The next Tonefiend DIY Club project is a cool update of the Dallas Rangemaster treble booster — for my money, the wickedest overdrive ever. I’ll post all the project files within the next week, but I’m introducing the project here so you can listen to the pedal, decide if you’re interested, and if so, start rounding up the parts.
Like our first project, this is a single-transistor distortion device. But this one gets it glorious Brit-rock tones from a funky old germanium transistor.
At the end of this post is a parts list, plus names of dealers who sell reliable germanium transistors. And once again, Mammoth Electronics is offering a pre-assembled kit with everything needed to build a ready-for-gigging Fiendmaster. [FYI, neither I nor Seymour Duncan have any financial stake in this item. I've simply asked Mammoth to put together a kit for your DIY shopping convenience.] You can order the kit here. If you don’t see it on the page yet, check back — it’ll be up soon.
Check out this brief video to hear the wicked beast in action:
Funny thing about Rangemasters: Many guitar geeks have an inkling of its historic significance, but few under age 60 have actually used one. Which is weird, considering how obsessed so many guitarists are with all things retro. Probably has a lot to do with the facts that: 1) no major manufacturers want anything to do with the expensive, finicky germanium transistor that gives the device its signature color, and 2) players shy away from the term treble booster. (“I’ve got plenty of treble already, thanks!”)
If you know about Rangemasters, skip this next bit. Otherwise, just copy my lecture notes:
The pros and cons of working with fussy germanium components are so thorny that I’ve created an entire post on the topic. Suffice it to say that they impose unique headaches.
Is it worth the hassle? If you love British rock guitar circa 1970, absolutely. But if you lie awake at night worrying about signal-to-noise ratios, you may want to sit this one out.
Personally, I love Rangemasters
more than my family a lot. I’ve been building these obsessively and giving them to friends, who are inevitably floored by how great this little circuit sounds. So edgy, so stinky, so rawk.
Experienced DIY builders, bear with me — I know I sound like an über-n00b, rattling on about this simplest of circuits. But trust me: I’ve witnessed a number of guitarists and producers — people whose music you know — flip out when they plug into one of these for the first time.
Will you share their enthusiasm? Build one and find out!
Download the part list here.
If you need to purchase a germanium transistor, but don’t want the complete Mammoth Electronics kit, here are some good sources. (If you’re not sure which type of transistor to buy, please read the Germanium Mystique post. Or just get an AC-128, a relatively common model that happens to sound awesome in this circuit.)