Review of Tech 21 Boost Distortion & Boost
Overdrive pedals -
Tech 21 is one of the most respected names in the upper echelons
of pedal market. We gave Rick Graham two of the company's stomp
boxes to see how they stand-up to today's increasingly tough
The pedal market has exploded in recent years. At one extreme
there's a flood of really cheap, mass produced pedals from
manufacturers in the Far East, aimed at the beginner and occasional
user market, while at the other there is an apparently
never-ending stream of hand built pedals, often being made by 'one
man in a shed' operations, most of whom claim to offer products
capable of reproducing sounds from a 'golden era'. In between,
there are companies which are neither mass producers nor one man
operations. There's an advantage to this sector as it means they
have some scale advantages when it comes to price and, more
importantly, you can usually find a shop that has some in stock and
get to try before you buy, which is often not possible with the
products of very small companies. The US maker, Tech 21 falls into
that happy space - you can track down a retailer who will let you
to try them and yet still get a pedal that is made from
individually selected components and of the sort of quality that
satisfies pro players.
The two models I've been looking at are the Boost Distortion and
the Boost Overdrive.
Tech 21 Boost Distortion
Like all of Tech 21's pedals, the company says its boost
distortion is constructed using high quality individually-selected,
hand-biased, discreet components, aimed at delivering optimised
performance with studio-quiet operation. The distinctive feature of
all the 'Boost' range is a very useful boost function that delivers
up to an impressive 21dB of clean boost, which can be used
independently from the actual effect itself. It is a true
post-boost, which means that it raises the level of the original
signal, without smothering it in unwanted distortion.
The Boost Distortion features four main rotary controls which
are, from left to right: Level, Tone, Drive and Sag, with the Boost
control being located directly underneath these. The level control
dictates the signal output level, while the tone offers a low pass
filter to help you dial in the sounds
that you want. The Drive does exactly what it says on the tin.
The Sag control provides you with the option to emulate the sound
of a heavily compressed tube amp. The higher the Sag control is
set, the more pronounced this effect will be. It's a very robustly
constructed unit and will fit on most pedalboards without taking up
much space at all and it can be powered by either a power supply or
As you can hear and see on our video, the Boost Distortion pedal
gives a rather substantial tip of the hat to some of the tones that
you'd hear on classic Rock recordings of the '80s. Starting with
everything set at the 12 O' clock position, it delivered a
remarkably impressive tone, rich and full of harmonics, ripe for
some screaming shred soloing! I wasn't expecting as much gain as is
on tap with this pedal. In fact, even rolling the drive control off
still resulted in a substantial amount of gain, so with the pedal
engaged, you'd clean up the tone using the volume on the guitar, if
you wanted to, of course!
The Sag control is a great feature and does a stellar job of
recreating the dynamics of a real tube amp. Some tweaking with the
tone control really opened up the sound giving lots of
possibilities to explore.
I loved this pedal. From the moment I engaged it, it felt
remarkably amp like and to be honest I wanted to take it home with
me. Superb saturated tones for those classic '80s moments, plus
lots more besides. A high quality pedal that is highly recommended,
especially given the high quality of manufacture. It's well priced
too for such a very high quality unit!
Tech 21 Boost Overdrive
Physically like the Boost Distortion, the Boost Overdrive
features four main rotary controls which are, from left to right:
Level, Tone, Drive and Sparkle, with that extra (and really useful)
Boost control being located directly underneath these. The level
control dictates the signal output level while the tone offers a
low pass filter to help you dial in the sounds that you want. The
Drive does exactly what you'd expect, while the Sparkle control
provides you with the option to add more upper harmonics to your
signal which results in a more open, snappy sound. Again, it's a
very robustly constructed unit and will fit on most pedalboards
without taking up much space and it the can be powered by either a
power supply or 9v battery.
Soundwise, Tech 21's Boost Distortion pedal seems more '70s than
the '80s feel of the Boost Distortion. As always, I set all
of the controls to the 12 O' clock position before kicking the
pedal in. One of the first things that I noticed about the tone was
how smooth sounding it was. It still retained the characteristic
bite of classic '70s Rock sounds but somehow sounded gorgeously
smooth, allowing you the best of both worlds. Pushing up the tone
and Sparkle controls together really allowed the pedal to open up,
accentuating the upper harmonics for even raunchier rhythm and lead
tones. Backing off on the guitar volume showed how well this pedal
cleaned up. Very impressive indeed! Using the pedal in front of a
clean amp works fantastically well but add it to an already
slightly overdriven sound and it really does add lots of mid-range
with tons of sustain. Check out the video!
Tech 21's Boost Overdrive is a superb pedal with a ton of
attitude. Whether you are after recreating classic SRV tones, or a
more edgy Rock rhythm tone, the Boost Overdrive does it all with
serious attitude and with the kind of quality that shouldn't be
ignored. Yet more excellent stuff - so much so that we are coming
back for a look at two more Tech 21 pedals in our next
Check out the full review inc. video of the Tech 21
Boost Distortion & Boost Overdrive
pedals by Tom Quayle featured in Guitar
Interactive Magazine Issue 19.
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