Rockbox’s head honcho Chris Campbell has certainly seen his fair share of industry success. As the former Marketing Director for Dean Markley, Campbell has been in the music industry since 1971. While working with artists throughout the years, he received a ton of input from guitarists about tone. Since starting Rockbox, Campbell has taken those decades of input and poured them into his own designs—most notably with his successful Boiling Point Overdrive—which have found their way onto the pedalboards of Elliot Easton, Richie Sambora, Jimmy Vivino, and other pros. Campbell’s newest creation, the Baby Blues Distortion/Boost, is his attempt at crafting a highly versatile distortion.
The Baby Blues is one of Rockbox’s more feature-laden pedals. There’s a ton of versatility on hand, with three knobs for Gain, Tone, and Volume, as well as switches for Overall Boost and Treble Boost, and two independent Drive settings, plus an internal variable resistor, which can further fine tune the tone.
The two Drive switches engage drastically different distortions. The first is more compressed with a noticeable scoop in the midrange. The second is less compressed and more mid-laden, giving it considerably more volume. The tone can be shaped further with the two Boost switches, making the Baby Blues one of the most versatile pedals in Rockbox’s lineup. The uses for the pedal are stretched even further with its clean boost possibilities, which can be dialed in when both of the Drive switches are off. Yet even in that mode, monstrous amounts of distortion are available, if the situation calls for it.
Rock Me, Baby
With a name like Baby Blues, you’d think Rockbox’s newest distortion would be a prime tool for classic, low-gain playing. While that’s correct with some settings, the pedal is capable of so much more. There’s an unreal amount of distortion buried within its circuit, with some settings putting the box with its swirly blue paint job into heavy metal territory.
Inserted between a 2011 Fender Blacktop Stratocaster and a Mesa/Boogie Multi-Watt Dual Rectifier’s clean channel, the Baby Blues stung, sang, and soared with an incredible bite and powerful presence. I was able to coax some rather convincing Vox-ish tones out of it with the second Drive stage and Treble Boost switched on, plus a slight amount of gain thrown in for good measure.
Some of the pedal’s best tones came from driving my amp’s clean channel slightly with the pedal pushing at max volume, with only the Overall Boost and first Drive stage switched in. With the right rig and these simple settings, you can produce some very rich, heavenly single-note tones, à la Terry Kath.
After grabbing a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom, I dove into the highly compressed first Drive stage, cranked the Gain knob and flipped on both Boost switches. Some seriously heavy tones emerged from the depths of the Mesa’s clean channel, with a grind reminiscent of early Alice in Chains dirges. Having a switch to boost the mids in this mode would have been great, as higher drive settings caused the tone to muddy up a bit.
There’s certainly nothing babyish about the Rockbox Baby Blues. It can go from clean, chimey boosting to howling distortions with ease—and then some. The first Drive stage’s compressed gain could use a little more midrange for harder riff rock, but that’s a small quibble in comparison to the rest of the tones the pedal has to offer.
you’re after a versatile, organic distortion pedal that’s not afraid to hang with soulful blues and hard rockers alike.
a simple, single-gain overdrive or boost is all you need.