Y'all Got Some Explaining to Do: Benson Preamp

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by theprofessor, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I just got a Benson Preamp today, and I am very impressed. So far, I've put it in front of a '76 Deluxe Reverb, and played it with a Les Paul with Seth Lovers and a Tele with a neck P-90. This thing is incredible. It really does sound like a cranked amp, and it responds like a cranked amp, and my DR volume is on 3.5.

    I understand that this is the preamp section of the Benson Chimera, with the tubes replaced by FET's. But I am shocked at how much it behaves as advertised. By comparison, most pedals seem to impart a "flavor" to the sound of the amp, but they sound and feel just like that -- an added flavor. This doesn't.

    Can y'all explain why and how this behaves so differently, beside the obvious fact that this is actually an amplifier's preamp section? That is, what is different about the circuitry here than in other overdrive stomp boxes or the like?
     
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  2. kbold

    kbold Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    If I recall correctly, the sound of FET's, while SS, is closer to the sound of valves then NPN or PNP transistors. That may be one factor.
     
  3. Jsil13

    Jsil13 Tele-Holic

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    I've had one for a few months myself and I also love it. I've been using it as my foundation sound and stack all other drives or fuzzes on top of it and it does a great job. It replaced the Greer Lightspeed that had been on my board for over 3 years.
     
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  4. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Yes, I think this one's gonna be an "always on" pedal for me. It's awesome.
     
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  5. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    There's some great little opamp pedals out there these days. The Ethos pedal sounds like a Dumble Overdrive.
     
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  6. kbold

    kbold Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Bit out my price range. When you get bored with it, or find something better .........
    Looked on ebay: one was $30 cheaper than the rest, but postage was $30 more expensive. Go figure!
     
  7. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Yes, it's definitely not cheap. I was able to pick up this one used for a good price, though.
     
  8. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Yup, the golden era of amp emulation pedals using FETs. Pretty awesome stuff. What is in Portland, Oregon's water anyway?
     
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  9. twangjeff

    twangjeff Tele-Afflicted

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    Full Sail Session Lager. ;)
     
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  10. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    A valve is a FET with a light bulb. FET circuits can sound fantastic and can display some rather graceful characteristics when overdriven.
     
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  11. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Just playing through this Benson preamp again. It's tremendous. And the overdrive characteristics sound so organic. For me, this is worth a handful of any of the flavor-of-the-month distortion- or overdrive-style pedals. I still like those, but this is just different (and better, in my opinion).
     
  12. Daytona.57

    Daytona.57 Tele-Meister

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    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Fairfield+barbershop&t=ghq&ia=videos&iax=videos&iai=_7EXDedDMws

    I picked up a Fairfield Barbershop before the Benson Preamp was available.

    It does similar sounds but may be a bit more flexible as a boost. It is a FET circuit.

    It is an always on pedal.

    I generally, place the BS at the beginning of the overdrives, to boost a Gain Changer, Red Llama 25th, Archer Ikon, end of overdrives boost.

    The BS acts like a preamp and as a pleasant surprise, causes the modulation to have more presence in the signal path, similar to the JHS Clover. I set all control knobs to 1:00 o'clock.

    The Red Llama 25th, adds Tweedy ragged edge and crunch. Combining, the BS, GC and RL enables me to find comparable sounds from bluesbreaker, preamp and crunch sounding pedals.

    This is a very flexible pedal combination, with the BS addition, as an attenuator, or sound magnifier for my existing pedalboard. The BS has great string separation and touch sensitivity and can be very transparent.

    The BS can drive a tube amp to early distortion which can lower the volume threshold for home playing. I can play fuzz and distortion at 80 db.

    I use the BS and Diamond compressor for slide with a Fender Pro Jr IV Tweed and 1x12 Cannabis Rex.

    Edit: update content.

    YMMV
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
  13. Rumblur

    Rumblur Tele-Meister

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    I've been told it's Tweed-ish... and I'm not a fan of Tweed. I'm blackface all the way. Does it sound midrangy to you?

    I've looked high and low for a dirt pedal that would not alter the existing tone, just add some frazzle on the top and bottom. So far they ALL want to impart mids or some such nonsense.
     
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  14. Old Smokey

    Old Smokey TDPRI Member

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    It is a great piece of gear. I was entranced by Andy's demo on YouTube.

    I had one for a while, but I ended up selling it when I found out about The Amp from Milkman. It's as if you took the Benson and added a tube, a DI, a cab sim, a reverb/tremolo, a headphone out, and a speaker out. All in one box.

    I wish they made one for bass, but swap out the reverb/trem for a compressor.
     
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  15. Old Smokey

    Old Smokey TDPRI Member

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    How about a one-knob clean boost? Spark mini, etc.
     
  16. Rumblur

    Rumblur Tele-Meister

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    I have and love the Xotic EP Booster but it makes things louder. I do not want louder or mid boosting. I just want something to take my existing signal and fray the edges.
     
  17. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    Freestompboxes.org has a long thread on it, in which the circuit is traced. Many people notice that it's almost identical to a Wampler Plexi Drive. Charles Benson himself chimes in and agrees that it's very similar, although he'd never seen a Wampler plexi drive before.

    I've never tried either, and of course small differences in circuits can make a big difference in sound
     
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  18. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    How does the Benson compare to a Tech 21/Joyo American Sound pedal?

    .
     
  19. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Holic

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    According to the wisdom of the interweb it’s a pretty simple circuit with a low parts count. Found this strip board layout:

    D1169FC7-BBF4-4D0D-BA41-19FB845B5437.png
     
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  20. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    People do describe it as "tweedy" in its overdrive character, and I can see why. But that's also slightly deceptive. The tweed that folks tend to think of when they cite tweed overdrive is mainly a 5e3 tweed Deluxe, and this does not sound like a tweed Deluxe. It has a more even breakup response and can be very, very tight, depending on where you set the "bass" knob on the pedal. It does have some midrange, but it is not a honky, mid-hump sound (which I really dislike). It sounds very natural, and it sounds much more like a tonal filling-out of a blackface scooped EQ than it does a mid-boost that is in your face. Another thing about tweed breakup character is that there is a gradual onset of distortion characteristics that is perceived by the ear (most ears, at least) to be a not-so-clean clean rather than a breakup sound. With single-coil pickups, at least, takes the tweeds I've heard a good long while on the dial to get to full-on distortion that is recognized as something more than a frumpy clean.

    The best way to get a sense of the tonality of the Benson Preamp is to listen to demos of the Benson Chimera amp on YouTube. It sounds like that. The bass control essentially moves from a more American voicing turned all the way up, to a more British voicing turned all the way down, and everything in-between.

    Yes, I had forgotten about that Milkman The Amp. I have looked at some demos of that one. While Milkman makes great, high-quality products, there is something about the tonality or voicing of those amps that I don't love (it's not bad, it's just not my cup of tea). Plus, The Amp retails for $700.

    The "fraying at the edges" description makes me think of something along the lines of a Red Llama. It has this wonderful spitty character that easily transitions into fuzz territory. For a fray around the edges, I keep the drive on it very low and use the volume set to unity or just above. It just gives the signal some flavor and it frays when you dig in. I have the Chicago Stompworks clone of the Way Huge Red Llama. No midrange added. But people do often characterize the Red Llama as "tweed."

    That's really interesting. I'll check out that link. I like Mr. Wampler's stuff. As I said earlier in the thread, what's so interesting is that the Benson preamp not only sounds like a cranked amp but responds like one, even at relatively low volume levels.
     
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