I’m going to take a few minutes to write a Jackson Audio Optimist review. For blatant search optimization, let’s call it by its full name: Jackson Audio The Optimist Review.
I own most of the Jackson Audio overdrive pedals. Jackson Audio The Optimist has quickly become one of my favorites light overdrive pedals. The reason is that it’s obviously a bit more mature than the rest. Not that the other ones are bad or anything, but you can tell that on this one, they designed it thinking about what they’ve learned from the previous models.
I’ll admit, I’m also a big Cory Wong fan. Even so, it took me a while to order this pedal. I often like to wait a minute when there’s a new release in case there are some production issues that appear after the first batch. I didn’t hear about any problems with these however… and now they’ve had enough time to be fully proven by the public. I’ve been playing mine for about 6 months now.
It’s very versatile and sounds great. There’s a lot in this box and the MIDI functionality to me is very important. It looks great too. Jackson Audio obviously improved the printing on The Optimist as compared to their previous pedals by making the ink much thicker and much more durable. Some people have complained that the print on the Golden Boy for example, comes off too easily. My Golden Boy has been fine though.
Note that if you engage both sides at the same time the volume goes up quite a bit. This is like other overdrives, for example, the Browne Protein… because the idea is that you would engage both when you need a volume boost for soloing or for a heavier rhythm part that needs to jump in front of the live mix.
Klon Like Clean Boost Awesomeness
One of my favorite uses of the Jackson Audio The Optimist is as a semi-clean boost. OD 1, left foot switch, top knobs, to me is the best at that. It adds a little bit of brightness and some grit, compared to true dedicated clean boosts though. It enhances everything in my opinion. I use it this way almost as much as I use the blue side on the Browne Protein and the clean boost on the right side of the Jackson Audio Golden Boy. It does this job better than something like the Strymon Sunset in a low overdrive setting. To my ears, it also does this job better than a TS808 Tubescreamer or a Boss SD-1. Both of those seem to add more dirt, and the mid-hump is much more pronounced.
This OD 1 side is supposed to be based on a Klon Centaur, or Klone clone. Now, I’ve never owned one of those, or any other Klon clone for that matter. But, given I like this side of the pedal so much, I might be looking to try a few of these. Yeah, I’m not going to be shelling out the cash for a real Klon, but any of the multitude of pedals designed like it should do fine for me. Same goes for the DigiTech Bad Monkey. Even with all the hype around that one, I’ll likely skip it as I think it’s ugly. Anyway, back on topic.
OD2’s Flatter, but brighter EQ
OD 2 side of the Jackson Audio Optimist is supposed to be like a Timmy, ZenDrive or “some-say” Dumble (dunno about that last one). I’ll admit though, I’m not a huge fan of this side and don’t use it that often. I do however use both sides together often. The EQ is also very useful and I will often use it to calm the treble a tad. Look closely at the photos in the article. This is how I usually run the knobs. Notice that the volume and tone knobs are between 8-9 o’clocks instead of the typical 12 o’clock position for most pedals.
The Jackson Audio Optimist by Cory Wong is somewhat on the loud and bright side of things. The settings you see here work well for me by keeping the volume just slightly above unity and the tone more warm. I tend to like darker tones, so for the treble boost guys, the tone up might be just fine.
A Few Cons I Would Improve
If there are two improvements I would make to The Optimist it would be:
1. OD 2 is brighter than I would like. I run the tone knob almost all the way rolled off on that circuit. That said, I don’t have to run it this rolled back on all guitars… and some people like bright pedals, so I can’t fault it for that.
2. Like all Jackson Audio overdrive pedals with MIDI, the effect engages on the upstroke or switch release of the switch press. This is different from most other pedals that engage on the press or downstroke. This causes a very slight delay in the effect coming on. This can be problematic for some if you are going from a clean passage to a distorted passage without a rest or pause. When you operate the pedal with MIDI this does not happen and it’s instantaneous.
I have written a full article about this Jackson Audio switch delay when engaging the pedals. I will not ding the pedal for this as this is how it was designed in order to allow for the various functions of the foot switches, since they do more than just turn the effect on and off. It’s like this on all Jackson Audio overdrive pedals.
To Conclude, The Verdict on the Jackson Audio The Optimist Review
I really like the Jackson Audio Optimist. Not simply because I’m a Cory Wong fan, but because I truly love its sound and use it all the time. As a bit of a collector, I have many overdrive pedals that do light overdrive and clean boost really well. Having said that, I find myself gravitating towards The Optimist a lot. To me, it’s up there on a pedestal with the Browne Amplification Protein. I feel I like the Browne Protein just a tad more in terms of the actual sound of each overdrive. However, I’ve found quite a few pedals stack better on The Optimist. That’s a lot to say because the Protein is known for taking other overdrives incredibly well.
Every once in a while I just prefer the sound of The Optimist altogether. Just depends on the day. Additionally, thanks to the EQ and the MIDI functionality it’s much more versatile than the Protein, specially for guys like my that use full MIDI rigs.