Chugs For Less: the D-Sound Pedals Iceberg Boost
Many "modern" guitarists confuse me. They play seven, eight, nine and 10 string guitars. They use the Fractal Axe-Fx, Kemper Profiler, and Quad Cortex for amplification. Their guitars have fanned frets, Evertune bridges, and the latest active pickups. They embrace the latest guitar gear tech and eschew more traditional approaches (for the most part). But it seems that there's ONE thing even the most "advanced" guitarist holds onto from "the past": a Boost pedal.
Why a Boost pedal? Well, to answer that question requires a little review of classic guitar pedals and guitar tone history with a quite surprising starting point: Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Ibanez Tube Screamer. SRV famously used the Ibanez Tube Screamer as a Boost effect. The Level was turned all the way up, the Gain was turned all the way down and the Tone knob was adjusted to taste. Somehow, this practice was adopted by several metal bands. I can't place who the first band was or when they first did it but it has become a common practice amongst the heavier music genres for at least 20 years.
SRV's pedalboard w/ an Ibanez TS9
Photo Credit: EffectsBay.com
Why exactly would bands who use such HIGH GAIN amps need a Boost? In my opinion, it all boils down to the unique sonic character of the circuit: a midrange hump and a roll-off of the Bass frequencies. This give the guitar tone a tighter response, more presence in the mix and an added aggression from emphasized midrange. Other pedals have been used for a similar effect over the years, like the TC Electronic Integrated Preamp (which inspired the Westminster Effects Augustine V2), but the principle is always the same: tighten the lows and add some aggression.
This leads us to a group of pioneers in Metal: Meshuggah.
Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah, a true pioneer of Metal
Photo Credit: guitar-compare.com
It there's any band that has inspired the modern metal movement and its proclivities, it's MESHUGGAH. Since 1987 this band has pushed the boundaries of heavy metal but no record seems to cement their influence like 2002's "Nothing". This record saw the band adopted the eight-string guitar as their primary instruments, which became their calling card and a defining characteristic of their sound. It would take a while before eight-strings became widely available but when they did become available it seemed like EVERY metal band started using them. And with these new guitar came new challenges in achieving tone. But it seemed the Meshuggah boys already had it figured out...
Amongst the various pieces of gear that helped define the aggressive sounds the band created was the TC Electronic Integrated Preamp. But like any guitarist, times change and new tools are needed. In 2017, Fredrik Thordendal partnered with Fortin Amps to release the 33 pedal. The concept was simple: a single-knob boost pedal that would provide the tightened low end and added aggression needed for the band's low tunings and music. It achieved the same results many metal bands were looking for in a simple package. But there were a couple issues when the pedal came out: 1) the pedal sold out almost as soon as they were made and 2) the price was close to $250. Both aspects left some guitarists feeling a little less than thrilled. Although the supply of the pedal seems to have stabilized (the Fortin website currently has them available for purchase) the price isn't exactly budget friendly.
Necessity is often the mother of invention and those circumstances are the perfect setup for necessity. And here is where we meet D-Sound Pedals.
The Fisherman aka the Scuba Cat pedal
This isn't our first encounter with D-Sound Pedals. Based in St. Petersburg, Russia my first experience with the work of D-Sound came in the form of a clone of the Friedman BE-OD called the Fisherman. I was very impressed by the quality of build and how close the sound was to the original. And to answer the question some of you are probably asking: no, I don't think there's anything wrong buying clones of pedals. Cloning pedals is a good thing. Cloning is how builders learn. But it also provides folks a chance to have access to pedals that might be out of their budget OR hard to buy in their region of the world.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
The Iceberg Boost is a definite product of necessity. Basically, it is a clone of the Fortin 33 pedal. A single volume control sets the level of boost.
It's designed to be used with a dirty, high gain amp! While it does provide a significant boost for your dirty amp it also imparts the characteristic low end roll-off/tightening and added aggression for your low-tuned seven string (or eight string, or nine string, whatever) guitar. The one thing the Iceberg Boost lacks that the Fortin 33 has is an input jack that you can hook up to your amp's channel selector so you can turn the pedal On & Off and change channels with one switch.
But that feature isn't a deal breaker for me. And considering the Iceberg is $100 as opposed to $250+...I call that a win!
Watch the Demo!
There's a beauty in the simplicity that the Iceberg Boost offers. It achieves so much with so little work. One click and BOOM you're tone is tighter and more aggressive! It's basically the perfect modern metal boost pedal. If you're playing low-tuned instruments or extended range instruments then you don't need to look any further.
I played the Iceberg with my Orsmby SX GTR in Standard, Drop A and Drop G tuning...all of them sounded exactly like you'd expect: aggressive and heavy! But the real surprise is that this Boost actually sounds GREAT with a guitar in a "standard" tuning.
In my time with the Iceberg there was only one aspect that I would consider to be a potential problem: the amount of low end the pedal filters out. I understand what exactly the pedal is meant to do, of course, but I was surprised at how drastic the effect was. I found that I had to adjust my amp's EQ settings in order to avoid such a drastic low end roll-off. And I found this to be the case even with my seven string. Call me a bit old-fashioned but I still like to hear and feel a fullness in my guitar tone.
But I want to repeat, this aspect is POTENTIALLY a problem. Some players will want EXACTLY what the Iceberg offers and other should be aware of certain "compromises".
With all of this said, I do enjoy the Iceberg quite a bit! There are some very good uses for a Boost like this and some unexpected surprises as well.
And given it's affordable price tag I'd call this a very "low risk" purchase. Buy it, don't like it, at least you didn't go broke!
Buy it, like it, you got "better" tone for less cash! Everybody wins.
And this isn't the last we'll see of D-Sound Pedals! Be sure to check in next week as we take a look at the D-Sound Revolution distortion. ;)
Happy Stomping! - SPJ