The latest from one of my favorite new companies makes for an exciting pairing on any pedalboard.
Bootster: $129.99 and Gladys: $149.99 from Summerschoolelectronics.com
Summer School Electronics hit the ground running in 2021 behind their phenomenal Gus Drive, an updated take on the DOD 250 circuit. Now, 2022 has already brought 3 new pedals to their lineup, 2 of which I happen to have here for review. The Bootster Booster is a versatile boost that uses the “twang” knob to boost mids and some high frequencies to help cut through the mix. Pair it with a transparent overdrive for better EQ sculpting, or use it as a treble booster, a light drive, or a clean volume boost in your signal chain. Speaking of transparent overdrives, the Gladys is Summer School’s take on the Bluesbreaker overdrive circuit. With your standard overdrive controls, this low to mid gain pedal is further improved by adding a toggle for adding some compression into the mix, making it less transparent but smoother and crisp.
Review & Opinion
I really enjoyed these two pedals independently, but together they were ever better. Thus the dual review article presented here. The Bootster Booster is definitely not a must have pedal for many players, but if you’re someone who relies on a boost pedal, this is one of the most flexible options I’ve tried. It can do a little bit of everything. It’s not a pure treble booster (like the Tombstone was), but it also can thicken any sound, push clean volume, or act as a standalone light drive. The range in the volume knob is quite impressive, giving you lots of control for kicking up an overdrive (like the relatively quiet Gladys) or it can also tame a very loud pedal, like my Lyla Drive. It seems to be a real swiss army knife for gain stages and complex pedalboards.
The Gladys on the other hand is true to form, providing low to mid gain options that can be tweaked, but not too far one way or the other. It is relatively quiet in volume, missing some of that bass boosting that has been popular in other clones like the Local 2609 I reviewed. It does make up for this with the convenient compression knob. This helps give the pedal a much more unique feel, that tracks really well and stays hum or buzz free. In fact, if you flip on the compression and stack the Bootster with the twang knob up, you get a very convincing TS808 sound out of this Bluesbreaker! It can get a little rowdy as well, with the compression off and the gain maxed, though it isn’t as wild as the Gus Drive was. You certainly would have every gain sound you need with all three of these Summer School pedals stacked though!
Conclusions & Final Scores
Bootster Booster: 8.3 out of 10
Gladys Overdrive: 8 out of 10
Overall, these pedals are both incredibly impressive. They are solidly above average and most importantly, fun to play. I knocked a couple points off the Gladys because I’d like to see it be a little louder, though pairing it with the Bootster brought it to life. I just don’t know how many players will be buying these as a set obviously. The Bootster grades out a bit higher, because I do think it can solve a lot of problems for live musicians. It can probably replace both boost pedals I’ve previously used, and doesn’t totally break the bank at $130. Summer School is putting out some really good stuff for a new, young company. But I’m excited to see them branch out with some more interesting concepts, the Bootster is a first good look at a non-clone from them and will set a high bar!