I have been shopping for a boost pedal for quite some time, and found the TC Electronic Spark Booster to be a worthy candidate. But if there is anything that experience has taught me, it’s not to zero in on any particular brand, but to check out as many options as you can and pick the best one. Therefore, I set up an A/B test with the Spark Booster, the new MXR Micro Amp+, two boutique pedals whose names I cannot even recall (just about the impression that they made, by the way) and last but not least the subject of this review: the Mad Professor Ruby Red Booster.
“Ruby” is a combination of a clean booster, overdrive and treble booster. There is a whopping 40 dB of boost in this unit. That is a lot! It can easily drive just about any amp into crunch. On the clean channel of the Blackstar, it produced some serious grit and compression (not to mention a big, big smile), and when switching to the crunch channel, keeping the gain control at about 9 o’clock for my signature rock sound, the booster kicked the overtones and sustain into the stratosphere. Even bigger smile! It has an amazing warmth and attitude, which is perhaps hardly surprising given its all-analog nature.
What I didn’t particularly like was the treble booster. It doesn’t provide a proper treble boost as I’m used to hearing it, instead producing a notched sound not dissimilar to a wah pedal that’s been pressed down a bit. It is a cool tone if you don’t have a wah pedal and want some form of coloration effect for the odd part here and there. It is not what I would want for every solo, let alone in an always-on pedal. Use with care!
The final verdict is quite likely a surprising conclusion: the Ruby Red Booster was the best pure booster pedal, but I wound up buying the TC Electronic Spark Booster instead. The analog Ruby trounced the digital Spark on sound, but not by much, definitely not enough to compensate for the greater general flexibility of the Spark. Another factor that was never far from my mind when weighing the options was the price. I have yet to find a boutique pedal that has been worth the premium, and the Ruby Red Booster is no exception. Maybe if I abused my pedals on stage every week I would spring for the more expensive option, but at this stage, I have to concede that for once, good enough actually is good enough.