(Belated) First Impressions: Rockbox Boiling Point Overdrive Pedal

All the way back in July, I picked up a Rockbox Boiling Point overdrive pedal.

Rockbox Boiling Point and Ibanez Mini Tubescreamer

Now that I’ve had time to play with it, what do I think? Read on for my (very belated) first impressions.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a Boiling Point overdrive pedal, made by Rockbox. I got mine from the second hand market.

It’s an overdrive pedal, sometimes considered a Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB for short) pedal because it has a “plexi” mode. I’ve also seen it considered to be a modded Tubescreamer (presumably because it has a symmetrical clipping mode).

There’s a toggle switch for 3 different clipping modes (plexi, symmetrical, and ‘no diode’ boost mode), plus another toggle switch for changing the bass cut (described as a ‘bass boost’).

Why Did You Buy It?

I’ve owned one before, and wanted to revisit it.

I bought one back in 2014, and sold it at the start 2015. At the time, my pedal platform rig … well, it was flat and sterile and definitely made the pedals do absolutely all the work. If a pedal didn’t suit it, there was not much I could do about it.

I ended up moving on a lot of pedals thanks to my old rig, including the Boiling Point. Even so, the Boiling Point did leave an impression, and I’ve always wondered if I made a mistake there.

Now I get to find out 🙂

What Is Your Signal Chain Today?

Today, I’m playing:

  • a couple of guitars
  • into the Axe-FX 3 (for the tuner and some tone shaping tools)
  • out to my pedalboard
  • back into the Axe-FX 3 (for amp, cab, delay and reverb)
  • and out to my DAW (no post-processing applied at all)

For guitars, I’m using my Gibson Les Paul (aka The 59) and my Fender Telecaster (aka Mirage).

In the Axe-FX 3, I’m using my regular pedal platform patch (which I will get documented over Christmas) on Firmware 23.05.

Plug-And-Play Marshall Rock

I’ve grabbed my Les Paul, and I’m on the bridge pickup. With both toggle switches in the down position, immediately I’m getting a classic Marshall-type rock rhythm tone out of this pedal.

Les Paul > Rockbox Boiling Point > Axe-FX 3

Getting that tone was as effortless as it can be. It’s a stark contrast to the Carl Martin PlexiTone Lo-gain overdrive that I recently had.

Which Mode Is The True Plexi Mode?

Hrm. According to a manual I found online, the ‘up’ position on the drive toggle switch is supposed to be the plexi mode. I’ve just tried it, and it lacks that sharp note attack that (I believe is) an important characteristic of the plexi sound.

I don’t know what to make of that. An error in the manual? A wiring change made to later pedals? A wiring error in the pedal that I have? Or maybe I’ve got the wrong idea about what a plexi pedal should sound like?

Whatever the answer, I much prefer the Boiling Point with the drive toggle switch in the ‘down’ position.

Stepped Gain Control A Mixed Bag

The gain knob on the pedal is unusual. It’s not your standard variable-sweep type pot. Instead, it clicks between several positions.

I’m not sure how I feel about that, to be honest.

Why do it? What benefit does it provide? As a home player … I’m struggling to think of any. Maybe it’s meant to help when switching guitars? Let’s put that to the test.

I’ve grabbed a Telecaster, and I haven’t changed any settings on the pedal or amp at all. Here’s what that sounds like:

Telecaster > Rockbox Boiling Point > Axe-FX 3

Wow. What a difference just switching out the guitar made. The overall volume is down, and you can probably hear how much I’m struggling to play with so little gain. I mean, I consider myself a low gain player these days, but that’s really low gain.

(Also, is it me, or do I sound a little bit country at the start of that piece? I’ve never had a sound quite like that before!)

Okay, now for the test. I’m going to turn the gain control up to around noon (which is 3 clicks on the gain control from where I had it set), and then try again. I haven’t touched any other controls on the pedal or the amp.

Telecaster > Rockbox Boiling Point (gain turned up) > Axe-FX 3

To my ears, that now roughly matches both the volume and the amount of dirt that I had with the Les Paul. So … I guess the stepped gain control does help when switching guitars?

Thing is, I said roughly for a reason. The stepped gain control means that it’s pure luck whether or not I can match the amount of dirt when switching guitars. With my Tele, I either end up with too much gain or too little gain.

Maybe there’s another reason for the stepped gain pot that I’m not aware of? Maybe it’s switching components in and out depending on the setting? I don’t know, and I’ve not found any information on this online so far.

Doesn’t Sound Like A Tubescreamer, But I Can See Why People Think It Does

When researching this blog post, I saw that the Boiling Point has sometimes been described as a Tubescreamer-type pedal. Maybe that’s because the later version of the pedal is in a green case? Or because it has an asymmetric clipping mode like a Tubescreamer does?

I’ve dug out my Ibanez Mini-Tubescreamer, and done my best to dial it in to get close to the sound of the Boiling Point.

For reference, once again here is the sound of my Les Paul through the Boiling Point:

Les Paul > Rockbox Boiling Point > Axe-FX 3

and here’s how the same Les Paul sounds through the Ibanez Mini-Tubescreamer:

Les Paul > Ibanez Mini-Tubescreamer > Axe-FX 3

I can hear why people might think they’re similar pedals, because the overdrive characteristic feels quite similar. (I guess the ‘down’ position is the asymmetric mode after all!) But for me, that’s where the similarities end.

A Tubescreamer provides a mid-hump while tightening up the low-end. I just don’t hear either of those characteristics in the Boiling Point. And I think that there’s quite a difference in the overall tone too.

I had a really hard job dialling in the Tubescreamer to get anywhere near the sound of the Boiling Point. It only takes tiny tweaks of the Tubescreamer’s gain or tone controls to make the two pedals sound pretty different.

Final Thoughts

I’m glad that I bought this pedal again.

The Boiling Point doesn’t give me some amazing new sound that I’ve never had before. I doubt that you’ll ever hear it on a song and go ‘wow, what is that sound?’ What it gives me, though, is a perfectly fine rhythm drive tone for my Les Paul that’s incredibly familiar, and immediately ready to work with. For that kind of sound, I think it’s the most plug-and-play drive pedal I can remember playing.

I thought it was a mixed bag with my Telecaster through my rig. That very low-gain tone gave me something that I don’t remember ever having before – and I do like having options. At higher gain settings, I didn’t enjoy it so much. It just wasn’t for me. But, I haven’t tried using the Axe-FX 3 to shape the guitar’s tone before it goes into the pedal.

It’s one for me to keep around for a bit, and explore more over time.

One Reply to “(Belated) First Impressions: Rockbox Boiling Point Overdrive Pedal”

  1. I think your toggle instincts are correct. My older manual says the up switch is for a more dark take on the plexi and the down position is a “real tube amp” plexi tone. I still have my original Rockbox from 2010. Another great use of cranking the gain on the clean boost option, very versatile pedal.

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