9 Best Boost Pedals On The Market (How To Choose & How To Use)

Best Boost Pedal

Ever find yourself playing out at a show?

Ever find yourself practicing at home what you would be playing live, and you get to that big solo and wish you had just a little more oomph to your sound?

Maybe you need a bump in volume, but you want to keep your original tone.

Or maybe you want to add just a little more grit to your awesome tube amp sound.

Then you need a good Boost pedal.

In this article I’m going to review my favorite boosts that are readily available on the internet and I’ll explain why Boost pedals can help define your sound.

Snapshot: Top 9 Boost Pedals in 2020

  1. TC Electronic Spark MiniBest Budget
  2. Walrus Audio EB-10Best High End
  3. Earthquaker Devices ArrowsBest for Solos
  4. Xotic EP BoosterBest for Tube Amps
  5. Xotic Bass BB PreampBest for Bass
  6. Xotic Super CleanBest Clean Boost
  7. MXR Micro AmpBest for Beginners
  8. Ibanez TS9Best Overdrive for Boost
  9. JHS CloverBest Overall
Best Overall
JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
Best Budget
TC Electronic Spark Mini Boost Guitar Pedal with 9V AC 1000mA Power Supply
Best High-End
Walrus Audio EB-10 Preamp/EQ/Boost, Cream, (900-1049C)
Best For Bass
Xotic Effects Bass BB Preamp Distortion/Booster Bass Effects Pedal
JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
TC Electronic Spark Mini Boost Guitar Pedal with 9V AC 1000mA Power Supply
Walrus Audio EB-10 Preamp/EQ/Boost, Cream, (900-1049C)
Xotic Effects Bass BB Preamp Distortion/Booster Bass Effects Pedal
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Signal
Signal: FET
Signal: Analog
Signal: Analog
Signal: Analog
Power Source
Power Source: 9V
Power Source: 9V
Power Source: 9V
Power Source: 9V
Features
Features: XLR Out, Low Cut, Ground Lift, added Mids, True Bypass
Features: True Bypass, Latching pedal, LED Indicator, Power Supply Included
Features: MOSFET, EQ Boost/Cut, Presets, 2 Finishes (Cream or Matte Black)
Features: True Bypass, Comic Sans
Best Overall
JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
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Signal
Signal: FET
Power Source
Power Source: 9V
Features
Features: XLR Out, Low Cut, Ground Lift, added Mids, True Bypass
Best Budget
TC Electronic Spark Mini Boost Guitar Pedal with 9V AC 1000mA Power Supply
TC Electronic Spark Mini Boost Guitar Pedal with 9V AC 1000mA Power Supply
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Signal
Signal: Analog
Power Source
Power Source: 9V
Features
Features: True Bypass, Latching pedal, LED Indicator, Power Supply Included
Best High-End
Walrus Audio EB-10 Preamp/EQ/Boost, Cream, (900-1049C)
Walrus Audio EB-10 Preamp/EQ/Boost, Cream, (900-1049C)
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Signal
Signal: Analog
Power Source
Power Source: 9V
Features
Features: MOSFET, EQ Boost/Cut, Presets, 2 Finishes (Cream or Matte Black)
Best For Bass
Xotic Effects Bass BB Preamp Distortion/Booster Bass Effects Pedal
Xotic Effects Bass BB Preamp Distortion/Booster Bass Effects Pedal
Signal
Signal: Analog
Power Source
Power Source: 9V
Features
Features: True Bypass, Comic Sans

How to Use a Boost Pedal – From Solos to “Always On”

Boost pedals are about as popular as overdrives these days, but they are admittedly a more nuanced and subtle effect. Someone who is new to guitar pedals may not know how to use a pedal that, when it comes down to it, just boosts your volume a bit.

One of the first questions I asked myself about boost pedals is: why wouldn’t I just turn my amp up? The volume is boosted and there is a little more gain from the amp. This is essentially what boosts do, right?

It turns out there is a little bit more to boost circuits than meets the eye.

When it comes to Boost pedals and how you can use them, it all comes down to gain stages and headroom. Within your favorite amplifier are preamp and a power-amp sections, which together determine the headroom your amp has to offer. Headroom is simply how loud you can turn your amp up before it starts to distort. For example, a 100W Fender amp will stay cleaner at louder volumes than a 15W Supro amp. Therefore, the Fender amp has a higher headroom than the Supro.

Josh Scott does a good job of demonstrating this exact scenario in this video below.

In order to get amps to distort at lower volumes, you need a way to increase the voltage of your guitar before it hits the preamp of your amplifier (hence why these pedals are sometimes called “preamp pedals”). This can be done by using hotter pickups, such as humbuckers, overdrives, fuzz pedals, and especially boost pedals. By boosting the voltage and making your guitar seem louder than it actually is, you are causing your guitar signal to surpass the headroom threshold of the amp. As a result you have a louder and possibly distorted tone.

Not only do boost pedals add more volume and tasteful grit to your tone, they often have a flavor of their own in terms of EQ. Boost pedals can impart a certain voicing to your amp that you are looking for in terms of presence and select frequencies. This is one reason why you may use a boost as an always on pedal, meaning that you turn the pedal on and never turn it off. It is an essential part of your tone.

Another way to use boost pedals is during guitar solos where you need just a little bit more volume at the flip of a switch. In order to accomplish this, just place a boost after all of your overdrive pedals. This preserves your initial tone and boosts it to a louder volume. Depending on the boost pedal, you may be able to add some EQ changes that help solos stand out in the mix, such as cutting low end and boosting midrange.

Boost pedals can also be used to reshape and re-voice your favorite overdrive pedal. This can be achieved by placing your favorite boost pedal before your favorite overdrive. The boost pedal functions like an extra pot that your overdrive doesn’t have, sending the gain into new territory. Any character or EQ controls your boost has will also change the character and response of the overdrive.

There are many more applications for boost pedals, some of which will get explored further into this article. If you’re looking for more creative ways to use boost pedals in your rig, I highly recommend that you check out this video from “That Pedal Show”.

 How Did I Make My Boost Pedal Choices?

Guitarist Adjusting Boost Pedal On Stage

As with most of my articles, I chose products that are readily available for the everyday musician. In my opinion, there’s not much point in listing the best vintage, unattainable boost if you can’t go get it easily.

I also wanted to present options for a wide array of price ranges and uses. What might be the best boost pedal for one application may not be the best for another. That being said, most of the boosts on this list can be used for applications outside of the ones I suggest/award.

These are not presented in any kind of sequential/merit based order, with the exception of my selection for “Best Overall”, which I have left for last.

Keep in mind, this is just my opinion and my favorite may not necessarily be yours. Thankfully there are lots of great choices out there for boost pedals if that is just the case.

If wah pedals interest you, I recommend reading my article on the best wah pedals i did recently.

Without further ado, let’s explore the world of Boost Pedals!

The 8 Best Boost Pedals in 2020

1. TC Electronic Spark Mini Review – Best Budget Option

TC Electronic Spark Mini Boost Guitar Pedal with 9V AC 1000mA Power Supply
  • 20 dB of boost!
  • Level knob - boost levels or drive amps to peak performance
  • Prime-Time - seamlessly toggle between latching and momentary modes

Boost pedals are a relatively simple circuit compared to other effects, so it is definitely possible to get a good pedal on the cheap. My favorite is the Spark Mini from the folks over at TC Electronic. It’s simple to use, well made, and costs under $60.

Build

The TC Electronic Spark Mini is a fantastic example of a simple mini effects pedal. For an effect like Boost, sometimes all you need is a single nob for Volume/Gain. We will see this design for multiple pedals on this list for good reason, because it makes for a straightforward and easy to use effect. The Spark Mini is just that and it does so while taking up minimal space on your pedalboard.

Considerate, right?

This pedal has tons of volume on tap, with up to 20db of boost available to you. In addition to having true bypass, I have to point out that the artwork is very cool as well with the tattoo/beer bottle inspired look.

Controls

Just one knob! Can’t get much simpler than that. The one knob controls your Level of boost. If you are looking for the ability to shape your tone through the pedal, then this may not be the option for you. However, if you are just looking for a simple, no fuss clean boost that won’t change your core tone for solos, then just roll the volume up bast unity gain and you are on your way.

One cool feature is the “Latching” footswitch, where you can hold down the foot switch to temporarily engage the effect, then as you lift off the effect bypasses. This is useful if you are looking to minimize toe tapping on stage.

Sound

As I mentioned before, this is a great clean boost. While some boosts aim to change the voice of your guitar, this one was designed to be as transparent as possible. The added volume/gain allows your playing to be much more touch sensitive, while preserving your initial tone of your amp. One way that I would recommend using this pedal is in front of an already dirty amp to boost the signal into serious overdrive territory.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Mini Boost
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 1.9 x 1.9 x 3.7”
  • Features: True Bypass, Latching pedal, LED Indicator, Power Supply Included

Clean Boost on the cheap

Final Thoughts on the TC Electronic Spark Mini

If your intended use for Boost is as simple as bumping up your volume or gain, then do it on the cheap with the Spark Mini. Its compact and simple design make it a no-brainer and the price is hard to pass up. It’s a fantastic, transparent little boost pedal.

2. Walrus Audio EB-10 Review – Best High End Option

Walrus Audio EB-10 Preamp/EQ/Boost, Cream, (900-1049C)
  • Works as a preamp, EQ and boost with three presets to meticulously craft your sound allowing for studio-grade guitar tone in a live setting
  • Each rotary knob offers up to 12dB of boost OR cut of Low, Mid, and High frequencies, based on where you have the toggle switches set
  • When the Boost switch is engaged, add a 10dB MOSFET boost for some great extra punch

On the opposite side of the price spectrum lies the Walrus Audio EB-10. This is a wonderfully hand-crafted boost pedal with tons of EQ boosting capability and some hidden features that make it worth every penny. Plus, it comes in two colors. Isn’t that what matters most? The way a pedal looks?

Build

The Walrus Audio EB-10 takes a slightly different approach to the concept of a boost pedal, where instead of just boosting your overall signal, the EB-10 boosts select frequencies. This makes it a preamp, EQ, and Boost pedal all in one. It has an additional 10db MOSFET boost for additional gain. Another cool feature is the ability to save presets, or work in a Live mode.

This way you can have presets saved for different guitars or amplifiers ready to go at any time. Measuring in at 6 x 4 x 3”, the EB-10 is slightly larger than most boost pedals, but all those features have to go somewhere, and I think it is more than worthy of the real-estate on your board.

Controls

The top of the pedal has three rotary knobs corresponding to Low, Mid, and Hi EQ frequency ranges. Beneath each of these knobs is a switch that allows for the ability to boost or cut. Depending on which position you switch each frequency to will then boost or cut that frequency in 3db increments. Zero is flat in either position. Then, if you need an overall 10db boost, flip the black Boost switch for the MOSFET mode.

The pedal is nice enough to have basic operational instructions printed along the bottom of the pedal. To switch between Live and Preset mode, simply hold down the footswitch for 3 seconds. To save a preset, hold the footswitch down for 1 second.

Sounds

This is an incredibly versatile pedal and a tone shaper’s dream. It sounds like a great, vintage preamp circuit from a great delay pedal or recording unit. It can be very subtle and boost certain frequencies you wish your guitar or amp could accentuate better. Or, it can be maxed out with the MOSFET boost and all EQ controls for natural overdrive tones. It’s a pedal that will work with any rig because of its ability to change the EQ.

This also makes it a great choice for bass players. On the guitar, I could see myself cutting high end on a tele, and then boosting low end on a strat, and with the ability to save presets this flexibility is right at my feet.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Preamp/EQ/Boost
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 6 x 4 x3”
  • Features: MOSFET, EQ Boost/Cut, Presets, 2 Finishes (Cream or Matte Black)

Time to use an EQ as a boost

Final Thoughts on the Walrus Audio EB-10

The EB-10 from Walrus Audio is a great example of how an EQ pedal can function as a stellar and versatile boost. Whereas the Spark Mini only pushed the overall volume, this allows you to dial in your EQ/Boost sound and then save it for later.

Even though this is the most expensive pedal on this list, it’s a well worth the asking price and could even help you save money in the long run if you’re considering getting both a boost and an EQ. It looks cool. It sound phenomenal. Walrus Audio doesn’t disappoint.

3. Earthquaker Devices Arrows Pre-Amp Booster V2 Review – Best for Solos

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EarthQuaker Devices Arrows V2 Preamp Booster Guitar Effects Pedal
  • Features a new enclosure, all-discrete analog ciruitry, top-mounted jacks, and silent relay-based switching
  • Designed for adding an additional channel of gain to your dirt pedals and brightening up neck pickups
  • Boosts midrange, tightens up low ends and makes top ends shine while driving your dirt into blooming sustain with excellent harmonics

When it comes time to play a guitar solo live, you’re going to want to stand out in the mix. The Arrows from Earthquaker Devices boosts your signal and is designed with a voice made for cutting through like an… you guessed it.

Design

The Arrows is a pre-amp booster that was designed to give you the opportunity to add an extra gain stage to your overdrive pedals. It does this in a very streamlined manner worthy of its name. It cuts out the frequencies that can muddy up the mix and also boosts your signal, making it the perfect guitar solo booster. It runs on a 9V charge and is housed in a traditional metal housing.

Controls

This is another fine example of how a single, huge knob is sometimes all you need in a boost. This one works slightly differently than others, in that the Level control works as either a cut (counterclockwise) or a boost (clockwise). Simple controls like this a great when you are on stage because it offers less to have to think about. If it turns out you aren’t loud enough on stage, there’s an easy solution: turn the one knob!

Sounds

This pedal sounds good on guitar, bass, and even synthesizers and is definitely not transparent. I chose it as the best option for boosted guitar solos primarily for the pedal’s unique voicing, which cuts low end, boosts the midrange, and leaves high end shimmering all the while.

This is exactly what you need to cut through a mix momentarily. Its great for fuzzed out bass tones as well that need some tightening up. It works great in front of overdrive pedals as an added gain stage, or after your overdrive pedals as a good volume boost with some beneficial EQ.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Pre-Amp Booster
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.8 x 3.7”
  • Features: True Bypass

The perfectly voiced Boost for Solos

Final Thoughts on the Earthquaker Devices Arrows Pre-Amp Booster V2

I think that the Arrows V2 is a well thought out boost with a very specific purpose in mind. While other boost pedals try to be clean and transparent, this has a unique voice to it that lends itself specifically to guitar solos or for tightening up overdrive tones. Sometimes you want an “always on” boost, and sometimes you want a momentary boost. This is the perfect momentary boost.

It’s also under $100. Bonus!

4. Xotic EP Booster Review – Best for Tube Amps

Xotic EP Booster Mini EQ Effect Pedal
  • Internal Switches for Bass Boost and Bright
  • Discrete FET Preamp
  • Up to +20db of Gain

Just about any boost pedal out there is going to cooperate with a great tube amp. That being said, the Xotic EP Booster pairs especially well with tube amps because of the Delay unit in which it is based off of, which has been used to boost small tube amps for nearly 50 years. The EP Booster is a modern day classic.

Design

I mentioned earlier that Boost can come from a wide variety of effects. One of the earliest discoveries of this concept came from the EP-3 Echo Machine (AKA the Echo-Plex). This delay unit had a preamp that sounded amazing, so players would turn off the delay effect and place it in front of their amps.

Voila! A boosted pre-amp effect.

The folks at Xotic have saved you money and backpain (the echoplex is the size of head-unit amplifier) by taking that pre-amp circuit and squeezing it into a single knob mini pedal. This was achieved using an FET design with a low output signal and it provides up to 20db of boost.


Controls

Once again, a single knob does it all. It has internal dip switches for voicings too (Default, Unity Gain, and Vintage) but once you’re doing performing surgery on your pedal this is a “set and forget” kind of pedal. Like the others, crank up the Level control for more volume and gain. Fortunately with this pedal, there’s no need to turn off a bunch of delay controls as well.

Sounds

This is another boost that is not transparent. It has its own voice to it, which is the main reason why guitarists like Jimmy Page and Eric Johnson started using this preamp back in the 70’s. It adds some low end and presence that makes any tube amp sound that much better. This pedal has a lot of Gain and Volume on tap and is sure to make you as loud as you could possibly want to be.

I enjoy the sound of this pedal so much that I always have one activated on my board. It’s a great option as an “always on” type of boost.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Mini Boost
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 1.5 x 1.5”
  • Features: True Bypass, Voicing Dip Switches

Echoplex Preamp in a mini enclosure

Final Thoughts on the Xotic EP Booster

I love the EP Booster and so do a lot of other people. I always have at least one dialed up in my Helix or board. The fact that it is a mini pedal means that you could have more than one set up on your board. I like to keep one as an “always on” boost and another for boosting solos. This is a classic for a reason: it’s killer.

5. Xotic Bass BB Preamp Review – Best for Bass

Xotic Effects Bass BB Preamp Distortion/Booster Bass Effects Pedal
4 Reviews
Xotic Effects Bass BB Preamp Distortion/Booster Bass Effects Pedal
  • Adds clean gain to overdriven signals
  • Retains each note's original attack sound and tonal spectrum
  • 2 overlapping bands of 15dB Boost or Cut

If you haven’t noticed yet, the next couple of reviews are all dedicated to Xotic pedals. These folks do boosts right, and they don’t leave out the bassists. The Bass BB preamp is a modified version of Xotic’s BB preamp for guitars, but is tailored to fit in with the lower bass frequencies, that make it a great option for boosted bass parts or overdrive as well.

Design

The original BB Preamp pedal was designed for guitar and was modeled after the Marshall Blues Breaker circuit. The Blues Breaker amp was initially designed for bass players, until Eric Clapton came along and changed everything. These days there are many Blues Breaker style pedals out on the market, but this one works especially well for bass due to its adjustable 15db two band active EQ, giving you a total of 30db of bass boosting/cutting power.

It works great as a clean boost and can also take your bass into gritty overdrive territory. This is a good example of a “preamp” working as a boost and/or overdrive. It features true bypass switching and can be powered by a 9V DC battery or adaptor

Controls

The Bass BB Preamp has the same four controls as the original BB Preamp, as well as the AC/RC boosts by Xotic. There is a control for Gain (Overdrive), Volume, as well as an active 2 band EQ. What really makes this a great pedal for bass is the fact that the pedal doesn’t eat up the low end like a lot of guitar pedals will. Even still, the pedal has controls for Treble and Bass that will allow you to fine tune your EQ.

Sounds

Keeping the Gain low and Volume high makes for a great always on or clean boost setting, whereas cranking the gain and taming the Volume will allow for some glorious overdrive bass tones. This makes the BB preamp a very versatile pedal. It has a voice of its own, just as any Marshall amp will, but it can be adjusted to allow for a more transparent sound or a very stylized sound depending on how you set it.

With 30db of boost on tap, it has one of the biggest outputs of any boost pedal, which is also good for bass, as bass players need that extra power.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Bass Preamp
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 4.39 x 2.38 x 1.98”
  • Features: True Bypass, Comic Sans

Bass gets to be boosted too!

Final Thoughts on the Xotic Bass BB Preamp

Bass players often use fewer pedals, and I speculate that this can be due to the fact that there are fewer options available to them compared to guitarists. That is why when a bass pedal gets hyped, its usually for good reason, and this pedal lives up to the hype.

It’s a very flexible boost pedal that can double as a bass overdrive if needed. Or you can just leave it on all the time. I would.

6. Xotic Super Clean Buffer Review – Best Clean Boost

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Xotic Super Clean Buffer Pedal
  • Buffer Guitar Effects Pedal with +12dB Clean Boost
  • Selectable Boost Frequency

The third and final example from the fine folks at Xotic is none other than the Super Clean Buffer. I almost went for the Xotic RC Booster, which is my personal favorite clean boost pedal ever, but instead I chose to expand upon the idea that many different kinds of pedals can be used as boosts, not just those explicitly labeled as such. The Xotic Super Clean is a fantastic sounding pedal and has a lot of flexibility and power for being such a small buffer pedal.

Design

As a buffer pedal, the Super Clean is designed to combat long cable runs that cause you to lose your high end. This pedal makes sure that your original tone is carried through all the way to your amplifier no matter how many effects pedals you have or how long your cables are. It is a mini pedal that is built like a tank. I’m really impressed with the build quality of Xotic’s mini pedals.

They are sturdy and have a little bit of weight to them. In addition to adding up to 12db of gain to your signal, there are dipswitches along the side of the pedal that let you fine tune which frequencies are boosted or cut, making this an EQ tool in addition to a boost. It can also be powered up to 18V for added headroom.

Controls

What appears to just be an indicator light is actually a cleverly hidden gain control knob. Move to the right for cut, and to the right for a boost in signal. There are four dipswitches along the side of the pedal. With all the switches off, the pedal functions in a default setting that has a slight mid boost added. Engaging Switch 1 activates a high cut. Switch 2 is a high mid boost. Switch 3 is a low mid boost and Switch 4 activates a bass boost. This makes for an effective and powerful EQ tool in addition to a great sounding clean boost.

Sounds

Clean boosts are my favorite boost pedals overall because they can live within just about any kind of rig and serve a useful purpose. The Super Clean exemplifies this perfectly, as it works as an always on kind of effect whether you’re playing clean or dirty amp sounds. With this pedal the notes jump off the fretboard and allow for greater dynamic playing. The EQ is simple but effective and allows you to tailor the effect to whatever amp or guitar you’re playing with ease.

The 12db boost is enough for most applications, but if you need more you can check out the Xotic Super Sweet, which offers up to 20db and sounds very similar.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Buffer/Clean Boost
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V – 18V
  • Dimensions: 3.6 x 1.5 x 2.0
  • Features: EQ Dipswitches, Buffer, 18V power option

Small buffer/clean boost combo

Final Thoughts on the Xotic Super Clean Buffer

The truth of the matter is that you can’t go wrong with any boost pedal from Xotic. They all sound amazing and they offer a wide variety of designs to fit different players’ needs. This is a great clean boost and buffer. With its small size it is perfect for those that want a buffer/boost but hold a high premium of pedal space.

7. MXR M133 Micro Amp Review – Best for Beginners

MXR M133 Micro Amp
129 Reviews
MXR M133 Micro Amp
  • Adds a preset amount of gain with a single control
  • Boost your signal for lead work
  • Perfect for switching between guitars with unmatched output

If you’ve read some of my other articles, you have probably noticed that I am a big John Frusciante fan. I always wondered how he was able to get edge of breakup tones out of a strat or Tele with his amps set fairly clean. Once I found out that the MXR Micro Amp was the answer, I was sold.

Design

The Micro Amp is another single knob boost pedal that has its own unique sound to it. Working up to 26db of boost, it works as a great solution to adding a slight amount of gain to your solos, and can also work well as an always-on pedal for rhythm work. It is a really simple, but effective preamp pedal that has been on many famous boards since its creation. It runs on 9V of power and is housed in a traditional single pedal housing.

Control

As I mentioned before, there is just one knob that controls the Gain of the pedal. Set all the way to the left, you wont get any boost, but rather unity gain. All the way to the right bumps you up to a full 26db of added gain.

Sounds

Even with the gain control set all the way to zero, the pedal adds clarity to the high end of your signal. This is a great application if you are looking to use the pedal like a buffer to fight long cable extensions and the resulting signal degradation. As you crank the gain up, there is a satisfying squish in compression that works great for funk guitar sounds. Even with the gain all the way up you can clean up your sound on the fly by rolling off on your guitar’s volume.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Boost/Preamp
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 5.9 x 4.6 x 2.7
  • Features: Hardwire Bypass

A simple and classic boost to get you started

Final Thoughts on the MXR M133 Micro Amp

The Micro Amp is a great place for beginners to start with because it is a simple design and is inexpensive. It has the right balance of clarity and noticeable tonal change that will help you learn how to use a boost. It is also a pedal that, even if you were to look into more advanced boosts later, could function as a great buffer. So, even though it is a cheap classic, it has staying power.

8. Ibanez TS9 (Tube Screamer) Review – Best Overdrive for Boost

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Classic
  • Classic tone Tone, drive, and level controls
  • Tone, drive, and level controls give you access to warm, amp-like overdrive that's touch sensitive and ready to rip
  • The Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer is a reissue that's just like the original in so many ways

I was tempted to award the Tube Screamer as the “Best Boost You May Already Own, and Not Know It” because this is a classic overdrive pedal that just about everyone tries out at some point. I think where people get the pedal wrong is by approaching it like an overdrive, cranking the drive and placing it in front of a clean amp. In my opinion the Tube Screamer is best used as a boost in front of an already overdriven amp. It worked for Stevie Ray Vaughn at least.

Design

For the sake of simplicity I am going to be focusing on the TS9 Tube Screamer, but just about any variation of a Tube Screamer will do what I am explaining here. The tube screamer is one of the original overdrive pedals and is similar to the Boss OD1, except it has the addition of the Tone control. It is a lighter gain overdrive but has the potential to boost your sound quite nicely. The newer releases of this pedal have the same components, housing, and look as the original pedals do.

Controls

The TS9 has three controls on it that are found on most overdrives. There is a control for Drive (Gain), Tone (EQ), and Level (Volume). In order to make this pedal works as a great boost, you’ll need to set these controls in a way that plays well with an already cranked amplifier. The amp doesn’t have to be set to a high gain setting, but edge of breakup at least.

From here I would recommend setting the drive below noon and the level past unity gain (usually past 1 -2 o’clock). The tone control can be set to wherever works best to your ears. This is a much more useful setting than diming the Drive knob in front of a clean amp.

Sounds

The TS9 Tube Screamer is going to deliver a colorful boost. It will transform the voice of your guitar. If this isn’t what you are looking for out of an “overdrive as boost” application, there are some more transparent overdrives out there like the Timmy. However, the benefit of using a Tube Screamer as a boost is that it emphasizes the midrange, making it a great choice for boosting solos.

It will give you the bump in volume that you need, as well as add some color that will make peoples’ ears perk up. It also tightens up the low end, so your guitar doesn’t sound muddy or flubby. Seriously, if you want to hear this in a real world example check out any Stevie Ray Vaughn live video. Its magical.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Overdrive
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 5.3 x 3 x 2.4”
  • Features: Some models True Bypass, LED Indicator

Is that a familiar, green overdrive… or a boost?

Final Thoughts on the Ibanez TS9 (Tube Screamer)

The Tube Screamer is a staple in many guitar players’ pedal boards. While it has an identifiable voice as an overdrive, I think its best application is that as a tone coloring boost for solos. The good news about this pedal is that, if you don’t already own one, there are countless clones, mini pedals, boutique versions, and all-in-one multi-effects units that have this circuit in them. It’s an affordable and easily accessible pedal that could just be your next boost of choice.

9. JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Review – Best Overall

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JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
  • The Volume control allows you to set your volume at unity or as a boost to push your amp or dirt pedals
  • 3 EQ controls to give you tons of control to cut or boost Bass, Mid and Treble
  • The rotary switch has 3 settings: Full EQ, No Mid and No EQ

If you’ve made it this far into the article you may be asking yourself, is there a pedal that can do it all? What is the best Preamp out there? Without a doubt I think that the Clover Preamp/Boost from JHS is the best option out there in terms of tone, flexibility, and versatility.

Design

The Clover is based off the 1984 Pocket Series FA1 from Boss; a pedal made famous by The Edge, guitarist of U2. Because of this the pedal became expensive and rare, so most of us couldn’t afford to have it, until now. The Clover comes with some additional features that make an already great circuit even more versatile and accessible. This includes an added Mids control for great EQ-ing. It also a balanced XLR-out making it the perfect preamp for bass or acoustic players plugging straight into a mixing console.

Controls

The Clover is centered around the 3 position rotary knob. Set in the “No EQ” position, the pedal works as a pure clean boost controlled simply by the Volume control. Think of this as if it were one of the single knob boosts above. Set to the “No Mids” position and you have an exact replica of the original FA1 preamp, where you use the Volume, Bass, and Treble controls to create your boost.

Finally, set the pedal in the “Full EQ” position to experience the full potential of the Clover. This adds in the Mids control for further EQ capability. On the righthand side of the pedal is the original Low-Cut dipswitch from the FA1. Use this to tighten the low end of your signal. The left-hand side has a switch for a Ground Lift as well.

Sounds

This boost is capable of so much tone shaping, and because it can work with bass, electric, AND acoustic guitars it’s hard to even know where to start. The most powerful aspect of this is the Mids control, which can let you shape your tone to punch through the mix during a solo. However, it can also add a lot of brightness and clarity to your signal, to the point that if you have a Fender amp you can make it sound like a Vox.

It has enough clarity that it won’t suck out the low end of your bass signal, and with a low end control you can boost or cut those frequencies however you like. This would be a great pedal to put in front of your favorite overdrives too and reshape them with some added gain and a different EQ. The low cut is great for boomy humbuckers as well. If you want to hear this style of boost in action check out any U2 record from the 80’s and 90’s.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Preamp/Boost
  • Signal: FET
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 2.6 x 4.8 x 1.6
  • Features: XLR Out, Low Cut, Ground Lift, added Mids, True Bypass

The BEST and most versatile boost around

Final Thoughts on the JHS Clover Preamp/Boost

The Clover seems to have everything going for it that these other pedals have, and then some. It is an incredibly versatile guitar and works with any guitar-style instrument. While it isn’t a mini pedal like the majority on this list, it is still a “traditional” pedal form and it earns its square-inch real-estate more than any other on this list. Whether you want edge of breakup gain, the ability to re-voice pedals, or to improve your DI sound, the Clover is the perfect boost and preamp combo.

Boost Can Come From Just About Anywhere

Hopefully, this article has shown that a great boost pedal can come from just about anywhere. Whether it be a chorus pedal, a Reverb, and Overdrive, a Buffer, a Delay, or even a straightforward Boost, any pedal that has a preamplifier in it and a Volume/Gain control can boost your signal. The key is to find the one that works best for you in terms of application and voice.

You may have noticed that most of the pedals on this list are mini/single control effects units. As a result of their simple design, many of these pedals are also inexpensive. Yet, they have some serious tone shaping potential. This is what I find so fascinating about boost pedals.

When it comes to looking at other musicians’ pedal boards, I’m curious to see what kind of overdrives they use, and compressor pedals, and delays. However, the pedal I look for the most is what preamp or boost pedal they are using, and if the little indicator light is on even when they aren’t playing. This tells me that their boost pedal of choice is a critical part of their sound.

Boost pedals can help you stand out in a mix during a solo, but they can also make you sound better all the time. The added gain lets your core tone shine through, but it makes playing the notes easier. Trust me. Get a boost and pay attention to how playing with dynamics becomes easier than it was before. You don’t have to play as hard all the time to be heard. The boost does the work for you.

It is my hope that if Boosts were flying under the radar for you that you are now interested in how they can affect your sound for the better, whatever the situation may be. Maybe you have realized that you already have a pedal at home that can boost your signal. If that’s the case, give it a shot and see what ways you can use it in your everyday playing. If it doesn’t work for you the way you want, there are plenty of options out there and any of the ones on this list are a good place to start (or end) your search.

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