||Download Example 1
Overdrive only - Drive 4 o'clock
||Download Example 2
Overdrive and Boost - Drive 5 o'clock, Boost 11 o'clock
|Clips recorded with an Ibanez Sabre, Emualted Output Direct from Ashdown FA40 to E-MU 0404USB interface into Cubase 5.
Netherlands-based Doodad Guitars is a recent entry to the insatiable tone market that is overdrive pedals with their Check-A-Board Overdrive & Booster pedal. The pedal was inspired by overdrives and boosters from the 1970s using updated circuits and technology. The Check-A-Board is really two stompboxes in one—classic overdrive and boost—making the $139 price tag seem like quite a deal.
This is a good-looking stompbox, with red finish, chicken-head knobs, checkerboard trim across the footswitch area, and super-bright white and red LEDs. It feels rugged and weighty, and there is enough space between knobs and switches that I never once worried about kicking a knob with my foot. There are separate footswitches for the overdrive and booster effects, along with straightforward controls for Drive, Tone, Volume, and Boost. One item to note is that this pedal devours 9-volt batteries—perhaps due to the ultra-bright LEDs—and hard-wired power is a must for gigging with the pedal.
Plugged in, the pedal ultimately delivers on its promise—solid, vintage, rock and blues stompbox overdrive. The overdrive has a wide sweet spot, and by using the Drive and Tone controls together you can get an array of different overdrive voicings. It is harmonically complex and therefore quite colorful. It has a nice boutique-ish midrangey-ness that is prominent on sustained notes and chords. It responded to my playing transparently, and like a good pedal, it let me achieve good harmonics and feedback easily. For me, the sweet spot on the overdrive knob was about 1 to 2 o'clock, but it also sounded nice and heavy around 5 o'clock. At lower overdrive settings, however the pedal struggled to provide even sustain, which appears to be related to its power consumption.
The Tone control on the Check-A-Board did its job well, without introducing brittle highs when opened up like you find on some overdrives. Using the Tone knob, I was able to add bite and fatness to leads, especially notes and harmonics on the first three strings. The volume knob did its job as well—allowing me to set how hot I wanted my overdrive to be without overtly coloring the signal.
Having a booster circuit on its own footswitch is a smart addition to an overdrive pedal, providing boost while staying clean, and adding gain to a solo coming off an overdrive rhythm part. The booster has a single knob (Boost) that gooses the output to a pretty hot level. The only color from the boost was derived from it juicing my amp—as it should be. With the booster set to 11 o’clock, I was getting a nice “jump atop the mix” boost.
Both the booster and overdrive circuits are true bypass, and you can hear the difference compared to in-circuit bypasses. This makes for a very clean pedal that fits well in a minimalist rig—perhaps just the Check-A-Board, a wah, and an amp and guitar. With that in mind, blues players will no doubt dig the pedal, as well as alt-pop and classic rock players, but like most overdrives, it doesn’t get dirty enough for punk or metal.
The Final Mojo
All in all, the Check-A-Board Overdrive and Booster is a respectable medium gain pedal. In your rig it would go where you'd normally place a vintage Tube Screamer, and would be used in much the same way, with the usefulness doubled by the booster function.
you want an updated version of a Tube Screamer or a booster and medium overdrive pedal with boutique characteristics.
you need distortion not overdrive, or you're still in love with your good ol' TS 808.