Louis Electric

November issue is here!
more... GearGear HistoryJanuary 2007Dallas

The Rangemaster

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“…there have been many clones of this pedal made due to the simplicity of its circuit.”

There were other companies who tried to make similar units, but the other most notable was the Hornsby Skewes. This is the one I found on Blackmore’s rig, pushing the first stage of his Revox tape deck. They are very similar to the Dallas; there is no volume on the Hornsby unit but it does have the slide switch, just like the Dallas. It should be noted that the Hornsby Skewes Treble Booster was designed to be a companion pedal to their Zonk Machine fuzz, There were other companies who tried to make similar units, but the other most notable was the Hornsby Skewes. This is the one I found on Blackmore’s rig, pushing the first stage of his Revox tape deck. They are very similar to the Dallas; there is no volume on the Hornsby unit but it does have the slide switch, just like the Dallas. It should be noted that the Hornsby Skewes Treble Booster was designed to be a companion pedal to their Zonk Machine fuzz, apparently due to the fact that the Zonk needed a bit more treble, although many simply used the booster. I have heard that Blackmore had a pot installed on his to control the gain, but I did not see that at the time (although it was very early on).

As time passed the Rangemaster faded into obscurity, with the advent of overdrive pedals such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer. These did a great job of overdriving the front end of amps, and are widely used today. Through the years, since the conception of the Rangemaster, there have been many clones of this pedal made due to the simplicity of its circuit. Some of them remain fairly true to the original and some are variations on the theme. Here is a partial list of the units available (including, but not limited to) see Variations...

Variations on a Theme
BSM (many variants) Crispy Creme treble booster
ThroBak Strangemaster
Homebrew Germania and the Germania 44
Robert Keeley Java Boost
65 Amps Colour Boost
Diaz Texas Ranger
Roger Mayer Concorde
Pete Cornish treble booster
Greg Fryer treble booster
Pedal Doctor Queen Bee
DAM Red Rooster
Several models of the Brian May
Expression pedals.

I have found that the units work best in front of an amp that is already overdriving, or in front of a pedal that is being pushed into further overdrive. Although there are certainly no rules on its usage, it does seem to prefer the circuitry of British amps. Newer Fender amps produce a less than pleasing sound for me unless a pedal is also used, but tone is subjective. This may be because of the differences in the tone circuits in the amp (active vs. passive tone controls).


Now we have to address the question, “which one sounds best for me?” It is a hard question, as I mentioned that the original units vary from each other quite a bit. You may be looking for an original-sounding unit, or something more modernized. I tend to look at replicating the early Clapton tone; if that’s your aim...

Once again, I must stress that the opinions I have given here in regards to tone are very subjective. It’s not what the gear sounds like, it is the sound you get out of the gear. Different players’ touch has a great deal to do with the tone.


This brings me to a related subject: response. Some pedals (and even amps) have very little response of feel.

my recommendations are:
the BSM HS Custom
the HBE Germania 44
the HBE Germania
the 65 Amps Colour Boost.
For those who want a boost for more modern
and aggressive styles, try:
the HBE Germanicide
the Keeley Java Boost
the Gundry ThroBak Strangemaster.
This brings me to a related subject: response. Some pedals (and even amps) have very little response of feel.

A note picked hard will sound only a bit louder than one picked softly, but what we are ultimately looking for is a different tone or timbre when picked at different hardnesses. The Rangemaster, in its original form, has this quality. It is extremely responsive, as are most of the older based clones. Some of the newer ones I tested were less so-so, but they perform admirably.

Well, there we have a bit of the history of this amazing pedal, perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the British guitar arsenal, as well as a look at some of the more modern (and available) alternatives for guitarists looking to improve their tone. Plug in those Rangemasters and Marshalls and let’s play a rousing chorus of, “Steppin Out.”
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