Boost PedalsBuying Guide

How to Choose Which Type of Boost is Best for You

If you're looking for a way to elevate, expand, and enhance the tone of your guitar rig, you should absolutely consider a boost pedal. At core, the purpose of the boost is to increase the level of your guitar signal while adding less color or dirt than you'd get from an overdrive, distortion, or fuzz. While there are plenty of boost pedals that can do the work of an overdrive and vice-versa, this genre of pedal comes in a variety of different flavors and style—and is deserving of some individual consideration.

In the video above, Andy dives into the wide world of boost pedals, examining a variety of choices in a handful of categories: clean boost, treble boosters, EQ boost, preamp boost, and transistor boost. Watch the video for a sample of what each style sounds like and keep scrolling for some of our picks for excellent options in each category.

Clean Boosts

The simplest and most straightforward boost pedal type is the clean boost. Clean boost pedals often feature a single knob and up to 20 decibels of clean signal, meaning that it just pushes your signal without adding any color, clipping, or other distortion.

Beyond the simple utility of pushing your volume for a solo section, clean boosts are also a lot of fun to run into other pedals in your rig, altering the characteristics of your favorite fuzz or overdrive when paired.

More Excellent Clean Boosts

Treble Boosters

If you're just aiming to push your amp harder and you're doing so by running a clean boost straight into your amp, you might have to contend with some unsavory characteristics, like a soggier-sounding low-end. A solution here could be a treble booster pedal, which was first designed to address this problem in the late 1960s and was famously used by Brian May of Queen, among many other classic rock guitarists.

The treble booster is a single-transistor pedal that gets its name by rolling off quite a bit of low-end. As Andy explains in the video above, this kind of hi-pass filtering is a great way to keep amps from sounding too muddy and add some extra top-end back to your signal—something that was especially helpful when PAs weren't as strong as they are today.

But treble boosters have their drawbacks, too. If the circuit utilizes germanium transistors, for example, it's sensitive to changes in temperature and will add a little bit of extra noise. This is something to keep in mind when you're trying to decide what's right for you.

More Excellent Treble Boosters

EQ Boost

Taking the basic premise of the treble booster a bit further, EQ boost pedals offer more sophisticated layers of tonal contouring, allowing players to accentuate specific frequencies or other tonal characteristics.

Even more than basic clean and treble boosters, these sorts of pedals can be fantastic tools when paired with other pedals. Try running a boost pedal with an EQ section into an overdrive or fuzz and change up the frequencies to unlock a whole other level of tonal potential in your existing board.

More Excellent EQ Boosts

Preamp Boost

One of the more recent forms of boost to come out in a pedal format is the preamp boost. Typically, these pedals are based on the circuits of classic pieces of audio gear. For example, the popular Xotic EP Booster takes its inspiration from the EP-3 Echoplex, while JHS' ambitious Colour Box is based on the circuit of a Neve console channel.

While there are preamp boost pedals that don't rely on older benchmarks, these sorts of emulation pedals have proven quite popular in recent years. Compared to the basic single-knob clean boosts seen above, preamp boosts typically do more to color and enhance the general tone of your rig, with many players using these as "always-on" devices.

More Excellent Preamp Boosts

Transistor Boost

Transistor boost pedals are perhaps the most overdrive-like of all boost pedals and usually have enough variation in store to get into full-on fuzz territory. Here the lines between these different classes of drive pedal get especially murky, but there are enough vintage and new transistor-based boosts pedals out there to classify this group on its own.

While these designs can get dirty quickly, their tonal emphasis remains on boosting signal rather than just overdrive clipping or fuzz, offering a more specific function that many players seek out.

More Excellent Transistor Boosts

Used Boost Pedals