Tone Reflection – Boosting the Juice
Jon Dickinson is a man who spares no expense or effort when it comes to making something. His amps, pedals and guitars exhibit beauty, simplicity and pure tonal transfer. His new Boost pedal is a little one-knob wonder that physically and metaphorically reflects his beginnings as a builder. The Dickinson Boost was the first pedal—and indeed piece of gear—that Jon ever built back in the pre-boutique pedal days of the ‘90s when he was working on Denmark Street in London. In fact, my own humble beginnings in the gear industry began on the same street when I first moved to the UK, but that is another story for another time. Back then, Jon was after a semi-transparent boost that didn’t add shrill high end or excess flubby lows to the tonal equation. So, he started with the legendary LPB1 schematic, deconstructed it, reconstructed it and ended up with a much more flexible circuit with some totally unorthodox mojo going on under the hood. Many years, gears and ears later, the Dickinson Boost is finally available to the public.
Like his incredible stainless steel valve preamps—the D1 Overdrive and P1 Preamp—the Dickinson Boost is completely custom-designed and handmade. There are no circuit boards, no cheap components and no convoluted signal paths to get our personal touch lost in a labyrinth of messy gain structure. This is a pure tone emission machine and it is as beautiful to look at and hold, as it is to hear. Let’s twist that custom-milled Antennae Studios knob and hear the pure tone reflections shimmer.
Shiny Beast – Signal Chain Puller
The first time I jacked into this little musical mirror machine was actually in Jon’s studio-workshop down in Crystal Palace, a tightknit creative community on the outskirts of London. He set me up on a little one-watt valve amp that his talented assistant had wired up. Before engaging the Boost, I hit a chord and was privy to an amazing lively burst of tube goodness that could only be described as a dynamic three-way dance of JMP, AC15 and vintage Champ breakup. Needless to say, I hope that little beasty pops up in the product line. I thought things couldn’t really get better after a few minutes’ bash, but then I engaged the Boost set just past noon—kerrang went the harmonic chimes and off to the Malcolm Fountain of Young I went. Whacking up the dial to full didn’t add volume or treble spikes like lesser boosts, but rather massaged the signal with a slight compression-sustain that bloomed and released in a Billy G-type of dynamic interplay. It was hard to stop playing—the sign of a keeper. Everything was close to the edge and a rare balance of EQ slight-blowout exhibited, but the signal never became garbled or nasty in a bad way.
Speaking of “nasty in a bad way,” when I got the box home, the Boost passed a test seldom achievable with a one-knob booster: it sounded amazing in front of my ‘80s solid state Marshall 5210 combo. The juice flowed in much the same way as it did with the tube amp and I never had to shave off highs, lows or fiddle around with volume spikes. I even reassigned roles for the Boost and tried it at the end of a long true bypass pedal chain to see if it could be a full-freq line driver. It excelled as a caboose juice maintainer as well.
What We Like
I haven’t had this much fun with a simple one-knob gain box since the Xotic EP Booster. Jon Dickinson knows that fewer controls can often yield more tones and functions. The Dickinson Boost is beautifully balanced and built to outlast the cockroaches. It is over-engineered without being over-priced—a rare thing these days. It is work of tonal and physical art.