I have to apologize for my lack of posting- I generally try at least once a week. I must say med school has its ups and downs and the past weeks have been busy! Plus our buddy Hurricane Omar dropped by to see us.
Good news was he changed his mind and decided the Virgin Islands were much more tasty….. But it killed a couple of days as we were planning and prepping for it.
In other news: ON TO THE BOOSTS!
Okay, the boost IMHO is not a “normal” effect. Not many guitarists go out and go “hmmm, i could really use a BOOSTER pedal now.” In fact, most of the time we go “hmm, I could really go for a new OD pedal!” and assume that the boost we need will be given by the new OD. I actually prefer this route as it gives me an excuse to try new gear. Anywhoo….
The boost pedal seems to have its roots as an attempt to overdrive a tube amp, and give the tube distortion at lower volumes. What it does is INCREASE the volume going into the tube, thus distorting it. The most famous example is Eric Clapton on the album “Blues Breakers John Mayall with Eric Clapton” also known as the “Beano” album. There is no “Proof” but most are pretty sure good ‘ol Slow Hand used a Dallas Rangemaster to get his tone on that album. The original Rangemaster was not a pedal, it was a massive box you sat on your amp. Plug your guitar into it, its output into the amp and away you go. It had two knobs: on/off and volume. Simple.
Brian May of Queen is attributed as using the Rangemaster to achieve his sweet solos. Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath has attributed that thing to his classic metal tone. There, that should get ya’ll a tad bit interested now.
I have a boost and use it for several uses. I also have seen uses I would never use it for. So collectively, here is what you can do:
1) Use it for a lead boost. This is the easiest usage. You are playing along, you love your tone, just perfect amount of OD, but need to be just a ‘touch’ louder for a solo to stand out over the drummer. Perfect. It boosts your sound and overdrives your amp a touch.
2) Boost your OD pedal. Particularly if you have a pedal that responds like an amp (see my BD2 Mod Plus Reviews: Part 1 and Part 2), this will overdrive it like a… well, an amp! I also use it to fatten up my TS9s tone for a thicker, “wall” sound. It acts as a volume to a point, as the pedal has more limits than an amp. I found this is close to having a “hot” button on the TS9 like some of the other models have.
3) Fatten your signal. I know several guitarists who play FIRST into the booster, and have it on about 80% of the time. This usage is about the same as a compressor, but a bit more dynamic. Each string will ring hot, harmonics are heard, but it still VERY responsive to the volume knob on the guitar. To each his own, some people swear by this, but I rather have a nice compressor. Find out if you like this yourself!
There a several major “Boosts” out there, and several that I think deserve mention. Just be aware that the Rangemaster sells for… well, more than a vintage Roland Space Echo. Or two of them. So do not count on that one!
In no particular order: (and as always, thanks to proguitarshop.com for all their videos. If you haven’t bought anything from these guys, DO IT! The have more boutique effects than others, and everything I have bought have beat musiciansfriend prices.)
(disclaimer: Almost all of these claimed to be clean boosts. Out of the ones I played they were “clean-ish”. They all add some sort of sound to your sound. So not to be nitpicky, but you have to find a boost that matches the tone you want!)
(Special thanks to Dan Byron for a few kind words) This boost seemst to be the most popular. It is boutique and COOL!! Also, it has two modes (options people!) a clean mode and a “gain” mode. It does boast all high grade, military use-them-on-tanks type parts, thus guaranteeing your tone is pure. (again, see disclaimer) I finally got to play this, and its very nice. Nice round quality and smoothness/transparent nature when you boost your signal. The gainy mode adds a touch of grit through some diodes, which Keeley states adds some natural tube breakup-type feel. I think… well, this is an effect that he places on some of his other mods (see a previous post where I complain about being able to pick a Keeley effect from a mile away). However, it works here! If you are using your own OD pedal into this, it really sounds smooth. Its not bad boosting a clean signal either, just adds some sparkle. Compared to the others I played, this one seems to keep/add highs while others lost them. And it looks cool. Not too shabby here. Price as of this post $199
Thus named for the Eric Clapton album which we discussed. I have personally found that AM’s goal is to recreate the classic vintage effects as best as he can. The Beano is his attempt at the Rangemaster. He actually used his vintage Rangemaster to make this pedal. I am a bit prejudiced here as I love me my Analogman. However, I have NOT played this pedal. I want to….
This pedal also has a switch for “Lows” and “Mids” to adjust your boost. You can boost your midrange accordingly for solos to stand out in the mix, or you can take them out if you are one of those guys who leaves the pedal on. Also, I love how AMs effects appear handmade. This one is currently $175
I really am getting into these Barber Guys. They are intent on creating boutique effects that are affordable. I have NOT played this, but the quality of their other effects and the customer support I received on my Tone Press is well worth it. Check this out: it has A/B outputs for differing amps with each having its own output volume, or can be used for a tuner bypass. It has the ability to be used as a balanced or unbalanced out for going into recording software or otherwise. It also has an internal voltage of 24v!! So you can get some pretty hot signals, full of headroom. And even nicer: $139
Makes the claim as being the first Foot pedal boost that was used in overdriving amps. Its simple: footswitch and volume. Its Truebypass (like all the others above) and actually sounds pretty good. I own this one. I think it thickens out your signal some and adds a touch of bass response, but not much as its not boomy. It sounds fantastic going into a TS9. But the best part: $39.
Now for the ultimate if you are Boost crazy. I said I didn’t care for the effects of this guy, but I would LOVE to try this: Keeley Time Machine Boost: This has two seperate boosts, each with differing settings. You have a vintage side type boosts which replicate a couple of distince 60s and 70s type drives. The modern side is a touch cleaner, but also is completely tweakable. Now I don’t use boosts THAT much, but if I did, this would do it. I’m not going to explain this much more- check out the link for more info- but just know this is the mack-daddy of all boosts.
Yeah, so boosts are bit limited as they only do one thing. If you need one, you need one. If you don’t, you probably will never find a use for it in your rig. I generally carry mine unattached on my board, and if my tone is a bit weak, I add it in my signal, always on. Its more of a comfort/safe zone thing for me. But realisticaly, if I had plenty of time to set up, tune in my amp, and adjust my effects accordingly- I probably would never use this. This is more of a “Save me” pedal for me.
Overall, just know this makes your signal HOT, and adds volume and some sustain to whatever signal going into it. Or this is just another piece of gear in that eternal search for tone.
Those of you who use a boost: how do you use it? Is there a special tone you achieve? What is your opinion of them?
Til next time:
edit: There are many MANY other pedals you can use as a boost. My favorite of course is… the TS9! A good modded Tubescreamer type pedal (SD1 for example) can work as a great boost. Leave the gain all the way down and just push the volume. The TS9 will affect the midrange, but its great for a solo boost. In fact, Analogman recommends his TS9 as a clean boost. To be fair, Keeley recommends his BD2 as a clean boost. Just give it a shot with your current pedals if you need a boost. Chances are one of them works.
And a closing word on my $39 EH LPB-1…. Isn’t great when a cheap, non-boutique pedal DOES work for you? 🙂 hehe…