Xotic RC Booster, AC Booster, Robotalk

High-quality, and a new twist
High-quality, and a new twist

Some would argue that the world of guitars and amps has reached the point of oversaturation. And right along with the teeming mass of G&A, throw in effects pedals. Everywhere you look, there’s a new pedal, along with tons of reissues, and, of course, real vintage pedals.

Is it all becoming too much?

Uhhh, hell no! As gear junkies, we know there can never be too much guitar stuff on this planet (well, good stuff, anyway).

Speaking of good stuff, let us introduce you to Xotic Effects and its hand-wired, hand-built AC Booster, RC Booster, and Robotalk envelope filter/arpeggiator.
Housed in baked-enamel steel chassis, the AC Booster and the RC Booster are compact (4.39″ x 2.38″ x 1.98″) units. The slightly larger Robotalk, in its uncoated steel box, is 6″ x 3.27″ x 1.98″. All three are sturdy, and very cleanly wired, with some components covered in epoxy, perhaps to fend off forgers. The RC and AC Boosters share the same features – controls for volume, gain, bass, and treble, we well as true bypass, on/off indicator, in and out jacks, and a 9-volt input jack. The Robotalk sports switches for on/off, function, volume, rate, range, as well as frequency controls, input and output jacks, and a jack for an expression pedal.

For a trial run, we grabbed an early-’70s Strat and an Ibanez Artist with Wolftone Greywolf humbuckers. Our test amp was a Fender Vibro-King, set to clean.

We started with the RC Booster and the Artist. Xotic says the RC Booster is designed to sustain a guitar’s true sound, and emphasize any effects in between. We set the gain up and volume down, and got a boosted/slightly distorted blues tone, especially with the neck pickup. The pedal did not change the sound of the amp.

Next, we tweaked the tone controls, and the pedal responded with an aggressive sound, almost as if we’d turned up the amp, but without the volume. Basically, the pedal does what it’s supposed to do – and does it well.

Next, we ramped up the pedal’s volume, and it worked well for a slight volume boost during solos. Then we turned the gain down and boosted the volume, to get an ever-so-slightly distorted tone, with just the right amount of edge.

With the Strat, we set the gain up and again tweaked the RC’s tone controls. Instant fat Strat! The neck and bridge pickups sounded much hotter, without sacrificing the highs. The bridge position sounded very close to humbucking, with a sparkle as we turned up the bass control. With the gain control down and volume up, the pedal again offered a nice solo boost.

Next, it was the AC Booster’s turn. Xotic says the AC is designed to give an amp a warm, pleasant tone, with a user-adjutable gain (from slight boost to outright distortion).

We plugged it with the Artist, and set the pedal’s gain up all the way. It proffered a very natural-sounding distortion – fat and solid, with no mud. And it not only maintained the guitar’s natural sound, but enhanced its characteristics. Again, we could fatten it up by rolling on some low-end via the bass control. Even with the pickup selector switched to blend or running only the neck pickup, we couldn’t coax any mush from this pedal. With the gain turned down, it spewed forth only an impressively natural, warm, breakup. With the volume boosted, we could bump solo volume slightly. With the Strat, we experienced the same phenomenon, but to the Strat degree; we had to dial down the treble slightly to remove the harshness single-coils can produce. From slight distortion to heavy overdrive, this pedal sounded great.

The Robotalk is a completely different animal. Its envelope filter function creates authentic funk sounds, while its random sampler cranks out unique percussive and dynamic tremolo sounds using randomly sequenced frequency amplification.

We used the Strat and set the Robotalk to the envelope filter. We expected an auto-wah effect, but given the quality of the other Xotic pedals, with perhaps a little more character. Not only was the Robotalk smooth and warm, but with the range control (which adjusts the sweep of the wah sound) rolled slightly off its maximum setting, it sounded something like a talkbox. With the range control up, the pedal quacked like an auto-wah oughta.

Next, we tried the box’s random arpeggiator, and after playing it awhile, we faced a quandary: how could we describe this effect?

Lessee… imagine dividing a wah pedal’s frequencies as you sweep the treadle, then randomly kicking them out in square waves. Make any sense? (If not, the company’s website has sample clips.) To our ears, it’s reminiscent of an ARP Avatar set to “Random”; as the frequency control is turned up, you get loads of varying frequency response on one note, ranging from very muffled to very trebly. Using the rate control, you can increase or decrease the speed at which the signal is arpeggiated.

Anyway, we plugged in an expression pedal and were able to vary the envelope frequencies, just like a wah.

The RC and AC Boosters sell for about what you’d expect for a good pedal, but these are a far sight better than most. They deliver as promised, with a transparent, natural tone that’s unsurpassed by anything we’ve tested. The Robotalk offers two effects in one box, and its arpeggiator is an exciting effect that can add a funky, unique dimension to your arsenal.

Xotic Effects AC Booster
Type of effect boost/distortion.
Features Controls for gain, volume, treble, and bass controls, true-bypass operation, on/off indicator, AC or DC powered.
Price $195.

Xotic Effects RC Booster
Type of effect boost/overdrive.
Features Controls for gain, volume, treble, and bass controls, true-bypass operation, on/off indicator, AC or DC powered.
Price $195.

Xotic Effects Robotalk
Type of effect envelope filter.
Features Controls for volume, range, controls for frequency and rate controls, switches for on/off, and function, Expression pedal compatible.
Price $280.
Contact Prosound Communications Inc., 233 N. Maclay Ave. #403, San Fernando, CA 91340, phone (818)367-9593, www.prosoundcommunications.com.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s March ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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