I’m a self-confessed vintage tone nut. I’m not hiding in the shadows. I’m fully public with my love of guitar tones of past. That doesn’t mean I don’t embrace new ideas.
I’m open—unless you bring Kemper or Fractal into the conversation. Mostly because for me, the conversation of signal flow and gain staging to an amp is really important.
I do use some digital products. Strymon makes some of my favorite delay and reverb pedals. They’re digital. So I’m not a complete purist. But I also didn’t throw out my real tape echo.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited to receive the Analog Man Beano Boost in the mail. The treble booster is one of the very first gain devices and plays an important role in the history of guitar tone.
The treble booster is not only a rare effect but a widely misunderstood one.
I’m going to avoid getting deep on the circuitry. There is already a considerable amount of info on Analog Man’s website. I would rather talk about its application and sound.
Let’s start at the beginning. Why did I pick Analog Man as opposed to another brand? Because he knows how to tune his pedals. When I receive a pedal from Mike Piera, I know it will sound good. I know every pedal has been listened to. Mike is also an expert on booster and fuzz circuits.
Treble boosters are a peculiar effect. They are meant to accompany an already overdriven amp—not a clean amp. If you plug the Beano into a clean Twin Reverb, your first impression won’t be good.
This has nothing to do with the Beano Boost. It has everything to do with the treble boost circuit.
So if you play through a solid-state amp or a high-wattage, high-headroom amp, this is prob not the pedal for you.
If you play through an amp that breaks up, you’re going to be in lurve!! It’s like eggs and hot sauce. Just meant to be together.
The Beano Boost gets its name from the legend that Eric Clapton supposedly used one on the John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers album “Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton,” aka The Beano Album.
There has been quite a bit of controversy over this. Eric says he didn’t use one. To my ears, it sounds like he’s playing through a cranked Marshall Bluesbreaker amp with a Les Paul. It doesn’t have the treble booster flavor. But the argument continues.
Well known uses of the Rangemaster Treble Booster are most of Marc Bolan’s (T.Rex) recordings. Later in Marc’s career he would break the rules and use a treble booster with solid-state amps. This is a very specific sound and isn’t the first go-to for many players.
Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” was a Gibson Les Paul Junior with P90s into a Hornby Skewes Treble Booster into a Hiwatt. You can just imagine the sheer volume!
Tony Iommi used a treble booster on all the Black Sabbath Records until 1979. It was paired with either a Marshall 50-watt or an early Laney amp. It is said that Tony’s Rangemaster was modded. Nobody seems to know how, though. Regardless of the mod, it is a very Treble Booster style of sound.
Brian May (Queen) has used a treble booster as a centerpiece of his tone for his entire career. Paired with his hand-made guitar with single coils and an army of Vox AC30 amps.
Crank an AC30 in the normal channel with a TB, add some chorus or flange to the mix, and you’ll have instant May tone. His tone sings in a way that just wouldn’t be possible without the TB circuit.
An interesting side note about Brian May’s AC30 set-up is that all the control knobs are disabled except for the volume knob on the normal channel. So there is no EQ in the circuit. It’s a one-knob amp.
The normal channel on an AC30 is a little more receptive to the frequency shift induced by a treble booster.
Personally, I really like how a treble booster induces feedback. It bumps all the right frequencies that stir the feedback pot.
I also like how an overdriven amp paired with a treble booster still retains more detail and clarity than when paired with a fuzz.
The Beano Boost (or any treble booster) is not nearly as compressed as a Fuzz Face or Tone Bender.
“Treble boost” is a bit misleading. It’s really a mid-range boost. As well as boosting mid range, it also cuts the low end. This combination can make your amp scream and cut through any mix.
The Beano Boost adds two other options for the frequency range boost: a lower mid boost and a bass boost. The Original Dallas Rangermaster only had one setting.
I’m kind of a traditionalist, but the extra options do make the pedal more flexible. I like them and end up using them quite a bit with different amps. It’s a welcome addition even for this crank yanker.
More Pedal Perks
You can also add some options to the Beano Boost when you purchase it on Analog Man’s website.
I chose the option to turn the battery off when the boost knob is turned fully counter-clockwise.
This saves me time and hassle from having to pull the input cable after every session/gig. The Beano Boost only runs on batteries, as any authentic TB or fuzz circuit should.
I happen to be particular about what batteries I use in fuzz and TB circuit pedals: Panasonic 9v batteries. They’re pretty cheap and sound great in fuzz and treble booster pedals.
A Duracell is a powerful battery. The Pansonic batteries don’t put out as hot a signal. For traditional tone, the lower current batteries sound better. When these vintage circuits were designed, batteries weren’t as high output as they are today.
There are no rules, and you may like an alkaline battery. But for old-school tone, go Panasonic.
A Sea of Booster Circuits
There are a lot of TB circuits on the market. I don’t feel that many truly capture the tone of a real TB. There are a lot of interpretations. Even with the original Rangemaster there were some variations. But not nearly as many as there are today.
For one, it’s hard to get the original germanium Mullard OC44 or OC71 transistors. They’re rare. Analog Man isn’t using the original OC44 or OC71. He is sourcing NOS transistors from the ‘60s. So even though they are not the same transistors, he has tested them to make sure they sound almost identical.
He has found a germanium transistor that creates the real essence of the original.
I compared the Beano Boost to a treble booster with original OC44s. It wasn’t that different. It definitely wasn’t a case of the OC44s sounding better. I didn’t leave wishing I had the OC44s instead of the Beano Boost.
Analog Mike knows how to make great-sounding pedals. These are not mass-produced pedals. Each one gets handled and tested. Which matters, especially with fuzz and treble booster circuits.
The Beano Boost cleans up quite well. It can be left on the entire time. In fact, the original circuit was intended to be left on the entire time.
The Dallas Rangemaster was originally a box that sat on top of the amp. It had a very small switch to turn on and off.
It was not a pedal on the floor with an easily accessible foot-switch. The Beano gives us that practicality now.
One of the reasons the Beano Boost was meant to be left on all the time is because of the massive amounts of gain (boost) it adds—up to 18db of boost.
That’s a pretty big difference between volume in bypass and with the treble booster on.
Many players back in the day just left the Rangemaster on and rolled back their guitar volume.
In order to use this on your pedalboard and interface with other sounds we need to do a few tricks.
As mentioned, it’s best to use the Beano Boost into an overdriven amp. Well, we can re-create this chemical reaction with an overdrive pedal such as the Analog Man King of Tone, Effectrode Tube Drive, Keeley D&M, Fulltone OCD, and many others.
I usually set my OD pedal to light overdrive (about where I would set my amp) and drive the input with the Beano.
I then turn down the output of the overdrive to unity gain with the amp. This way, I can use the TB in context of other sounds without great differences in volume.
Of course, you have to try different ODs to find the pairing you like. My personal fave is the Effectrode Tube Drive.
Is this the same exact tone as driving a Vox AC30 hard with a Beano? Not exactly. But it sounds great and it’s practical for gigs where you need a few other sounds and can’t leave the Beano on all night.
Since the Beano Boost and Rangemaster circuits are catalysts, the amp plays a very big role. Although they can be used with any amp breaking up, I tend to have some favorites.
Marshall, Vox, and Fender Tweed amps are at the top of my list. You’ll notice I like the TB with British circuits or amps that inspired British circuits. It’s not that they will sound bad into a cranked blackface deluxe. It’s that it’s just such a recognized tone going into a British amp.
That’s not to say that it won’t work into your favorite amp. I’m just saying that in order to get certain tones like Brian May’s sound, the amp is as important as the treble booster. They’re happily married.
The Beano works well with pretty much any guitar. I really love what happens to the low end with a Stratocaster plugged into a Beano and a Vox AC15.
I love the authority it has with a Gibson Les Paul. With an ES-335, it can make notes sing. With a Danelectro or vintage Harmony that has lipstick or gold foil pickups, it can bring out some of the funkiness in the instrument. Unless you’re at full stage volume. Then it will scream like a valedictorian at the gates of hell.
So one must approach with care when using hollow body guitars with a Treble Booster onstage or in a loud room. Controlled in the studio, it can be magic. Or at least as cool as balloon animals on senior day for a cannabis conference.
The Beano Boost is definitely one of the major food groups of tone. It’s a sound you’ve heard but never been able to put your finger on.
It may come with a learning curve because we have gotten so used to the idea of a gain pedal having a master output.
The Beano Boost follows no orders. It paves its own path and doesn’t like to be boxed in. Once you’re come to an agreement with its anarchist attitude, it can really excite your tone.
Let’s listen to some examples paired with different guitars and amps.
Ex1: Beano Boost into a Headstrong Lil King Reverb (Blackface Princeton).
The purpose of this example was to hear the Beano into a clean blackface circuit. It’s not a very flattering sound as I mentioned earlier in the blog.
Ex2: Beano Boost into the Zvex Nano Head and closed back cab with Celestion Greenback 25’s. The Nano is more in the Marshall family of amp and breaks up easily.
Ex3: Beano into Nano with various pickups of a Les Paul Standard with Florence PAF’s, vintage wiring and caps.
Ex4: Beano into Nano comparing bypass and on with a Les Paul in the bridge position.
Ex5a Beano into Nano with a Les Paul switchman through the three modes of the Beano.
Ex5b More examples of the three modes
Ex6: Beano into Nano with a Les Paul rolling back the volume knob for cleanup.
You can also hear the Beano is use with a Stratocaster (bridge pickup) in the following video around 2;59 in through the end.