Carl Martin – Boost Kick REVIEW

The Boost Kick is as much an EQ as it is a booster. In fact, it passes both disciplines with flying colors. Clean boost, colored boost or unity gain EQ – the Boost Kick has your back…

Carl Martin’s Boost Kick has gained quite a reputation among guitarists, but a pedal that offers EQ controls for lows, mids and highs along with clean boost sounds like something that might fit a bass player as well.

 

 

carl-martin-boost-kick-knobsThe control part is simple – just 4 knobs and a footswitch. 3 of the knobs control the EQ bands, but they are named a bit creatively: PUNCH, ATTACK and EDGE. It may be a little odd when they in fact just represent bass, mid and treble, but they actually do describe what they do pretty well.

All of the EQ knobs offer a -/+ 20 dB cut or boost. PUNCH is targeted at 40 Hz, ATTACK at 1 kHz and EDGE at 12 kHz. The 4th knob controls the LEVEL and you will find unity gain (with the EQ controls at noon) at around 10 o’clock. You can get up to 12 dB of clean boost out of this pedal.

 

 

white headphone with rhythm symbol

This review builds on 6 rounds of sound clips. First each of the EQ bands are being approached methodically, demoed at 0%, 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% positions on a fingerstyle sound clip. In Round 4, you can listen to various degrees of a scooped sound on fingerstyle, and in round 5 a similar concept for slap. Round 6 demos a couple of different settings on a muted groove.

 

NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!

NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.

BUTTON-SOUND-CLIPS

 

 

How versatile can a relatively simple EQ and booster really be? Well, if the boost is indeed ‘clean’, which is the case with this stompbox, and the EQ center frequencies are chosen wisely (according to your needs and preference), it can be very versatile. While the frequencies for the Boost Kick EQ circuit may have chosen with guitarists in mind, it does work great with bass.

In fact, the 40 Hz bass boost is similar to the classic Sadowsky and Aguilar DB924 preamps’ center frequency. The ATTACK mid control (1 kHz) works great as well and ‘attack’ is actually a good description as that is what you get if you boost this knob a bit – a nice bite in the upper mid-range. The EDGE frequency (12 kHz) is above what you would see in many bass preamps, but the Q must be fairly wide as it seems to also affect frequencies further down in the spectrum.

I really like that you can set the LEVEL knob to boost your overall volume, or turn it back if you tweak the EQ in a way so the tone will naturally increase in volume. In other words, you can dial back to unity gain, which is perfect if you are looking for a certain tone to punch in, but don’t want to increase the overall level. It may seem like a small thing, but in real life it is often essential.

As mentioned in the CONTROL section, you can squeeze up to 12 dB of additional gain out of this pedal. It may not be impressive on paper compared to other boost pedals offering more than 20 dB of pure boosting powers, but in all honesty I have never used more than a few dB (6-8 tops) for boosting my clean sound. I am sure for guitar players who want to push the signal feeding their old tube heads, more gain may well be necessary, but for bass – 12 dB is more than enough.

In conclusion, you can 1) boost the clean way, 2) shape your tone at unity gain or boost or 3) color and boost. Well, you could also use it to lower your overall output, but I would find it extremely rare to need that. Overall, for a tool of this type I find it very versatile and useful.

 

 

The Kick Boost is rock solid and seems capable of being ‘kicked around’ without suffering any damage. As for the functional design, I have no issues. Sure, semi-parametric EQ would have been great, but then there is always the Carl Martin 3 Band Parametric Preamp… For what this pedal promises, the design delivers just fine.

If I should mention but one little thing, this pedal is taking up a bit of space on the pedal board. With just 4 knobs, 1 LED and 1 footswitch, this pedal could have been much smaller. But I do recognize how this ‘standard size’ for Carl Martin have contributed to keeping the cost down by simply reusing an already-existing design.

 

 

Today (2015), the street price for a Boost Kick has dropped from its initial list price of $230 to $120. For a pedal of this quality and versatility, I found this a very reasonable price. Almost too good to be true.

 

 

In my view, the Boost Kick sums up great features, sound and usability at a price point that is hard to beat. Had it been half the size, I would have considered installing 2 or 3 on the board for various tone ‘presets’ right at my feet.

 

PROS

Sounds great

Versatile

Well-designed

Great value for money

 

CONS

Fairly big footprint

 

SCORE

SOUND: 87

VERSATILITY: 82

BUILD QUALITY: 82

DESIGN & USABILITY: 79

VALUE FOR MONEY: 97

TOTAL SCORE: 85.4

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