Before Treble Boost…
The technique of guitarists has changed many times over the years and with the advent, first of multi-channel heads, then of rack preamplifiers, guitarists have brought their instrumental focus more and more on physical instrumentation (such as pedalboard or digital equipment) than on the guitar itself.
In previous years, when the only way to achieve distortion was to crank the amplifier to very high volume, the guitar controls were certainly used much more and the first pedal effects were considered more like an expansion of the guitar than as indispensable instrumentation to follow a pattern. Just think of the classic clean, crunch, lead scheme we are used to: in the 60s and most of the 70s these standards did not exist and every musician used to find his own sound his own equipment. Actually this is one of the most obvious reasons why we recognize some guitarists immediately, just like listening to the voice of a very famous singer.
The vintage amplifiers conceived in the past, were designed to sound clean and the distortion for the builders (and musicians too) was a negative side effect, until one fine day, the creativity of such a Jimi Hendrix led him to explore this territory called distortion: discovering that by raising the volume of the amp, beyond a certain threshold, the valves (or tubes) could no longer amplify, but began to compress until they reached the typical tube distortion that we know well today. Since that day, everything has changed and, in addition to the right merits referring to the revolutionary musical contribution, all the honors for this literally modified guitar sound must be recognized to this young guy from Seattle.
Once this new approach to guitar has been consolidated, at least in the United States and the United Kingdom, other young musicians have started experimenting and working on distortion and some builders and craftsmen of the time have started to produce specific instruments, one of these has been precisely the treble booster.
What the treble booster is for?
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, to reach saturation an amplifier must be pushed to very high volumes being very loud, above all the amplifiers of the past, this prerogative involves an inevitable chain reaction: the preamplifier pushes on the phase-shifting valve by compressing it, the phase shifter carries the power tubes providing to saturate the output transformer of a high pressure that transferred to the speakers, tend to modify also heavily his response.
This is to say that an amplifier in full tube saturation is in an out of control situation, and returning to the fact that an amplifier was not designed to distort, upgrades were adopted to drive the amplifier to distort in a more musical way. These upgrades were treble boosts most of the time.
A treble booster is a simple circuit (often class-a single transistor) that works both on the dynamics and frequency of the guitar signal and obviously on the gain; albeit simple and based on a few electronic components, the result is very sensitive to the choice of these, the only variation of a component can heavily vary its character, giving the guitar a very different voice and response to the touch.
Due to an impedance factor, the treble booster should be connected as close as possible to the guitar, before any other effect and thus be able to interface perfectly with the passive electronics in the instrument: by lowering the volume potentiometer on the guitar, you are able to clean up the distortion returning to a clean sound without the typical unwanted capacitive effect that tends to cut the high frequencies darkening the result, while, by cranking our potentiometer to the maximum we are able to saturate any amplifier, even the cleanest.
With a treble booster the guitarist is able to get out of the usual clean-crunch-lead clichés and drive his sound simply with the controls at hand on the guitar, raising the dynamic range to the highest levels. The cornerstone, father of all treble boosters is the Dallas Rangemaster, equipped with germanium transistors and a truly old-fashioned circuitry, has been reworked by many boutique pedal manufacturers:
Colombo Audio Electronics considers treble boost effect indispensable to reach certain sonic nuances and developed several units:
- A 3 treble booster series, always-on type: Rock You, Wembley e QueenMaster;
- A dual circuit Ingot Dual Treble Booster with the opportunity to daisy-chain both circuits;
- An American-Style unit called Southern Stalker.
3 reasons to use it…
- Extended dynamic range.
- Controlled distortion with guitar knobs.
- Frequency cut sculpted to be heard in any situation.