We were as surprised as anyone to find out that Mesa/Boogie, bona fide guitar and bass amplifier legend, has decided to dip its tone-obsessed toe into the crowded waters of the pedal market.
The guys from Petaluma have built pedals before - the valve-powered V-Twin, for example, has its own place in history - but releasing a quartet of 'normal' stompboxes into a saturated market? Well, with a 40-year-plus reputation for some of the most memorable distortion tones of all time, you might argue that saturation is exactly Mesa's business.
"A simple gain boost without any additional overdrive can affect amplifiers in very different ways"
Each of the new pedals shares the same sturdy metal chassis into which is loaded its custom PCB-based innards. The pedals are a little taller than the 'standard' MXR-type box, and finished to impeccable standards. All the jacks and pots are securely screwed to the chassis, the only downside being the forever-annoying task of removing four screws to access the batteries. Like most of the range, the Tone-Burst specifies a 15mA current draw (slightly higher than many overdrives) - you get a good few hours off a nine- volter, or use an AC adaptor.
Boost is a much misunderstood 'effect', if we dare call it that, primarily because a simple gain boost without any additional overdrive can affect amplifiers in very different ways, depending on how the amp is set. For example, you might want the boost to take your clean signal to a higher clean level, or you might want the boost to send an already overdriving amp further into saturation and compression.
The Tone-Burst can do both jobs - and everything in between - offering up to 20dB boost. You also get powerful, active bass and treble EQ boost/ cut, which is extremely useful depending on what amps and guitars you're using.
"We find it addictive running into a just-on-the-edge-of-overdrive valve amp"
As we've said, what the Tone-Burst sounds like really depends on how your amp is set. We find it addictive running into a just-on-the-edge-of-overdrive valve amp where it pushes the amp a little harder, meaning notes and chords smooth off into drive around the edges. For many players, an overdrive pedal might alter the tone too radically, whereas this just gives you more of what you want: your guitar and amp.
The EQ controls are extremely useful, too, enabling you to tweak things for the boosted tone: for example, to cut through a busy mix, push single notes out harder, give you more bottom-end support, smooth the top off, or what have you. It sounds like you, but more so!
The Tone-Burst is a boost we'd recommend to anyone for the quality of its sounds and feel, professional build and versatile control setup: it's a sure-fire winner when paired with any quality valve amp.