Let there be light!
I don’t know about you, but over the past few years the overdrive and boost market had me feeling a little uninspired. Countless iterations of modified Tubescreamers and Klones as far as the eye could see were no doubt leaving many guitarists wanting. Throughout 2017 however, we’ve seen new life breathed into the overdrive space from our favourite innovators; Strymon surprised us all with the release of the Riverside and Sunset, and Emerson Custom recently dropped the highly anticipated Pomeroy. Alongside these contemporaries, the Prism from Jackson Audio has well and truly earned its place in this new breed.
When we first heard that Brad Jackson (mastermind behind the exquisite Jackson Ampworks) had teamed up with highly regarded wrangler of tone Nigel Hendroff to launch a new project in Jackson Audio, we were excited to say the least. Knowing the incredible tones found within the Jackson amplifier range, we knew the Prism was set to be something special. And oh how it delivers!
Taking an unconventional approach to forge new ground, the Prism has caused quite a stir. Regardless, forget what you may have heard, forget what you think a pedal like this should feature. And while you’re at it, you should probably forget what you think you know about boost pedals. The Prism silences all skeptics, and then some.
It’s a world class boost and preamp, it’s a uniquely innovative overdrive and it’s a laser precise tone shaping tool.
What are we working with?
Yes, we know the Prism is categorised as a boost pedal, but don’t let that humble description confuse you - it’s so much more. It’s a world class boost and preamp, it’s a uniquely innovative overdrive and it’s a laser precise tone shaping tool.
At the heart of the Prism are three distinct circuits working to deliver some of the tastiest tones we’ve ever laid ears on. Trans mode is a JFET based boost circuit, that unlike others who make the claim, is truly transparent. Amp mode offers a MOSFET circuit with the chewy response of a tube amp that adds a warm and articulate core to your tone. And the Color mode brings you a silicon based treble boost that’s perfectly voiced to get your amp singing like royalty.
What blows us away about the Prism is the EQ section. The usefulness of a boost or drive pedal’s EQ controls is really what separates the “meh” from the “magnificent”. In the case of the Prism it’s abundantly clear that the experienced ears of Brad and his team have paid very close attention when designing EQ. Simply put, there is not a single setting that sounds bad - the full 15 db +/- sweep of both the Tone and Body controls is completely usable. The Tone control never gets into shrill, ice-pick territory and allows you to enhance or tame the highs to suit your rig. Meanwhile, the Body control lets you dial in a perfectly round fullness that never muddies the clarity of your note attack.
Rounding out the features the Prism’s 3-way pre-gain switch allows you to hone in on your ideal amount of grit for the three circuits, more than making up for what some may call the “lack” of a gain knob. Finally, the unmissable Boost knob lets you dial in your desired boost level from a subtle nudge to an aggressive pummelling.
As a clean boost and preamp
Putting the Prism through its paces in its primary function as a clean boost / preamp it absolutely shines! The clarity and definition it brings to clean tones in the Trans mode adds a dimension which you’ll quickly miss the moment you switch it off. In Amp mode, the Prism delivers an organic responsiveness with a little extra beef and chime, particularly with humbuckers in the bridge position.
Paired with overdrive
If an always-on mid gain overdrive is the core of your tone, the Prism’s Trans mode is perfect placed beforehand to get more of the same for hard rhythms, alternatively the Color mode cuts through like a knife for searing leads. If you’re running the Prism after your drives, Trans mode is great for when you really want things to jump out and Amp mode brings a natural bite that’s perfect for classic rock hooks.
Partnered with compression
Placed in front of subtle compression, the Prism brings added clarity and enhances the compressors softening of the pick attack while further smoothing the sustain for fantastically musical cleans and singing leads. After compression, the Prism weaves its preamp magic to bring extra life without taking away from the compressors controlled response.
As you may have guessed, we’re quite taken by the Prism. Not only does it deliver wonderfully vibrant tones, but it truly represents the pinnacle of perfectly realised implementation and innovation in a once stale category. If you’re chasing beautifully defined, lively tones from your rig, the Prism is the mythical secret weapon you’ve been searching for.