Premier Guitar

Amptweaker Tight Boost Pedal Review

March 31, 2011

Download Example 1
Dirty Strat
Download Example 2
Parked Wah dark lead, 2003 Les Paul R8
Download Example 3
British cutting rhythm tone, 2003 Les Paul R8
Clips recorded through a Fender Concert II amp with a little spring reverb mic'd with an SM57 into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with no EQ.  Apogee Symphony I/O into Pro Tools 9 HD.
Amp and pedal designer James Brown is no stranger to the search for tone. After a long tenure with Peavey (1986-2004) he is now the Chief Engineer for Kustom Amps. He’s worked with guitar legends like Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani and designed amps like the Peavey VTM, Classic 30 and Delta Blues.

James has also used that know-how to create his own line of pedals under the Amptweaker name. The Tight Boost is the successor to the Tight Drive, and differs in having less aggressive gain section and the ability to get cocked wah tones with a special Mid control. He’s listened a lot to the feedback and suggestions of players via internet forums and emails and more. So it’s no wonder this pedal feels and sounds unique.

Blue Beastie
Built in a blue, 14-gauge steel, tank-like chassis, the Tight Boost feels rock-solid and substantial. A roll bar positioned above the controls gives the pedal another level of road-worthy protection. A very cool slide-out magnetic battery compartment conveniently hides on the side of the chassis. Another nice feature is the ability to run the pedal from 6 to 18 volts, which gives you a more compressed sound at the lower setting and more headroom at the higher end. There are controls for Boost, High, Mid, and Tight, all lit up with red LEDs (when using an external power supply) that make them easy to read onstage. Between the Mid and Tight controls you’ll find a two-position Wah switch that selects the Wah frequency. At the top of the pedal are Return and Send jacks for the FX loop with a corresponding 2-way switch on the bottom to select between Pre or Post loop placement. Switching is true-bypass and is buffered when the Tight Boost is on. Input and Output are in the standard position on the right and left side of the pedal, respectively.


Tight and In Control
For demoing the Tight Boost I used a very pedal-friendly Hip Kitty Panetone combo. First up was an Epiphone Sheraton plugged into the Tight Boost (with all controls set to noon) and directly into the Panetone, which I set up with a big, warm and semi-clean tone. In this setting you get just a hair more gain than straight through the amp but with the tone shaping elements of the pedal. Right away I noticed that there was a bit more high end that was great for rhythm playing.

Pushing up the Boost does what you’d expect by adding more front-end gain to the amp much like having an additional preamp tube in your amp. And this is where the Tight control becomes most useful. By turning the Tight knob clockwise you can tighten up the bottom end while thinning out some of that bass wooliness. It’s great for chiming tones, especially when backing off the volume on the guitar. And I liked the setting with the Boost on full and Tight at about 3 o’clock. Pulling the Tight control way back loosened up the bottom end significantly kicking out a wide and raunchy mix of dirty Joe Walsh and Neil Young tones.



The Mid control works interactively with the High control. The more you crank the Mid the more it becomes like the sound of a parked wah, which was very inspiring for solo settings and will clear a lot of room in a crowded band mix. I kicked the amp up into more of an overdrive/lead tone so I could experiment with the Mid more and found that by pulling the High down it made the wah effect even more pronounced.

The Wah switch is a very cool and unique feature. You could easily get those classic Schenker sounds from UFO with the switch set to the left—or open wah—position. In the right—or depressed wah—position it pushes the high mids up for killer, searing lead tones. And I liked that by rolling off the volume on my guitar you could tame things pretty readily—one of the real bonuses of a lower-gain boost.

With a Strat the tones were even more varied than with my Epiphone. Going to the neck pickup seemed to be a natural choice with all the extra high end that was available. Backing off the High and pushing up the Mids in this configuration made the single coil sound more like humbuckers—perfect for a killer, early Billy Gibbons Texas tone that had just the right amount of skwonk. Even though the single-coils didn’t have the gain of the humbuckers it seemed that the balance was near perfect in terms of voicing choices and the ability to thicken up the sound as well as make it sharp, clear and articulated for chicken pickin’ licks.

The more you crank the Mid the more it becomes like the sound of a parked Wah, which was very inspiring for solo settings and will clear a lot of room in a crowded band mix.

The loop is a novel addition and one I don’t see very often on pedals but it makes sense. I ended up throwing a Hartman Electronics Germanium Boost in the loop while set to Pre mode with devastating results. Knowing that distortion works best in the Pre mode, I took the liberty of trying out various fuzzes and octavers (Mutron Octave Divider and Hartman Octavia clone). With a flick of the switch I was able to get distortion ranging from huge to unruly depending on how much was going out of each pedal.

The Verdict
There is much to love about the Tight Boost—bulletproof construction, tonal flexibility, well thought out design touches and killer tone. Mr. Brown has made some truly inspired improvements to the boost pedal template—no mean feat. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see other makers copying these moves.

The convenience of parts like the magnetic battery compartment and battery switch reflect an awareness of what it’s like to use a pedal like this as a performing musician. And the loop with selectable pre and post points and ability to power the pedal from 6 to 18 volts really extend the usefulness of this box. Of course it all comes down to the sound. And in that respect, the Tight Boost definitely delivers in a big way.
Buy if...
you need a lower gain boost pedal with parked-wah tones and more tone tweaking power.
Skip if...
you need scads of gain from your boost.
Rating...


Street $180 - Amtweaker - amptweaker.com



The Mid control works interactively with the High control. The more you crank the Mid the more it becomes like the sound of a parked wah, which was very inspiring for solo settings and will clear a lot of room in a crowded band mix. I kicked the amp up into more of an overdrive/lead tone so I could experiment with the Mid more and found that by pulling the High down it made the wah effect even more pronounced.

The Wah switch is a very cool and unique feature. You could easily get those classic Schenker sounds from UFO with the switch set to the left—or open wah—position. In the right—or depressed wah—position it pushes the high mids up for killer, searing lead tones. And I liked that by rolling off the volume on my guitar you could tame things pretty readily—one of the real bonuses of a lower-gain boost.

With a Strat the tones were even more varied than with my Epiphone. Going to the neck pickup seemed to be a natural choice with all the extra high end that was available. Backing off the High and pushing up the Mids in this configuration made the single coil sound more like humbuckers—perfect for a killer, early Billy Gibbons Texas tone that had just the right amount of skwonk. Even though the single-coils didn’t have the gain of the humbuckers it seemed that the balance was near perfect in terms of voicing choices and the ability to thicken up the sound as well as make it sharp, clear and articulated for chicken pickin’ licks.

The more you crank the Mid the more it becomes like the sound of a parked Wah, which was very inspiring for solo settings and will clear a lot of room in a crowded band mix.

The loop is a novel addition and one I don’t see very often on pedals but it makes sense. I ended up throwing a Hartman Electronics Germanium Boost in the loop while set to Pre mode with devastating results. Knowing that distortion works best in the Pre mode, I took the liberty of trying out various fuzzes and octavers (Mutron Octave Divider and Hartman Octavia clone). With a flick of the switch I was able to get distortion ranging from huge to unruly depending on how much was going out of each pedal.

The Verdict
There is much to love about the Tight Boost—bulletproof construction, tonal flexibility, well thought out design touches and killer tone. Mr. Brown has made some truly inspired improvements to the boost pedal template—no mean feat. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see other makers copying these moves.

The convenience of parts like the magnetic battery compartment and battery switch reflect an awareness of what it’s like to use a pedal like this as a performing musician. And the loop with selectable pre and post points and ability to power the pedal from 6 to 18 volts really extend the usefulness of this box. Of course it all comes down to the sound. And in that respect, the Tight Boost definitely delivers in a big way.
Buy if...
you need a lower gain boost pedal with parked-wah tones and more tone tweaking power.
Skip if...
you need scads of gain from your boost.
Rating...


Street $180 - Amtweaker - amptweaker.com