Mixdown's Pedal Special: Overdrive, Boost and Compression

Here at Mixdown, we wholeheartedly believe there's a pedal out there for every guitarist. A stompbox soulmate, if you will. Find your perfect match from the realms of overdrive, boost and compression pedals right here. You can thank us later.

Ampeg Scrambler

Effect: Bass Overdrive

Expect To Pay: $209

Distributor: Amber Technology

Recommended For:

Players looking for a measured and reliable bass overdrive.

 

Versatility:

The Scrambler’s vintage stompbox reputation precedes it. Thankfully, this delivers a characteristically wide tonal range for an extremely affordable price. Though this bass-tuned pedal is suited to any electric instrument, there is little point in trying this with a guitar or synthesiser if you have any form of overdrive already.

 

Usability:

The simple four dial setup gives you an impressive span of tonal options, and allows easy engagement of that classic Ampeg grime when you balance the knobs. Impressively, when pushing the Scrambler to full drive, the signal remained steady without any desperate need for compression. Its range is workmanlike and you’d be hard pressed to fault its functionality unless you’re trying to elicit any particularly unusual sounds – blending your dry signal is your best bet in that regard.

 

Construction:

The sleek black die cast chassis keeps it clean, simple and compact. The chicken head knobs are highly functional and feel sturdy enough, while a simple battery compartment gives you another power option.

 

Overall:

Ampeg doesn’t want to reinvent the ball-game with the Scrambler bass overdrive; instead, they’ve tinkered and condensed their classic Scrambler sound into a reliable and affordable package.

 

By Joshua Martin

 

Ampeg Opto Comp

Effect: Compressor

Expect To Pay: $209

Distributor: Amber Technology

Recommended For:

Players fine-tuning their studio setup, particularly home studios.

 

Versatility:

The Opto Comp would squeeze a killer tone out of just about any electric instrument, even with limited controls. Played on a Gretsch G5435 pro jet guitar, Fender Jazz bass and Microkorg synthesiser, there didn’t seem to be any tonal walls it couldn’t squash.

 

Usability:

This unit is a triple dial compressor pedal, offering creamy tones that flow instantly when engaged, with searing high fidelity thanks to an excellent signal to noise ratio. Gain, release and output level dials, however, do not account for tonal control or signal blending, something you’re better off turning to a heftier competitor for.

 

Construction:

Ampeg, in keeping with its staunchly utilitarian functionality, has given the Opto Comp a plain white exterior with austere black labels. Much the same as the rest of their 2018 pedal line, the tech is housed within a very cosy 66mm x 114mm die cast metal enclosure, weighing just 0.27kg. Though brands like MXR and Joyo offer smaller compression pedals, the Opto Comp strikes a better size-functionality balance.

 

Overall:

The Opto Comp Compressor is strictly business. As a compact augmentation to your pedalboard, it’s worth a look if you have a little money to spare in helping you attain a piercingly clean sound.

 

By Joshua Martin

 

Fender Engager Boost

Effect: Clean Boost

Expect To Pay: $169

Distributor: Fender Australia

Recommended For:

Almost any guitarist out there, for almost any genre imaginable.

 

Versatility:

The Engager is Fender’s take on a clean boost, providing up to 20dB of extra volume and handy EQ manipulation. The frequency toggle switch allows players to target either 800Hz or 400Hz, while the middle knob enables you to either boost or cut the selected frequency.     

 

Usability:

The controls are extremely straightforward. The pedal includes a bypass toggle switch located on the rear, allowing players to choose between true or buffered bypass for appropriate placement anywhere in your signal chain.

 

Construction:

The Engager Boost has a form fitting to its function – a clean, blank slate of brushed silver makes for the perfect canvas upon which to sculpt your tone. Complete with a durable anodized aluminium body and white Fender amp jewel light, this pedal was built ready to withstand the stress of rigorous gigging and relentless touring.   

 

Overall:

The Engager works brilliantly with all types of setups. You can use it in a variety of ways, including as a method of increasing gain from an already overdriven amp, an EQ sculpting pedal or simply as a classic volume boost. There’s beauty in simplicity, and the Engager fits that description perfectly.

 

By Edward Lim

 

Kink Straya Drive

Effect: Overdrive

Expect to Pay: $250

Distributor: Kink Guitar Pedals

Recommended For:

Rock/blues/pop, and players wanting two independent drive tones in a single pedal.

 

Versatility:

Both sides of the pedal (808 style on the right and Guv’nor on the left) have independent controls, giving you the ability to tweak and then switch either on or off (or run the 808 into the Guv).

 

Usability:

Easy enough to stomp, tweak and get some tones going, but also has some extra features for further shaping (hard/soft clipping).

 

Construction:

Kink look like they’ve put some time and work into the Straya Drive, and the bogan Aussie graphics definitely set it apart from most drive pedals.

 

Overall:

Can open up possibilities on a single channel amp and presents a lot of tonal options when combined with other pedals and/or your existing rig. Boosty, slightly broken TS-style sounds through to bigger ballsy drive.

 

By Nick Brown

 

NUX Lacerate FET Boost

Effect: Boost

Expect To Pay: $69

Distributor: Pro Music Australia

Recommended For:

Guitarists looking to get the most out of their amp’s natural tone.

 

Versatility:

Tonally, NUX’s Lacerate FET Boost really doesn’t muck about, offering a faithful signal boost to push your amp into spanky valve grit and crunchy tones for cutting through the mix. With two separate boost modes – the ever-reliable Clean and the slightly more gnarly Crank – you’ll be able to nail all your favourite guitarists’ boost tones. From Johnny Marr to John Mayer, the Lacerate FET Boost will do it all.

 

Usability:

As much as I adore deep-diving into complex stompboxes loaded with knobs and dip-switches, the simplicity of NUX’s Lacerate is incredibly refreshing. Stomping on the footswitch will activate the Lacerate’s first Clean boost, while holding your foot down for a second will activate the Crank function, with both modes being controlled by the ubiquitous level knob. Can’t beat that for simplicity.

 

Construction:

The Lacerate FET Boost sees NUX rolling on with their current focus on micro pedals, bearing a minimal, no frills design reminiscent of MXR’s famous Micro Amp boost. Although the plain white paintjob is a bit harsh on the eyes, the Lacerate is by all means a rugged unit, perfectly suited for heavy use onstage.

 

Overall:

Too often these days, pedals are loaded with unnecessary bells and whistles to appeal within a heavily competitive stompbox market. NUX have totally eschewed this ethos with the Lacerate FET Boost, providing players with a simple yet effective signal boost to highlight the sonic nuances of your beloved valve amplifier.

 

By Will Brewster

 

NUX Masamune

Effect: Boost and Compression

Expect To Pay: $159

Distributor: Pro Music Australia

Recommended For:

Tone fiends who need a bit more than just a standard boost function.

 

Versatility:

If you’re looking for an extremely tweakable pedal to buffer up your tone, the NUX Masamune Booster & Kompressor is one to keep your eye out for. With its name originating from one of Japan’s most famous medieval swordsmiths, it comes as no surprise that the Masamune bears razor sharp tones and dynamic range, offering everything from squashed compression to snarling gritty overdrive at the flick of a switch.

 

Usability:

It’s fair to say that compression is a pretty confusing effect to wrap your head around – you can hear what it does, but it’s hard to explain exactly what it sounds like. However, when coupled with the boost function, the NUX Masamune opens a whole world of sonic possibilities, offering a wide assortment of controls such as blend, hi-cut and clip to totally juice up your guitar signal. You can even choose to run both effects in parallel or independently, which is a nice little trick to have up your sleeve.

 

Construction:

With five knobs, four rocker switches and two footswitches in total, the NUX Masamune is a tone tweaker’s dream, and it’s built like a tank. Although I feel NUX could have spiced the Masamune up with a gnarly graphic to suit its incredibly cool name, I’m sure most players aren’t as picky as I am and should be satisfied with its killer tone alone.

 

Overall:

The NUX Masamune Booster & Kompressor definitely gets a tick from me. Both sides of the pedal faithfully complement the characteristics of your clean signal, and the wide assortment of tonal possibilities provided by the myriad of controls onboard should prove to be a hit.

 

By Will Brewster

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