I cover some background information and restrict the discussion to three treble booster variants related to Brian May and Queen, the current 3-in-1 BMG Treble Booster Classic unit developed by Nigel Knight of Knight Audio Technologies for retail by Brian May Guitars, Brian’s KAT RED-18 strap-mounted treble booster and the Fryer Sound colour series (TB Touring, TB Plus, TB Super and TB Deluxe). There are embedded videos from Jamie Humphries demonstrating the Fryer treble boosters for Guitar Interactive and Frank Campese demonstrating the 70s setting of the BMG TB Classic.
Like many parents who were hoping to take their children, the next generation of Queen fans, to see Queen + Adam Lambert play on the postponed U.K. and European Rhapsody Tour, we are disappointed to learn of its inevitable further postponement to 2022. Unfortunately for us, our four tickets which cost £987 in total were originally for a weekend (Saturday, 6th June 2020) but have now been rescheduled to a weekday (Thursday, 9th June 2022) which make it considerably more inconvenient for us to attend. I have contacted Ticketmaster to see what can be done, but the upside is that tour T-shirts can be bought cheaply from eBay resellers and make excellent nightwear. Rock on!
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:
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.