A couple of decades ago, Steven
Fryette built the prototypes that
would become VHT’s Pittbull series—
handbuilt tube amps that became known
for their crushing sound and great durability.
VHT became both a well-respected
amp company and a leader in the rack
revolution, with their rack-mountable
power amps becoming the weapons of
choice for heavy bands like Metallica,
Alice in Chains, and Megadeth.
In 2009, Fryette parted ways with the
VHT brand and began making gear that
had originally been offered under that
moniker—including the Valvulator I line
buffer and power supply, the Pittbull amp
line, and the popular Two/Ninety/Two
and Two/Fifty/Two power amps—under
his own name. Soon thereafter, he also
introduced a new design—the 30-watt,
class-A Memphis Thirty, a 1x12 combo
capable of handling everything from sparkling
clean tones to the most pulverizing
metal sounds. More recently, Fryette has
extended his product range with a line of
valve-driven effects pedals. We checked
out the first two offerings, the S.A.S.
distortion and Boostassio boost. Both
true-bypass designs are made in the US
and come in compact, heavy-duty steel
housings that incorporate a single EF86
tube (which cannot
be swapped out for a
more familiar tube, like a 12AX7) and an
internal power transformer.
||Download Example 1
Boostasio: Tele, clean boost
||Download Example 2
Boostasio: Tele, slight grit
|Clips recorded with Fender Pro Junior amp, Planet Waves Custom Pro cables, and Apogee Duet into GarageBand.
The mint-green Boostassio is designed to
generate everything from a transparent
clean boost—up to 20 dB’s worth—to
more saturated tones. It has a fairly spartan
user interface, with knobs for Volume
(ranging from None to Done) and Bias
(which rotates between Bliss and Pissed).
I first put the Boostassio through its
paces using a Fender Custom Shop ’63
Telecaster and a Fender Pro Junior amp.
To check out the clean-boost capability,
I set the volume halfway between None
and Done and the bias to Bliss. With the
effect off, I was pleased to note how quiet
the pedal was. It was also more transparent
than I expected a tube pedal to be.
When engaged, the effect bolstered the
sound without dirtying it, as promised.
In a band setting, it was perfect for being
heard above a din of bass and drums without
having to resort to more distortion.
Turning the bias knob slightly closer to
Pissed than Bliss, I got a warm and slightly
gritty tone that, even at low volume, had
great depth and presence.
When I plugged in a mid-’50s Gibson
ES-175DN hollowbody with twin P-90s,
I was able to get a gently overdriven but
robust sound at a low volume without
feeding back—perfect for Chuck Berry-approved
shuffle patterns and Americana
soloing with a bunch of open-string licks.
As I expected, the Boostassio worked
equally well with humbuckers. I plugged in
an early-’90s ES-335 Dot and rolled back its
Tone knob, and cranked the pedal’s Volume
and Bias controls to yield a creamy, woman-toned
overdrive that lent itself extremely well
to extended pentatonic excursions. When
I switched to the bridge pickup and tuned
to open G, the Boostassio growled with
the perfect combination of bite and wooliness
for Keith Richards-style rhythm stabs.
Regardless of the setting, the Boostassio was
rich and musical—a pleasure to operate.
you need a simple pedal
to add some kick, a little grit,
or some color to your sound.
you’re looking for a wider range
of dirty sounds or don’t want to
mess with a tube in your pedal.