This feature was inspired by two recent events - firstly I came across a mention of the new Knight Audio Technologies’ Brian May Classic Triple-Mode Treble Booster, and secondly - Pete Thorn this last Thursday released a really smart video on the use of Treble Boosters. Pete featured 4 such pedals - the 65 Amps Colour Boost, Crazy Tube Circuits Constellation, Divided by 13 Dyna Ranger, and the rather huge Pete Cornish TB-83 Extra Duplex Treble Boost. Of those 4, I actually already have the Constellation, while I consider the others somewhat over-sized for my own preferences. The original and benchmark Treble Booster has always been the Dallas (Arbiter) RangeMaster which found fame from around 1966 onwards as a box that would sit on top of your amp and really boost the amp’s higher frequencies while reducing the low end. This was the sound pioneered by Blues guitarist Rory Gallager and picked up by Tone Legends - Brian May and Tony Iommi amongst others.
For this selection I sought out to find the very best Treble Boosters available at the compact enclosure format size - and it's very fitting that the selection includes both Signature Brian May and Tony Iommi pedals - which are also probably my leading contenders for acquisition and at different ends to the pricing scale.
Of course the Dallas (Arbiter) RangeMaster was originated in the UK, and it is also fitting therefore that there is a significant British contingent here - or 5 all told. These pedals variously have between 1 and 4 dials, and I feel there is probably a pedal or two yet to come which does something even more clever with this genre.
There are a number of the usual suspects here, with some outliers, and including a few which are sort of discontinued or hard to get a hold of. But there should be something for everyone here really. The classic Dallas RangeMaster is/was a Germanium Transistor type (OC44) Treble Booster which the majority here are too (Germanium that is!).
My own acquisitions are usually based on price, availability and desirability. At the top of my wishlist for this genre are the Tony Iommi and Brian May signature pedals. Fryer Amps of Australia / Greg Fryer has also done a number of official Brian May Treble Boosters over the years, but I don't really like any of the current crop - while there are older versions that I'm still tempted by.
These Pedal Effects are often considered an essential for brightening and gaining up darker Vox AC-30 and early Marshall amps - but require some significantly more clever implementation within a clean pedal-platform type setup!
Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand as usual:
Beyond the CTC Constellation - which is really more of a Tone Bender and Fuzz Face Fuzz, the TI-Boost was the first of this genre that ever made it onto one of my wishlists. It's fitting that one of the great purveyors of the Treble Booster effect should have his own signature pedal - and albeit not based on Germanium Transistors as far as I can tell, this is an excellent expanded scope effect emanating from the core of the Dallas RangeMaster. The feature set here is significantly extended with 4 dials and a toggle switch - or namely - Drive | Volume | Low Frequencies | Hi Frequencies, and a 2-way Mids toggle switch. This has been a really well received pedal - it's well made, and looks and sounds great - definitely one for the tone library.
The British Pedal Company makes a variety of Germanium Treble Boosters - with both new or vintage NOS Mullard OC44 Transistors - £100 difference in price! This is your standard basic Treble Booster with just a single boost/gain dial. It's obviously built with the finest components. There are no demo videos of the Compact Series online, so I've selected the amp-top version video here instead which uses the exact same period correct OC44 Germanium Transistor.
German pedal builder BSM is something of a Treble Booster specialist with more than 20 models across Low-Gain, Medium-Gain and High-Gain applications. I have selected their classic RangeMaster clone here - the 'RM' - obviously with OC44 Transistors intact from the original. BSM have their knobs down the sides of the pedal which is fairly unusual, otherwise this is a pretty much an exact RangeMaster circuit replication.
Catalinbread's take on the RangeMaster utilises Silicon Transistors in place of the classic OC44 Germanium type - but they extend the feature set and range of the pedal with 2 additional dials - to give you 3 control knobs - Range | Boost | Heat. They report that rather than having to have their pedal dimed as is the case with many RangeMaster types - that there are lots of in-between settings available with the interplay of the 3 dials - the Range dial takes you from classic Treble Booster up to Full Frequency Range boost, while the Heat control allows you to adjust the level of gain saturation. This is another excellent variation of the classic and well worth consideration.
I was somewhat bemused to see Pete Thorn use this as one of his Treble Boosters in his recent video - as this is principally a Tone Bender style fuzz variant with 6 modes - including Rangemaster and Rangemaster into Fuzz Face options. As Pete says - there's not as much gain boost on tap here as with many of these others, but you do still get that great tonality. Of course you get a really great Tone Bender, Fuzz Face and Rangemaster all in the same box - which may be a touch overkill for some! CTC has hand-selected 3 zero leakage New Old Stock Valvo OC45 Black Glass Germanium transistors for each pedal to ensure ideal performance and consistency.
EHX's take on the RangeMaster is by a significant degree the lowest cost option in this particular grouping. The basic circuit is of course really very simple, and Silicon transistors can be obtained very cost-effectively. This is a very good price though and should give anyone wanting to dip their toes into the genre a solid foundation for what Treble Boosters can do.
A pretty reasonably priced high quality extended range Treble Booster with a choice of Transistors - Mullard OC141 or OC42 and other options you can select. The right-hand rotary dial gives you 7 different voicings - each achieved by using 7 separate high quality NOS capacitors and not via the typically simpler style of tone stack. So here the Treble Booster is just one of the flavours on offer - definitely a quality contender!
Greer Amps' take on the RangeMaster is billed more as a Class A Germanium Treble and Mid PreAmp. It runs on an AC128 Germanium Transistor and has a Treble/Mid frequency dial to accompany the Master Vol / Boost Level. This is another really handy Treble Booster - Greer are always pretty solid for these types of effects. It's not an exact RangeMaster clone, but gets you into pretty much identical territory. It should suffice for most applications though.
This is another proper RangeMaster clone - with CV7003 military spec core Germanium OC44 transistor. Such transistors are obviously in very rarefied supply and the standard model appears to be discontinued, while it's still seemingly widely in stock. The current catalogue version is a red leather enclosed limited edition. The pedal features a 3-way toggle switch for treble, mid or bass boost focus. The leather version is probably overkill - you should really try and track down a standard version before they all run out!
KMA's take on the RangeMaster relies on an AC125 Germanium Transistor. I believe this pedal type used to be called 'Sweet Sinner', but is now more appropriately named after the current most active Icelandic geyser 'Strokkur'. This is another extended range style Treble Booster with 4 dials at your disposal - Treble | Bass | Range | Boost. 'Range' is essentially the frequency focus - going from Treble Booster to Full Frequency Range for all-round boost - with the Treble and Bass dials to further fine-tune the tone. Yet another great example of the genre.
This is the pedal that sparked this entire article - from possibly the most famous proponent of Treble Boosters of all time. Over his career, Brian has relied on various Treble Boosters - the original Germanium OC44 RangeMaster, and then Silicon versions made by both Greg Fryer and Nigel Knight - mostly utilising BC148 and later BC183 Silicon Transistors as far as I'm aware. This new Nigel Knight production aims to cover all of Brian's career with 3 era-specific modes - 70s, 80s and 90s - with the last mentioned also the current shape of Brian's Tone. You have a 3-way mode selector - and then symbols around the main Boost / Level dial showing Brian's preferred setting for each mode. The description of the creation process talks about modelling each of the specific Treble Booster types (via analogue circuitry as far as I understand) - and achieving the right tones by appropriate component selection - highest quality capacitors, resistors etc. It nowhere states what is at the core of the tone-shaping, but I feel it's most likely some sort of Silicon transistor - possibly a BC183 type or similar - they seem to be keeping a tight lid about the exact component choices. The main thing here though is that this has been properly trialled, tested and signed off by Brian himself - and is the most versatile part of his tone-shaping besides his Red Special and AC-30 amp of course! I will almost definitely get one of these as I'm a huge fan of the Legendary Brian May!
Another Björn Juhl classic - this time based on a combination of 2 BJFe pedals - the Little Red Trebler and Red Booster Rooster (not to be confused with the D*A*M Red Rooster). You get 3 dials - Master | Boost | Treble to extend the range somewhat beyond a standard RangeMaster. I have loved all my Björn Juhl pedals - whether from Bearfoot FX, Mad Professor or OneControl - and have several from each. These exact boosters are somewhat slipping out of distribution - but there seem to still a few stragglers around at pretty reasonable prices.
These seem to be very few and far between nowadays - possibly discontinued - although examples do crop up on Reverb.com every now and then. In the official catalogue you only have a sold out version of the amp-top box listed (for £189), with no sign of the compact pedal equivalent. This is a pretty faithful original OC44 Transistor RangeMaster, it does though come with a 3-way toggle switch - Mid | Treb | Full - to take you somewhat beyond the range of a mere standard Treble Booster. If you find one in decent condition on Reverb.com it should be worth the gamble!
This is the second pedal I feature from this Brazilian pedal builder - after the Octopus Octave Fuzz. The 'Amp' is a classic one knob treble booster with a supposedly rare but unspecified Ukranian Germanium Transistor - possibly an AC128 style or equivalent type. These pedals appear fairly regularly on Reverb.com or you can order direct - albeit the postage from Brazil might sting a little!
ThroBak - the celebrated boutique pickup maker also has a nicely rounded but compact range of essentially fuzz-style pedals - including the Fuzz Haze (Fuzz Face), Overdrive Boost (Power Boost), Stone Bender (MKII TB), and this Strange Master - obviously an extended range RangeMaster+ Boost. The pedal description mentions unspecified Germanium and Silicon Tranistors, and you have an onboard toggle switch - to alternate between those. You further get a Hi/Lo Gain mode dial, mini Transistor Bias dial, and of course the main Boost / Level knob. This is a great extended-range Treble Booster that most should find to their liking.
This is another slightly different extended range Germanium Treble Booster with additional JFET circuit and Buffer. Again there is no record of which Germanium Transistor is utilised here but you get extra Bias and Phatness (low-end saturation) dials do go with the Volume. It's certainly another pretty reasonable contender.
As stated in the intro, these are really considered the essential accessory for any Vox AC-15/30 amp, but also if you like Queen, Black Sabbath or Judas Priest or a number of other saturated guitar bands - then this will make your amp sing like no other effect. I'm a huge Brian May / Vox Top Boost fan who also likes significant parts of the other two mentioned here and much more besides. I've always considered the Treble-Boosted Vox as one of my essential distortion tones alongside several Marshall-style flavours.
I have just one of these featured to date - the Crazy Tube Circuits Constellation, but I've already made plans to acquire the Tony Iommi signature from Laney/Black Country Customs, alongside the very new Brian May Treble Booster Classic from Nigel Knight / KAT.
I still feel there is more that can be done with this format - particularly seeing what Jackson Audio is up to these days - their new Broken Arrow OD + Boost is just phenomenal - and with 4 different Boost Modes - including a sort of Treble Booster. I expect there to be a significantly smarter all-round booster any day soon - either from the workshops of Josh Scott or Brad Jackson most likely.
I actually probably need one more from this selection really - something closer to the original RangeMaster Germanium OC44 Transistor circuit - and the frontrunners in that area are probably the Expresso FX Germanium Boost and the Jam Pedals Rooster. As always - mileage can vary - and there is no substitute for your own trials - these pedals are intended to overdrive an already slightly driven amp. So if you're rocking a clean-amp pedal-platform rig like me, you will need to follow the booster with sufficiently significant levels of amp-like saturation via another suitable overdrive or distortion.
There have been a tonne of these types of pedals over the years, and as these can be such simple circuits - probably every single boutique builder has made one at some stage of their career. I think it's about finding the right one for you at the right price - that does not always necessarily mean the most authentic in terms of component selection! Some will question why I left out the Analog.Man Beano Boost which is of course another excellent example - but in mini enclosure format - and I have long since done a separate article for those!