This is a guest post by James Abel
The Majik Box Rocket Fuel is the signature overdrive/boost of none other than Les Paul-toting, Marshall-blasting and all round hard rock juggernaut, Doug Aldrich. The idea behind the handwired little box of magic, was to produce a boost/overdrive that would replace the rack unit the Whitesnake axeslinger had been using for years. With the help of the American company’s wizards Dave Simpsons and Rob Nishida, that’s exactly what they achieved.
The pedal itself contains two separate circuits that are actually independent, with the overdrive coming first in the signal chain. The top of the flame coated box sports volume, tone and gain controls for the overdrive section, while a single knob controls the boost circuit. Furthermore, a three way mini toggle switch sits between the two bright LEDs, and changes the response provided by the bottom end of the overdrive section. In terms of build quality the stompbox boasts a sturdy construction with a brushed black steel back and sides. Surprisingly, the pedal feels a lot lighter than one would assume, as well as being smaller than it’s portraits let on to. Under the hood, a pristine hand-wired job significantly softens the blow of the $290 price tag, while both battery access and a rather sturdy looking 9 volt power supply input add to the functionality of the pedal.
When first engaging the overdrive side of the Rocket Fuel, and pushing it through an amp’s clean channel, a nice Tubescreamer-like sing is acquired. The drive knob threatens to offer some heat, while the tone and level knobs do what’s expected of them. Moving the ‘bass shift’ through the modes adds a dash of versatility. Starting with the bass shift in the middle position, or number 1, the pedal provides a classic overdrive like sound by providing some cut to the bottom end and a raunchy kick to the mid and treble ranges. Pushing the bass shift to the left or ‘ setting two’ demonstrates one of the things that set this overdrive apart from others. The bottom end returns giving a strong chunky thud to the signal, though it retains its articulation and avoids any tendencies of the bottom end getting squashed. This is the mode that Doug uses with his Marshalls, and although we’ve not even got onto the dirty sounds yet, it’s clear to see why. The bass shift 2 gives a good, well-balanced tone through most amplifiers while set clean. Flicking the switch to the right, yes you’re getting it; number 3 sees an increased amount of bottom end added to your original signal. This function is hugely beneficial when thickening up single coils or a thin sounding amplifier. One thing that is also hugely apparent about the overdrive side of the Rocket Fuel, is that a real gusty lower mid range kick is injected into the tone, that really helps to add some weight to the sound.
Moving onto the overdrive being used on an already dirty amp, this stomper enters it’s natural habitat. The idea behind the Rocket Fuel is that it pushes an already dirty amp into the wide singing lead tone that Aldrich is recognized for, and it certainly does that to a tee. Engaging the overdrive sees a massive increase in gain, with plenty to go around. A significant volume boost is also noted, as well as bump to the lower midrange, providing all the girth, width and push you could ever want. Much like when running through a clean amp, the tone remains articulate with rich harmonic content. Unlike the clean tone however, the overdrive side of the pedal seems to inject, well, rocket fuel into your tone. Leads soar and really sing, while the response of your dirty sound seems to improve. Winding back your guitar’s volume knob causes the pedal to ease off like it’s not even on, a handy quality if you’re looking to set up a separate rhythm and lead tone via the guitars controls. In terms of the bass-switch the results are generally the same as clean channel, with the exception of bass-shift three, which can tend to get a tad less articulate on the bottom end when using humbuckers.
In terms of the boost side of things, a single knob to control things may seem a little scarce, but that certainly isn’t the case. Twisting the knob towards 12 o’clock causes a hearty increase in both volume and gain as the boost really starts to drive the input of the amplifier. Everything seems to become looser, more fluid and more enhanced with the boost engaged. The tone is significantly fattened and a great deal of projection is added. When used with the overdrive section, the amount of sustain and sing on offer is quite honestly ridiculous and is more than enough to satisfy probably every player’s lead tone needs. The boost function easily bears the weight of half the price tag, as this reviewer struggles to think of any on the market that are significantly better. Another impressive detail of the Rocket Fuel is that it allows both the amplifier and guitar to breath, thus leaving their characters in tact. Furthermore, the fact that this stompbox pushes the valves of an amp to achieve it’s distorted tones, causes there to be a lack of the fizzy or artificial sounds that are spat out by many current distortion or overdrive pedals.
For those looking for a hot, liquid, lead tone in a box, Majik Box’s Filthy Lucre or MXR’S Custom Badass distortions are the pedals to take a look at. However, for those looking for an excellent way to push their already heated amps into a hot rhythm sound or a way to summon screaming leads tones from their cabinets at the stomp of a switch, the Rocket Fuel is a superb choice. A versatile, hand-wired gem of a stompbox, the Rocket Fuel may just be the tonal injection you’ve been looking for.