Boost Roundup: Lotus Desire Boost, Pigtronix Class A Boost, Caroline Guitar Company Icarus Boost, and Whirlwind The Bomb Pedal Reviews
We test four of the newest boutique booster pedals on the market to find out what they can add to the sonic brew.
A good boost pedal can be one of the most indispensible tools in a guitarist’s arsenal. Some amps, after all, have only so much to give. And even if your amp has channel switching, second channels can have completely different gain structure and voicing. Sometimes you just want a little more of the sound that you’ve worked so hard to perfect, with a little attitude on top. That’s where boost pedals come in.
Some boosters are designed with the intent of adding, say, a sharper edge to the high end, or darkening the tone to create a blusier, softer tonality. Most, however, are designed to make you louder without sacrificing any of your tone’s original voice in the process. We decided to test out four of the newest boutique booster pedals on the market to find out what they can add to the sonic brew.
To give the pedals a proper shakedown, I used a combination of a 2011 Fender American Telecaster—a real workhorse with a clear and biting voice that works well with boosters, and the clean, detailed tone of a Mesa/Boogie Royal Atlantic, which provided a great canvas to hear just how these pedals work.
Lotus Pedal Designs Desire Boost Pedal
The Desire Boost one of the more functionally simple devices in this roundup. It's also one of the most sparse-looking. Lotus strives for simplicity with and this single-knob booster makes do with a little red paint and a plain black label, bearing the make, model and country of origin (the good 'old US-of-A). The Desire Boost looks low-key, but there's more to this circuit than what meets the eye.
The Desire’s circuit employs a JFET gain stage, which is there to add a little grit and muscle to the boosted tone. While most boost pedals strive to provide the same original tone with simply more volume and clarity, the Desire Boost dirties things up a bit. Lotus also designed the Desire Boost to have an extremely high input impedance, which makes it handy for taming noise from noisy cables, and preserving a guitar's signal at the front of a line of buffered effects.
The Desire Boost added a lot of bounce in the low end, a quality that got more pronounced the harder that I hit the strings with my fingertips. Running through some standard country progressions, you can hear the natural feel and warmth of the Lotus. It infused the Mesa’s beautiful cleans with a bubbly low end and crisp highs, that actually found me dropping the amp’s treble knob a bit to get it under control. As natural and rubbery as the lows become, the highs retain a very hi-fi quality that makes arpeggios dazzling with a touch of extra sustain. With the capacity to boost, enhance clarity and harmonic content in clean environments and add a little dirt, the Desire Boost is a well-rounded slice of simplicity.
Pigtronix Class A Boost
You've got to hand it to Pigtronix, they sure know how to design a cool-looking enclosure. The Class A Boost sports a dignified (call it “class-ay”?) tuxedo-themed enclosure, with a single control for the boost level. It’s solid, well-built, and a look inside reveals an immaculately soldered set of internal components.
Pigtronix designed the Class A Boost around a single-ended Class-A configuration, utilizing discreet JFET transistors. The circuit was designed in conjunction with famed pedal designer Howard Davis, who designed legendary Electro-Harmonix pedals including the Electric Mistress and the Deluxe Memory Man. Pigtronix’ choice of a Class-A circuit revolves around trying to coax a warmer edge from the boosted tone, which can be set to deliver a hefty 20dB of extra push. It's also voiced to act well with an overdriven amp or overdrive pedal, and its noise floor is so low that it can be patched into the signal chain wherever desired. Battery users be warned however, as the Class A Boost doesn't accept batteries—it can only be powered from either a 9V or 18V wall wart—but it comes packed with an 18V power supply for maximum headroom.
Pigtronix's little tuxedoed wonder is all about sparkle and refinement in the high end. During bluesy runs the Telecaster’s slicing qualities became magnified and focused with a very slight cut in the low end. Bumping the gain keeps the Telecaster stayed clean, clear, and natural-sounding without any added distortion. This is thanks in no small part to the 18V power supply, which kicks the headroom to impressive heights. Switching to a 9V power supply helps soften and cut the high end of the boosted tone. But it also gives the pedal a lower ceiling that results in a lovely, slightly fuzzy drive at higher settings.
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.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.