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Last year, TC Electronic released a line of sleek dirt boxes—the MojoMojo, Dark Matter, and Röttweiler—in the same unique type of enclosures used in the company’s Tone Print series. The tones were plentiful and superb, and they helped pave the way for the latest addition to TC’s crunch spectrum—the Spark Booster. Chock-full of tasty tones and control options, the Spark can clean up or dress down your tone for any musical occasion with a flexibility that might just enable you to streamline your pedalboard a bit, too. It’s also capable of up to a whopping 26 dB of boost.
Smooth Lines, Dirty
Like its predecessors, the truebypass Spark Booster is housed in a rugged, low-profile enclosure with some very thoughtful design elements. For instance, accessing the battery compartment simply requires a coin (a flathead screwdriver or a beercan tab will do, too) to unfasten the single screw on the undercarriage. A 9V barrel adaptor will also power the unit.
Four knobs—gain, level, bass, and treble—give the Spark impressive flexibility that belies the straightforward design. Gain yields crunch and compression in varying amounts, while the other knobs enable you to flatten out the Spark’s active EQ (say, if you already love your amp’s character) and raise the level for increased tube saturation.
The cherry on top is a 3-way switch that allows you to toggle between frequency settings. In the fat position, the Spark rounds out your sound for booming rhythm tones or a girthier lead. Clean mode boosts all frequencies equally, and mid mode focuses on midrange frequencies that can help you scorch through a mix in a live situation.
Got a Light?
A ’65 Twin Reverb reissue was an excellent starting point to test the Spark’s clean mode. Coupled with a Fender Jaguar, it delivered a very transparent volume spike with all four knobs set at noon. Getting clean, Ventures-style leads over a loud band—where single notes are both loud and the Twin retains its clear voice—is no problem at these middle-ofthe- road settings. And getting dirtier is as easy as giving the gain knob a clockwise twirl.
If your single-coils aren’t quite burly enough, fat mode will make a world of a difference. You can dial-up a portly dish of low end that’s great for muscular blues-rock chords if you keep the gain up, but it’ll stay very clean and round if you dial gain back. Guitars with humbuckers will typically require lower gain settings in fat mode, though, as the tone can become a bit lost when playing with a full band.
The Spark Booster also works very well with amplifiers that have a lot of their own natural gain, and it’ll help bring out the bite you want at much lower volume levels. A Fender Bassman, for instance, found its inner garageband voice at half of the ear-splitting volume usually required to generate that kind of grit. And moving gain to its nethermost regions even yields convincing British overdrive without getting too fuzzy. The Spark works great with other pedals, too –– throwing it after your favorite overdrive or fuzz can add additional character, EQ versatility, and a volume boost.
Many boost type effects keep a simple circuit design with minimal control (usually just a gain knob) for easy, out-of-the-box use. That’s all well and good—it suits many playing styles—but if you’ve found yourself needing a bit more control over that basic approach, the Spark Booster will expand your EQ-tweaking capabilities significantly. And with all those knobs within reach, you’ll undoubtedly uncover uses that may find you replacing your old boost—and potentially a few other pedals in your chain as well.