Can Something so Cheap be Any Good?
In the case of this Clean Boost Pedal by Donner, the answer is absolutely yes. This pedal, put simply totally blows me away as far as value for money goes.
I’ve been a bit of a pedal whore for a long time, but after meeting new budget challenges a few years ago I had to stop because pedals are expensive. Except now and for about the last year or two I’ve discovered the joy of cheap Chinese pedals… not only cheap by the way, but reliable and of a quality that is up to the rigours of live use.
The Donner Boost Killer is based on the Xotic RC Booster and as far as I know it’s the same circuit as the Mooer Pure Boost. In all honesty my initial interest in this pedal (and others in the range) came from the ridiculously low price. Combining an introductory price and a coupon code I got the Boost Killer for $28 direct from China, shipping included in the price! The standard price of the Boost Killer is about $35.
So I liked this pedal enough to buy a 2nd one and, so far in my rig I prefer it to all the other overdrives I’ve tried out on my small pedal board. I recently added a Mooer Flex Boost (an Xotic AC Booster clone), which I like because it has just a little more gain, but I prefer the transparency of the Boost Killer.
The Boost Killer seems to have the perfect balance around the midrange for my tastes, which to me gives it the natural sound of an amp. The EQ knobs seem to be a little uneven as you turn the pot though, the transition through the boost or cut of the bass & treble isn’t all that gradual, but I don’t find that a problem really as I’m still able to find the spot I like and leave it there.
I also like the tiny controls on the EQ and level settings. They don’t get accidentally changed under the feet and it leaves the large gain control easily accessible for on-the-fly changes. I get a lot of use out of that gain knob.
I don’t know if this is a common use with other players or not, but I have found a great application for one of my Boost Killers. I use it as a “Clean-up” control. It’s common to set the amp clean, add an overdrive or boost and use the pedal as a 2nd channel. However in my case I love the sound of the guitar and amp set to some overdrive. It’s the amp’s sweet-spot setting for me and having a pedal to get the amp “there” doesn’t have the same magic. I apply the principle the opposite way round.
So my “clean” channel is overdriven, my first Boost Killer is set to reduce gain, making the sound clean (more on that at the end) and I now have the best of both worlds. A 2nd Boost Killer is there for all-out lead boost which just pushes tons of level into the amp, sending the amp into it’s own expression of distortion, which always sounds better to me than relying on the distortion of any pedal, cheap or expensive.
So what about the “cleanup” pedal? My amp is a Quilter Tone Block 200. If you haven’t tried one, then do! Once you do, you’ll understand!
On the Tone Block I really like the tone when the contour control is set to a Blackface Fender type setting for cleans and I like it more to the right, like Marshall/Tweed Fender for overdrive. After extensive experimentation I have found the combination of settings that work for me and on stage they work superbly well.
The core sound as I call it is light overdrive with a mid-range focused tone and so to arrive at a more mid-scooped tone for cleans I put the Boost Killer to work. With the gain on minimum and by increasing the bass and treble to taste on the Boost Killer and then reducing the output level I can effectively scoop out mids at the pedal. I tweaked it until it was close to the sound I get from the mid-scooped setting I liked on the amp’s contour control. Reducing mids reduces gain because that is where the bulk of the guitar’s signal lies. Take out the midrange and you’re taking out plenty of signal.
It works very well. and with a quick spin of the gain knob on the Boost Killer it turns into an overdrive, not unlike that of a cranked blackface amp. Combined with the 2nd Boost Killer for lead boost I have four individual stages of gain and plenty of combinations between them.
Now here’s an added bonus to this setup. Because they’re the same pedal I can choose to swap the order of the Boost and cleanup/overdrive pedal by just changing the settings on each without having to re-arrange my board. I change my mind enough with regard to the pedal order for this to be a huge convenience.
So much versatility and tonal magic for a total of $70! It’s a really fun time to be a guitarist!
The video covers most of what I’ve explained with sounds!
Disclaimer: If you buy the Donner Boost Killer via this link I make a small commission… and I do mean small!