Majik Box Doug Aldrich Rocket Fuel - First Look

Review by Richard Miller.

Dinosaur Rock Guitar has a long-standing relationship with Whitesnake/Dio guitarist, Doug Aldrich.  In our 2008 interview with Doug, we were intrigued to hear that Doug had come up with a new signature Overdrive/Boost pedal, designed specifically to meet his needs in Whitesnake (and beyond).  At the time of the interview, the pedal was still in the prototype stage.  However, Doug assured us that once it reached production, DRG would receive the first Rocket Fuel pedal for review.  Well it took a while, but it was definitely worth the wait!   


Doug's primary requirements were for a pedal that would provide both Boost and Overdrive functions with a solid midrange, plus the retention of bass frequencies that are often reduced or lost when an overdrive is engaged.  

As Doug explained to DRG, “one of the key things is in the bass frequencies. A lot of overdrives and distortion pedals — when you kick it in, it's actually cutting the bass a bit, and giving you a midrange bump. I was trying to avoid that.  Because while something like a Tubescreamer is great for playing leads, when you're playing rhythm, sometimes you want that bottom end. And sometimes when you're playing lead high on the neck on the bridge pickup, you want to be a little fatter sounding.  So this pedal achieves all that stuff, and doesn't cut the bottom end. It can actually also boost the bottom end a little bit if you want it. And it has a really responsive touch to it. It's providing more gain, but it's giving you a bit more clarity at the same time. It compresses in the way you want it to for soloing, but when you back off the volume on your guitar, it reverts back to like it isn't even on. It's not like a pedal you have to kick in for solos. You can have it set and on, then back off the volume on your guitar, and when you want a little more gain, you can turn it up at the guitar. Or you can use it conventionally and kick it on when you want it. But the bottom line is that the tone of the thing is really cool, and kind of unique in its own way.”

So Doug wanted a very real presence of the bottom end across all levels of gain produced.  And while the pedal was specifically voiced to work with Doug’s own guitars, amps, and even his cabs, both he and Majik Box realized that a production pedal needs to respond well with many guitar and amp types.  


So what exactly is the Rocket Fuel? The Rocket Fuel is truly two effects (clean boost, and overdrive) in one pedal.  It literally has two analog circuits, and two separate boards in one pedal.  The two circuits don't really share much more than the box they're housed in. The pedal features true bypass and is configured input > overdrive >boost > output. The pedal sports four control knobs across the top, the Boost and Overdrive footswitches in the left and right bottom corners respectively, and a three position Bass Shift micro switch centered just below the control knobs, (well out of the way of the footswitches). Two bright LED indicate whether the Boost, the Overdrive, or both are engaged or not.

To evaluate the pedal, I went Guitar > Rocket Fuel > Amp input > Cab, with nothing else in the chain.


Given that it is the simpler part of the Rocket Fuel (featuring only one control knob), the Boost was a big surprise.  This was no after-thought, last-minute add-on. This is a beautifully voiced clean boost!  I tested the Boost with the following gear:

  • Eric Johnson Strat with low output single coils
  • Suhr Classic T with higher output single coils
  • Mesa Mark III's clean channel running 6L6GCs
  • 2x12 Earcandy closed back cab with Eminence Wizards.

With both guitars and single coil pickup types, I was able to increase the volume without a hint of distortion. Even dialed down to nil there's a noticeable increase in both volume and presence when the Boost is engaged. With the control knob set at 10 o’clock I had more than enough to stand out over any backing track I had previously played. At 1 o’clock the tone started to fatten a bit but still remained very clean.

To get a handle on the tone Doug Aldrich would be getting I switched to the following gear:

  • Les Paul Studio loaded with Doug's signature humbuckers from John Suhr.
  • MV3484 amp head, using the EL34 option, which is designed to sound like a late 60s/ early 70s Marshall
  • Ear Candy 1x12 with a Celestion G12H
  • A similar Ear Candy 1x12 with one Celestion Vintage 30

With these combinations, the Boost was able to cleanly increase the volume and presence without overly fattening the tone. Other guitars, amps, and cabinet choices including a Mesa F-30 combo (EL84s/Vintage 30), and a Bluewater Carondelet, (EL34s/Weber 12A150T AlNiCos), yielded similar results. The clean boost on the Rocket fuel is, in my opinion, excellent. Very much in the tonal range and quality of the Keeley Katana, a clean boost which retails (without any overdrive component) for around $200.


Next, I switched to the Rocket Fuel's Overdrive section. Controls for Level, Tone, and Drive, one LED, one footswitch. This portion of the Rocket Fuel is a taste treat, offering a wider range and more gain than a TS9/OD9 type of overdrive.  It is mid-rich like an overdrive should be, but, as Doug wanted, it retains the lower frequencies for a very full range of overdriven guitar tone.

I used the same rig configurations to test the Overdrive, and across the board, I was able to find settings that worked extremely well with each rig.  I found more than an abundant level of sustain on tap. That was pretty much expected with a Les Paul, but I was also very impressed with the sustain produced by alder body/single coil guitars.

The sustain kicks in and starts getting strong as early as 9 o’clock on the Drive knob. It's pretty easy for an overdrive to create sustain at higher drive or gain levels. Only quality overdrives deliver lasting sustain at the grit to crunch level, and this pedal does that. In my tests, the crunch developed fastest with EL34 based amps and G12H or Wizard speakers.  Slightly later when using EL84s or V30 speakers, and later still with 6L6GC amps and Lead 80 or Swamp Thang speakers. In my tests, the sustain seemed more immediately evident with 6L6 amps. However, with some tweaking, the Rocket Fuel worked wonderfully with all rig combinations.

When I ran through an amplifier’s crunch channel, I found the following settings produced the best results:

  • Level between 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock
  • Tone between 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock
  • Drive between 9 o’clock and 11 o’clock.

When I ran through an amplifier's clean channel, or a very clean amplifier, I needed to back off the Tone and increase the Drive to as high as 2 - 3 o’clock to produce smooth sustain for lead work while retaining good note definition.

To my ears, the Rocket Fuel’s Overdrive section belongs among a range of pedals that would include the T.Rex Gristle King Overdrive Boost, ($280 retail), the Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET, (approx. $160), the Diamond J-Drive MK3 Overdrive Boost, ($219), the Hermida Audio Zendrive or Nosferatu, (approx. $200), or an extremely well-voiced OD-9, TS-808, or TS9.

Bass Shift

The last interesting feature of the Rocket Fuel is the three position Bass Shift switch. Though it is labeled Bass Shift, it actually affects more than just the bottom end.

  • Position 1 – I think this position would work best with bright rigs, such as guitars with Tele or Broadcaster bridges, or very bright Plexis or similarly voiced equipment.
  • Position 2 – This mates well with humbuckers, EL34 amps and rich voiced speakers like the G12H, Wizard, and Vintage 30.
  • Position 3 – I’d recommend this for single coils, 6L6 or EL84 type amps, and most any ceramic magnet speaker. In this position the Rocket Fuel delivers a highly defined wall of sound. Everything feels punched up and the bass frequencies are both strongly present and very tight. Great note definition, dynamics, and a strong sense of added power.

The Technical Bits

I only have a player's knowledge of electronic components, however, I know which brands commonly appear in many of the high end pedals, and the Rocket Fuel’s components fall right in line with the quality you expect and are paying for.  The Rocket Fuel uses a single channel low noise TL071CP op amp in the boost circuit and a [BB] (Burr-Brown?) OPA2604AP dual channel opamp in the overdrive circuit.  Each circuit has its own dedicated ALPHA pots, (one for the boost and three for the overdrive).  



Nit pick

From a cosmetics perspective, it just seems wrong to leave the gray metal of the effect box unpainted.  Perhaps this was a measure to keep costs as low as possible, however, an all-around baked-on enamel finish would provide a high quality look that is commensurate with the high quality of tone the Rocket Fuel delivers.

The Verdict

Majik Box’s Doug Aldrich Rocket Fuel pedal is a winner. It's hard not to like a pedal that goes toe-to-toe with the best high-end clean boosts and overdrives on the market and gives you both for the relative bargain of $269.  If there is any downside to the Rocket Fuel it might be the positioning of the boost after the overdrive in the signal chain.  As such, the Rocket Fuel might not be the right choice to pair with modern high gain amps that already possess gobs of preamp gain. For those amps, it might be preferable to have the Boost before the Overdrive so that the Boost could enhance the ability of lower output pickups to kick the front of the overdrive.  However, to be fair, this pedal was not designed for that application.  It was designed to provide Doug Aldrich with the gain levels he requires for his personal rig of comparatively lower gain Marshalls.  It was not designed to be all things to all people.  That said, the Rocket Fuel is quite versatile in its ability to work well in a wide variety of guitar rigs and settings.  As Doug himself commented: “if you plug a Strat in, it gives you that over-the-top Stevie Ray tone.”

The not-surprising reality, though, is that Rocket Fuel fits perfectly in the heavy rock/melodic metal wheelhouse, which is exactly where Doug Aldrich’s tone lives and breathes.  In fact, we found the Rocket Fuel to be a great pedal for taking your amp from a classic 70s heavy rock sound to an 80s style melodic metal sound by just engaging the Overdrive. For example, you can set your amp to an early Whitesnake, Moody-Marsden level of gain, and then engage the Rocket Fuel and instantly get a later Sykes-era Whitesnake level of gain. You think something like that might be useful for the current Whitesnake guitarist?  And because the Rocket Fuel retains bass frequencies where some others do not, the gain increase provided by the Overdrive is suited for both lead and rhythm work.  Yet if you need your Nigel Tufnel, these go to 11 moment beyond that, you can kick in the Boost as well.

While the Rocket Fuel was developed by Majik Box to achieve Doug Aldrich’s personal tonal desires in a boost pedal, it provides an excellent collection of gain tones that many guitarists will enjoy using to achieve their own tonal goals.

Get it here.