Boost pedals come in many different forms. They range from clean to preamp to EQ and many more. There’s a boost for every occasion, whether it’s pushing an amp into glorious overdrive, cleaning up a muddy effect, or even brightening a dull pickup.
That said, hundreds of great boost pedals have hit the market over time, so selecting one can prove complicated. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the best boost pedals available today. Whatever you need, you’ll be able to find a boost pedal that best suits it here.
Mike Matthews introduced his first booster in 1968 in an attempt to produce a distortion-free sustainer. Originally, the LPB-1 was housed in a box with a protruding jack that plugged straight into a guitar. The current production version is billed as a spot-on reissue, but it’s housed in a stompbox enclosure with a footswitch and a boost control.
J Rockett Audio Designs Archer
The original Klon – revered as the pinnacle of boost pedals – has long been out of production and there are now countless clones. The JRAD Archer is probably the closest thing to a Klon because it was developed in collaboration with Bill Finnegan, the man behind the originals. As you would expect, this pedal offers undeniable quality, both in terms of its transparent boost and its gritty overdrive. Considering its dual-purpose nature, it’s also perfect for guitarists who are not ready to commit to a dedicated boost unit. The downside, however, is its hefty price tag.
Xotic EP Booster
Jimmy Page, Eric Johnson and Eddie Van Halen famously used the Echoplex EP3 preamp as a boost, but few would want to carry a bulky tape echo to gigs these days. The EP Booster is a mini pedal containing an EP3-style preamp with internal boost frequency and EQ setting switches. The EP Booster is best suited to those looking for a versatile booster that can provide clean boosts, saturated overdrives and everything in between.
TC Electronic Spark
The TC Electronic Spark is ideal for guitarists with a mid-range budget looking for more than just a booster with more than just a great boost range. This pedal’s 26dB boost range should cover most of your boost needs, but the Electronic Spark also has an ace up its sleeve: PrimeTime technology. This handy piece of tech allows you to engage the boost momentarily, keeping it on until you take your foot off the switch. This feature will be particularly useful for boosting specific riffs or solos.
Jim Dunlop MC401 MXR
If you’re not bothered about bells and whistles, Jim Dunlop’s MC401 MXR is the boost pedal for you. It’s a no-nonsense booster with up to 20dB under the hood and an idiotproof control system to boot. It offers great clean boost and won’t drop any top end while engaged. The MC401 MXR is also a true bypass pedal, so you won’t have to worry about it colouring your sound when disengaged.
Zvex Vexter Super Hard On Preamp Booster
The Super Hard On excels as a transparent boost and is particularly useful for those of you who employ vintage guitars. Over time, pickups deteriorate, but the Super Hard On’s high input impedance gives you a chance to hear what your ageing pickups sounded like in their heyday. It’s also great for driving vintage amps harder. In terms of controls, it only has a footswitch and a volume control called Crackle On – a nod to 60s recording console inputs of yore.
EarthQuaker Devices Arrows V2 Preamp Booster
EarthQuaker Devices is known for some of the best boutique-style pedals on the market right now, and the Arrows V2 is a prime example. Though some of the company’s other creations are complex and nuanced, this is a no-nonsense preamp booster built to boost or cut your signal. As you turn up the knob, you’ll tighten lows, boost mids and add sparkle to highs. This pedal is great if you’re looking to push an amp or clean up a muddy pedal.
Teisco’s bold yet quirky multi-mode FET booster, simply named Boost, is sleek stomper that has a few more controls than a solitary boost knob. It features level and gain knobs as well as toggle switches for voltage and EQ settings, resulting in a more versatile pedal. The Boost’s EQ switch is what defines the pedal. The Flat setting delivers a clean boost, while normal rolls off the bass, and treble dials in some Rangemaster-style bite.
MXR M133 Micro Amp
The MXR M133 is perhaps the most ubiquitous boost pedal around, and for good reason too. It’s affordable, easy to use and provides excellent boost range. Its less-than-stellar aesthetic aside, there’s very little we can find fault with for this booster. It provides up to 26dB of boost, has a single drive knob to fiddle with and will only set you back $79. If you have an extremely sharp ear, you’ll notice a sprinkling of extra top-end when you kick the M133 on, but otherwise it’s as clean as it gets.
Donner Boost Killer
In the realm of effects pedals, the term “versatile” gets thrown around a lot. Oftentimes, it’s misused, but where the Donner Boost Killer is concerned, it is the perfect description. On top of a 30dB boost range – which ranges from -15dB to +15dB – it features bass, volume and treble controls to further tweak your tone. It can function as a clean boost, but messing with the other parameters can also dial in a decent overdrive. And yes, it has true bypass. The best part about it? It only costs about $50.
Don’t let this pedal’s $30 price tag fool you. The ABR-1 is a well-built booster that can hold its own against similar pedals that cost two to three times more. It offers +/- 14dB of boost as well as true bypass operation. It also has controls for highs and lows for further tone sculpting. One drawback of the ABR-1, however, is that it colours tone slightly, so if you’re looking for a transparent boost, it’s best to look elsewhere. Otherwise, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a boost pedal with such functionality at this price range.
Joyo Audio Roll Boost
You’ll want to be careful with this one. While the Roll Boost may look unassuming, its solitary gain knob dials in up to +35dB of boost – enough to wake the neighbours. So if your setup is in need of some serious power, boost pedals don’t get much more beefy than this. Be warned, though, that this amount of boost inevitably comes with some tonal change, specifically the top end.
BBE Boosta Grande
The BBE Boosta Grande is all about transparency. If you’re looking to nudge your tube amp into heavenly overdrive without colouring your original tone, this booster will get you there. This true bypass stomper offers 20dB of boost, which is enough to coax most underpowered amps into high-gain glory. We recommend the Boosta Grande to guitarists who are looking for a mid-priced boost pedal that offers high-quality components and excellent transparency.
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