The ‘Crispy Cream’ Treble-Booster – A Review by Mark Barnett, aka Yogi,
The ‘Crispy Cream’ Treble-Booster,
in current form it includes a boost-level adjustment and bypass switch.
Any big fan of Brian May and his guitar tone will be aware that a large part of Brian’s characteristic tone comes from not just his unique home-made ‘Red-Special’ guitar, or the tube-powered Vox AC30 amplifier he favours run fully open, but also the inclusion into the rig of a Treble-Booster.
When used with the relatively low-gain AC30, the Treble-Booster is an essential component for getting May’s tone. In the words of Scott Humphrey, the designer and builder of the Crispy-Cream it can ‘produce a very musical type of distortion’ and will ‘push tube amplifiers into crispy, creamy distortion’.
Although Treble-Boosters comprise of a relatively simple electronic circuit, quite a variation in the level of boost and the boost-frequencies (and hence the tone of the booster) exist by changing components, in particular the type of transistors and the number and value of filtering capacitors and resistors in the circuit. This means that when purchasing a booster, care needs to be taken to ensure that the resulting tone will be suitable for the desired application – one booster is not necessarily the same as another! Although one of the boosters reviewed here has considerably more tricks up its sleeve than the others…
This article is the first of three which I intend to write for www.brianmayworld.com, in which I will introduce three of the more commonly available Treble-Boosters, Scott Humphrey’s ‘Crispy-Cream’, the Fryer ‘Treble-Booster’, and finally Pete Cornish’s ‘TB-83’. Each review will concentrate on the individual merits of each pedal, and with respect to its manufacturer, we will not grade each pedal in comparison to the others units. We must remember that such a comparison would not be totally beneficial, due to the large amounts of subjectivity involved in guitar tones – a guitar tone can be simultaneously trash or treasure, depending on who is listening to it.
Hence, I will concentrate on aspects of the pedals such delivery lead times, build-quality, length and terms of the warranty, quality of the customer care, and I will do my best to describe the texture, or the sound nuances, that each of the pedals produce. The evaluation of the sound will take place using a KZ Guitarworks Red-Special and a 2001 Vox AC30 reissue with Celestion Blue speakers. Finally, I will summarise all of the above points into what is my personal opinion of the unit, and to what ‘Brian May-related’ application I feel each is most suitable for. Each of the three boosters will be evaluated using these same criteria, so hopefully on the completion of the three reviews, the potential buyer will have a better feel for which of these three boosters is the most suitable for their application.
This first article will concentrate on these particular aspects of Scott Humphrey’s ‘Crispy-Cream’ Booster.
The ‘Crispy Cream Treble Booster’
Can be purchased online at this location, using a variety of payment options. A number of other handmade boutique pedals can also be purchased here.
Scott Humphrey can also be contacted directly for enquires by writing
Totally Humungus Productions c/o Scott Humphrey 3109 Dewey Ave, #9, Omaha, NE 68105 , U.S.A.
Or email -
Delivery Lead Times:
Between 1 and 4 weeks, depending on order.
Normally $209 including FedEx postage. Current Special Price of $179 including FedEx Postage (price correct as of November 2003)
5 Years, to the original owner.
Housed in a black anodised solid-steel box a little smaller than that used for the Fryer or the Cornish units, the unit is supported by 4 rubber feet on the underside, whilst the top plate is adorned by a plastic adhesive label marking the input and output.
Due to its slightly smaller size, the unit feels more compact and ’guitar-case friendly’. However, the use of a rugged black-anodised surface will help to keep this booster looking good whether stored in a guitar case or not.
Opening the unit by the removing the 4 screws on the base, reveals a tight but nevertheless tidy wiring scheme. The unit it totally hardwired, with the components neatly arranged and distributed onto a vero-board. All of the solder joints appear solid, with all the connecting wires twisted together and placed carefully within the casing.
Interestingly, the components are visible once the back of the unit has been removed, the only of the three boosters to which this applies. However, this gives the unit particular advantages over the Cornish and Fryer pedals…
A solid, good looking boutique-build-quality pedal.
The only pedal from the three reviewed which has some online and very impressive sound samples of the pedal in action, played by Scott Humphrey himself using his own homemade Red-Special guitar, and Vox AC30 - http://www.treblebooster.com/sound_samples.htm
Unit can be returned, no questions asked, minus small restocking fee, within one week of purchase if it does not satisfy.
Onboard 9V power automatically shut off when input jack removed.
Onboard 9V power can also be shut off using side-mounted boost control.
As this Treble Booster has the lowest cost of the three, the import taxes required to be paid when then unit is delivered (only applicable to non-USA residents) will be the smallest.
Various pedal types available on special order – pedal can be specified
with or without gain control, or with or without on-off switch and can
also include ‘Easy-Tone-Switch’ capacitors, for a wide variety of treble-boosted
The particular ‘Crispy-Cream’ I am reviewing is the first prototype of a new type of booster from Scott Humphrey. This booster, by using the open-electronics format, can incorporate an ‘Easy-Tone-Switch’ capacitor network- two capacitors are mounted on a rapid-change quick-release base, meaning that they can be inserted or removed without use of a soldering iron. These two capacitors have a very large effect on the tone of the booster indeed, and hence the pedal can be adjusted to give different tones and different responses.
The unit is supplied with 6 different capacitors, which can be combined in various ways to give 8 distinct tones, ranging from sharp and trebly, through mid-rich and crunchy onto bass heavy and full.
Selecting capacitors with less capacitance accentuates and boosts the treble-end of the signal, with a lighter bass response, whilst increasing the total capacitance acts to boost the bass end of the spectrum. The total time required changing the capacitors and hence the tone is literally just a few seconds. Hence, the tone is quickly adjustable.
Selecting the lowest-value capacitor on its own supplied with the Crispy Cream gives a quite thin bright sound, but this can be useful when attempting to add a little edge to a dark-sounding guitar. Adding both of the highest-value capacitors results in a more bass heavy tone, again useful when needing to add more girth and fatness to weak single-coil pickups.
Anybody looking for the Brian May tone will be relieved to found that it exists in this pedal too. Using capacitors from those supplied with the ‘Crispy-Cream’ around the middle of the range, gives a convincing Queen sound. Small changes in the capacitance can then be quickly and easily made to add just a little more edge or depth, so that the May tone can be reproduced in all circumstances.
I quickly settled on a tone which I found superb for my small bedroom studio, and could be easily adapted to live work which required more bass, by simply adding a little more capacitance.
Although individuals may prefer a different tone, any of the mid-capacitance values give plenty of boost, drive, and clarity. By reducing the guitar volume the boost also drops down nicely, reducing the signal into the amplifier input and giving a much cleaner sound. Both May’s fully overdriven and clean bell-like tones can be found here in this pedal.
The ability to add a little more treble onto the boosted signal is also
helpful to those players who find May’s use as a pick of the treble-enhancing
sixpence a little difficult. Playing with a conventional plastic pick,
but dropping the capacitance to give more treble in the tone seems to compensate
somewhat for the missing sixpence.
A very good product indeed in many ways – good customer service and contact, great price, great build quality, several build options and tremendous and as yet unique ability to tailor the sound to your individual ear and/or equipment.
To the Brian May fan with everything, this pedal gives you yet more, as it really allows you sufficient adjustment to give you virtually all of the Queen sounds May ever used, Rangemaster-period excepted.
Of course, all this would not mean much if the pedal was found lacking in sound, amount of boost, or amount of background noise. Fortunately, it is not lacking in any of these respects. The ‘Easy-Tone-Switch’ network means that the sound of the pedal can be quickly and easily adjusted to best match different amplifiers or guitars, but always sounds ‘just-right’. Hence, to any Brian May fans who find the AC30 either too expensive, or just too loud, this pedal can be easily adjusted to give the May tone through virtually any other good valve amplifier.
Brian May’s final stage board for the last of the Queen tours incorporated two treble-boosters. One of these was always ‘in-line’, hence always present in the signal path. A second one provided a foot-switchable potentiometer-adjustable gain-boost which could be added for solos or parts requiring a little extra dirt. Due to the Crispy-Cream’s ability to be customised according to the user’s requirements, it is possible to replicate this setup - One Crispy-Cream would be required which did not have a variable boost control or footswitch. This would be the first in the signal chain. A second Crispy-Cream would then added with the footswitch, which had been preset to provide the required additional gain. By specifying the addition of the ‘Easy-Tone-Switch’ to the first of the boosters, this setup would then provide the ultimate in tonal-flexibility.
I highly recommend the ‘Crispy Cream’ to the guitarist who is looking
for a booster, and needs tonal flexibility.
The author wishes to thank Oliver Tamminga and Mark Reynolds for help in the preparation of this article, and Scott Humphrey (www.treblebooster.com), for the loan of the Prototype ‘Easy-Tone-Switch’ Crispy Cream Treble-Booster used to compile this review.