Sometimes you just need that little bit extra from your guitar tone. Whether that’s to juice up a guitar solo, get some extra sustain, or add some break up a stale clean tone, having a high-quality clean boost pedal ready to go is never a bad thing.
But the problem with most boost pedals is they color your tone and introduce unwanted harmonics, spoiling that perfect tone you’ve already meticulously crafted.
Top 3 - Clean Boost Pedals
So today I’ve gathered up 8 of my all-time favorite clean boost pedals that will give you a hassle-free way of getting that bit of extra harmonic richness from your amp without introducing any unwanted coloration into your tone!
The Best Clean Boost Pedals in Existence
Table of Contents
- The Best Clean Boost Pedals in Existence
- The Difference Between a Distortion Pedal and a Clean Boost
- The Benefits of Having EQ Bands on a Clean Boost
- To True Bypass or Not to True Bypass
- Enhanced Guitar Tone
1. Keeley Katana Clean Boost Pedal
Keeley are one of the most well-respected companies when it comes to boutique utility pedals. Having made some of the most popular pedal-format compressors ever (which I also use in my personal rig). With Keeley you know you’re getting quality.
With the Keeley Katana, you’re getting a pedal that looks as clean and simple as it is to operate.
It features a single on/off switch and a gain control knob that is mounted to the side where the large knurled knob allows you to adjust the gain amount using your foot. Being able to adjust this with your foot without needing to bend down isn’t just a cool novelty, it’s actually really practical!
In addition to that if you pull the knob out you get an instant +30db boost, although I found this very hard to do with my foot, an extra switch for this option would have been far more usable than a side-mounted pull switch.
The internal power supply doubles your 9v input into 18v which I found gives a little bit more headroom than a standard 9v supply.
The downside of mounting the gain knob on the side of the pedal means it takes up a bit more real estate than a traditional pedal. So if like me you have a very cramped pedalboard then this might be an issue, ensure you have enough room for it!
I found that the pedal did introduce some coloration into the sound the more gain I pulled from it, and it took some tweaking to dial things in a way where it felt like a true clean boost.
But the good news is, it’s true bypass so there’s no reason not to have it on your board at all times.
2. MXR M233 Micro Amp
If you already own a few MXR pedals you’ll immediately feel at home with the MXR M233 Micro Amp as it uses the same design as other MXR pedals such as the very popular Carbon Copy or Phase 90.
In fact, making a small collection of these MXR pedals lined up on your pedalboard looks great, and like all the other pedals MXR makes, this too is built like a truck. You’ll have no problems when subjecting it to the rigors of gigging and touring.
It has a really nice off-white, classic look. While pedals with complex artwork designs are cool, I actually found the black text on white background quite useful as I could easily see what was happening on a dark stage.
In addition to just providing a clean boost, the Micro Amp adds in a 2-band bass and treble EQ, so if you want to augment your tone while the pedal is on during a solo you can do so.
But if you are adamant you want the boost to be as transparent as possible I found that leaving both knobs at the 12 o’clock position did not introduce any noticeable coloration to the tone.
The boost itself sounds great, although the single gain knob doesn’t give any indication of how many DBs of gain I’m adding, meaning I’m relying purely on my ears to set the level.
While this is probably a good thing, for those who really like to know what’s going on with their guitar setup you might miss not having a Db value to key off.
3. TC Electronic Spark Mini Boost Pedal
While most clean boost pedals like to try and sneak some kind of gimmick or feature in there to make it more marketable, the TC Electronic Spark hasn’t tried to do anymore more than what was advertised which is a simple clean boost, nothing else.
It has a fully analog circuit for as much transparency as possible and is true bypass, so you can leave it on your board at all times.
The level control provides up to 20db of boost making this a fairly subtle effect, you’ll really notice this when playing on lower gain or clean tones that need a bit of breakup.
But if you’re already on a saturated tone and need to drive it up to 11, this pedal won't push out enough juice for you.
While the intention behind using the mini pedal format was to have it not take up too much room on your pedalboard, I ran into several issues with its lightweight and small form factor.
Unless you tape or velcro it down to your board it tends to get yanked about a lot because of how light it is and the offset ¼’’ input jack placement.
Not only that but the power supply input being mounted on the side can mess up the symmetry of your board, I’d have preferred it on the back like the majority of other pedals.
4. JHS Prestige Buffer
Unlike other boost pedals which are designed to be kicked in when needed, the philosophy behind the JHS is that it can be either left as always on tone buffer, permanently adding a bit of juice to make up for headroom that’s been lost elsewhere, or it can be an on/off gain boost to drive your amp harder.
As you can see from the magic bunny artwork, JHS Prestige is making a clear nod to the very popular (but unfortunately discontinued) Mr. Magic pedal.
It has a single level knob which you can set and forget, and then an on off switch that is unfortunately not true bypass.
There’s a single LED light to indicate when it’s switched on, this is very bright and I found it very helpful on stage as it made it easy to locate on my pedalboard.
Tonally there are three ranges, when the level is set between 0-25% it works as an always-on buffer, ideal if you use long cables and have noticed the top end of your sound being stripped off.
From 25-50% it’s a fairly clean and transparent boost that works great for gritting up clean sounds or driving a lead tone a bit harder. This was my favorite setting on the pedal.
From 50-100% is more of a fully driven sound, essentially working like a tubescreamer.
Even though it’s a small pedal which can be awkward to utilize, especially during a busy show, because I use this as an ‘always on’ buffer I was able to just tape it down and leave it be which circumvented many of the headaches that come with using a mini pedal.
5. Xotic RC Booster Classic 20th Anniversary Pedal
This is a reissue of the original Xotic clean boost pedal released to celebrate the company's 20th anniversary.
While the Xotic RC Booster can certainly function as a straight clean boost, this one has a few more bells and whistles on it for those who want to get a bit more granular with their sound.
Design wise it uses the typical pedal format with clear writing and a bright LED light so you can see it on stage.
Both the ¼’ jack and power placement is perfect for live performance pedal integration and the true bypass means it can live in your effect chain permanently.
There are 4 main controls on the pedal, a 20db straight volume boost, a dedicated gain knob for those who intend to use this more as a lead boost which helps fatten and color the sound more than a straight clean boost would.
There’s also a 2-band EQ which I found immensely helpful when using the pedal through my PRS Archon.
As the input of the Archon was driven harder the amplifier began to behave and respond differently even though the pedal itself wasn’t introducing anything other than clean gain into the tone.
So the 2-band EQ can easily function more as a corrective EQ to compensate for tonal changes that come as a byproduct of driving the amp harder, super convenient!
Because of the additional gain knob and EQ, this pedal takes some extra time to dial in than normal, great for tone tweakers, but those who just want a simple button they press for extra volume may feel impatient using this pedal.
6. Friedman Buxom Boost Pedal
Anyone who’s even a little familiar with the great amp modders will know all about Dave Friedman, responsible for creating amps for the likes of Van Halen, Fredrik Thordendal, and Dino Cazares.
This guy truly knows his stuff and I trust his expertise implicitly.
This is one of the more in-depth boost pedals on the market and has a certain crossover between a volume boost, a tube screamer, and a straight up distortion pedal.
The Buxom Boost features a full 3-band EQ which felt very responsive, you can easily create a whole new sound using this to kick in during leads should you wish.
But if like me you’d prefer the pedal to be as transparent as possible there’s also a bypass toggle that completely removes the EQ from the circuit. A very welcome addition!
Another important feature on this pedal is the tight knob. Many amps tend to develop an unwieldy, flabby low end when driven hard from a boost pedal. This tight knob essentially sucks out some of the low boomy frequencies so you can keep the sound as tight as possible.
Of course, if you want to use this more as a traditional clean boost you can just bypass the EQ, keep the tight on about 2 and the boost below 6, then this sounds very much like any other clean boost pedal.
Unfortunately, it is a pretty ugly pedal, and for how feature complete it is they could have put in a bit more effort in the visual department so it looks cool on your pedalboard.
7. Mesa/Boogie Tone-
Burst Clean Boost Pedal
Everything Mesa Boogie makes oozes quality, and this pedal is no exception.
While the Tone-Burst is marketed as a straightforward boost pedal that provides up to +20db of volume, there are quite a few extra features going on here that allow it to be so much more.
But first, let’s talk about the looks, this is a beautiful pedal that has a metal plate bolted onto the housing. This will make your pedalboard look impressive if nothing else!
It’s also built like a tank and will have no problem withstanding the rigors of live performances.
The pedal features a 2-band EQ for corrective sculpting or you can craft a unique boosted tone.
In addition to the regular +20db volume boost there’s also a separate gain knob that allows you to saturate the distortion more.
I found this gain introduced quite a lot of harmonics into the sound, but they were pleasant and smooth, not harsh at all. I would definitely recommend using this as a lead boost!
No bypass for the 2-band eq means it’s always on and you’ll have to spend time dialing it in if you want a truly transparent sound.
Because of the black faceplate, I did find it quite difficult to see the settings when playing in dark environments, so make sure your settings are dialed in before heading on stage!
8. Fender Engager Boost Pedal
While the Fender Engager Boost is intended to be another more feature-rich boost pedal, it’s more subtle in its approach and strikes a great balance between implementing modern features while not alienating those who want a pure and honest clean boost.
The brushed aluminum pedal housing looks very sleek and modern, it clearly stood out as one of the most impressive-looking pedals on my board.
It also has an amazing feature where the knobs are LED backlit which is unbelievably helpful when playing on a dark stage. I wish more pedals utilized this!
There’s no gain knob this time, just singular level control and a 3-band EQ, but the middle knob of the EQ has a frequency switch to allow you to focus in on the hi-mids or lo-mids depending on your requirements.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to bypass this EQ, so purists may find this pedal frustrating as there is a degree of tonal coloration applied to your sound no matter where you set the knobs.
With that being said the overall impact of this EQ when set at 12 o'clock is very subtle, I’m confident even purists will be happy with it.
The offset ¼” jacks are not that pleasant to wire into a pedalboard, but the 9v battery door is a really nifty and welcome addition.
For what this pedal offers it’s also priced exceptionally well and is one of the best bang for your buck pedals on this list!
The Difference Between a Distortion Pedal and a Clean Boost
Sometimes the terminology used in the pedal world can be a bit confusing, especially when functionalities overlap so greatly.
The main difference between any old regular distortion pedal and a purpose-built clean boost is in the coloration of the sound.
Regular distortion pedals are designed to have their own character and introduce new harmonics and tonal response into your guitar tone that is different from what your amplifier could achieve by itself.
A great example of this is something like the very popular Friedman BE-OD which takes your current amps sound and adjusts it to sound more like the Friedman Brown eye.
Whereas a clean boost is designed to be transparent and not introduce new characteristics to your sound. This is preferable if you already love the sound of your guitar amplifier but just want to enhance the pre-existing characteristics.
The Benefits of Having EQ Bands on a Clean Boost
At this point you may be asking yourself, well if a clean boost is supposed to be transparent, why do so many pedals have 2 or 3-band EQs on them?
There are 2 main reasons for this, the first is functional. Sometimes as you throw more signal into the preamp of your amp, the tone will naturally change by itself and introduce new harmonics.
The important distinction is that this coloration exists as a byproduct of driving your amp harder and not a new sound introduced by the pedal.
Sometimes these harmonics may be a little obnoxious or undesirable, so having the ability to keep them under control is always helpful.
The second reason is creative, some guitarists like to kick their clean boost pedal on during a particular section of a song to give it some extra energy.
So the ability to cut some bass and add a bit of top end can help your guitar slice through the band and pop a little more can be extremely helpful.
To True Bypass or Not to True Bypass
One of the features you’ve probably noticed on a lot of clean boost pedals is that they are true bypass.
True bypass means that when the pedal is switched off, your signal completely bypasses the circuitry meaning there is absolutely zero coloration to your guitar tone, it’s as if your cable just passes straight through the pedal.
If you’re not looking to have your clean boost as an always-on pedal, then true bypass is an important thing to consider when making your purchase.
On the other hand, if you will always have your clean boost on, then true bypass is less necessary as your signal will always pass through the pedal anyway.
Enhanced Guitar Tone
A clean boost is a fantastic, yet subtle way to bring out the best in an already great guitar tone.
Instead of overwriting your meticulously crafted sound with a big obnoxious distortion pedal, a clean boost is the perfect way to drive your pre-amp harder and simply give you more.
I hope you find the information shared in this article helpful and have fun picking out your dream clean boost!