A good clean boost can be the best stomp of them all when a little extra volume is all you need. The TC Spark can do that – and so much more…
Let’s get one thing clear from the start. The Spark does clean boost with flying colors. I have used it for subtle boost of my ‘regular’ tone mid-song to cut better through the mix and I have used it more aggressively – yet still with a clean tone – for the rare solo bass part and it does both effortlessly. Now that we got that sorted, I will focus on the additional tools that the Spark booster has to offer during the rest of this review.
The Spark Booster has four knobs: LEVEL that offers a healthy 26 dB of clean boost, GAIN that introduces subtle overdrive in much the same way as tubes being driven hard, starting to break up the tone (but without ever entering the true overdrive territory) and two BASS and TREBLE tone controls. The tone controls are active and have a cut/boost design with center click, which allows you to set the tone controls in an absolute neutral position.
You also get a 3-way switch that is neutral in the CLEAN position. If you flip it to the FAT position the lows get boosted more than the rest and, likewise, if you go to the MID position the mid frequencies get a boost.
As mentioned, clean boost is covered and I don’t find it necessary to create audio clips to demo that – it does it and it does it well without messing with the core fundamentals of your tone,. So in the Sound Clips section you can hear the Spark add EQ, grit and some subtle, natural compression as the gain gets cranked up.
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.
A booster is by nature not very versatile, but as you have heard if you went through the sound clips, this pedal has so much more than clean boost on the feature list. The EQ alone makes this one a great tool for either boosting the clean tone and at the same time shape it a bit for e.g. slapping or increased, growly mids. Or you could use it as an always-on type of pedal that is a part of your fundamental tone-shaping arsenal, including a touch of gentle drive.
The build quality is on the usual, high level that we have grown accustomed to with the TonePrint range of pedals from TC. The die cast chassis is sturdy and the knobs and footswitch have never caused me any trouble.
With regard to the design, look and feel is so subjective, but from a more practical design point of view, I like the knob layout and the easy battery access (just use a pick or a coin to loosen the big screw) is great if you don’t run it off a power supply. Oh, and did I mention that the LED is white and super-funky-looking? Well, it is!
The Spark Booster is easy to operate. You do get a lot of different tonal options to play around with, but every knob and switch on the pedal does what you would expect from the labeling.
The MSRP price of the TC Electronic Spark Booster is $177, but the street price seems to have settled around $115 today (2015). This is the actual price and the one the value for money parameter should be based on.
With the great possibilities hidden in this pedal – for kick-in effect as well as basic tone-shaping tools – I would really have had no problem with paying the original asking price. In other words, I think the value for this pedal is very high.
No doubt, I really like this one. It works great as a clean boost, it sounds great when adding gentle grit and dirt, the tone controls works great with or without dirt and the toggle switch is quite useful even though it’s made with guitar in mind first.
Does the Boost job perfectly
Sounds great for adding gentle tube-like grit
Dedicated tone controls and toggle switch ‘presets’
Very high value for money
Not much to talk about…