Saturday, January 9, 2010

Top Finds of 2009 / Atomic Boost

Our Top Finds of 09 continue here with the good people of the Swart Amplifier Co. For those of you who haven't heard of these cats or have not had a chance to take one of there amps for a ride, you are missing out. Michael Swart, the man behind the plan of the Swart Amp Co. has one thing on his mind and one thing only. Great tone, period! My first run-in with one of their wonderful amps was at my local guitar shop (True Tone Music), and I was hooked from the first chord I struck. The attention to detail of these amps inside and out is unlike any other, both the tones they produce and appearance are stunning. There is a retro, furniture-like vibe to the amp's designs that makes them really cool looking. So when I discovered Swart also had a pedal in their line, you can only imagine how stoked I was. The pedal's called the Atomic Boost, and it's the solo soldier of the Swart pedal line. Just like the amps the Atomic Boost also sports a classy and hip look. So what kind of stompbox is it you say? It is of the treble booster species. Imagine the ultimate Dallas Rangemaster and you have the Atomic Boost. With this pedal you get all of the legendary tones that come from the classic treble booster, and none of the flaws. This is hands down one of the best sounding pedals I have ever used.


Swart Amplifier Co.
Wilmington, NC
Builder: Michael Swart
Years in the Game: Many

Atomic Boost
Treble Booster

* Vintage NOS Mullard OC44 "Glass"
Transistor Hand Selected / Gain Tested

* All Point to Point Wiring
No Circuit Boards

* Toggle Between Mid/Full Boost, optional
High Boost with sacrifice of Mid or Full Boost

* Full Bypass Switching

* Bright Blue Power LED

* Dedicated 9V Battery Operation for
Cleanest Power and Lowest Noise

* Sound Goes from a Semi-Clean Boost to
Over the Top Creamy Tube Distortion

* Lovingly Hand Built by Michael & Ole Sam


I'm always a sucker for killer looking black stompbox. Now one that not only looks badass but also sound great, that's a dream come true. If I only had two words to describe the Atomic Boost I would choose instant gratification. The Atomic Boost will take your tone to heaven and back quicker than you can blink your eye. The layout of this little darling is super simple, you have an 11 position Boost knob, and a Mid/High toggle switch. With these two controls alone you can take your tone from mellow grit to an all-out scorching rock distortion that your amp will love. The Atomic Boost works great with all types of amplifiers and sounds fantastic through just about any setting you run it through. The reason for this simple design's effectiveness comes from one place... the Mullard OC44 transistor. This magic-like little transistor has been the heart and soul for so many player's tones throughout the years. Many of history's heavyweight's such as Clapton, Iommi, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, and Mark Bolan all based their sound around the mighty treble booster. It's awesome to see that in the last few years the treble booster has made it's way back into rock'n'roll. As a player it is a gift to have such powerful tools like the Swart Atomic Boost available for the picking. This pedal not only works wonders for us, but also gives us a touch of yesterday's golden sound.

There is nothing like a great sounding mid-watt tube amp, a sweet guitar, and a rockin treble booster. These are three elements that make up one tasty recipe for splendid tone. My main influences come from and have always come from the music of the 60's and 70's, at least when it comes to rock and roll they have. The reason for this is the guitar tones that were discovered and created back then, one of these being the sound of the treble booster. The Atomic Boost pedal is not only able to create many of the golden era rock tones, but also has a vibe of it's own that makes for one soul pounding guitar tone. We must've ran the Atomic Boost through every possible guitar, pickup, and amp we had available to us, and each time it came through with flying colors. One of the setups we ran the Atomic Boost up against was a duel humbucker Hagstrom Viking semi-hollow body guitar, and our trusty 15/7 watt amplifier. I set the amp to the cleanest tone possible and got to steppin'. I wanted to see just how far the pedal could push the amplifier's clean tone. One of the really cool features of the Atomic Boost is it's 11-position Boost knob. This lets you set different boost levels for different songs with the ability to keep them consistent time after time. Now this may not seem all too fancy of a feature but when you're gigging night after night this can make a huge difference. Unity gain on the Atomic Boost is right at about 4, this matches up with your amp's volume beautifully, adding in a nice right on the edge break-up. With the toggle switch in it's Mid boost position your amp's tone stays close to it's roots only with a nice midrange honk added to it. This makes for the ultimate rhythm guitar tone, a tone you can easily control with your picking dynamics. Laying back on your hand produces a warm, subtle, semi-clean tone. Start hammering down, and things get crunchy real fast. This works out nicely when switching from a verse to a chorus. If you want to keep the grit amount where it is but want to change it's character, all you do is flip the toggle switch to High. This bumps every frequency into a fat'n'chunky wall of soul. Next I jumped the Boost knob up to 6 and set the toggle back into the Mid boost position. This is where the Atomic Boost starts to really produce those classic treble booster settings we all love to hear. Depending on what kind of pickups you're using the grit level in this position can go anywhere from crunchy from to downright devilish. All of my favorite classic rock rhythm tones came howling from my amp. Riding the guitar's volume will also give you even more tone range, if you're one of these style players this pedal will work beautifully for you. Then we took the Atomic Boost from 8-11, the pedal's highest settings and where the Mullard OC44 really starts working it's mojo. At 8 the pedal pushed the clean tone straight into a healthy rock'n'roll overdrive. Switching from pickup to pickup and flipping the toggle switch from Mid to High boost created more tones than I knew what to do with. You wouldn't think one knob and one toggle switch could do so much, it definitely impressed the hell out of me. I was amazed at how smooth and balanced the string articulation was, you could literally hear each string evenly and clearly. These are the tones I live for, the tones that push me to want to write my music. At full blast it was more of the same only more of it. This is where all those old school Dallas Rangemaster loving bastards will fall in love with this pedal, and things didn't end here, no sir. I switched guitars to a Strat, set the amp to it's full 15 watts and set it slightly dirty. Things only got better through a dirty tone too. I quickly discovered that where the Atomic Boost really shines is through a nice naturally overdriven tube amp sound. Imagine dialing in the baddest of the bad sounding tube amp sound and being able to take everything that's beautiful about that sound and magnifying it. All of the lows become boomier, the mids jump out and grab, and the highs get richer. It's just awesome! Running the pedal through the Strat's single coils also produced an entirely new vibe of overdrive that makes for layering guitar tracks a total dream. But my ultimate favorite use for the Atomic Boost was stacking it with other pedals, using to push other overdrive and distortion pedals. This setup created some of the most desirable overdrive sounds I've ever been able to get from my pedals. Just like it was able to take an already overdriven amp sound into tone heaven was it able to drive my favorite dirt pedals into overdrive bliss. For a cat like me who depends on pedals for his overdriven sounds this is a huge plus. In the end we were able to run the Atomic Boost as a semi-clean booster, overdrive pedal, distortion, and to help push other pedals into lead tones. Take all the in between sounds you can get from the toggle switch and rolling your volume knob, and that makes for a sea of dirty tones. I would love to see more pedals from the Swart Amplifier Co., lord knows they have the talent.


For more info on the Swart Amplifier Company go to You will find more killer info on the Atomic Boost along with the collection of amazing amps. We will try and get our hands on one of their amps in the near future so keep your eye for more on this awesome company.

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