A little while ago, Mike Congilosi II of Lightning Boy Audio contacted me to see if I would be interested in checking out the Lightning Boy II. Why yes, yes I would! I’ve had the opportunity to play a few of their products, and I’ve never been disappointed – and would expect the same with this.
When I pulled the unit out of the box, I was struck by the simplicity. The Lightning Boy II has a footswitch, LED and a single volume knob. Okay, I think I can figure this out. It comes with it’s own power supply, and found it interesting that it’s 12V AC.. not the typical DC power. Under the hood there is some heavy duty components for handling the higher voltage and at the heart there is a JJ ECC83S tube (12AX7). I love pedals with tubes in there. According to Lightning Boy the unit has been tested with a variety of tubes (12AU7, 12AT7 and 12AX7) for optimal tone. If you know your tubage, you’ll know that each tube has their own distortion characteristics. I was glad they come stock with the 12AX7s though – that would be my preferred tube of choice. It’s noted that you should be careful changing the tube out since, there are some large capacitors in there that should be discharged before digging around in there.
Lightning Boy Audio – The Lightning Boy II
I wanted to play this pedal with a variety of amps. I first plugged this into my Matchless HC30 which can be finicky with pedals depending on the situation and application. I set the volume to around 10 o’clock which is slightly higher than ‘unity gain’ and let it rip. I absolutely loved the breakup that it added to the front end of the amp. I typically play the Matchless at what I call ‘medium grit’ meaning there is some hair when you hit it hard, but playing lightly, it’s very clean. Definitely not a high-gain tone. For this particular application, this pedal is absolutely amazing. The pre-set distortion is perfect. If I crank the volume, things begin to mush and get muddy, but that is exactly what I would expect with this amp. The sweet spot for me was around 2:30-3 o’clock on the dial.
The next test was with my Rivera Knucklehead 100. Now, this is a EL34 100Watt head that has great crunch and is a high-gain tone amp. I wanted to see how it would respond to the high-gain structure of this amp. Again, I was super impressed. What stood out for me was the massive sustain I was getting out of this. This amp could take the volume dimed on the Lightning Boy II without a problem, and it was getting a higher / treble boost tone when dimed. Again, I think with both amps, I preferred the position around the 2:30-3 o’clock mark. That gave plenty of volume boost, great break up and sustain.
Now, some of you guys would like to have some more control with the tone. Lightning Boy Audio provides the CH2 which is a ‘side car’ for the Lighting Boy II providing 2 channels where you can control gain and treble. The single footswitch toggles between the channels. Check out the video showing the whole system and what it’s capable of :
Here is the full set of features of the Lightning Boy II:
- 1 knob for volume
- Pre-fixedÂ amount of distortion.
- Capable of 30dB of boost!
- 100V B+ internal power provides plenty of headroom for a warm tight distortionÂ with loads of original tube tone!
- 12AX7 vacuum tube internally mounted for 100% pure vacuum tube signal path. Â No transistors!
- Inert gas voltage regulator tubeÂ helps reduceÂ noise and improves tightness of sound.
- Metal mesh screened side ventÂ for tube cooling. Â Orange neon glow of the voltage regulator tube illuminates inside of pedal as seen through the vent port.
- Pedal is designed to accept a variety of tube substitutes. Â So far, it has been testedÂ with 12AU7 (warm clean boost),Â 12AT7 (bit less distortion, but louderÂ than 12AX7), and 12AY7 (similar volume to 12AX7. Â Less gain than 12AX7, but slightly more gain than 12AU7. Â Noticeable top-end clarity).
- Sidecar expansion port for connecting LBA Sidecar Modules to expand the capabilities of The Lightning Boy II.
- True Bypass
- Point-to-point wired audio circuitry, justÂ like an old school amp. Â Internal high voltage power supply mounted on custom LBA PCB.
- Paper-in-oil caps in the audio path, just like an old school amp. Â A source of this pedals great tone!
- Designed and hand builtÂ in the USA
- Requires 12V AC (not DC) at 200mA minimum. Â $15 for wall wart adapter (North America, Japan only) Â or $39Â for an LBA low noise power supply that has voltage selector switch for worldwide use. Â Some 3rd party multi-pedal power supplies are compatible, such as the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power AC and T-Rex Fuel Tank.
- 5-year warranty!
The Lightning Boy Audio is available for $235 via their site. Let me know what you think about this guy by commenting below.
Disclosure: this pedal was sent to me for review. This pedal will eventually be used in a give away in the future.