Premier Guitar

Fryette S.A.S. And Boostassio Pedal Reviews

May 17, 2011

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.
Boostassio
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.


Buy if...
you need a simple pedal to add some kick, a little grit, or some color to your sound.
Skip if...
you’re looking for a wider range of dirty sounds or don’t want to mess with a tube in your pedal.
Rating...


Street $199 - Fryette Amplification - sfdamp.com



Download Example 3
S.A.S.: ES-335, overdrive
Download Example 4
S.A.S.: ES-335,metal distortion
Clips recorded with Fender Pro Junior amp, Planet Waves Custom Pro cables, and Apogee Duet into GarageBand.
S.A.S.
A bit more versatile than the Boostassio, the S.A.S. is built to serve up everything from the mildest grit to the ugliest distortion. It is refreshingly simple to use, with just three controls—Volume, Gain, and Bias. As on the Boostassio, Bias ranges from the sparkling clarity of the Bliss setting to Pissed, which sounds like a low-watt amp cranked way up. This makes it very handy for practice and/or recording at more reasonable volumes.

I initially tried the S.A.S. with my ES-335 and Fender Pro Junior. With Gain, Volume, and Bias set low, I got a clean boost with just a hint of dirt. With each knob set around 9 o’clock, the pedal produced a full-bodied, lightly overdriven sound that—in conjunction with the 335’s ’57 Classic neck pickup—sounded just right for both blues-rock stylings and modern jazz lines in the style of John Scofield or Mike Stern.

Using a Gibson ES-330TDC hollowbody with P-90s and the S.A.S. still on the previous settings, I got a gritty-but-woody sound with a considerable amount of definition—a nice, all-purpose timbre for anything from classic blues to indie rock.

Next, I plugged in a Fender Custom Shop ’63 Stratocaster and edged up each knob on the S.A.S. to get a thick, sustaining Hendrix-like sound that could be downright feral and unhinged—yet not beyond control. What was most impressive was that, with that much distortion, I could still easily make out the individual notes in a 7#9 chord.

For something at the other end of the tonal spectrum, I switched back to the ES-335, tuned to dropped-D, and maxed-out the S.A.S.’s controls. The result was a super-fried and jagged sound that made the compact Pro Junior sound almost like a cranked half-stack!
Buy if...
you need a broad palette of dirty tones with minimal fuss.
Skip if...
you prefer that your broad-toned palette can also be programmed with multiple presets, or you don’t want to mess with another tube in your signal chain.
Rating...


Street $199 - Fryette Amplification - sfdamp.com

The Verdict
With the Boostassio and S.A.S., Fryette beings the same high-quality build and top-shelf tones found in its amps, racks, and combos to the pedal realm. As the Boostassio’s name suggests, it adds everything from clean boost perfect for soloing to complex grit suitable for a variety of idioms. The S.A.S., on the other hand, has a broader voice that ranges from a subtly dirty boost to scorching, anarchic distortion. Either pedal can enlivewn a dull amp, bring out the best in a top-shelf valve amp, and offer incredible responsiveness to the player. Given Fryette’s status as a bona fide amp authority, we expect performances like these from pedals bearing his name, and the S.A.S. and Boostassio live up to those expectations.