“The boost circuit is what sets the Sparkle Drive apart from the countless Tube Screamer…”
The Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive combines an overdrive and a clean boost with one slight twist – aside from the usual volume, tone and drive controls it also features a “clean” control, which mixes the clean and overdrive sounds together, allowing for tones which are a blend of the two.
- Overdrive circuit based on the vintage TS808 Tube Screamer
- Transparent boost circuit
- Blending of clean and overdrive signals
- True bypass switching 5-year warranty
The overdrive is based on a TS808, but it is a boutique version, keeping the components important to the TS tone (like the JRC4558), but with other parts (such as caps and resistors) upgraded for improved tone and lower noise. Parts of the circuit have also been changed for improved performance, good examples being the tone control circuit and the removal of the buffered bypass. The boost circuit is what sets the Sparkle Drive apart from the countless Tube Screamer clones and, unlike other combination boost/drive pedals, the blending does not simply use the boost in series with the drive, but mixes the two sounds together.
The case is a standard rectangular aluminium box, powder coated in a matt black with gloss patches. Logo and control names are screen printed on clearly in contrasting colours to be visible in low light. Box, jacks, switch and controls all seem more than solid enough to withstand the rigours of gigging. Battery access involves removing the bottom from the case, which is held in place by four screws – a common, but somewhat inelegant method, but one that works. Jack sockets are mounted on the rear of the pedal on either side of the DC power socket. This is an increasingly common position for the jacks, allowing the pedals on a board to be positioned closer together, but those who like using Boss or Ibanez style pedals with side jacks will probably not like this as it makes using solid connectors between pedals impossible.
With the “Clean” control fully clockwise, the Sparkle Drive functions as a clean boost, providing lots of extra volume. This allows you to boost the volume for clean soloing or to get more amp overdrive. The added gain is very transparent, and neither the drive or tone controls affect the clean boosted sound, so the boost does not colour the guitar or amp’s natural tone at all.
With the “Clean” control turned down, the sound is all overdrive and a good example of the typical mid boosted TS-style sound. While this is not the most natural, transparent overdrive tone, it is popular for good reason, working well with many different guitars and amps and making the guitar sound stand out from the mix well during solos. The Sparkle Drive has a more refined version of the sound than most, with excellent note clarity when playing chords and an overall smooth sound, even with brighter tone settings. The tone control particularly is very impressive, offering everything from warm, fat drive to cutting brightness without getting muddy or grating at the extreme settings. The amount of overdrive is possibly a little limited for those players that want walls of distortion, but in conjunction with a good amp overdrive (or for those who like to cascade overdrive and distortion pedals for Dumble-like lead tones), should be more than sufficient for most.
The blended sounds are what really make this pedal stand out from the pack. You can add a small amount of clean sound to a drive tone for extra note clarity, have a little drive sound mixed in to fatten up a clean tone or anywhere in between. The more you play with this unique feature, the more it grows on you.
Overall, the Sparkle Drive is a great sounding overdrive which brings something new and usable to the table without being overly complex.