Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 128

VG

GEAR

MANMADE TONE MONSTER
Area 51 The Alienist Voicing Boost

G

ather 'round, children, for a scary
bedtime story. Once upon a time, there
was no such thing as a high-gain amp. So,
wizards built treble boosters - like the Dallas
Rangemaster - to add high-end response.
Other sorcerers came up with a Top Boost
modification, which they added to the Vox
AC30. Then a mad scientist created a Frankenstein monster known as the Marshall,
whose higher gain meant treble boosters
would be largely lost to the mists of time.
Lost, that is, unless you have a vintage
amp and you're chasing those vintage tones.
Which is where a magician named Dan
Albrecht, founder of Area 51 Tube Audio
Designs, steps in. His Alienist pedal breathes
new life into the treble-booster concept - and
in an interesting blend of old-fashioned and
newfangled ways.
To start with, the Alienist looks suitably
steampunk. It's housed in an aged-coppercolored box with a portal lens in the center
showing the eerie glow of the hard-working
innards.
Those hand-wired guts include both
old-school low-gain NOS germanium and
new-tech higher-gain silicon transistors,
switchable via a toggle that offers two sonic
paths to mate to your guitar, amp, or the
voice you hear in your head.
The Alienist was tested with a '55 Fender
Esquire and a tweed Deluxe. Now, few people
have ever complained about the tone of a'59
Deluxe, but with the Alienist in the path,
the array of tonal colorings was astounding,
opening up the amp's range in many ways.
To be sure, the Alienist is not simply your
basic treble booster (Albrecht calls it a "Voicing Boost Pedal"); beyond the choice of the
two driving transistors, the effect also has
a six-position Voicing selector.
The effect helps to truly wake up a darksounding amp, enhancing its front end
to balance out the shadowier shadings of
tone. At the same time, the Alienist provides a wider variety of sounds under your
fingertips as its boost broadens your amp's
range, which you can then control better
than ever via the Volume and Tone knobs
on your guitar. This greater touch sensitiv-

Price: $269
Info: www.area51tone.com

ity provides everything from shimmering
cleans to dirty lowdown - all by way of those
guitar tweaks.
Mixing and matching transistors with
the Voicing options yields a pleasing range
of sonic possibilities. Go for the high-gain
silicon transistor with a low Voicing setting, and your tone is pure fat. Adjust the
Voicing and you can dial in some overdrive
(thanks to the boost) and some glorious
second-order harmonics in those trebly
upper registers. Talk about singing. Darken
the amp, guitar, and the Alienist's voice and
you can mimic Clapton's vaunted "woman
tone" - and this from an Esquire.
The Alienist's output is also especially responsive to pick attack and
how hard you dig into the
strings. Ease back and

VINTAGE GUITAR

128

October 2017

relax, and you get warmth and comfort.
Dive in, and you'll find new edges and
angles to your sound. The pedal's other
toggle (Norm/Res) activates a filter stage
that lends it some cocked wah character
and harmonics - a unique facet of the
circuit.
The Alienist's build and componentry
are also impressive: audiophile-grade
resistors and capacitors for low hum and
noise - as well as the best tone possible
- plus Switchcraft #11 jacks as used on
vintage Fender amps all ensure that this
is an effect built to last.
Of course, a stompbox without tone isn't
worth stomping on. But the Alienist also
wins points for being the coolest-looking
pedal to come through this reviewer's
mailbox in a long time. From that copper
steampunk styling to the etched-in
gothic script to that menacing
glowing eye - this is one manmade tone monster. - Michael
Dregni


http://www.area51tone.com http://www.vintageguitar.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - IFC
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