12 Best Boost Pedals: The Ultimate List

Like compressor pedals, boost pedals tend to be slightly undersung compared to flashier, more obvious effects. When they’re at their best, they enhance what’s already working about your rig, simply making that more audible in the mix. Whether you’re preparing for a spotlight-stealing solo or just sweetening your tone, learn more about the various boost types to find your new secret weapon.

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Boost vs. Overdrive

Compared to their higher-visibility overdrive and distortion brethren, booster pedals occupy a strange place in the guitar landscape.

For one thing, the line between overdrive and boost is mighty thin. As I discussed in our best overdrive pedals post, the effect we call overdrive is basically just turning an amp up until it starts to distort. In this way, then, all boosts are overdrives and the opposite is true, too. Turned up sufficiently, there are many applications where there is no difference, especially into a compressing tube amp.

There is a difference, of course. Overdrive pedal circuits are designed to clip, albeit softly. They also tend to have their own inherent EQ that highlights certain parts of the signal, which gives them each their unique voice. It's the reason we seek these pedals out in the first place. That circuit does something special to your sound.

That said, you'll find very many applications for pedals typically referred to as overdrive pedals standing in as boosters. The Klon Centaur is one key example, and probably the best known of the "transparent" overdrives used to provide a boost. You won't find it on this list, nor the JRAD Archer, nor the Wampler Tumnus.

We've discussed them all before and more than that, clean boosting is but one of their functions. They are all extremely good both as overdrives and boosts, but for this list, we focused on things that were more purely focused on the job of boosting in particular. As always, let your ears be the judge — we like them all.

For another thing, despite their seeming simplicity, booster pedals are the secret weapons of many a pedalboard. Again, compared to the flashier modulation pedals or the obvious improvement a good delay can make, the magic of a booster can be quite subtle. They aren't quite compressors, though they can effect some compression and provide focus. Boosts are effectively preamps that add a gain stage to your signal flow, and as gain increases, so does compression.

Descriptors that come to mind when discussing boost include sparkle, grit, girth, thickness, tightness, and so on. In short, for many setups where the amp does the heavy lifting of providing the tone, a boost is just the seasoning on top. Jobs that a boost pedal might do include simple volume increase, saturation, light drive, EQ, and separation from the band mix for solos.

As we discussed in our pedalboard setup post, there are options for where you put your booster depending on which of these you want it to perform. To drive your gain pedals, put it in the front. To increase your overall volume, put it right before the amp. If you want quite a loud volume boost, you could try it in the effects loop, too.

What are the different types of boost pedals?

    • Clean boost: Probably the most popular, the the clean boost pedal is designed not to color your tone whatsoever. You've already spent the money to develop a sound and all you want is that sound louder.
    • Treble, Midrange, and Bass boost: The primary function of these boosts is to push your guitar out in front of a live mix for solos by increasing the volume of a given set of frequencies. Treble is best for leads, while a midrange boost can tighten up your signal for louder passages. Bass boost is typically the domain of bassists, but you may find a use for it in your guitar rig at times.
    • Dirty boosts: These are the closest to being overdrive pedals in their relationship to the amp, but are still full-frequency devices. They're designed to clip just a touch, or at least have that option available.

We've indicated which type for each of our choices, as well as that of any related offerings from each maker.

Wish your boost was attached to your drive pedal? Check out our post on the best boost-overdrive combo pedals.

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