We’ve been very impressed by the recent new line of guitar pedals released by Seymour Duncan, particularly the Vapor Trail Analog Delay, 805 Overdrive, and Vise Grip Compressor. One of the few pedals in the new lineup that isn’t a completely new design is the revamped Pickup Booster, the original SFX-01 Pickup Booster being the pedal that the popular pickup manufacturer is best known for. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot has changed besides the new enclosure and updated graphics, but it’s worth a closer look nevertheless.
- 0 to 25 dB gain range
- 3 Way ‘Resonance’ switch
- DC input (9-18v) and dedicated battery compartment with ‘easy access door’
- True Bypass
A common complaint with the original pickup booster was the fact that it would still boost the signal by 6dB, even at it’s minimum setting, but this new version is capable of reducing the boost level down to unity gain, which is likely the biggest difference between the two versions. Besides the obvious benefit (more subtle boost settings), this also means that it can now double as a simple buffer, keeping your high end intact in spite of long cable runs and too many true bypass pedals.
The only other control, the three-position resonance switch, is meant to mimic the sound of either a vintage (setting 1) or modern (setting 2) humbucking pickup by shifting the resonant (i.e. strongest) frequency. It’s a relatively bold claim, but who would know this stuff better than world-renowned pickup builder, Seymour Duncan. Due to their inherent design, besides having a higher output and obviously less interference, humbuckers have a lower resonant frequency than single-coils. So, in order to make a single coil sound more like a humbucker, lowering the resonant frequency and raising the output would be probably be as close as one could get (considering copying the entire frequency response is not a feasible option in a basic analog circuit in a stomp box). Also, in order for the toggle switch to work, the pedal needs to be connected directly (without any other circuitry in between) to a passive, single coil equipped guitar.
The Pickup Booster also takes up to 18 volts, in order to increase headroom which can be useful in an effects loop, or for use with non-guitar type signals. Although it’s a pretty straightforward pedal, the user’s guide still proved quite useful, providing a couple of suggested settings. Most companies rarely bother, but I always appreciate a company making an effort to convey the thoughts behind the product. As I mentioned in my review of the Vise Grip Compressor, the enclosure is not standard, it’s slightly bigger than usual and the top side (where the jacks are mounted) is removable, which I assume makes the pedal easier to assemble. And of course there’s the same new battery compartment from their new pedal range with the ‘easy access’ door, allowing for battery changes without removing the backplate.
On the inside there isn’t a whole lot to see, as this is a fairly basic circuit. There are separate circuit boards for the switch and the rest of the circuit, and it’s constructed using mostly surface mount components, just like the first version.
Sound & Performance:
In essence, the Pickup Booster is a clean boost, making your signal louder without affecting the frequency content (i.e. amplifying all frequencies equally). This doesn’t sound like the most exciting type of pedal, and it isn’t, but it does the job well and doesn’t seem to alter the overall tone, characteristic of a good clean boost pedal.
Obviously depending on the rest of your rig and where it’s placed in the chain, it either adds volume or increases the amount of distortion in the following gain stage(s), that being either another pedal or the amp itself. As a buffer/line driver it’s as transparent as they come, and I could see it being useful in more elaborate setups with longer cable runs for this reason.
The taper on the pedal’s (only) knob is pretty intuitive, up until 9 o’ clock the boost is minimal, which worked well when, for example, compensating for the difference in output between the bridge and neck pickups on some of my guitars. Using my telecaster, with the Pickup Booster’s ‘Gain’ knob set around noon, the preamp tubes in my Fender Deluxe Reverb started clipping slightly. Any higher than that really depends on how clean your amp is voiced, but 25dB of boost should be plenty of gain for most situations. And even at maximum boost I appreciated the fact that there was minimal added noise.
When placed first in the chain, the extra tonal options provided by the ‘Resonance’ switch are a useful addition, and I could see it coming in handy in a live situation where I wouldn’t want to switch guitars.
I also tested the effectiveness of the resonance switch when the pedal is placed later down the signal chain, and I was glad to find that there is still a noticeable difference between the settings whenever any true bypass pedals in front of it are unengaged, but as expected I hear no change whatsoever when those are buffered.
Whenever any pedal in front is active, it really depends on the type of circuit whether or not the switch has any effect at all, but placed after the right fuzz pedal or overdrive I found the slightly darkening effect to be quite desirable.
Like I mentioned in my Vise Grip review, with the exception of the plastic battery door, I dig the sturdy enclosure and the no frills approach of this series, it feels reliable, which is especially important with a boost pedal, as they tend to get stomped on often in the heat of the moment. While some guitarists are starting to desire more utility out of every pedal in their chain (like an overdrive that could also function as a clean boost if needed), the Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster is still a great contender if all you need is a boost.
The Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster still maintains its status as a quality clean boost & line driver for budget-minded guitarists. As far as controls go, there’s only one knob and a switch, so operation is a no brainer. I also dig the fact that although it’s mainly a clean boost, it does offer some tonal variation if needed. It’s also a cheaper pedal to manufacture than the Seymour Duncan pedals we reviewed earlier, and it’s nice to see this reflected in their pricing as it’s in line with most other higher end boosters out there. Although not mind blowing by any means (clean boosts rarely are) the Pickup Booster is a solid choice for anybody looking to add some flexibility to their setup.
That concludes our Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster Hi-Def Boost & Line Driver review. Thanks for reading.