the steady rise and, as word steadily spread of this pedals rarity, it started to become something of a collectors’ item and its love doesn’t seem to be waning.

Real World Options

Now, for those of you who want the pedal, but don’t want to spend years finding one in good condition or at a non-heart attack inducing price,  there aren’t that many clones or copies out there. There are a couple of boutique clones that are as expensive as the original, but modded to the max, but for us mortals? Not a lot is out there: but fear not, I have your backs!  

The first recommendation is the BYOC The Swede, which is a very accurate clone of the HM-2 that costs between $70 and $90, with one caveat. You have to build it yourself. Luckily, it’s all PCB, and all the components are included, so if you follow instructions and do some soldering, this could be a very cost effective option.

Then, there is the Behringer HM300, which is another clone of the HM2, although this one is made down to the lowest price possible (it’s $25 or so, for pete’s sake!) and it’s very pink. It’s not great quality, but it will get you a slice of the sound for minimum outlay.

Finally, there is the Nine of Swords Funeral Party. This is basically a simplified HM-2 inspired circuit that has just two controls, volume and tone, and suitably death metal graphics. It may not be accurate, but it does the death metal thing very well, and all in a hand made, true bypass, and pedalboard-friendly package that comes in at about $100 shipped.


So there you have it! It’s certainly a niche tone, but one that can do an exceptional job in the mix and definitely serves its purpose. Check back next week for more Analyzing The Hype!

Do you like learning about cool old gear? How about reviews of the hottest new guitars out there? How to write better songs, or improve your tone? Click here to read more articles!

This article written by community contributor John Waldock.

About The Author