Positive Grid Spark Control review: What is it?
By now, every guitarist knows who Positive Grid are. In fact, with how many Spark units were sold last year, you probably own one of their hi-tech desktop amps (opens in new tab) already! Now, while we’ve gotten hands-on with many of their other products, including the much-celebrated Spark 40 (opens in new tab) and its little brother, the Spark Mini (opens in new tab), we thought it would be best to take a closer look at the advanced accessories the practice amp (opens in new tab) gurus are offering.
Functions: Presets, Effects, Songs/Backing Track, Control Experience Jimi Hendrix expansion
Battery: Built-in rechargeable battery (150+ hours of playtime)
Dimensions: 248 x 70 x 45mm
Buy at Positive Grid (opens in new tab)
The Spark Control, as the name suggests, is a footswitch designed to manage the many features included in the Spark series of amplifiers, as well as its accompanying mobile app. Better yet, this controller is completely wireless, seamlessly connecting to your amp and phone via Bluetooth.
The Spark Control pushes tradition aside, focusing instead on arming modern players with a list of contemporary features they demand from a state-of-the-art footswitch.
Coming pre-loaded with four customizable "scenarios" that assign a combination of popular functions to each footswitch, as well as the option to save a further four of your own, this footswitch has almost every situation covered.
The current functions the footswitch can operate are; assigning and changing presets, appointing and switching on/off effects, as well as playback of backing tracks and Smart Jam.
The Spark Control is battery-operated, with Positive Grid boasting that the footswitch lasts a whopping four months on a single charge - provided you keep your playing to around an hour a day.
Positive Grid Spark Control review: Performance & verdict
Keeping to Positive Grid’s philosophy of producing well-made, undersized guitar products, the Spark Control feels sturdy, sleekly designed and satisfying to stomp on despite its small stature. Measuring in at a mere 248 x 70 x 45mm, this really is a miniature footswitch and certainly wouldn’t look out of place on one of the Borrower’s pedalboards.
While we are all for space-saving guitar accessories, we have to admit that for some players, this may stray into the ‘too small’ category - with the particularly large-footed player potentially having an issue switching channels without accidentally pressing two of the buttons. Truthfully, this wasn’t an issue for us, but we could see it being a problem for others.
In true Positive Grid fashion, the Spark Control is incredibly easy to set up. Simply fire up the app and connect to your amp like you normally would, and you’ll be able to also pair with the footswitch at the same time. In our test, we found pairing the device to be completely painless, with our device connecting straight away and ready to rock in a matter of seconds!
Now, while it was very simple to set up with the app, that actually brings us to our biggest complaint with this state-of-the-art footswitch. Unfortunately, the switcher must be connected to a mobile device to work - meaning you cannot use the Spark Control if the app isn’t running.
Now, this may sound like a minor issue, but in reality, it does seem like a bit of an oversight. As both of the amps in the series allow you to operate them without the app connected, with four presets for the Mini and seven for the original Spark, it would have been beneficial if you could use the footswitch to scroll through the presets saved directly to the unit. Okay, this isn’t a deal breaker for us, but it is something we’d like to see rectified in future releases.
On the note of the mobile application, we also have to mention that you need to keep the app engaged for the footswitch to work correctly. If your phone or tablet goes into sleep mode, the footswitch will disconnect.
The beauty of the Spark Control is its ability to adapt to your playing style. Straight out of the box, it comes loaded with four pre-programmed “scenarios” that are set to perform the most commonly requested functions. As you’d expect, in Preset mode, the pedal allows you to toggle between the preset amplifiers. Perfect for those looking to drastically switch up their sound in the middle of a song.
When set to Effects mode, the footswitch behaves more like a traditional pedalboard (opens in new tab), permitting you to turn on and off individual stomps. It’s worth noting that you can’t assign more than one pedal per pedal category. So, for example, you can’t have two chorus stompboxes in one scene.
Playback mode is ideal for those who use their Spark to play along with backing tracks or take advantage of the clever Smart Jam functionality on the app. In this mode, the footswitch will operate playback controls such as start, stop, half speed, and rewind, giving you hands-free control over your backing tracks.
As well as the pre-loaded scenarios, the Spark Control also allows you to customize and save your own functions, with the ability to recall them whenever you want. Positive Grid has said that this pedal is “future proof”, meaning that as more users give their feedback, they are likely to add more functionality.
We love to see a looper (opens in new tab) function added to the app, and we certainly aren’t alone in thinking that. Spark fans have been asking for it for a while now, so you never know, hopefully, it’s something we’ll see in the future.
MusicRadar's verdict: The Spark Control makes an already intuitive series of amplifiers even easier to use, giving players hands-free control over a wealth of features. While the unit is far from perfect - we’d like to be able to use it without the Spark app open, for example - it’s clear that Positive Grid is trying to go the extra mile when it comes to a modern footswitch that does justice to their beloved amps. We’d say if you have either the Spark or Spark Mini, then you most definitely should consider picking one up.
Positive Grid Spark Control review: Hands-on demos
Positive Grid Spark Control review: Specifications
- Switches: 4
- Functions: Presets, Effects, Songs/Backing Track, Control Experience Jimi Hendrix expansion
- Battery: Built-in rechargeable battery (150+ hours of playtime)
- Input voltage: Supports 9v power supply
- Dimensions: 248 x 70 x 45mm
- Weight: 0.31kg
- Included: Spark Control Foot Switch, USB Cable, Quick Start Guide
- Contact: Positive Grid (opens in new tab)