At first glance the TC Electronic Spark Booster looks like it may function as a very vanilla clean boost pedal. Fortunately TC put some bells and whistles into this pedal that make it really fun to play and especially fun to record with. I tested it out while recording an artist that I work with named Jordan Cooper while tracking guitars for his upcoming full length album at The Buddy Project Recording Studio.
As one would expect from TC Electronic, the build of this pedal is solid yet small enough to fit into a pedalboard without taking up unnecessary real estate. The controls consist of a level and gain knob as well as a low and high EQ knob. There is a switch in the middle of the pedal that adjusts the nature of the EQ from fat, clean and mid boost. All three variables are very useful but the fat selection was a position that I kept returning to. For the recording session our goal was to track some nasty, dirty rhythm guitars to bolster pre-existing clean guitars. We used a Gibson Les Paul 72’ through a Vox AC15 amplifier.
The Spark Booster was a great pedal to use for this task. The gain and level controls can be used to simply act as a clean boost to hit the preamp tubes harder, but the internal distortion within the pedal can also add a cool, pedal specific grit that could never happen from an amp. As I twisted through tonal varieties to get a great crunchy sound for this record, I noticed that a little bit of gain through the pedal, paired with a crunch from the amp itself allowed for our additional guitar tracks to cut through in a pleasant mid range manner that I would not have been able to achieve without such a pedal. The distortions became more complex with variations in attack and sustain that an amp alone would not be able to create. For certain solos I started to push the low and high end with the pedal EQ to gain an almost stratocaster type of hyped lead sound.
In a quick recording session where the vibe of the moment is just as important as getting a great guitar sound, I found this pedal to be extremely useful. After tracking rhythm guitars we decided upon adding some noisy fuzzed out layers to the chorus of the song. I used the Spark Booster in front of a boutique fuzz pedal to push the fuzz pedal into a new sonic territory. The result was a smoother, less broken up fuzz that could have sustaining highs and lows that would usually be found with intense amounts of fuzz. I could still hear all of the notes that were played but I was able to achieve violin sustain. The literature from the TC Electronic website suggests that the Spark Booster can add compression as well as grit to guitar tone. Although some subtle compression can be had from this pedal, I would not suggest it in replacement for a dedicated compression pedal. The Spark Booster is a gem for a pedal board but is most useful when used in conjunction with other gain based effects.
Shane O’Connor is a producer, engineer, mixer located in Brooklyn NY. He has worked with artists such as Fast Years, Tab The Band, Madi Diaz, and Xylofaux. He currently works out of The Buddy Project Studio in Astoria Queens. www.shanemix.com