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Caroline Guitar Company Icarus Boost
Caroline's rust-toned booster seems to correlate boosting your guitar tone sky-high with the Ancient Greek legend of Icarus, who plummeted to his doom after his wax and feather wings melted from flying too close to the sun. Thankfully, the build quality of the Icarus Boost suggests you’ll stay at cruising altitude for a long time. And to be sure, this pedal can soar.
The Icarus was conceived with the notion that a booster shouldn't sound boring, and as such is intentionally not transparent. The pedal was a match made in heaven for the Tele and the Boogie. Fingerpicked chord structures had a more stalwart nature, with a stronger kick in the midrange and low end. The low, clean tones of the Royal Atlantic are pretty tight, but the Icarus gives them a crisper, less rounded nature. It’s a pretty cool tone that’s still really detailed—especially for Jerry Reed and Merle Travis fingerpicking styles.
The Icarus' built-in treble control doesn’t just add top end. It also counteracts the brightening effect that results from the lower output impedance of booster circuits. This makes the Icarus great for pulling back on the abrasive edge that sometimes comes with a boosted single-coil pickup too. Lower settings can have a drastic effect on the tone, blanketing it in darker, thicker voicings. The treble control came in handy when I needed to subdue the high end for jazzier progressions.
The Icarus is a great boost that invigorates your tone without sacrificing its best attributes. It can be a touch rigid-sounding, especially with higher settings of the boost control. But dropping the treble control will take the edge off the extremely snappy top end, thicken the tone, and let your guitar breathe a bit. If you’re in the market for a boost that takes no prisoners, but can mellow out too, this one is worth a try.
Whirlwind The Bomb
In terms of extroverted presence, The Bomb by Whirlwind is the boldest boost in this pack. It certainly stands out with its caricature of a black bomb falling to the earth in front of a blue sky. The build is classic Whirlwind, though—solid as a tank, smooth action in the controls, a footswitch with a satisfying click, and solid couplings between the jacks and cables.
The face of The Bomb has only one giant knob—labeled 1 to 11—for setting the amount of volume boost, and that's it as far as features go. The pedal is rated for a maximum output of 26dB, with unity gain at 1 and the full amount at 11.
The Bomb is incredibly honest and accurate—perfectly replicating nearly every aspect of the Tele’s biting tone. It will pick up the sharper dynamics of flatpicking but the softer overtones from fingerpicking come through just as beautifully and precisely.
The Bomb has pure volume boost in spades. I rarely moved the pedal’s single control past the 11 o’clock range. But even at high volume it’s hard not to be struck by how well The Bomb preserved the Tele’s original tone, no matter how hard I hit the strings. To some players looking for just a little more dirt from their boost, this might be the pedal’s only drawback. Nor does it bring anything to the table in terms of heightened clarity or added bite, so if you’re looking for a booster that adds a little character with a volume jump, you might want to check out one of the other models on this list. But if you’re in the market for a booster that doesn’t color your tone, this bomb might be right on target.