19 July 2022:
The 25th Anniversary re-issue of the JAN97 Type 1 and JAN97 Type 2 treble boosters are now available on the Fryer Guitars webshop.
JAN97 Type 1: http://fryerguitars.bigcartel.com/product/jan97-fryer-treble-booster-type-1-25th-anniversary-re-issue
JAN97 Type 2: http://fryerguitars.bigcartel.com/product/jan97-type-2-fryer-treble-booster-25th-anniversary-re-issue
Please allow approx 14 days building time after ordering on the webshop.
One of the first people to order the JAN97 booster recently sent me this photo. Thanks to Fumihisa-san from Japan, pictured are his Kz Red Special guitar, Fryer JAN97 treble booster and Fryer Mayday overdrive pedal (co-built by Kz Guitar Works and Fryer Guitars).
Cheers, Greg Fryer
History of the JAN97 Fryer treble boosters:
In January 1997 I made 2 treble boosters which were used in my Sydney workshop to help me ‘fine tune’ the sound of the handwound Burns Trisonic pickups that I developed for my 3 replica Red Special guitars ‘John’, ‘Paul’ and ‘George Burns’.
Hundreds of hours were spent making playing and assessing the sound of dozens of variations of my prototype Burns Trisonic pickups. To make my Red Special versions of the pickups I started by using Kent Armstrong’s 1990s re-issue Burns Trisonics, took them apart and made new bobbins which were wound with my preferred magnet wire and turns count (different for neck, middle and bridge pickups), used more authentic sounding isotropic ferrite magnets, and also experimented with various ways of damping down the microphonic feedback that the Burns Trisonic pickups have when they are used in BM treble booster mode at high Vox AC30 volume levels.
The pickup prototypes were loaded into my Guild Red Special guitar for assessment and played using a JAN97 treble booster through my Vox AC30 amplifier – at full volume to simulate how Brian May uses his AC30.
Countless dozens of variations of the pickup prototypes were developed in this way, all tuned by ear and LOTS of loud playing, with all variations of winding wire manufacturer, coil turns count, wire tension and winding pattern, magnet strength, damping rubber cushioning, wax and lacquer saturation methods, pickup heights etc recorded in my pickup book.
The goal was to get my versions of the Burns Trisonic pickups as close sounding as possible to the nuances of the utterly unique 1960s Burns Trisonic pickups of Brian’s famous Red Special guitar. The JAN97 boosters were an essential part of achieving that goal.
Later that year in November 1997 I took the boosters and my 3 handmade Red Special replica guitars to Brian’s Allerton Hill studio. Brian was so pleased with the 3 replica guitars and treble boosters that he asked me to stay in London and take apart and refurbish/repair his priceless original Red Special guitar, which was an extraordinary honour. Brian then used my replica Red Special guitars and treble boosters to complete the recording of his ‘Another World’ album which by November 1997 was around half complete. On the recordings Brian used all three of my Red Special guitars John, Paul and George Burns, and both treble boosters (which I now call type 1 and type 2).
On the JAN97 25th Anniversary re-issue treble boosters I am using the same vintage Dymo yellow embossing tape as on the originals, and the same 1997 batch ‘Fryer’ yellow logo waterslide decals that I used on the original JAN97 pedals and on the headstocks of my 3 Red Special replica guitars John, Paul and George Burns (pic below).
Greg Fryer Red Special guitars from left ‘Paul’, ‘George Burns’ and ‘John’ from Guitarist UK July 1998
Fryer 1997 batch yellow waterslide decals:
JAN97 type 1 re-issue December 7, 2021
Deacy Amp with Fryer Treble Booster at Allerton Hill studio July 1998 pic by Mark Reynolds
Total Guitar Xmas 1998 Fryer JAN97 treble booster on purple AC30
Total Guitar Xmas 1998 page 29
Allerton Hill guitar room July 1998, Greg Fryer at right, JAN97 booster sitting on top of purple AC30 in centre of photo. Photo courtesy of Mark Reynolds
Allerton Hill guitar room AC30s July 1998. Photo courtesy of Mark Reynolds
JAN97 Type 2 Treble Booster:
At Allerton Hill studio during February 1998 Brian May asked me if it was possible to reduce the top end hiss of the treble boosters. Top end hiss and noise is a common problem with this style of single transistor treble booster circuit.
I discussed the matter with my guitar electronics friend Colin Bloxsom who ran a guitar workshop in Sydney. Colin had been very helpful from the beginning of the Brian May project in 1996. One of the JAN97 treble boosters was then modified to have a 10K trimpot. This allowed us by using a small screwdriver to add some series resistance into the audio signal output of the BC182L transistor.
Brian and I then experimented as he played one of my Red Special guitars with the treble booster running through a Vox AC30 set at full volume. Brian played as I tweaked the treble booster’s trimpot back and forth from zero resistance to the full 10,000 ohms resistance.
From 0K resistance to around 5K the hiss began to be rolled off, and Brian thought that the point at which the series resistance began to effect the treble end of the audio signal was around 6000 ohms. This experiment guided the choice of using a 5K6 resistor at this point of the circuit in the 1999 ‘Brian May/Fryer Treble Booster’ pedal and in the early 2000s ‘Brian May/Fryer Treble Booster Touring’ pedal.
Fryer JAN97 type 2 treble booster
Fryer JAN97 treble booster type 2 (photo courtesy of Luke Holwerda)
Trimpot 5K6 mid point setting on JAN97 re-issue 2022
10th April 2022:
Diary and day book notes from Allerton Hill 1998 regarding the guitars, treble boosters and amps used by Brian May to record tracks on ‘Another World’ album:
From the time I arrived in England on 24th November 1997 until when I left to come home to Australia on 9th August 1998 I kept a diary and also made detailed records almost every day in my so-called ‘day books’ about the work that I was doing for Brian and everything associated with that work.
Often I made notes about which of my guitars Brian used to record with, and which treble boosters and amps were used for various tracks. Though often I was so busy with the Red Special repair work that I quickly took photos of whichever guitar was set up for recording in whatever rooms of Allerton Hill studio Brian chose to record on that day. (Usually Brian used the ‘guitar room’ but at times also set up in the large main room which has a very high ceiling – depending on the mic-ing and ‘room effect’ he desired).
Most of the information in my daybooks was concerning the work that I was doing for Brian in restoring/repairing/modifying his Red Special guitar, liasing with specialist people to assist with what I needed in my workshop for the Red Special guitar work and other BM projects; such as: paints (ie Richard Foxell and Martin James), specialist tools and workshop equipment, Vox AC30 servicing/mods (David Petersen), Deacy Amp replica project (again David Petersen), spray painting facility (Mark Reynolds from Leicester); and much more. Some of the information in these books are little gems which I haven’t read for nearly 24 years.
Much of the time during 1998 Brian was living at his Allerton Hill studio house (on the luxurious upper floors) which was situated around 45minutes south west of London. Because Brian was at the studio so often, this gave me the most extraordinary and wonderful situation of being able to speak with him on most days. I was also often fortunate to be invited to go out to dinner regularly with Brian and others, or to go swimming on weekends when time was available. This allowed me to not only get to know Brian very well, but to also have the opportunity of discussing with Brian at length such issues as his guitars treble boosters amps, making his Red Special with his dad Harold, his growing up at Feltham with his Mum and Dad, the legendary Deacy Amp, and about Brian’s fantastic musical life with Queen over the years and the characters they encountered.
Looking back now from this time in 2022, it was truly a most extraordinary period of time for me, and indeed a great honour and a privilege to be trusted by Brian May to look after his Red Special guitar and his other equipment.
Some entries in my diary and daybooks list which guitars treble boosters and amps Brian used to record various tracks. Sometimes when I arrived at work in the morning at Allerton Hill studio I took photos of guitars still set up and plugged in from Brian using them to record tracks the night before. I have hundreds of photos which I will hopefully will get time to sort through soon, and may hopefully have some of interest to post up.
January 1998: Fryer Red Special ‘Paul’ still on the stand and lead plugged in having been used by Brian May to record with the previous night. Guitar is in main large room and in front of mahogany Rose-Morris AC30 circa 1990 only there for its decorative function and not used for recording.
Here is some information from my day books and diary:
21-2-98 from day books:
‘Wilderness’: Brian has primarily used ‘Paul’ and the Deacy Amp and my No 1 treble booster (the one I call now Type 1) for all solo work and harmony guitars.
For rhythm/backing guitar sections Brian firstly used John tuned up a semitone to F and the red AC30 and Pete Cornish’ treble booster (8-8-83). The next day Brian re-did most of those tracks with George Burns in standard tuning with my treble booster No 1 and the red AC30.
Pickup combinations were: John middle pickup alone. George Burns: bridge and middle OUT of phase! At full amp volume Brian said this gave a nice clean crunch for rhythm and picking, and (the woods and tonality of) George Burns allowed the notes to come through the mix more clearly (‘which was no surprise to me’)
[I wrote this because that is what I expected the woods of George Burns to produce soundwise compared to the smoother sounding woods used in the original Red Special of mahogany oak blockboard 😊]
I then wrote: ‘The Deacy Amp only sounds good going flat out!!’ [Hilarious comment looking back – but it sure sounds amazingly good going flat out!!!]
Recording sessions at Allerton Hill in January-February 1998. These photos likely were taken during sessions for either the songs Cyborg, Why Don’t We Try Again, Wilderness or others.
In my black diary I wrote:
22 January 1998 Thursday: I make up a little pearl dot to inlay in 5th fret position using Brian’s hand drill method (same way he told me he did his own pearl dots for his guitar) and glue it in. [this refers to shaping the outside diameter of the mother of pearl dot]
27 January 1998 Tuesday: Brian uses ‘Paul’ and Deacy’s small transistor amplifier on ‘Cyborg’. [I initially thought Brian meant ‘sidewalk’ when he told me the name of this song and I called it that for a few weeks – hilarious!]
6 February 1998 Friday: I take the Deacy Amp apart! Dangerous!! [Being the first guy to ever take apart the legendary Deacy Amp, I cannot tell you how stressful this was! But this was something I HAD to do so that I knew what was inside and so that one day I could maybe replicate it and we could make this rare unusual little amp available for guitar players].
Pics below from 6 February 1998 of my taking apart of the Deacy Amp:
My workshop at Allerton Hill July 1998 with 3 Deacy Amp cabinets that I was making on right side of bench. Pic by Mark Reynolds
11 February 1998 Wednesday: Brian comes downstairs around midday [he is a night owl remember], leans around the corner into the workshop and says “and what’s happening in Greggie-land?” [This comment was so good natured and touching that I recorded it in my diary.]
3 March 1998 Tuesday: new ‘veed’ bridge rollers arrive . I fit a set to George Burns. [Richard Den Brinker from PR Technology in Sydney who made the knife edge, bridge, tailpiece and tremolo arm for John, Paul and George Burns in 1997 made us these veed slot bridge rollers for the guitars at Allerton Hill – for Brian’s original Red Special, John, Paul and George Burns. These veed slot bridge rollers were made for the G, B and top E strings. The rollers had a Vee shaped string slot rather than the standard U shaped slot – because the plain G, B and top E strings tended to make a scraping ‘ping ping ping’ sound when the plain steel strings were bent across the fretboard. This is something that Brian asked me about in mid February. As usual, Richard did an immaculate job]
7 March 1998 Saturday: I visit Dave Petersen at Old Woking, ‘The Vox Story’ man. A very nice guy. [One of the tasks I gave myself was to find a really good Vox AC30 amp tech for the studio. It surprised me when I spoke to Pete that they didn’t have anyone very experienced who was looking after the Vox AC30s. Pete said ‘the amps don’t seem to break down’. Pete could be forgiven for thinking that, because please bear in mind that he started working for Brian (in 1993-94 I think I remember Pete saying) a few years after Freddie died and at a time when Brian was doing little if any live playing. Brian’s AC30s were not in those years subjected to the rigours of touring and the many new Marshall/Korg made AC30TBX amps in Brian’s studio had only been produced from 1993 onwards, so therefore Brian and Pete had never got to understand the new amps’ weak points in the ‘heat of battle’ using them for live touring. Because I had been playing AC30s since the late 1970s and had studied their history and technical issues, I knew that Brian would run into trouble with reliability and breakdown issues of the Vox AC30TBX amps once he started touring. And I feared that if they left it too late to address the reliability issues it would be a disaster for them. So I took action, made enquiries and found David Petersen for the studio. I also made enquiries about suppliers of valves/tubes for the AC30s, and found people like Derek Rocco from Watford Valves. Brian and I ran many tests in his guitar room with his AC30s to evaluate the best sounding pre-amp 12AX7 and power amp EL84 valves. I wrote the test results in my day books and recorded many of our tests (played through AC30 at full volume of course) with a Sony TCM-313 cassette recorder.]
19 March 1998 Tuesday: Maystar is inlaid into scratchplate. Beginning of copper shielding of body. Brian, Julie and I go to Wembley. [This was the evening when Brian made a guest appearance with Joe Satriani’s G3 using George Burns my treble booster and the purple Vox AC30. I rode out in the car with Brian and his PA Julie Glover. As we drove around the perimeter of Wembley Stadium around 6.30pm in daylight seeing the towers peering over the structure Brian was reminiscing about playing there with Freddie in the middle 1980s. Incredible. (I told myself burn this memory into your brain and never forget it!) Then we drove into the rear backlot of Wembley and parked. We could hear the support band playing inside. Out comes Joe Satriani and his young son and a couple of people with him. We are standing in carpark still in daylight with Joe chatting to Brian and Julie for around 15-20 mins during which the little boy is restless and is interrupting them, so I get a ball and start to play games with him – which Joe really appreciates. Joe Satriani struck me as being a very nice guy.]
G3 at Wembley with special guest Brian May 19 March 1998:
23 March 1998 Monday: Brian’s album mastered!
To summarise, Brian used my Red Special guitars and treble boosters to record the following tracks on his album ‘Another World’:
Wilderness, Why Don’t We Try Again: Brian used either John or Paul on the solo sections played through Treble Booster no 1 and the Deacy Amp (Brian also performed this song live at VH1 Wandsworth London on 22 May 1998 using ‘Paul’, Fryer treble booster and Deacy Amp), Cyborg, The Guv’nor (think so but not 100% sure), China Belle (again think so but not 100% sure), probably a couple of other songs as well, will look back through my records.
‘Why Don’t We Try Again’ recorded at VH-1 studios Wandsworth London Friday 22nd May 1998:
PS: when time permits I will look for more info in my day books and diary. Hooroo, GF