Burns Tri-Sonic Pickups: General Information

I have written a short (<1,500 word) article intended as a primer on Burns Tri-Sonic pickups for general interest within a Brian May Red Special context:


The article is illustrated with a number of original photographs, CAD renders and a few ‘library pictures’ like those depicted below:

KAT Treble Booster Plush DIY Kit

In his latest YouTube video, Nigel Knight (the guy who does Brian May’s electronic work) demonstrates how to assemble one of his excellent KAT treble booster Plush kits. The video is speeded up for the impatient amongst us. It is a must watch for any electronics enthusiasts who are also into Brian May gear.

The KAT treble booster Plush kit can be obtained direct from KAT (Knight Audio Technologies) at £49.50:


Information from Nigel’s website:

“This is a full kit of parts that will enable an electronics beginner to build a very high quality KAT treble booster. The components provided are the best for the job in-hand. They are the same components used for the builds of many KAT treble boosters and Fryer Sound TB Touring, Deluxe and Plus. The circuit board has been specially designed for the kit so that the build can be easy with all components identified on the board. The case is the same powder-coated, silk-screened folded steel unit used for the TB Touring, Deluxe and Plus, so rugged, durable and yet, attractive.
Sound-wise, this treble booster has been developed to emulate the 1980s era of Brian May’s tone with approximately 33 dB of gain, so think Queen from the late 70s through to the end. Think Wembley… Think Live Aid!
So, what’s in the kit?
Well, everything you need to successfully build the TB except for a few hand tools and a battery.”

The Red Special Book

The second edition of the coffee table book on the story of Brian May’s Red Special – “the home made guitar that rocked Queen and the world” was published on 1st October 2020 with two new chapters included. One explores technical repairs and maintenance and the other, the Red Special’s role in the Academy Award-winning movie Bohemian Rhapsody, revealed in Brian’s own words and Gwilym Lee who played Brian in the film. The book, written by Brian and Simon Bradley is a celebration of the iconic guitar that Brian May built with his father and has treasured and played all over the world for over 50 years.

A five minute preview video of the second edition of the Brian May Red Special book.

The embedded video below is a 35-40 minute presentation by Brian at the original launch. He demonstrates the capabilities of the Red Special by playing it through three Vox VBM-1 practice amplifiers. You can get your copy of the book mail order through the London Stereoscopic Company or via the usual outlets such as Amazon.


Brian May Red Special Replica Full Design and Build

I am pleased and relieved to report that the approximately three year labour of love to make a replica Brian May Red Special guitar is finished. I have written 60 numbered articles covering every part of the project plus four additional articles describing the design process, covering tools and tips and listing the materials, parts & suppliers. These are richly illustrated with hundreds of detailed pictures and should be of general interest to Queen and Brian May enthusiasts including anybody who is considering embarking on a similar mission. This has been like undertaking a second PhD in terms of the time and intellectual effort I expended so please check out the project pages on this website here:


Brian May Guitars Treble Booster Classic

Made in the U.K. and engineered by Brian May’s electronics guru, Nigel Knight, this compact, multi-mode treble booster pedal combines three uniquely-voiced circuits that faithfully replicate Brian’s most recognisable tones from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The tones representing each decade have been meticulously modelled on the actual vintage equipment used by Brian during each period of his career – his germanium transistor Dallas Rangemaster from the 1970s, the silicon BC149 transistor powered Cornish TB-83 installed on his pedal board throughout the 80s, and an original 1998 Greg Fryer strap booster.

Nigel Knight analysed every nuance of the original circuits to realise an authentic reproduction of their tonal responses and output profiles. This 3-in-1 treble booster provides amateur enthusiasts and professional guitar players alike the opportunity to select the distinctive sound of their favourite Queen era using a switch and level control based on the lathe-turned aluminium control knobs fitted to Brian’s Red Special guitar. Whether you seek to replicate the heavier Queen tracks such as Stone Cold Crazy, the live sounds of the 1986 Magic Tour or explore your own ‘New Horizons’ with Brian’s more recent works, this will be the only treble booster you will ever need. Available now from Brian May Guitars and Knight Audio Technologies:


KAT Superpot

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:

Fender Stratocaster Conversion to Brian May Specification

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: