Followers of this site will know by now that I’m a big fan of Jackson Audio, and I’ve already put in an order for their brand new Broken Arrow Programmable Soft-Clipping Overdrive + Boost. I was amongst the first wave to adopt both the Prism and Bloom when they arrived on the scene, and now the Broken Arrow continues that legacy of smart footswitch-controlled innovation.
The control-layer technology on the Broken Arrow is identical to the Bloom - whereby you can press and hold each footswitch to then cycle through a number of presets - here 4 per Drive side and 4 per Boost side; when you step on both footswitches simultaneously you get to ramp up the gain in 25% step increments out of the maximum Gain set on the corresponding dial/knob. The Overdrive provides you with modes that approximate TS808, DS-1, Timmy and Vintage Marshall, while the Boost Modes focus on accentuating different frequency clusters - more of that below.
The first release - the Prism is an essential pedal in my chain for 2 reasons - I have a very long 40 pedal signal chain, and there is a buffer onboard here, secondly I’ve always utilised an ’Always-On’ boost in my chain to add more warmth and dynamics to the core tone - the fact that the Prism gives you 3 different flavours to select alongside Baxandall style EQ - makes this still probably my favourite versatile stand-alone Boost; and as Jackson Audio report - many customer have two of these on their pedalboards and use them as stacked overdrives.
The Bloom that arrived last year after some long-term development difficulties, materialised at just the right moment for me as I was about to hit the trigger for an Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe - but when I saw the Bloom - with its combination of 6 Compression Presets alongside optional 3-band EQ and Blooming Boost - I decided that this was definitely the pedal for me.
So it looks like I will have 3 Jackson Audio pedals in my chain now - I just need to decide which of my other beloved pedals will need to vacate its slot to accommodate this.
Here follows a brief overview of each of these pedals - in the order they are pictured above (reverse-chronological):
As mentioned, a soft-clipping style overdrive with active 3-Band EQ and 4 Drive Clipping Presets:
Generally as you cycle through the presets the degree of compression gets less, while the degree of distortion increases
The 4 Boost Presets are as follows:
Finally The Gain Cycle works as % of overall gain set on Gain dial and is triggered when both footswitches are pressed simultaneously:
A truly smart Programmable Compressor with 3-Band EQ and a Blooming/Fading Boost. It has just 3 manual knobs for the compressor - Volume, Dry Blend and Compression Degree - but then 6 presets which control key factors including Attack and Release:
Note that brightness of LED varies to show degree of compression / ducking
3-Band EQ is activated by pressing on both footswitches simultaneously - otherwise it is inactive
The Blooming Boost is activated by holding down right-hand footswitch - a quick press will just activate normal boost, while momentary press will fade boost in / out. To set speed of fade press and hold both footswitches simultaneously and adjust Bloom Dial from 1 second fully counter-clockwise to 5 seconds fully clockwise.
Still one of the smartest Boosts on the market, but could probably do with an update any day now to enable more of the really smart dual footswitchable control its two other siblings have. I've made Jackson Audio aware that it would be useful to have 3-Band EQ here versus the 2 provided, and a second footswitch so you could cycle through the options currently controlled by the two toggle-switches.
This Boost has a Buffer set on the output of the pedal and you can press and hold the footswitch to toggle between boot up ON and boot up OFF modes as well as Indicator light brightness. Other than that - the Indicator Light's colours change to reflect degree/level of boost active, and the key pedal parameters are as follows:
Pre Gain Modes:
I thought I would do a mockup of my own idealised evolution of the Prism - or Prism 2 as I've named it. I've long said it would be cool to have 3-band EQ versus the original Tone and Body, and more control over the buffer - as well as an easier way to footswitch the Pre Amp and Mode options. For my first mockup I removed the toggles altogether, and thought I would rely entirely on the same sort of action we have on the new Broken Arrow - meaning that the PreAmp options would be cycled on the left footswitch, and the different Boost modes would be cycled with the right footswitch. The Broken Arrow also has a cool Gain Cycle dual action which I've renamed Boost Cycle and applied the same methodology to the Prism so you can cycle though incremental 25% steps as a percentage of the max set on the Boost dial. So I initially left out the toggle switches, but then realised I wanted more control over when the Buffer was applied, and since we're using Broken Arrow style functions on the footswitches the Startup function - On/Off is best set on the second toggle. I've omitted the LED brightness option from the original - I have never used that in any case!
For me - each of the 3 Jackson Audio pedals is a shoe-in really - which does not mean though that they don't have stiff competition. For the Prism for instance you have two very able sort of alternatives in the guise of the Chase Bliss Audio Condor, and the Thorpy FX Team Medic - each provides you with really good Boost, EQ and PreAmp style options - while the Condor does not have a buffer, but has several other aces up its sleeve - like its stellar filter and ramping options.
The Bloom also has strong competition from both the Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe - which I was at one stage on the verge of acquiring - then arrived the Bloom, and shortly after we had the DryBell Unit67 with its own take on Compressor + EQ + Boost. Overall the Bloom just edges it slightly here - mostly because of its added footswitchable smarts, but for other more specific applications - no doubt the Cali76 and Unit67 would be the stronger options.
For the new Broken Arrow I see two key competitors really - the new Matthews Effects Architect V3 - which also has Drive and Boost mode options 3-Band EQ etc., while the recent Neunaber Audio Neuron Gain Intelligence Drive/PreAmp - is probably currently the most feature rich pedal of its type - combing Drive with 3-Band EQ, EQ Tilt, Presence Control, Compression, Noise Gate and onboard Presets. In one pedal - it kind of takes on both the Bloom and Broken Arrow here - but does not have a boost, nor quite the same breadth of coverage - although it has several of its own advantages. I already have The Architect V3. And will likely acquire the Neuron too by year end, but feel that the Broken Arrow will most likely be the one that eventually takes pride of place - as I aim to keep the Prism and Bloom in my chain. The combination of Prism + Bloom + Broken Arrow should be killer - in amongst my other Spaceman Mercury IV Germanium Boost and various other drive pedals.
For different players the Broken Arrow might be overkill - or too techy a solution - while for me it's just the kind of modern pedal I'm a fan of. I really look forward to seeing what Jackson Audio come up with next, and expect to see an updated Prism V2 at some stage in the not too distant future!