This new version of Lunastone’s Three Stage Rocket features MIDI implementation to allow it to store and control the settings of the three footswitches (Boost, OD2/OD1, Drive), and the two-way pre/post boost toggle switch. Programming is simple, and the TSR retains the same functionality of the original version, providing two footswitchable analog gain stages and a boost function that can be used to either drive the gain stages harder (pre mode) or elevate the output level (post mode), for a volume boost of up to 15dB. (Note that our test model featured separate footswitches for OD1 and OD2. The current production version, shown here, pairs OD1 and OD2 on the middle switch and has a global Drive on/off switch.)
The Three Stage Booster is a nicely made unit with a heavy-duty die-cast metal enclosure and circuitry laid out on a PC board with chassis-mounted pots and footswitches. There is no provision for battery power, but a 2.1mm jack is provided for the nine-volt adapter of your choice (not included). The ivory-colored pointer knobs look cool, and the three raised bezels for the footswitch LEDs (green, orange and red) are a classy touch. I also appreciate that the LEDs aren’t blindingly bright either, as seems to be the norm these days with a lot of pedals.
Tested though various amps that included a Fender Deluxe Reverb reissue, a Mesa/Boogie Fillmore 50 and a Vox Mini Super Beatle, the Three Stage Booster proved its value as a one-stop-shopping pedal for a bunch of OD needs. It excels as a clean booster and works super well for grinding up an amp that’s right on the verge of breakup. It’s a pure form of boost too, as the tone control is bypassed in this mode.
The OD1 and OD2 options give you a lot of control over the overdriven tones, and although OD2 has more gain and aggression, the dynamic qualities and touch responsiveness on both are excellent. I found it a little counterintuitive that OD2 lights up green and OD1 is red, but it’s easy enough to get your head around and simply set things up to toggle between crunchier sounds on the right-hand switch and heavier overdrive via the middle switch (both footswitches are metal soft-touch types).
Adding boost to either channel can greatly increase the density of the overdrive in pre mode or provide a boost in volume when using the post setting. And one of the benefits of MIDI functionality is that you can independently preset the boost configuration on OD1 and OD2 so you don’t have to reach down and flip the post/pre toggle switch.
With a Les Paul or a Tele, the Three Stage Booster made it very easy to get the perfect level of grind for solos, slide playing, chonking rhythm grooves and so on. This unit takes up roughly the same pedalboard space as three compact pedals, but with its ability to give you instant access to everything from bluesy overdrive to boatloads of sustain, the Three Stage Rocket delivers a payload of ballistic grind over a variety of styles.
Three Stage Rocket MIDI Version
PRICE $399 street
CONTROLS Boost, level, tone, Gain OD1, Gain OD2; Boost selector (pre/post); Boost, OD1, OD2 footswitches
I/O ¼” input and output jacks, MIDI port
WEIGHT 1.5 lbs
KUDOS Great range of overdrive. Selectable pre- or post-gain-stage boost. MIDI implementation and true bypass
CONCERNS Hums a bit when gain stages are active