Review: Mesa/Boogie Tone-Burst, Grid Slammer, Flux-Drive and Throttle Box Pedals
At the feet of practically every great guitarist is a box that many of them refer to as the secret ingredient in their signature sonic brew. I’m referring to the boost, overdrive or distortion pedal that kicks their amp into sonic nirvana and creates a vital, gain-sculpting connection between the guitar’s output and the amp’s first gain stage.
Who better to create a new batch of high-octane stompers than the design team at Mesa/Boogie, the same family of dedicated engineers and sound artisans who have created more patented, gain-enhancing and tone-shaping circuits that any other amp company.
Mesa/Boogie’s new Tone-Burst, Grid Slammer, Flux-Drive and Throttle Box pedals all are true-bypass, powered by battery or outboard nine-volt AC, and built right in Petaluma, California, alongside the company’s legendary amps.
If you’ve ever wished your tone were a little punchier and more responsive, the Tone-Burst is exactly what you need. It offers a nearly transparent variable boost of up to 20db to push your guitar just slightly beyond the threshold of clipping. Level and gain controls increase the volume and drive, while bass and treble circuits deliver 12db of boost or cut for powerful tone shaping.
The Tone-Burst breathes life into just about any rig by expanding the signal’s dynamic range and emphasizing overtones. Even though it’s capable of a 20dB boost and some mild overdrive, it handles the signal with finesse, never bloating any area of sound into an unnatural balance or noticeably altering the compression.
With three triangulated knobs for level, gain and tone and a green metal-flake finish, the Grid Slammer pays homage to the classic Tube Screamer pedal and its countless variants. But that’s essentially where the similarities end. Instead of a narrow and nasal midrange boost, the Grid Slammer overdrives and shapes the entire sound, with no bass attenuation.
Through a clean channel, the Grid Slammer enriches the tonal spectrum, vastly increases sustain and adds deliciously warm, tube-like grit and girth. When combined with an overdriven amp, this pedal is capable of producing tones that are shockingly close to Mesa’s legendary Mark II C+, keeping the bass tight, accentuating the mids with a chunky grind, and turning the upper mids and highs into a magical amalgamation of surreal overtones and vocal presence.
The Flux-Drive is more of a high-gain preamp than it is either a stand-alone distortion or overdrive box. Its well-tuned level, gain, bass and treble circuits give the user immense control over the tone and gain structure, making it easily the most versatile of Mesa’s pedal lineup.
There’s a lot to be said for the Flux-Drive’s ability to blend with your amp’s character. In front of a clean channel, it produces a beautiful crunch tone, indistinguishable from a real tube-driven second channel. Let this pedal drive your already crunchy tone and it’s capable of transporting you, à la the notable Mesa Mark IV, into an incredibly touch-sensitive world of detailed high-gain tone. Sustain becomes almost endless, and full-up settings on all controls yield the organic sound of tubes pushed to the limit.
This is the pedal for every guitar player who has wished there was a way to step on a switch and turn their clean sound into something akin to Mesa’s mighty Rectifier. The mid-cut knob affects the soundscape in the same way as creating a V shape with Mesa’s five-slider EQ, and a center toggle drops the Throttle Box into low gear for cutting but clear overdrive and edgy blues styles.
The Throttle Box doesn’t quite capture the sizzle of a Rectifier—it’s not supposed to. But it excels at creating a wall of wicked distortion and extreme levels of sustain. High-gain and mid-cut levels replicate the sound of a full Mesa stack near meltdown, while various lower gain settings conjure the soulful sting of a Lone Star or Mark I.
List Prices Tone-Burst, Grid Slammer, Flux-Drive, $179 each; Throttle Box, $199
Manufacturer Mesa Engineering, mesaboogie.com
The Tone-Burst’s naturally transparent sound and split EQ controls make it a highly malleable and adaptable boost with almost any pickup/amp configuration.
Unlike the green overdrives of yore, Mesa’s Grid Slammer is thick and rich through a broad band of midrange, without cutting any bass response.
Mesa’s Flux-Drive gets inside an amp’s tone and gain stages, making clean tones sound more alive and turning overdrive into an almost religious experience.
The Throttle Box is Mesa’s Jekyll and Hyde distortion box, turned from round and reasonable to murderous and malevolent at the flick of a switch.
The Bottom Line
Whether you want to add a dose of Mesa/Boogie’s famously dark-roasted tone and complex overdrive to your rig, or already have a Mesa and just want a “more” switch, one of Mesa’s amazing new pedals is sure to satisfy.