Best Manual Boost Controller In 2020

Best Overall | Best Under $25 | Best Dual Stage | Manual Boost Control Basics | How To Install

When you have a turbo-powered vehicle there is one thing always on your mind…..more boost! A manual boost controller is one of the best ways to control the boost pressure your turbo is producing. They are easy to install and inexpensive when compared to an electronic style controller. They do require a little effort (which is where the manual part of the name comes in). But are the most fun you can have for under $100. 

A diagram of the inside of a manual boost controller
Inside a manual boost controller

So why review MBCs (manual boost controller)? They all work the same, simply turn the knob and get more boost right? In an ideal world yes that’s how it works. Unfortunately, many controllers don’t perform as well as they should. This makes dialing in the perfect PSI more difficult than it needs to be.

Because of this, we’ve put together a list of the best manual style boost controllers available for every budget level. You should NEVER alter the boost level you are running without a high-quality boost gauge. Properly tuning your vehicle to handle the added power is also recommended.

Boost Control Basics

Before we cover our favorites, let’s dive into some need-to-know information about manual boost controllers.

  1. They are the simplest form of boost control. 
  2. These are manually set mechanical devices.
  3. There is no feedback and are not connected to the ECU in any way.
  4. Manual boost controllers are simple, cost-effective ways to increase boost
  5. A boost controller works by interrupting the pressure being sent to the wastegate
  6. It works with both an internal or external wastegate
  7. A high-quality boost gauge is a necessity when you install a mechanical boost controller. If you increase the boost pressure too much you could destroy your engine without proper tuning.
  8. Boost controllers will NOT allow you to adjust the boost lower than the wastegate spring rating. Your wastegate spring rate is the baseline, it’s as low as you can go.
  9. A manual style works as good as an electronic unit. In many cases, the turbo reaches full boost 600rpm faster than if using an electronic.

When putting together our list we have 3 things we look for in any boost controller we use.

  • All metal construction
  • Ability to hold boost at a steady level
  • Easy to adjust, no finicky knobs that make getting your boost level dialed in difficult.

Go Fast Bits (GFB) Atomic Boost Controller

gfb manual boost controller
GFB Atomic

What We Like :

  • The engineering and construction is the best in category
  • The ability to fine-tune boost levels is top-notch
  • Zero boost spiking issues
  • Holds boost levels steady under even the most demanding conditions
  • The price is unbelievable considering the quality

What We Dislike:

  • Nothing

The GFB Atomic is hands down our shop’s favorite. Go Fast Bits may not be the biggest name in the US yet, but they make some of the highest quality parts we’ve ever seen. The Atomic is no different. Engineered for durability and solid boost control, we think this is dollar for dollar the best MBC on the market.

This is what GFB has to say about the Atomic:

When you need simple, reliable, set-and-forget boost control, the Atomic is hard to beat. Installation is as simple as connecting a couple of hoses, and setup is as easy as turning the adjustment until you hit your target. Once that’s done, you can forget about it and drive your car. Being a rugged, mechanical device, it will never vary or fail, no matter how much abuse you can throw at it.


GrimmSpeed Boost Controller

grimmspeed mbc kit includes everything for installation
Grimmspeed Manual Boost Controller

What We Like :

  • Solid construction
  • The fine-tuning of boost levels is amazing
  • Doesn’t over spike as you see with some of the cheaper MBC out there. Couple it with the right wastegate spring and it really changes things.
  • Comes with full installation kit

What We Dislike:

  • A little overpriced
  • Often out of stock

This has been one of our customer favorites over the last few years. With GrimmSpeed you know you are getting a high-quality piece at a decent price. They have a reputation for producing great products and have been one of the biggest names in the performance parts industry for years.

This is what they have to say about their boost controller:

Welcome to the next evolution of boost control. Introducing the most refined MBC available on the market. We spent over a year working hand in hand with Tuners across the country to develop our MBC.

Our Controller allows you to raise the OEM boost levels in a quick and efficient manner. Adding the MBC will result in Quicker Spool Up, Quicker Response, Increased Horsepower, and Increased Torque.

This is the first of its kind with Exact Control technology utilizing over 250 adjustment points. These points lock in place using a heavy-duty stainless dual ball detent system. An extra-long travel spring gives you superior range while maintaining a high resolution, not some vague guess at where to set your boost.

Don’t trust the life of your engine to trial and error. Pinpoint your setting using our rising scale running the length of the controller, lock, and load. CNC from weapon’s grade 6061 Aluminum and laser etched our MBC will outlast your vehicle! The GrimmSpeed MBC redefines precise control and will promise you the results you demand.


NXS Motorsports Boost Controller

nxs boost controller is a low cost but well made unit
NXS Boost Controller

What We Like:

  • Excellent price
  • Solid Boost Control
  • Well Made, 100% metal construction

What We Dislike:

  • It’s kind of ugly
  • We have had some issues with the spring fatiguing after long term use
  • We have experienced some minor leakage issues on a couple of units
  • No installation kit included

We first found out about the NXS Boost Controller a year or so ago. We’ve used it on a few of our shop cars. While it might not be the “prettiest” option on the market it does everything you need it to do. The best part about it is the price, which is half that of many of the big-name parts on the market. If you’re on a tight budget you really can’t go wrong with this unit.

Here’s what they say about their boost controller:

Our Signature Series has finally arrived! We took our classic design and improved upon it in nearly every way possible.

The body is crafted from anodized Type-6061 aluminum. The hose barb fittings and lock nut are constructed from nickel-plated brass.

It incorporates a stainless steel spring and your choice of either a chrome or ceramic ball bearing. This combination allows your engine to realize gains of up to 30 psi. While being able to fine-tune your desired boost setting with ease.

The hose barbs included with your controller use a captured o-ring that creates a perfect seal while encasing and protecting it. It will never crack, break, or rupture.

We wanted our newest offering to last a lifetime, and it will. This entire unit is built to withstand the harshest of elements. We even back it up with our lifetime warranty.


Hallman Pro Boost Control Kit

 hallman pro boost control kit includes everything for installation
Hallman Boost Controller

What We Like:

  • Good price
  • Rock-solid boost control
  • Super easy to use
  • Includes full installation kit

What We Don’t Like:

  • Difficult to find certain colors

And we now come to one of the original boost controllers in the game. Hallman has been building some of the highest quality MBCs for years. We’ve used their controllers on many of our daily drivers and track cars since the early 2000s and they’ve never let us down. This is a company that believes in making products that take all the abuse you can throw at it without blinking.

While dozens of companies have come and gone over the years they are still building quality parts at a great price.

Here’s what they say about their controllers:

Our new Hallman Pro kit contains our new Hallman Pro valve. The new Pro valve is machined out of billet aluminum and stainless steel pieces. The new design of the valve incorporates some great new features not currently available on any other manual boost controller.

We have designed the Pro valve to not require the use of a lock nut or any type or Allen wrench. Simply turn the adjustment knob and it stays. Another great feature is the fact that the adjustment knob cannot be lost or come out of the valve. Simply put there is no potential for over boosting since the adjustment knob cannot vibrate loose and come out.

The Pro kit also includes: 3 feet of vacuum line, mounting bracket, hardware packet and complete installation instructions all in one kit. This kit has all the installation hardware that is needed for most all turbo installs. Plus, it comes with a mounting clamp to hold the valve.


Turbosmart Dual Stage

Now if you are looking for something a little more advanced and offers more than one boost setting the Turbosmart Dual Stage is the ideal controller for you. The Dual Stage allows you to dial in two separate boost levels, one high and one low.

Driving around town and want to save on gas and avoid wear and tear on your car? Click on your low boost setting. Need more power to deal with annoying traffic or that dude with the rusted out Civic “race car”? Simply flick a switch and high boost is activated! It’s as simple as clicking a switch. No more wasting time getting the boost levels back to street or track levels.

What We Like:

  • Great price
  • Two-Stage boost control is convenient and a time saver
  • Easy to use
  • Includes full installation kit
  • Best 2 stage on the market

What We Don’t Like:

  • Nothing

How To Install Your Manual Boost Controller

manual boost controller installation diagram. How to install your MBC
Basic Installation Diagram

First, we must gain access to the turbo. In some cases this may require removing the air box assemblies.

Now we locate our wastegate actuator and our pressure source. Both factory hoses have to be removed and replaced with new silicone hoses. Make sure your hoses are long enough to reach the intended mounting position of your controller. 

Disconnect the boost line on the solenoid. The vent line from the solenoid does not need to be removed. We leave the factory solenoid line in place to keep the ECU happy. 

Next, it’s time to mount the boost controller in place. Use a mounting bracket that is usually supplied in the installation kit. It’s a good idea to mount the controller as close to the turbocharger as possible. The shorter the hoses the better the response. With the controller securely mounted we attach both hoses ensuring the wastegate actuator hose is attached to the correct fitting. 

The boost can now be adjusted by turning the knob in the direction marked on the controller. We recommend you start with the boost adjusted open about half a turn from the fully closed position. 

It’s worth mentioning here that while the controller will allow you to increase the boost they cannot reduce boost.

You now have your controller installed and ready to be dialed in. All that is left to do is replace anything that had to be removed.

If you’d like to learn more, Wikipedia has a nice write about the subject.

In Conclusion

There are many other MBCs on the market but you can’t go wrong with any of the above options. If getting everything you need to complete your installation is important, we recommend the Hallman or the GrimmSpeed. They both cost a little more but are worth every penny. If you are on a tight budget and don’t need the installation kit then the NXS is probably a better fit for you.

What we don’t recommend is buying a no-name unit off eBay. We’ve seen way too many blown engines and over boost issues over the years caused by junk MBCs. In other words, you may save a little money but the risk you’re taking isn’t worth it.

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

About Tim Croft

Tim is the lead gearhead at Punishment Racing. He's been in the automotive industry for 20+ years as a technician, fabricator, and shop owner. Twitter