Taming the Hiss: A Guitarist’s Guide to the BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal

BOSS   |   March 16, 2024

posted by: Levi

For as long as electric guitars have been plugged into amplifiers, unwanted noise has been a persistent problem for guitarists. Whether it’s the annoying hiss of single-coil pickups, the incessant buzz of poorly shielded electronics, or the ever-present hum of ground loops, noise can quickly turn a pristine guitar tone into a frustrating mess. Fortunately, there are tools available to help combat these issues, and one of the most popular and effective solutions is the BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor pedal.

What is the BOSS NS-2?

The NS-2 is a compact stompbox designed to eliminate unwanted noise from your signal chain without altering your core tone. It works by using a sophisticated noise detection circuit that identifies and removes hiss, buzz, and hum, while still preserving the natural attack and decay of your instrument’s sound. The NS-2 features two main controls – Threshold and Decay – which allow you to fine-tune the noise suppression to suit your specific needs.

How Does it Work?

At its core, the NS-2 is a noise gate. Noise gates work by setting a volume threshold below which the pedal will cut off the signal entirely. When you play above the threshold, the gate opens, allowing your signal to pass through unaffected. But when you stop playing and the signal drops below the threshold, the gate closes, effectively muting any noise that would otherwise be heard in the gaps between your playing.

The Threshold knob on the NS-2 lets you set the level at which the gate will open and close. Set it too high, and you risk cutting off the natural decay of your notes and chords. Set it too low, and the gate may not close fast enough to effectively cut the noise. Finding the sweet spot is key to getting the most out of the NS-2.

The Decay knob, on the other hand, adjusts how quickly the gate closes when the signal drops below the threshold. A faster decay means the gate will clamp down on the noise more abruptly, while a slower decay allows a bit more of the natural signal to come through before the gate shuts. Again, it’s about finding the balance that works best for your particular setup and playing style.

Placement in Your Signal Chain

One of the great things about the NS-2 is its flexibility in terms of where it can be placed in your signal chain. The most straightforward method is to simply plug your guitar into the NS-2’s input, then run the NS-2’s output to your amp or the rest of your pedal chain. In this configuration, the NS-2 will respond directly to the dynamics of your playing, making it easier to dial in a natural-sounding threshold and decay.

However, you can also use the NS-2’s Send and Return jacks to create an effects loop within the pedal itself. This allows you to place the NS-2 after your noisiest pedals (typically high-gain distortions or fuzzes) but before any time-based effects like delay and reverb, which often sound best after the noise gate. By gating the noise from your dirtiest pedals first, you can achieve a tighter, more controlled sound without gating the natural decay of your delays and reverbs.

Using the NS-2 with an Amp’s Effects Loop

If your amplifier has an effects loop, you can also use the NS-2 to manage noise between your preamp and power amp stages. Most of the noise in a typical high-gain amp setup comes from the preamp, where the signal is boosted and distorted. By placing the NS-2 in the amp’s effects loop, you can effectively cut the noise from the preamp before it hits the power amp and gets amplified further.

To do this, you would run the send from your amp’s effects loop into the NS-2’s return, and the NS-2’s send into your amp’s effects return. This puts the NS-2 directly after your preamp in the signal chain. You can then run your guitar into the NS-2’s input, and use the pedal’s output to feed any other pedals you might be using before the amp’s input. This setup gives you the benefits of noise gating your preamp section while still allowing you to use the NS-2’s natural dynamic response from your guitar’s input.

The “Hiss” button

A unique feature of the NS-2 is the “Hiss” button, which engages a filter specifically designed to target and eliminate high-frequency hiss. This can be especially useful when using single-coil pickups, which are inherently noisier than humbuckers. By engaging the Hiss mode, you can often clean up your signal without having to set the threshold as high, which can help preserve more of your natural playing dynamics.

Tips and Tricks

While the NS-2 is a powerful tool, it’s not a magic bullet. There are a few things you can do to get the most out of your noise suppressor:

  1. Start with your amp and pedals set to your desired levels, then bring in the NS-2 and adjust to taste. This way, you’re gating the actual noise you’re dealing with, not just arbitrary levels.
  2. If you’re using the NS-2 in an effects loop, experiment with the order of your pedals. Sometimes placing a boost or EQ before the NS-2 can help tighten up the noise gating even further.
  3. Don’t be afraid to readjust the NS-2’s settings when changing guitars or amps. Different pickups and amp circuits will produce different levels and types of noise, so what works in one setup may not be ideal for another.
  4. If you’re using the NS-2 with high-gain pedals, try placing them in the NS-2’s effects loop and setting the threshold relatively high. This can give you a tight, “djent”-style gating effect that can be great for modern metal rhythms.
  5. Remember that a little noise is natural and can even add character to your sound. The goal is to tame the excess noise, not to sterilize your tone completely.

The BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor is a powerful and versatile tool that belongs on any serious guitarist’s pedalboard. Whether you’re battling single-coil hiss, high-gain hum, or just trying to clean up a noisy rig, the NS-2 offers the flexibility and control to get the job done. By understanding how the pedal works and experimenting with different placement options and settings, you can effectively eliminate unwanted noise without sacrificing your core tone. And that’s something every guitarist can appreciate.

While noise suppression may not be the most glamorous aspect of crafting your perfect guitar sound, it’s an essential consideration for anyone who wants to sound their best on stage or in the studio. With the BOSS NS-2 in your signal chain, you can focus on what really matters – playing your music with clarity, dynamics, and expression, without being distracted by the hiss, buzz, and hum that can so easily creep into your sound. So if you’re serious about your tone, do yourself a favor and make room on your pedalboard for the NS-2. Your ears (and your audience) will thank you.

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One thought on "Taming the Hiss: A Guitarist’s Guide to the BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal"

  1. Levi says:

    What’s the most creative or unconventional way you’ve used the BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor to shape your guitar tone?


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