Stone Deaf QBoost review: a versatile tone-shaping and gain-boosting pedal

The British maker’s clever dual boost pedal goes into full production with a new look and the promise of tweakable tones galore.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Stone Deaf QBoost
9

SUMMARY

About as versatile as a compact tone-shaping and gain-boosting pedal could possibly be.

Many of our favourite American pedal brands are now not so much ‘boutique’ as ‘three-storey out-of-town shopping mall’, so let’s hear it for plucky little homegrown brands like Stone Deaf, which continue to help the UK punch above its weight in the field of noisemongering tech.

The QBoost came out as a limited edition last Christmas; this is the unlimited version, doing the same deceptively flexible job – a full-range booster/preamp with switchable vintage saturation and a separate frequency-tunable boost circuit – but under a different paint job.

Stone Deaf QBoost
Northern soul: Stone Deaf pedals are hand-built just outside Manchester

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It actually looks quite sensible compared to Stone Deaf’s usual cartoon quirkiness… well, as sensible as you can get with an enclosure that appears to have been involved in an accident with a tin of baked beans. Anyway, we love it, and there’s nothing going on here that compromises the clarity of the control layout.

It’s a simple enough deal: there’s a master bypass footswitch at bottom-left and a separate one to add the frequency boost on the right. One knob controls the output level of the main boost, while the other adjusts the centre frequency of the optional hump (whose gain and bandwidth are fixed). Finally, a slider switch in the middle lets you select ‘modern’ or ‘vintage’ – which, as we’ll soon see, basically means clean or absolutely filthy.

That enclosure is a rugged little metal brick, and it’s worth pointing out that £139 for a British-built pedal with this much functionality looks like a hell of a deal. Let’s hope the tones live up to that promise.

Stone Deaf QBoost
Switched on: the slider switch flips between vintage and modern preamp modes

In use

Well, the early signs are good. Beginning with the basic boost in modern mode, we find unity gain – just a smidge thicker and darker than the bypass sound – with the preamp knob at around 10 o’clock. Start nudging it up past noon and the gain comes on steadily; how quickly things get properly overdriven will depend on the amp you’re boosting, but you can probably expect to be in full-on chunky chugging mode by the time it’s maxed out.

Best turn it back down again before you flip to vintage mode, because this adds a huge dollop of extra drive from inside the pedal itself. The tone remains natural, but there’s too much distortion here for the word ‘transparent’ to have any meaningful use: push the preamp close to maximum now and it could almost be a Big Muff.

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Then we stomp on the second footswitch and, with the frequency dial set anywhere around halfway, we’re greeted by a rich and spicy honk. That is to say, a tightening of tonal focus that’s maybe not quite a ‘stuck wah’ effect but has certainly been judged for optimum musicality. There’s little extra gain being added here but the contrast with the QBoost’s ‘clean’ sound is stark.

That remains the case all the way around the frequency sweep, from whumpy bass expansion to Vox-style extra-crispy treble, making this a genuine tonal toolbox that could prove hugely useful to all sorts of players.

Stone Deaf QBoost

Key Features

  • PRICE £139
  • DESCRIPTION Dual boost pedal, made in UK
  • CONTROLS Preamp and frequency boost levels, vintage/modern preamp switch, footswitches for master and frequency boost bypass
  • FEATURES True bypass, powered by 9-volt mains supply only (65mA)
  • DIMENSIONS 112 x 72 x 52mm
  • CONTACT stonedeaffx.com

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