Using a Booster to Get More Out of Your Favorite Guitar Pedal

Using a Booster to Get More Out of Your Favorite Guitar Pedal

May 14, 2018 11 Comments

A popular option for finding the ideal guitar tone is using an always-on guitar pedal. This can be a foundational overdrive pedal, a dedicated preamp box with a DI, or practically any effect that helps you achieve the sound in your head. While nothing beats a great amplifier, musicians who want to travel light, use different backlines frequently, or want to get great tone without having to crank their amp or deal with the acoustic variables at each venue may find a particular pedal or pedals to be a superior option.

But what happens when you need a little more out of your foundational pedal but don’t want to mess with your tone too much? For instance, you could love the tone you get out of a particular overdrive but need a little more gain at times to thicken up choruses. You might also need a volume boost to punch through a bit better during solos. If you like the tone you have but just need a little more, a boost pedal can work wonders.

Finding the Right Boost Pedal

Not all boost pedals are created equal. Some are completely transparent and simply raise the volume, while others impart their own tone or color on the sound, which may or may not work with your favorite pedal. Keep in mind that a boost pedal can be another overdrive pedal, so there really are no rules here. Feel free to experiment! You may find that certain combinations of boost pedals and your favorite overdrive may play nice together and complement one another- such as a mid-heavy boost pedal making your mid-shy overdrive a little punchier- but if you want to keep your tone intact you will want to find the most transparent clean boost possible. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on using clean boosts as the purpose is getting the most out of the tone you already like.

Understanding Stacking

There is one simple thing you need to know when it comes to stacking a boost pedal with your always-on overdrive. The placement of the boost pedal can either add more gain or more volume.

Stacking a boost before the overdrive will not add more volume but will add more gain. This is because the overdrive pedal acts as a gate for the boost pedal - think of your always on overdrive or preamp as front end of your amplifier. Your amp settings are going to influence everything that’s before it. If you run a dirt pedal into your amplifier, the master volume on your amplifier is going to dictate how loud the overall setup will go for the most part.

The overdrive pedal level is going to determine the overall volume and running more volume into it is simply going to drive it more into clipping. If you have a pedal that you get your signature tone from, run it last in the chain and engage a boost pedal before it if you need more gain.

Using a boost pedal after your overdrive pedal will add more volume, but not more gain. With this setup, the clean boost is simply raising the overall volume without changing the tone. This is great for passages where you really need to stand out.

If you’d like instant access to both options, two separate boosts placed both before and after your favorite overdrive can provide a great deal of versatility and flexibility, all while leaving your “base tone” intact. Do you use a boost pedal in your rig? Let us know in the comments.



11 Responses

Paul Sherman
Paul Sherman

June 05, 2020

I’ve used the compressor side of a Route 66 for decades, I run the sustain low or off. It’s a great clean boost, not totally transparent but the wee bit of grunt it adds is pleasing. It also boosts the 808 side of the 66 nicely as well all the presets on my Vox DA5 which I use for very small quiet (cheap) shows.

Mike Hundley
Mike Hundley

June 05, 2020

The best pedal I’ve found to use as a boost is an EQ. You can leave it flat and just boost the level or cut/ boost specific frequencies that are lacking. Always one after my lead drive stomper.

Brian Ruiz
Brian Ruiz

June 05, 2020

I use a The Dane, from Thorpy FX. A boost and OD in one. I pretty much have the boost on all the time and use the OD for when I need some extra.

Kirk Bolas
Kirk Bolas

June 05, 2020

The boost pedal is one of the simplest effects commonly used. Why doesn’t Carvin Audio offer one? How about a stand-alone Graphic Eq pedal? Parametric Eq pedal?

The Parametric Eq pedal offering is a highly underserved market. Carvin already offers a DI Box. There’s your enclosure right there.

I’m not suggesting that Carvin go into the effects pedal marketplace with both barrels. I am suggesting that there are a few types of “utility Fx” that Carvin could offer as a means of broadening their already established offerings of other “utility gear” like the DI box, wireless mike & IEM systems, preamps. etc.

Bobby Ruscus
Bobby Ruscus

June 01, 2018

I use a Boss equalizer as a boost with the middle sliders on high. I put it after the OD in my chain. Works well when I want a solo to jump out

Mickey
Mickey

June 01, 2018

Thanks for the great idea of before and after boosts, I was just looking for a remedy to get just a little more, (bonus, I have an extra boost pedal ) :)

DonnyJ
DonnyJ

June 01, 2018

I was looking for something to help my TS-8 out. A little boost during a lead thing. After my research I decided on the Xotic EP Boost. After hearing what it did for my Tele tones, I pretty much leave it on all the time. I have the EP after all of my pedals except my Echo Puss and Holy Grail Neo. An excellent boost.

Doc Bodine
Doc Bodine

June 01, 2018

Yes I use an overdrive with a booster pedal

Tim Walker
Tim Walker

June 01, 2018

This is very useful information. I found out about stacking overdrives(or) adding a booster to an overdrive a few years ago. I’ve had my Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9 for about 20+ years that spent most of its life in a box. It just never wowed me. I had no idea what the big deal was about this little green box that everyone loved so much. Until one day I was talking to another guitar player and he said " You need two TS9’s. Set one for more gain and the one in front of it for less gain and more volume." Yeah, that didn’t make much sense at the time, until I did what he said and WOW! That’s the sound I’d spent years looking for,but had no idea how to get it. Since then the two little green beasts have been on my pedal board side by side. I wish I had this information years ago. Thank you for putting it out to the masses. This will help a lot of players out there.

Kirk Smith
Kirk Smith

June 01, 2018

For years (decades?) rock ‘n’ rollers would claim that making a Tube Screamer the first item in your pedal chain would make your whole rig sound better, even when if was off. Well, we all knew that couldn’t be. If it was off it was off, right? Turns out that the old 808s and things were buffered. Even when switched off/out, the input and output buffers presented a nice high impedance to the guitar pickups and a nice low impedance to the rest of the signal chain, making many rigs sound worlds better than even a true bypass configuration.

So, always put a buffer, even one with no gain, first thing in your signal chain, right? Not always. Turns out that the signature sound of some effects is partly due to the ugly way they load the guitar output signal. Brian May and Angus Young both found that using their wireless system ahead of a Dallas Rangemaster MESSED UP their signature sound by unloading the pickups. Placing a miniature Rangemaster wannabe on the strap before the wireless restored the sound everyone was used to.

Experiment.

Stick with what works.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

June 01, 2018

What do you think of using an EQ as a boost pedal?
I use one that way, because it lets me dial in exactly what kind of boost I want. You can boost whatever frequencies are coming up short, or just leave the EQ flat at +3db or whatever.

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