September 15th, 2023 | John Dines
DCX BOOST: Tone Chasing and Matchmaking With the DCX BOOST
We’re pleased to say that the DCX BOOST has proved quite popular since its release in April 2023 and we’ve seen it show up on all sorts of boards doing all sorts of jobs. However, the trouble with making a versatile pedal is explaining to people all the different ways to use it.
The video you see here is by no means a comprehensive list of everything the DCX can do, but we have compiled a good selection of sounds which demonstrate a number of ways that the DCX can improve your tone, whatever sort of other gear you might use it with.
DCX & Clean Amps [CLIP 1-3]
Let’s start with the basics – how the DCX BOOST sounds into a clean amp. The first thing you’ll hear is how the DCX BOOST’s EQ mode can inject a bit of life into a rather ordinary clean sound. We hear a Les Paul into a Fender Deluxe Reverb, showing the full range of the DCX’s L.F. and H.F. controls, and its ability add some musical grit without needing to crank your amp. Clip 1 [00:01]
The OD mode also works very well as a standalone drive pedal into a clean amp. Clip 2 [01:00] shows the amount of drive available and also the way that the EQ controls can boost bass and treble frequencies without muddying the tone or adding fizzy high end. Check out Clip 3 [01:56] to hear thick, higher-gain tones with a Les Paul bridge pickup.
DCX & M-EQ [CLIP 4-5]
Now for some pedal pairings, and we’ll start at home. Stacking our M-EQ DRIVER into the DCX gives us a lot of control over frequency content and drive. Using a baritone Telecaster into a clean Deluxe Reverb as our base tone, we can use the DCX to add weight, sparkle and grit. Engaging the M-EQ DRIVER with a fairly clean sound allows us to push mids into the DCX, without any drive from the M-EQ. This thickens up the DCX’s overdrive tone nicely. Thanks to the DCX’s adaptive circuitry in EQ Mode – which attenuates top end the more the pedal overdrives – even a generous boost from the M-EQ will still result in a smooth tone. Just flick the VOICE switch to DRK and enjoy some raucous but controlled overdrive. Clip 4 [02:33]
Sticking with the M-EQ into DCX signal chain, Clip 5 [03:26] uses a crunchy Les Paul tone from the DCX, boosted into a rude and resonant glam rock-style tone using the M-EQ’s 1.3kHz mid frequency.
DCX & Other Preamps [CLIP 6]
The DCX BOOST is inspired by the UA 610 studio preamp, and this is another thing that can lead to some confusion. A preamp can man lots of different things to lots of different people. In its most literal sense, a preamp is any device that takes a signal and alters it in some way that means it’s ready for another device. That could be taking the output from a turntable and doing the necessary EQing to feed it to a hi-fi power amp, something designed to preserve the sound of an electric bass when hooking it up to a recording console, or – in the case of the UA610 – amplifying and shaping a microphone signal ready for a tape machine. The thing with preamps is, as much as they’re often designed to do utilitarian jobs, it’s the often-unintended character of the circuit that makes them desirable. For example, a 610 was designed to be used clean. However, when it distorts, it sounds great! In the modern world of perfect recordings, this is why people search out that particular sound (including us when we designed the DCX).
Another preamp that should be recognisable to guitarists is the DOD 250 pedal. Again, it was designed to beef up a guitar signal and push an amp harder but, in doing so, imparts some very nice overdrive of its own. We decided to pair the DCX and the 250, both set to a low-gain overdrive tone, and stack them. The 250 is our lest overdriven tone, switching to the DCX takes things up a notch in terms of drive and aggression, and combining the two gives us a very rock ‘n’ roll higher-gain lead tone. Hear it in Clip 6 [03:57].
DCX & Fuzz: Underdriving for Special Effects [CLIP 7]
Another interesting trick that we’ve heard about, especially from owners of big shoegaze pedalboards, is something referred to as “underdrive”. As the name suggests, you use an overdrive to restrict the signal feeding subsequent pedals, rather than to strengthen it. The additional tone-shaping that the DCX provides can really help the end result. In Clip 7 [04:30], you can hear the DCX being used to starve an EQD Hoof of signal and remove lots of low end, before being bypassed and letting the Hoof off the leash!
DCX & Fuzzes: The Middle-Man [CLIP 8-10]
Speaking of fuzz pedals, we’re about to get to one of the best uses for a DCX BOOST. Two things we know to be true: 1. Lots of fuzz pedals don’t sound their best into a really clean amp. 2. It’s rare to be able to turn your amp up loud enough for a good drive tone these days – or even to be able to use your own amp! Enter the DCX BOOST. The idea is to provide enough of a driven tone that your fuzz pedal sounds its best, but without completely changing the character of your amp. Subtle grit and tone-enhancement is something that the DCX does very well, and it’s the perfect “middle man” between a good fuzz and an amp that needs to stay clean. Clips 8-10 show this, with the help of some of our favourite fuzz pedals.
Clip 8: Zvex, Fuzz Factory [05:20]
Clip 9: AnalogMan, Sun Face [05:58]
Clip 10: Great Eastern FX Co, Focus Fuzz (Getting Gilmourish) [06:38]
DCX, Tape Saturation and Studio Effects [CLIP 11-12]
Sticking with the theme of cool, gritty studio gear, Clip 11 [07:22] pairs the DCX with a Strymon Deco. The Deco provides a simulation of tape saturation and chorusing, while the DCX adds an extra layer of overdrive, giving this combination a tone reminiscent of a driven rotary speaker.
Moving from a ‘70s tone to an ‘80s one, Clip 12 [07:53] places the DCX between our Cali76 Stacked Edition compressor and a JHS Emperor Chorus. In this clip, we keep the DCX clean and use its tone-shaping abilities to give us the thin Strat tone that’s synonymous with glossy ‘80s pop hits. Then we added more chorus.
The DCX BOOST as a… Boost! [CLIP 13-14]
So far, everything you’ve heard has been recorded using a clean Deluxe Reverb. Let’s crank it up a bit and showcase the DCX BOOST as…well…a boost! Backing off the L.F. control helps the Les Paul stay clear and defined when smashing big chords into a driven amp. See Clip 13 [08:34].
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the DCX’s studio preamp DNA makes it very well suited to direct-to-console tones that you might hear on a ‘70s disco record. We paired it with a Cali76 Compact Deluxe compressor and a Strat, cranking up the H.F. knob for plenty of spank. Setting the VOICE control to DRK means that, in the unlikely event of overdrive, the Adaptive Circuitry will jump in and smooth out the rough edges. Clip 14 [09:15]
The DCX BOOST with Amp Recreation [CLIP 15-16]
Lastly, we couldn’t make this video without showcasing the DCX into our Amp Recreation pedals. First off, we have a meaty rock riff through the RD Compact Hot Rod, with the DCX adding some extra bite and drive, Clip 15 [09:37]. To balance things out, we also tried a more subtle setting into our DELUXE61 pedal, adding some bright, low-gain drive to a baritone Telecaster. Clip 16 [10:01]
It’s always a fun day in the office when we get to raid the pedal cabinet, so hopefully we also managed to give DCX owners a bit of inspiration to try new things, and maybe even inspired others to try a DCX. Pedals are great, aren’t they?!