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 (whichcannot 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.

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.

Street $199 - Fryette Amplification - sfdamp.com