For those readers who are not Brian May enthusiasts, I’d like to draw your attention to this innovation by Nigel Knight of Knight Audio Technologies (KAT): the BM RS Superpot. It is a dual-ganged stereo 250 kΩ potentiometer fitted with a 1 MΩ resistor and a 2.2 nF capacitor. It was designed by Nigel to serve a specific purpose: that is to linearise the response of a standard audio (logarithmic) taper volume potentiometer to increase the range over which Brian can control the transition from ‘sparkly cleans’ to sweet overdrive while performing on stage. Nigel flew out to Portugal to fit it to the Red Special before the Lisbon Queen + Adam Lambert concert on 7th June 2018.
Nigel explains: “When you cascade potentiometers you end up with a super-log pot, so the effective end result is a ‘forced’ log taper. Secondly, because after about halfway round the volume sweep of the RS, the pot is no longer really being used as a volume control, but more of a distortion drive which requires a more linear taper. So the new pot is more log at the bottom and more linear at the top. This allows better control over the cleans and smoother transition through the various stages of distortion. In fact, there is no discernible point where the distortion comes in with this configuration. It just slowly feeds in from the cleans.”
“The function of the capacitor is to compensate for high frequency losses while the resistor is there to pull the bottom leg of the pot to ground. The pot (short for potential divider) can’t ‘divide’ the level if it has no reference to the two points it is dividing between. The new pot gives Brian an array of tones that used to reside within about half a degree of pot movement (if you could find the sweet spot in the dark)”
Nigel has published a diagram of the pot shown in the image above. You can download it here:
I have completed converting my 2012 Fender American Standard Stratocaster to Brian May Specification. It has Adeson pickups, a custom switching PCB module based on that fitted to the Guyton RS Transporter designed by Nigel Knight of Knight Audio Technologies, Anotone aluminium Strat style control knobs, Fender branded Schaller locking tuners and roller bridge saddles. I designed the custom pickguard in CAD and CNC cut it myself using my Stepcraft 2/840 CNC machine. You can find full details of the project here: https://dsgb.net/projects/maycaster/
Some pieces of British musical heritage, two authentic and one replica. A vintage Vox AC30/6 and a newly acquired Vintage Pedal Workshop (VPW) Dallas Rangemaster replica treble booster hand built by Steve Giles. This is one of the best and was based on an exact replica of the yellow jacket Mullard OC44 transistor. It sounds fantastic. A new old stock (NOS) vintage Mullard GZ34 full wave rectifier valve destined for my 2000 Vox AC30/6 TB.
In the project section of this website you will find build details for this 3/4 scale Brian May Red Special replica which started life as a BMG Mini May I bought in 2012. At the suggestion of some fellow enthusiasts, I requested and was granted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Brian and get him to autograph it before the Queen + Adam Lambert concert at the SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow on 3rd December 2017.
I had resisted arranging this for various reasons, not least of which are that the instrument was my first guitar project and I was concerned about putting Brian in the awkward position of having to be polite about an unusual replica of his famous Red Special guitar, particularly since the inference was that the BMG Mini May that inspired it was not satisfactory in some way.
Thankfully the meeting went well and I needn’t have been concerned; Brian was relaxed and in good spirits because the other guests in our small group were Scottish members of his family [his late mother, Ruth Fletcher was Scottish] including Mike Donald and his father (Brian’s cousin). We asked his permission to take the photographs I have included with this blog post and he was kind enough to show interest in, and pose with the guitar. Thanks to Sharon Ashley, Brian’s touring PA for arranging this and Jen Tunney for forwarding on my e-mail that made it happen.Credit also goes to Andy Guyton because I sent a picture of him handling the guitar at the 2017 Red Special meet-up to Jen which might have leveraged the situation in my favour!
This was indeed the gift that kept on giving: ‘sidestage’ we spotted Brian’s celebrity guitar tech, Pete Malandrone from a view normally reserved for Queen flight cases.
My first foray into the world of Brian May Red Special ownership in 2013 was a model year 2009 BMG Special conversion carried out by an amateur luthier in Portugal. I then further modified the guitar myself including a reshaped pickguard. It played well and looked acceptable. Nevertheless, I don’t recommend attempting conversion work on the commercial Burns and BMG Special guitars yourself. It’s a great deal of painstaking effort and you will still have an attractive but non-authentic deep burgundy red colour guitar which has evidence of the original tremolo system on the back (if cosmetic details concern you).
While unmodified BMG and Burns Brian May Red Special replicas sound authentic played through a BM signal chain and are excellent value for money, if you seek an more authentic instrument, Woody Thomas at RS Conversions in the USA has carried out conversions for a number of satisfied customers: