When you play in a band sometimes you could find yourself fighting for space in the mix, especially when there is another guitar player alongside you on stage. The last thing you want is for your big guitar solo to be buried in the mix and all those face melting licks you’ve worked so hard on to just vanish into the wall of noise.
Sounds like you need a boost pedal. A boost pedal will add extra volume to your guitar allowing what you play to be heard clearly over everything else. Some boost pedals are considered clean boosts. A clean boost is simply a volume lifting pedal that does not colour or change your tone in any way. Throwing a boost on your existing pedalboard can open up a whole new world of tone.
Some of the pedals included in this list are clean boosts which will simply pass your tone through and make it louder with any EQ changes or gain changes. Others in this list will colour your tone and add gain if desired.
There is no rule when it comes to which type of boost is correct. The boost you choose is subjective to the sound you want for your lead guitar parts. Some players even use an overdrive pedal as a boost in order to add a lot more gain to their leads.
TC Electronics Spark Mini
The tiny Spark Mini from Danish pedal giants TC Electronics might be small, but it’s sound is huge. This tiny box packs a whopping 20dB of clean boost to really make anything you want jump out of the mix.
The Spark Mini is a totally clean boost so it will not add extra gain to your tone, however, if you are running this infront of an overdrive pedal, or an amp that’s already running hot, it will further boost that gain with volume.
If your amp has the headroom, this will remain clean all the way up. The totally analog circuit will retain all the character of your tone.
TC Electronics have also added a feature called “Primetime Switching” which is an intelligent switching system. If you press the pedal and release as you would usually, the pedal will recognise this as a command to switch on or off. If you press your foot on and hold, the pedal will activate until you remove your foot.
A boost pedal can be a fantastic addition to any rig. It doesn’t matter if it’s a complex pedalboard, or a simple one. A boost can breathe new life into existing pedals and life your volume over the top in a busy stage mix.
Xotic EP Booster Mini
The EP Booster from Xotic is based on a classic, vintage boost sound that many guitar players crave. Many guitar heroes such as Jimmy Page were known for using the preamp section of a vintage EchoPlex unit to boost the front end of their amps. The Echoplex would provide a really pleasing boost that would drive any amp into soaring overdrive. The Echoplex, as the name suggests is actually an echo unit and was never intended to create any sort of boost for an amp.
Vintage Echoplex units are very pricey and cost thousands of dollars but Xotic took that preamp circuit, shrunk it down and created the EP Booster.
The unit offers 20dB of gain boost. This is not a clean boost. It will add high end sparkle and definition while driving your amp into higher gain territories. You can customize this with two internal dip switches for a bass boost and a bright switch to add even more top end.
This pedal is not only a fantastic lead boost, but it can also be used as a utility pedal to boost between single coils and humbuckers. If you switch this on with a single coil loaded guitar, you can achieve a fatter sound with more volume to compensate for the volume drop associated with single coil guitars when mixed with humbucker guitars.
Mooer Pure Boost
For the guitarist on a budget looking for maximum bang for their buck, the Moore Pure Boost offers a huge feature set for a very small price. Not only do you get 20dB of clean boost, you also get an additional gain circuit to add a little more grit to your boosted tone.
The Pure Boost also has a 2 band EQ which allows you to cut or boost both the bass and treble ranges by +/- 15dB meaning you can really sculpt those boost tones and decide just how you want it to cut through the mix of your band.
The Pure Boost is the cheapest option in this list, but it’s a very strong contender. Don’t let the price put you off. This unit is rugged. It’s built into a solid metal chassis and not only saves pedal board space, but it can take a beating.
MXR Micro Amp
MXR are known for their incredibly reliable pedals. These are road dogs and can withstand anything you can throw at them. The Micro Amp is seen on countless touring boards all over the world for this very reason.
The Micro Amp has a staggering 26dB of gain boost on tap. With this much gain on tap, it’s impossible to retain a clean boost, however this unit is very dynamic. If you keep the knob set to below 12 o’clock you get a very nice clean boost with enough boost to push you forward in the mix.
Go beyond this and you will start to add some gain which will push your amp and pedals into further overdrive and really make those solos sing and scream.
If you’re feeling unsatisfied with your tone then perhaps it’s time to look for a boost pedal to help enhance the signal you’ve got through your pedalboard.
Wampler Decibel Plus
Wamplers Decibel Plus is a great pedal with a hidden extra. It not only functions as a great boost but it also has a buffer built in. Buffers are great for boosting the impedance up on long cables or bigger pedalboards where you may find your top end degrades slightly as it passes through various converters.
The boost circuit is described as “full frequency” but clean. It will boost your entire frequency range in unison so you should find that your natural lows and highs from your basic guitar tone remain intact. Your guitar will cut through the mix but retain all it’s original character.
The built in buffer is switchable by a little push switch on the side of the pedal. When on, the buffer will prevent any frequency loss and “tone suck” often associated with running pedalboards or long cables where the guitar cables and converters suck some of the high end tone out of your natural guitar tone leaving you with a muddier sound.
JHS Clover Preamp
The Clover is a boost with a difference. You can tune this pedal to suit your sound. With a 3 band EQ covering bass, middle and treble, this pedal will sit in any rig with minimal effort.
Along with the 3 band EQ you also have a 3 position knob to select Full EQ, No Mids or No EQ. This means you can either include the 3 band EQ, cut just the mids out so you can tweak the low and highs, or bypass the EQ totally and just have the volume acting as your boost.
The volume knob offers the user up to 24dB of gain boost. It’s certainly not a clean boost as it will take your amp and pedals and take them further into overdrive but what the Clover does bring to the table is bags and bags of character. In the No Eq position of the three way switch, the unit becomes a straight FET booster which will be a fantastic bonus in front of a tube amp.
The No Mid position on the three way switch is an exact replica of the very desirable Boss FA-1 preamp pedal as used by The Edge of U2. The original units are very expensive and rare so for any Edge fans chasing that tone, it can be yours with the Clover.
Outlaw Effects Boilermaker
For this price, it would almost be silly not to pick up a Boilermaker. A tiny pedal with 20db of “pure, pristine, transparent boost”. Perfect for anyone who wants a clean boost with loads of headroom but has the need to not colour their tone.
The Boilermaker does also have a bass and treble control as well as a gain knob so you can dial in extra colour if you feel the need to. This is one versatile little unit all housed in a true bypass switching pedal. Outlaw Effects are determined to give the user the most transparent tone possible but with the option to do more if they need it.
The EQ controls are active with a +/- 15db boost/cut range to really sculpt the tonal range and add extra harmonics to your tone to accompany the huge range of boost on tap.
As with most mini pedals, the Boilermaker will only run on a 9v DC power supply and won’t accommodate an internal battery. If you’re running this pedal you’ll need a power supply on your pedalboard.
Danelectro Billion Dollar Boost
Danelectro has been a name in the pedal game for a long time but they’ve recently launched a new range of pedals in these retro-tastic housings. They look amazing and they sound just as good.
The Billion Dollar Boost is a clone of a Boss FA-1 but without the stellar price tag. The original 1980s Boss units now fetch three figure price tags on the second hand market and are the secret weapon of many A List guitarists.
The unit has a huge boost range covering pristine clean boosting to singing sustain with high and low frequency knobs to cut and boost the frequencies you want in and out of the tone. Once the volume knob passes 12 o’clock the tone will start to break up and slowly move into a smooth and pleasing overdrive that will hit your amp hard.
There is also a mini toggle switch to allow you to run the unit flat or with a low cut. In the low cut position the lower frequencies will be rolled off to enhance the top end boost.
Jim Dunlop CAE MC401 Boost/Line Driver
The MC401 is a joint project between Jim Dunlop (Under the MXR label) and Custom Audio Electronics. The result is this stylish and sleek boost pedal. With over 20dB of ultra clean boost on tap you can count on this to make your guitar soar above the mix with ease.
The pedal can also be used as a buffer to boost signal through a long chain of pedals. Simply put this at the start of the chain and set it to unity gain and the signal coming out will be automatically buffered through the rest of the chain, cleaning up your signal and restoring your top end. The extremely low impedance of the pedal also makes it work great with long cables.
MXR and CAE designed the MC401 to be totally true bypass so the tone that goes in is the same as the tone that goes out with no loss of any frequencies across the entire spectrum with zero tonal colouration.
J Rockett Audio Archer IKON
The Archer IKON is technically not a clean boost, it’s an overdrive, and a fine one at that. Modelled after the illustrious and expensive Klon Centaur, this boutique overdrive is the unicorn of guitar tone. Everyone is chasing it and everyone wants it.
This unit can be used as a clean boost with the gain set all the way to zero, but many players like to use the gain to add a little hair to the signal as the Klon style circuit has a very distinctive gain structure which is transparent and full ranged.
As the gain is increased, the clean headroom is decreased so you can find a sweet spot between boost and drive that will make your tone come alive. The pedal has a treble knob to boost your higher frequencies to really make your tone cut through the mix.