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Review Guitar/Bass booster

TC Electronic Spark Mini Booster Review

A Spark In The Dark In spite of the unbearable Harlem Shake, the awful slim jeans or the my-favorite-black-metal-artist-is-David-Guetta studded ankle boots, trends can sometimes be good. read more…

User reviews on Guitar/Bass booster products

Greater Signal Clarity and Plenty of Boost to Drive Your Amp and Pedals (J. Rockett Audio Designs - Steampunk Boost/Buffer)

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 01/10/2018
SOUND:
If you’re looking to clean up your signal and return those sparkling highs, Steampunk makes for an excellent Buffer choice. Moreover, this pedal also is designed to drive your pedals and amp harder with up to 20 dB of clean boost, as demonstrated in the YouTube video below.



There’s a little switch under Steampunk’s chassis that allows you to disengage the Buffer component of this Boost/Buffer pedal. I was curious to know how well it ‘buffered,’ and so I did some comparisons with both clean and distorted signals in the above video, and the result was surprising. The signal sounded fine without the Buffer, but when engaged the tone suddenly cleared up and became defined (particularly the high-ends), as though an EQ was added in the mix. I had a total of six pedals in the demo – the four JET series pedals (including Steampunk), the Le Lead Preamp and the Rock Bug amp/cab simulator. Not exactly a large signal chain, but apparently enough to muddy the waters.

Significant, but not exaggerated, the Boost does a fine job (some boost pedals are so extreme I can’t imagine anyone using the full amount as it would cause clipping). There is some added noise when using the boost, but considering you would use such an effect when pushing heavy rhythms or going into a lead solo, you would not hear the noise (only if you stopped playing with complete silence). This is not an entirely clean boost, but it’s not too dirty either. I found it added some ‘oomph’ to the original tone and in a good way, as though the crunch became crunchier and the leads had some added sustain and body.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:
Developed by J. Rockett Pedals, the Steampunk Boost/Buffer is one of a limited edition four pedals in the JET collection. Also available is the Squeegee Compressor, the Touch Overdrive and the Immortal Echo. Half the size of a regular pedal, Steampunk comes in at only $99 USD (as do the others in the collection). The Buffer aspect works exceptionally well by clearing up the tone by regaining any high-end loss that may occur with long cables or a lot of pedals within the chain (and it can be used without engaging the Boost). The Boost provides upward of 20 dB to push your solos or to add some drive to your amp for some noticeable crunch-factor. It is a fairly clean boost, but it’s obvious that the tone takes on some added aggression when already distorted or driven; as for clean signals, they become more pronounced with some additional rowdy push (as opposed to any distortion). Overall, an extremely useful pedal as you get two common features in one and the price is excellent. It’s available at:
https://rockettpedals.com/product/steampunk-boostbuffer/

EASE OF USE:
Super simple to use, the Buffer switches on and off via an internal switch, and so you need to decide whether you need it or not (necessitating the removal of four screws to gain access), whereas the Boost is controlled by a single knob. Steampunk’s Boost is marked by a small line (about quarter way) to show parity, which does not boost the signal, but does add some energy and sustain when turned on and kept low. Of course, there’s a lot more sustain and grain to be added as you crank the Boost upward of 20 dB extra.

RELIABILITY & DURABILITY:

The Steampunk Boost/Buffer is a hefty little guy with its all-steel chassis, while barely taking up any pedal board space and measuring in at 1.75 x 3.5 inches (4.44 x 8.89 cm). There’s only one knob/pot, which feels very solid and smooth when turned. Due to Steampunk’s small size, a big foot may touch down on the plastic knob occasionally, but the knob feels of heavy enough construction that there shouldn’t be an issue in cracking or breakage. The Buffer aspect is turned on and off via an internal switch, which may be an annoyance if you’re constantly turning it on and off, but since the Buffer makes such a significant different in sound quality I doubt you would want it off. And if you do want it off, then there’s no issue in wanting to turn it on. The input/output for cables are located in the back, whereas the power supply (standard 9v 2.1 mm) insert is on the side. Even with the power insert located on the side, you still can fit pedals rather tightly around Steampunk, which helps to keep the power input snug and in place (another pedal sets up against the power input cable), and out of harm’s way.
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Great Quality, Low Noise and Effective (Fender - Engager Boost)

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 19/10/2018
SOUND:
Extremely quiet for a boost pedal, Fender’s Engager Boost produces very little ‘ssshhh’ noise unless it is turned up all the way (which makes it very loud and on the verge of clipping your signal) or if turned up too much with a distortion pedal that already produces a bit of background noise.



With a potential for a 20dB boost of 95% clean output (producing a bit of dirt to the original signal, but nothing too excessive), you have to listen carefully to hear the difference in tone when adding the Engager Boost, and any slight coloration is more noticeable with a clean signal rather than a distorted or driven signal. What I like is that an increase or decrease in any of the EQs remains consistent in quality with the original tone, only varying in quantity of the frequencies in question. To explain, when Bass or Treble is at 12-noon you get a flat bass/treble signal – no increase or decrease in response. By turning the knob counter-clockwise you get a Bass/Treble Cut (up to -12dB), whereas turning it clockwise produces a Bass/Treble Boost (up to +12dB). The Cut or Boost you hear is very much reflective of the tone already in place – it doesn’t add a muddy or punchy bass unless the signal already is muddy or punchy. The Midrange offers a Cut or Boost based on two frequency ranges (400Hz and 800Hz). And so, although 400Hz is lower pitched, the overall mids of the tone only sounds lower if that frequency is boosted, but higher if it is cut (since you’re taking away some midrange and allowing the Treble to break through a bit more); this means getting more ‘highs’ or more ‘lows’ based on which frequency you select (via a toggle switch) for the Midrange.
The Engager Boost implements a super easy EQ configuration to achieve both custom tone sculpting and to cut or boost specific signals (Bass, Treble or Mids). However, what you need to be aware of is the coordination of the Level control with any of the EQ cutting or boosting. If you decide to cut some bass and mids, for example, then either the pedals Level or your amp’s level will need to increase to maintain parity or to increase the overall signal somewhat. Likewise, I find if you boost one or more of the EQs, then often the Level signal can be turned right down as the ‘boosting’ is occurring via the EQ as opposed to the basic Level knob itself. In sum, there’s a lot of cut and boost potential with the Engager Boost, and all with extremely quiet operation.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:
The Engager Boost is part of a second pedal offering by Fender, and I found their initial four pedals all impressive (and very affordable). This is the first Fender pedal I have reviewed and was fortunate enough to have it gifted by Fender (after I contacted them and told them how much I liked the other pedals, which I tried out, but did not review). For $89.99 USD (e.g., from Sweetwater) you get a lot of pedal, including quality construction, LEDs on the controls (that you can turn off if preferred), a red LED on the battery door when the battery needs changing, a quality and bright jeweled LED ‘on’ light, a built-in buffer (that you can turn off and go true bypass), and a front flip-door for easy battery change (particularly if you tape or affix your pedal on a pedal board). More than a boost, the Engager Boost is very much a tone sculptor that allows you to cut or boost different frequencies while boosting the overall Level with a touch of grit – and while remaining very quiet in the mix. Very impressive at its price.

EASE OF USE:
You need to apply some tweaking to ‘balance’ this pedal’s operation, since there are four potential boosts, but also three potential cuts (the main Level could be considered a ‘cut’ as well, depending on how low you place it). For example, full Level Boost is 20dB, but suppose you place it half way at 10dB; you would get that amount of boost only if all the EQ controls were placed at 12-noon (neither cut nor boost). If you decide you want a slight cut in bass, then the overall boost would be 10dB minus the drop in Bass (upward of -12dB). The same holds true of the Treble, in that keeping it ‘flat’ or cut/boosted will affect the overall Level boost.

I tend to keep the Level boost completely down or slightly up as I like to tweak the EQs for some modest boost; if I cut any of the EQs I may need to bring up the Level slightly. For instance, when I want to scoop the Mids I may need to up the Level slightly as the overall volume level drops due to the Mids cut. Further to the mids, there is a toggle switch that allows you to adjust a higher Mids frequency (800Hz flipped up) or a lower Mids frequency (400Hz flipped down). Consequently, cutting the high 800Hz mids will reduce the tone, whereas boosting it increases it. The same is true of the low 400Hz range, in that cutting it makes the tone lower and boosting it makes it higher. The difference is that you get more brightness and ‘sparkle’ with the higher 800Hz range. Which you choose, obviously, is based on the tone you want and the equipment you’re driving.

Where you place the Engager Boost in your pedal chain can vary, such as having it before or after dirt pedals. When it is located before dirt pedals I found the boosting and cutting less significant – even the Level control is not as pronounced. It becomes more of a subtle EQ and volume booster. When placed after dirt pedals, however, you can REALLY get some massive cuts and boosts (which is where I have it placed).

RELIABILITY & DURABILITY:
With a lightweight durable anodized aluminum chassis, the Engager Boost measures approximately 2.75 x 5 inches (7 x 12.5 cm). The plastic knobs feel of good quality, and when turned the pots feel unusually solid and smooth (very good quality). The cable input/output both are located on the sides, whereas the power supply insert (standard 9v 2.1 mm with a 50mA power draw) is on the back (where I prefer power supplies to keep them from harm’s way). The true bypass/buffer switch and the Controls’ LED light switch both are located in the back, as well. The footswitch is a good distance from any controls, and the small midrange toggle switch is positioned center of all the larger knobs. The jeweled LED ‘on’ light (a quality trademark on Fender amps) is of a fair size and of heavy construction. The spring-loaded battery door has a smooth operation and the associated springs produce a solid pull.
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More than a Treble Booster - a Virtual Tone Shaper! (KMA Audio Machines - Strokkur)

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 17/05/2019
SOUND:
Unless you have dark pickups/amp/cab you may be wondering “why do I want to boost the treble in my signal.”



Strokkur produces surprising sound results and is not so simple as being merely a ‘treble booster.’ It sounds superior in the treble department than just upping your Treble via a guitar’s tone pot or through your amp (they sound ‘thin’ in comparison). First, Strokkur is a Germanium Booster and this makes the sound smooth, fuller and not harsh or brittle. Second, you can cut or boost either Treble or Bass to better suit your tone – the range of each (either cut or boost) has a very usable range that is not overly dramatic (you don’t hear large bass or treble drops or increases). Third, there is a Range that you can accentuate the Treble; when turned low you get a smooth glassy result, but as you crank the Range you get a broader width of sound that is meatier and with a tighter low end (sounds fantastic with high-gain chugging). Fourth, and this is the clincher, what Strokkur does is make the highs or Treble very clear in the mix – taking out any ‘thinness’ of the high-end and fattening it up. I matched Strokkur with various preamps and distortion pedals and it was complimentary in every instance – and in every instance the high-end became more distinct and thicker with a lot more harmonics. It certainly makes leads stand out, but when added to rhythms (setting from 9-o’clock to 12-noon) the crunch became even crunchier.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:
This pedal derives its name from the mythical country of Iceland and its famous geyser, Strokkur. Hand-built in Germany, Strokkur is an investment at 199 Euro, but what it does to a guitar tone makes it a worthy investment. Leads sing better and crunch tones become nastier as the high-end frequency thickens and cuts through the mix. Strokkur was designed though inspiration of the Dallas Arbiter Rangemaster, known for how it pushed tube amps to the edge of breakup with enriched harmonics. Strokkur does the same exceptionally well. With 17dB of available Boost, the ability to sculpt your tone with the Treble and Bass controls, and even define the incoming bandwidth via the Range knob to determine the nature of the Treble you’re boosting, and Strokkur is pedal destined to remain on pedalboards and out of the forum emporiums. Even if you don’t want to Boost your signal for leads or for any other purpose, Strokkur is a fantastic tone shaper and should not be categorized simply as a ‘Treble Booster.’

GENERAL USE:
You control the output or volume via the Boost knob, giving upward of 17dB of germanium boost for a smooth rich texture (which is why this Treble Booster does not sound brittle or harsh). The Range knob controls the incoming bandwidth – when turned up low (about 9-o’clock) you get a modest glassy type of finish to your tone, and as you increase the Range the sound becomes more broad and full (as harmonics increase). At higher ranges I tend to like it around 12-noon or slightly greater (depending on whether the signal is clean, crunchy or high-gain) to add more aggression or bite and depending on how full-bodied I want the higher frequencies while tightening up the lower frequencies. There are two EQ knobs, one for Treble and one for Bass. The Bass knob obviously cuts the low frequencies (2.4kHz), which takes out that sharp or piercing high-end and makes the higher-frequencies sound smoother while still allowing for the harmonics to pop through. When first powering up I suggest putting the two EQs at 12-noon, and the Range and Boost at 9-o’clock, and then adjust to taste.

OTHER DETAILS:
A regular-sized pedal, Strokkur measures about 112 mm (L) x 60mm (W) x 50mm (H) with knobs (4.4 x 2.4 x 1.97 inches). The heavy-duty powder coated die-cast enclosure is silkscreened and hand-numbered after an inspection and testing process. The image (and name) of the Strokkur geyser clearly suggests that your tone is going to explode with this pedal, which it does. KMA Machines uses double-sided PCBs that are designed, tested and assembled by the KMA engineers, to ensure a high-quality standard. Strokkur also has hand-selected NOS AC125 Tungsram transistors to remain true to the original inspiration of this pedal, the Dallas Arbiter Rangemaster. The two larger knobs (Range and Boost) are aluminum and will withstand normal use and abuse. The smaller Treble and Bass knobs also feel aluminum. All knobs have exceptional quality pots (smooth and very solid when turned). The footswitch (on/off) produces a solid click when engaged or disengaged. The cable input/output are located on the sides, whereas the power input is located in the back. Strokkur includes an internal DC converter to work with any 9VDC supply. It does not run on batteries and requires a 9VDC power supply while requiring 12mA of power.
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News Guitar/Bass booster

Empress Effects introduces Buffer+ Stereo

Published on 04/12/16
Empress presents the Buffer+ Stereo, designed as a complete I/O interface for your pedalboard while maintaining high signal fidelity.

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