The Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster has been used by the great and good of rock: Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher, Tony Iommi, Marc Bolan, Brian May...rumour even has it that Eric Clapton used one on several tracks of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton - the famed "Beano" album.
Released in 1966, the Rangemaster Treble Booster was effectively a germanium-based pre-amp in a simple box that would sit on top of your amp. Consisting of one germanium transistor (typically a Mullard OC44 or NTK275), three resistors and four capacitors, it sums up the simplicity of the era's guitar equipment, but the sound it was capable of producing...well, let's just say it made more than one guitar legend!
The idea behind the Dallas Rangemaster was to bring upper-frequency clarity to typical British amps of the day, which tended to be on the darker side. The "growl" of the pushed germanium transistor running into the first tube in an amp's pre-amp section not only adds grit and texture to the final sound, but it provides the amp with an EQ'd sound and light compression.
The germanium transistor asymmetrically clips the signal in a relatively smooth way, which the amp's pre-amp valve then builds on by clipping the peaks on the other side of the waveform. The result is a smooth, compressed signal which works wonders when the volume is then turned up.
Interestingly, the "Treble Booster" name is a bit of a misnomer - it's not just a case of simply boosting the treble frequencies. Instead, the upper-mid and lower-treble range "feed" the pedal and dictate how much boost it produces: the more high-end signal, the more dBs of gain. There is also no cutting of the bass frequencies like you find in something like a Tubescreamer.
The result is an extremely responsive tone with plenty of texture, zing and girth - a perfect match for an overdriving Marshall!
What Are the Alternatives to a Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster?
You can buy an original 1960s Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster today for around £2,000, which is great if you want a piece of history and have a wad of cash burning a hold in your pocket. Of course, vintage equipment can be unreliable if it's not properly maintained.
Some companies build exact replicas in the unique amp-top chassis the Dallas Rangemaster is known for, but if you're after something more pedalboard friendly I stock the Tate FX Hot Coals Germanium Rangemaster, which I can thoroughly recommend.
Based on the Dallas Rangemaster, it brings just what I want to my sound: plenty of cutting mid-range and high-end clarity. It's difficult to express in words the grin this simple one-knob pedal puts on my face!
Stuart Tate explained to me how he uses the best components he can find: "The Hot Coals uses NOS UK military-spec germanium transistors with NOS Soviet-era Russian germanium diodes for temperature stabilisation. It's based on the classic Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster. The switch toggles between the classic treble frequency boost and a fuller frequency boost."
The Formula B Fuzz Rangers has become one of my bestsellers. Combining the classic silicon Fuzz Face circuit with a silicon version of the Rangemaster Treble Booster (for better stability when run together with the fuzz), it's a serious bit of kit that brings all the character of the Rangemaster circuit but adds a Low/Mid/Hi toggle to zone in on particular frequency ranges.
It's not as historically accurate in sound as the Hot Coals, but it's still tons of fun when combined with the fuzz circuit. One of the great things about this pedal is you can choose which order the two circuits operate - so stick the Rangemaster side first for a saturated fuzz tone, or put the Fuzz Face side first for more clarity and volume to push your amp.
So grab yourself a Marshall (other amps are available...), a Tate FX Hot Coals or Formula B Fuzz Rangers, your favourite guitar and 30 minutes to yourself, and see if you can unplug either of these pedals afterwards. My bet is that you can't!
Shop Treble Booster-Type Pedals
[product=signal-cheyne-oberon-germanium-boost] Handbuilt in France, The Oberon Germanium Boost comprises a single knob and a 3-way toggle, making it a simple but effective tool in your pedalboard arsenal. A built in charge pump reverses polarity of the power supply, ensuring your modern power plays nicely with the old-school NOS germanium transistor. [/product]
[product=tate-fx-hot-coals] The Tate FX Hot Coals is a Rangemaster-style germanium boost, made with NOS UK military-spec germanium transistors and NOS USSR germanium diodes for temperature stabilisation. Based on the classic Dallas Rangemaster, the Hot Coals takes the best parts and expands on it - notably including a toggle to switch between the classic treble-boost and a fuller-range setting for those occasions when you don't need all that treble. It's your one-stop shop to raucous Iommi riffage. [/product]
[product=formula-b-fuzz-rangers-anniversary-edition] The Fuzz Rangers Limited Edition combines Rangemaster and Fuzz Face circuits for an awesome all-in-one pedal. The Boost circuit is based on the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster, with silicon BC549 transistors to reduce compatibility problems (polarity, power etc) with the Fuzz circuit. Uniquely, there's a toggle switch to shift the Boost emphasis between Low, Mid and High frequencies, making it more flexible than a traditional Rangemaster. With the option to run the Fuzz and Boost channels independently, it's an incredibly flexible pedal for your pedalboard, but where it gets interesting is that there's also a toggle to set the direction of the signal. You can choose whether to run the Boost into the Fuzz, or vice-versa. The results differ dramatically. [/product]
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