Catalinbread Naga Viper – Review of Treble Boost Effects Pedal

Catalinbread company was founded in 2003 with its headquarter in Portland, Oregon. They are renowned for design and manufacture of handmade boutique category effect pedals such as overdrive, fuzz, modulators, compressors and boosters. In particular, Delay and Reverb pedals from Catalinbread are revered by most musicians using them. Their pedals usually have very bright designs on the enclosures.

The company was taken over recently by musicians and studio owners, Kyle Sears and Brandon Rush, after a troubled period, following the tragic death of founder Nicolas Harris in 2015. The company wants to create gear that they will be willing to use over and over again.

The warm and sweet sound of overdriven tube amplifiers is always loved by experts, beginners and audiences alike.  Same effect can be achieved by use of treble boost pedals, which is basically, an effect unit that boosts the volume, especially at the high end.

If we use an ordinary booster (that works across the entire frequency range), the low end sounds may lack clarity and definition. While they take the amps to overdriven states like distortion pedals, their sparkling and dynamic sound is different from dark sounds of the distortion pedals due to addition of high end frequencies.

The concept evolved in the 1960's, when the tube amplifiers of the time produced dark and muddy sound when overdriven, particularly with humbuckers. To overcome this, Dallas Musical Ltd Introduced Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster effect unit to emphasize treble and upper mid range. It was used to overdrive amplifiers to create a juicy, distorted yet focused rock tone by many players like Rory Gallagher, Brian May, Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi, just to name a few.

As per Catalinbread, Naga Viper is their take and homage to Classic Rangemaster circuit, with addition of two new controls - Range and Heat - over the original Dallas Rangemaster classic. While the original only allowed boosting of upper midrange frequencies, these added controls in Naga Viper allow selection of the frequencies to boost.

Things to Consider before buying a Treble Boost Pedal

  • What range of frequencies do you want to boost? - Bass, Midrange, Clean and Dirty (Treble) Boosters affect different ranges of frequencies. You need to decide if you want to select a booster for a dedicated range or are happy with a combined pedal where different frequency ranges can be selected. Treble boost pedal, act as a clean boost with low gain setting, great sounding always "on" boost with mid-gain settings  and overdriven with higher gain settings.
  • What are you planning to use it for? -  If you have a dark sounding amp or when you are unable to get a nice high end from your electric guitar, you may like to use an always "on" subtle pedal that delivers some brightness seamlessly. Another situation in which you may use this effect is, to provide a dramatic solo boost, which gives a sharper sound to cut through the mix. For this, you may need a pedal which provides more gain at higher frequencies.
  • What control features are you looking for? - Boost units come with one, two, three and even four knob control features. These may include Tone, Level, Gain, Overdrive and Treble. You need to select what suits your  requirement.
  • Do you need EQ adjustment? - Boost pedals in the market, come with or without EQ adjustment. With this feature , you can shape the different frequencies of your signal, to an extent which varies from pedal to pedal.

Make

Model

Details

Catalinbread

Naga Viper

Catalinbread Naga Viper

PRO's & CON's of Catalinbread Naga Viper

In this Catalinbread Naga Viper treble pedal review, we shall have a detailed look at features, benefits, select customer reviews etc. However, before we take a deep dive in, let us have a look at some of the Pro's & Con's of the Naga Viper pedal.

Pros

  • Naga Viper pedal is a durable and well built design, based on the original Rangemaster circuit with extra controls and produces Rangemaster like sounds.
  • It provides powerful full frequency boost to cut through the mix and offers good tone shaping controls
  • It is made from Silicon transistors that can withstand more temperature variations, unlike Germanium transistors that add noise due to temperature changes.
  • It is frequently used as an always "on" unit without any issues.
  • It has the fantastic ability to bring out highs during the solos

Cons

  • While less noisy than most of their competition, they still add to the noise floor in the signal chain. Some players have reported hissing sound out of the unit.
  • Some people consider it expensive for a relatively simple circuit.

Features and Benefits

Dallas Rangemaster was an inseparable part of classic rock music sound in the 1970's and 80's.  It had a single control knob that boosted the upper midrange signal levels. Rangemaster required an amplifier cranked way up to produce its magical cutting edge sound. But , it was not possible to use it as a Clean Boost or Fuzz effect. Naga Viper has the basic design of the classic Rangemaster  treble-boost  pedals  with additional controls for controlling frequency response and gain.

Features

Let us look at some of its important features here:

  1. 1
    Catalinbread Naga Viper is name sake with the one time Guinness Record Holder of world's hottest chili pepper. You will find the pedal can add serious heat to your performance. It has a lively and creative exterior design, depicting a blue viper with intense green eyes on a black case.
  2. 2
    Like other Catalinbread products, this model is also hand built from quality materials in their USA factory. It is housed in a rugged all metal chassis of traditional pedal dimensions of 62 x 33 x 114 mm. So it can fit into any pedal board.
  3. 3
    The unit can be powered by a 9V battery or 9 to 18 V adapter or standard DC supplies. Higher voltage results in more headroom and cleaner tones. You will find that different power options have a very subtle effect on the tones and response of the unit.
  4. 4
    In traditional methods of using a treble booster, it was plugged directly to a cranked and overdriven tube amp. In current times, many electric guitar players use overdrive pedals to emulate big cranked amps. Naga Viper allows you to boost the sounds of these so called "amps in the box" pedals to generate those iconic juicy and saturated sounds at very reasonable levels of volume.
  5. 5
    It is always recommended to experiment and decide your own signal chain. However, based on the suggestions by experienced players, it gives best results after the Wah pedals &  before the Fuzz and overdrives. It is very important to use them before the overdrives and after any buffered pedals. Buffered pedals after the Catalinbread Naga Viper treble unit will negatively impact the sound. As per the manufacturer, the unit provides best results if it directly sees your guitar pickups.

Controls

As stated earlier, the new Catalinbread Naga Viper Treble Boost pedal is modeled after the Dallas Rangemaster. It has three control knobs to allow you more flexibility in adjusting different properties. It also has a foot switch to bypass the unit. Let us discuss these controls in some detail now:

  1. 1
    The three control knobs are - classic treble-boost as in Rangemaster and additional controls from the original - the range  and heat.
  2. 2
    Boost Control Knob: It controls the overall output level of the unit. If you are using overdriven amps or overdrive pedals, this control is set at a fairly high level. You may get some crackling or whooshing sound on using this control, which is quite normal.
  3. 3
    Heat Control Knob: Heat knob controls the gain level of the unit. When set in a fully counterclockwise position (CCW), the heat knob gives a clean boost, with a louder sound and nice presence. When set in full CW position, it provides a Rangemaster type boosted but slightly dirty sound. The sound may not be very satisfying if you are using a clean amp but appears magical with an overdriven amp. Start with full CW position and move the knob CCW till you get the sound you are looking for.
  4. 4
    Range Control Knob: Range Knob is a continuous control governing the frequency response of the unit. Like heat control, when the range control knob is set in fully clockwise (CW) position, you get the classic Rangemaster tones. Rotation of the control in CCW direction sets the lowest bass frequency that can pass through the unit and get boosted. Treble frequencies are always boosted, no matter, where the knob is set.  You can turn the knob, CCW, till you get the fullness you are looking for. This control is particularly useful for single coil guitars with thin sounds.
  5. 5
    True Bypass: Foot switch on the pedal allows you to bypass the unit.
  6. 6
    Guitar Volume Control: Backing down your guitar volume control will give a cleaner tone when plugged into the Naga Viper.
  7. 7
    Clean Boost mode: Setting the treble-boost to a full-range sound and heat control in full CCW position and linking it with a clean amp, allows you to go to the clean boost mode. Most treble boosters will not sound good in this setting, but the Naga Viper Treble boost unit does!

Sound

The above video from Catalinbread Effects provides an explanation and demonstration of the working of the unit. The highlights are:

  1. 1
    Treble boost units will always boost the high end, but the range control in the Catalinbread Naga Viper Treble boost pedal allows you to have a full range boost right from the deep bassy end without having any effect on the high end.
  2. 2
    The unit provides full sound, exceptional energy, intense clarity and more pronounced character in the clean boost mode with both range & heat controls dialed back completely.
  3. 3
    With fully dialed back range control, your small amp can be made to imitate a giant fuzz box.
  4. 4
    You can plug in Naga Viper to an overdrive pedal and hone in on the boost tone you want with the heat and range controls.

Social Proof of the Pedal

Before committing yourself to buy any device online, it is essential to read the customer reviews to satisfy yourself. It gives you a fair idea, about the areas and situations where users found the gear useful and the particular areas where they faced issues. We have collected some reviews from the web, which we present below.

Catalinbread Naga Viper Review 01

This very detailed review highlights the reviewer's complete satisfaction with the sound quality of the unit in the entire frequency range. He describes his preferred control settings and calls it his secret weapon. He has also tried it in combination with another gain pedal with satisfactory results. As per him , the only downside is the rise in noise floor of your signal chain.

Catalinbread Naga Viper Review 02

This reviewer is also impressed by the tone of the pedal and compares the output of his Chapman guitar and the Naga Viper with the sounds produced by many legendary guitarists including Rory Gallagher, Brian May and Ritchie Blackmore.

Catalinbread Naga Viper Review 03

This reviewer is happy using it with the Rangemaster settings by putting range and heat controls in maximum position. The pedal produces detailed highs for solo with transparency.

In Conclusion

Catalinbread Naga Viper gives wonderful performance as a clean boost, can lighten up the entire range and is excellent as a treble boost pedal. It provides the tone of the 1970's era with latest control technology and creativity. It is not perfectly transparent -- it subtly colors the sound as an always "on" pedal and is equally capable of giving dramatic solo power boost to cut through the mix. Check this one out!

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