Myths, Legends and the Mojo of the Dallas Rangemaster

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Myths, Legends and the Mojo of the Dallas Rangemaster

Postby vanessa » 12 Sep 2007, 22:34

It seems all the "mojo" about the Rangemaster comes from its supposed use on the John Mayall Blues Breakers "Beano" album (recorded April 1966).

A while ago I read somewhere that Clapton said he did not use a Rangemaster on that album. (Is this true?) Listening to the album there seems like something is used on tracks like "Little Girl" and a little on "Have You Heard". The rest sound like guitar straight into amp. To my ears these tracks confirm that a Rangemaster was not used on the album unless a very badly biased Rangemaster. The tone on these two tracks sound more like a Fuzztone or Tone Bender MKI with the volume rolled back on the guitar a bit.
Any insight?

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Postby DougH » 22 Sep 2007, 03:56

I don't know what he used but most of it sounds straight into the amp to me. I never understood the rangemaster comments with this album.
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Postby JHS » 22 Sep 2007, 09:43

A lot of European guitar players used the Rangemaster with succes and RM equipped with OC75, NKT275 or OC44 can sound quite different.

I would never use an original RM today, you can't expect a good sound after 40 years from a RM, but a vintage Strat, an old AC15/30, WEM or 18W Marshall and a good RM-clone generate an excellent tone.

Eric said, he used an OC75 equipped RM, a borrowd LP Std. and a JTM45 with KT66 tubes, normal input, for most of the recordings and IMHO it sounds very good on the Beano album, concidering it was 1965 and compared to the crappy sound on Beatles record from this time.

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Postby DougH » 22 Sep 2007, 16:00

I like the sound of the record. But it just sounds like a good cranked up JTM45 with KT66's to me.

I used to really like my Rangemaster. Lately, it just thins out my sound too much and I've gotten away from using it.
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Postby MKB » 22 Sep 2007, 16:11

JHS wrote:I would never use an original RM today, you can't expect a good sound after 40 years from a RM....


Just curious; why is that? Degradation of the electrolytics? Carbon comp resistor drift?

It doesn't surprise me though; considering most of the mojo tones were made when the Rangemaster was new.

Also, does anyone have any comments on the Rangemaster's low input impedance and its interaction with guitar pickups, especially humbuckers? That low impedance is the main reason I haven't built one. It's been my experience that low impedances kill the tone of a humbucker, such as with a Fuzz Face.

Anyone tried a Rangemaster with a high impedance buffer on the input, such as plugging a SHO into the input of the RM? Does that kill its tone?
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Postby vanessa » 22 Sep 2007, 17:22

DougH wrote:I like the sound of the record. But it just sounds like a good cranked up JTM45 with KT66's to me.


I read over and over that this is basically what he did. He thanks the engineer for letting him do that, at a time when cranking an amp of that watts in a studio was unheard of.

JHS wrote:Eric said, he used an OC75 equipped RM, a borrowd LP Std. and a JTM45 with KT66 tubes, normal input,
JHS


Could you post this quote? I'm not doubting that you read this somewhere, but I would like to check your sources. How would Eric know or even care what transistor was in this supposed RM?
Even the borrowed LP Std., Eric bought that guitar second hand for the session (ala Freddie King).

I did hear/read some time ago that he said he did not use a RM on the album. If someone has this article with this interview please post it. Maybe that was just some hype that I read?

I can say to my ears it sounds like he is using an effect on 2 or 3 tracks. If that is the amp cranked it's not biased right. It's an almost crossover distortion effect, or what sounds like a Fuzztone (Tone Bender MKI?) backed off a bit. I've not come across an RM circuit that sounds anything like this unless it's badly biased or modified.
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Postby Torchy » 22 Sep 2007, 18:20

"Out From Behind The Sun: (13 April 1985) Eric Clapton Interview By Dan Forte," Best Of Guitar Player: Clapton, 1992, pp. 64-78. wrote: "The 'best' Les Paul I ever had was stolen during rehearsals for Cream's first gig. It was the one I had with John Mayall, just a regular sunburst Les Paul that I bought in one of the shops in London right after I'd seen Freddie King's album cover of Let's Hide Away And Dance Away, where he's playing a gold-top. It had humbuckers and was almost brand new--original case with that lovely purple velvet lining. Just magnificent. I never really found one as good as that. I do miss that one."


Eric bought the LP at Lew Davies, Charing Cross Road.


"A Tribute To Slowhand: Clapton, (1985) Interview By Dan Forte" Guitar World, December 1989 (Volume 10, Number 12), pp. 32-61, 79-80. wrote:GW: To get the so-called "woman tone" on Disraeli Gears were you still playing through the same setup--the SG/Les Paul and Marshall stack -- with the guitar's one backed off ?
Clapton: With the tone backed off on the neck pickup.
GW: Backed off how much?
Clapton: All the way, and full volume.
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Postby JHS » 22 Sep 2007, 19:49

A few years ago I bought a venyl Mayall sampler on a flea market. It has an inlet with lots of photos and infos about the Beano recording session.

On one photo, Eric used a RM and sat with the LP in front of the amp, the RM was placed on the amp. The RM is connected to the normal input (those early amps have no bright input, the bright input has only a 100p wired across the vol-pot) . If you use a LP with a JTM 45 and crank the amp vol over 7, all you get is bass mud and a pumping compression. The amp was not cranked, vol on 5-6, but the RM was cranked giving bass cut, sustain and this typical slight crunchy sound.

He changed the tubes for KT66 on the to get more crunch and mids from the BB. At this time Claptom owned a Harmony Semi and the Tele he played with the Yardbirds. For the recording session Eric borrowed a LP from a friend (it's not the LP he used with Cream). He'd seen Freddy King with a 57 Gold Top but couldn'd afford one at this time. Later Eric bought his first LP in a pawn shop in London when after he was paid for this session. The guitar was strung with heavy nickel strings on the bass and lighter banjo strings on the treble side. Eric didn't like new strings at this time, acc. to him they were to stiffy, and even for the rec. session the strings were used. At this time the string-ballends were covered with a cloth protection, this dulls the tone a lot. The Gibson BB King nickel set is very close to the strings Eric used at this time and they are really dull sounding compared to '11 Earny Ball or GHS nickel strings.

The RM had an OC75 in it, not the 44 (only a few RM had been equipped with a 44). I found this info on a Marc Bolan fan page I stumbled over a few years ago. He recorded in the same studio using the same RM. I can get a similar sound with a LP strung with '11 pure nickel wounds, an OC75-RM clone and a JTM45 on "blues setting" equipped with KT66 and a cheap 20ft cord.

BTW: an OC44 RM is a perfect mate for a VOX AC30 and a Strat but it won't match a JTM45. All you get is a thin sound with icy highs and a lot of hiss not the fat singing Beano tone.

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Postby DougH » 24 Sep 2007, 14:01

I'm not going to debate what Clapton did/didn't use, esp based on a photo. My impression is that a couple of the Beano tracks sound treble boosted but the meat & potatoes sound is an amp and nothing more. Barring track by track comments from Eric himself, I can only report my opinions & impressions.

For myself, I have found the Rangemaster tricky to use. It forces my rig into a one-dimensional setup that is too inflexible for me. With the right amp, tone settings, output tubes, etc it can sound sweet. Deviate from the formula though and it can sound thin & reedy (esp with the -7v bias). I used an AC188 (which sounded better than the AC128 to me). I'm planning on building another one with a mullard npn I got from Aron a few yrs ago. That transistor sounds a little better than the others IMO. I'm going to add an external bias control this time, as there are good settings other than just the "magic" 7v, which can sound kind of whiny if the stars aren't aligned and it's not a full moon...

But in all honesty, for a simple booster I prefer Gus Smalley's NPN Boost. I can set it as fat or thin as I want and it is much more consistent with different amps and etc. All it lacks is the soft little compression/attack thing that the Ge transistors do in the Rangemaster. And you can get that effect with an alnico speaker and the right amp (don't necessarily even need a pedal). Otherwise it can sound/behave almost identical to the RM.

And there's no mojo- you can get the parts at Radio Shack. Who'd a thunk it?
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Postby DougH » 24 Sep 2007, 14:10

MKB wrote:
Also, does anyone have any comments on the Rangemaster's low input impedance and its interaction with guitar pickups, especially humbuckers? That low impedance is the main reason I haven't built one. It's been my experience that low impedances kill the tone of a humbucker, such as with a Fuzz Face.


You'll have to define "kill the tone". The hi-freq rolloff it produces by loading your pickups is a welcome thing IMO, as it smooths it out when you are driving the amp into high gain. That's a desired part of the sound IMO. And when you turn your guitar down it cleans up nicely for a good semi-clean rhythm sound. I used to leave it on all the time and just turn up my guitar for the solo.

MKB wrote:
Anyone tried a Rangemaster with a high impedance buffer on the input, such as plugging a SHO into the input of the RM? Does that kill its tone?


I would imagine that would sound pretty horrible. But I haven't tried it.
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Postby markm » 24 Sep 2007, 14:45

Kudos to all!
This has been quite an interesting read.
Let me present this;
I had read, somewhere, that the RM was not designed to be used as a Drive effect but rather to enhance Treble frequencies of the British Amps that tended to sound darker and make said amps sound more Fender-Like. Is this Myth?
Join together with the "Banned"!
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Postby DougH » 24 Sep 2007, 16:24

Here's an interesting article I haven't seen before:

http://www.top-priority.de/rory/rangemaster.html

This guy seems to imply that the bias point is ~5v. Shows there is more to the bias story and it is worth playing with. That is why I want an external control for it on my next RM build. Then you can make your own judgement as to what sounds best.

edit: Forgot to mention- I haven't looked that closely at his sim, but from what my ears tell me his "treble boost"/"mid boost" comments are spot on. The RM is more of a "treble booster" with your guitar volume turned down, which is what makes it nice for cleans. When the guitar is turned up it sounds more like a mid or upper mid boost to me.
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Postby JHS » 24 Sep 2007, 18:22

All my RM are biased app. 5-5,5V (powered with a 9V CZk battery).

I never cared about the 7V setting and I bias my RMs by ear. There is this BIAS point when it cleans up like a good Fuzzface when the git-vol is rolled back a bit. After stting the bias I make a voltage check and in most cases it's in this 5-5,5V range.

I tried the 7V bias setting too, but the RM sounded compressed without any punch in the tone and the reaction to the git vol was very bad too.

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Postby bacaruda » 24 Sep 2007, 18:44

JHS wrote:All my RM are biased app. 5-5,5V (powered with a 9V CZk battery).

I never cared about the 7V setting and I bias my RMs by ear. There is this BIAS point when it cleans up like a good Fuzzface when the git-vol is rolled back a bit. After stting the bias I make a voltage check and in most cases it's in this 5-5,5V range.

I tried the 7V bias setting too, but the RM sounded compressed without any punch in the tone and the reaction to the git vol was very bad too.

JHS


Thanks JHS, that is interesting. I'll have to try biasing mine by ear tonight. I've built quite a few RMs, always biasing to ~7V, then replacing the trims with fixed R's before even testing with an amplifier.

I have never "loved" the sound.
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Postby DougH » 24 Sep 2007, 19:24

JHS wrote:All my RM are biased app. 5-5,5V (powered with a 9V CZk battery).

I never cared about the 7V setting and I bias my RMs by ear. There is this BIAS point when it cleans up like a good Fuzzface when the git-vol is rolled back a bit. After stting the bias I make a voltage check and in most cases it's in this 5-5,5V range.



That's good to hear, I will definitely give that a try.

FWIW, the sound clip that made me want to try the RM is the one at Tonefrenzy, where you can hear the harmonic bloom in action. When I can set up the RM/amp combination to give me that- then I feel like I've got something. :wink:
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Postby DougH » 25 Sep 2007, 12:11

I experimented last night on the breadboard with a Rangemaster circuit with one of the NPN Mullards I have. Hfe was 89.

With this transistor, it had more gain, clarity, and punch than the RM I built with the AC188, which sounded flat in comparison.

I used a fresh battery that measured around 9.5v. The 5-5.5v collector voltage setting didn't do it for me, but neither did the 7v setting. I found a sweet spot I liked around 6v. It was very resonant there. The other settings sounded kind of mushy in comparison, although we're talking pretty subtle differences.

One thing I noticed in the article on that guy's Rory Gallagher page (a few posts back) is he used a 180k in place of the 470k base bias resistor. So I tried it both ways, first the 470k, then 180k and a rebias. Ahhh... That was the ticket for me. I much preferred the 180k. It just sounded much sweeter, less harsh, and so forth. I suspect it may be because the base is getting supplied with more current but I'm not sure. This sounded much better to me. I split the difference and tried a 330k too, but in the end preferred the 180k. But I still prefer the .01u on the output. Don't know where he came up with 10u- I tried 1u and that was too much.

I'm going to box this up. And I'm going to forget the bias pot idea. Now that I've found a sweet biasing arrangement I'm happy to set it & forget it. I guess I'll start using a Rangemaster again. This sounded real good with my "vox" amp.
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Postby bajaman » 25 Sep 2007, 12:27

Funny how the wheel can turn around eh Doug :wink:
i may have to revisit the RM myself :lol:
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Postby MKB » 25 Sep 2007, 16:42

This has indeed been an interesting thread, thanks for all the info. I'm going to try breadboarding one with the 180K base resistor, replace the other bias resistor with a pot, try different trannies and bias points. This might make for something interesting.
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Postby DougH » 25 Sep 2007, 17:02

Basically I left Rc at 10k and Re at 4.7k (I guess I should have used 3.9k but I don't think that makes a major difference). I subbed the 68k with a pot. I didn't have any 100ks so I used a 50k and fixed resistor in series to dial in different Vc's.
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Postby DougH » 25 Sep 2007, 17:03

bajaman wrote:Funny how the wheel can turn around eh Doug :wink:


That happens to me all the time... :oops:
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