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Villex Mid-Range Booster
SJMB Stratocaster Passive Jack Replacement
Published in PM October 2007
Reviews : Guitar: Accessories
If you're like me, there's always some gizmo or other that you've always fancied trying, but never got around to. One of these, in my case, is an active mid-range boost circuit like the one found in the Fender 'Eric Clapton' Stratocaster.
When we talk about mid-range we usually mean frequencies somewhere between 500Hz and 5kHz. That's a pretty wide range, and boosting that frequency range in your guitar's output can give you a couple of real benefits. The 'meatier' component that results from boost in the lower mid-range not only introduces the character of a humbucking pickup but also adds in a bit more drive to help you stand out during solos. You can also put extra clarity and definition into your rhythm sound by boosting frequencies slightly higher up the range.
I'd never really thought about passive mid-range boost, so it was a pleasant surprise when the Villex SJMB Stratocaster Passive Jack Replacement Mid-Range Booster arrived for this review. As you can see from the photographs, the passive Villex Strat booster is a very neat piece of work made up of a small potted circuit block and an In/Out switch mounted on a standard Strat output socket and jack plate. This makes it a drop-in replacement, and its screw terminals means that you don't even need a soldering iron to fit it. No documentation was supplied, but you really don't need any.
Villex claim a true boost figure of up to 7dB, but also state that the actual boost level may differ depending on the pickups and amplifier used. They also reckon that the booster needs to run into an impedance of 1 MegOhm or greater — which covers most guitar amplifiers and effects pedals.
In order to try the Villex in both my Strats and in my baritone Strat-a-like, I attached a jack lead to the input of the Villex so that I could put it between any of the guitars and the amplifier — in this case a 1964 Fender Deluxe. First up was an American Standard Strat which is completely stock. Here the Villex booster certainly seemed to deliver the goods, giving the Strat, especially on the neck pickup, a very attractive, punchy sound without swamping its character. However, if the guitar's volume control was turned down with the Villex boost in, I experienced a subjective loss in overall volume as the bass and lower mid frequencies were apparently being cut as well as the mid being boosted. If the volume control was full up there was no loss of volume in the bass and there was definitely an additional boost component in the mid-range, which did make the guitar seem louder and, more importantly, would help it cut through a mix.
My favourite Strat is fitted with vintage '50s-style Red Rhodes pickups and the Villex booster didn't do anything that I liked to improve its sound. That is probably because it is quite a middly beast already, and the additional boost just didn't suit it.
The revelation was my Strat-a-like baritone, which carries Guitar Fetish pickups. Plugged into the Deluxe, the Villex unit added definition, enhanced the tonality of the guitar and basically did what you'd expect, given their marketing claims. It may just be the fact that the baritone goes down to a low B and that its whole sound is a bit darker than my other two Strats, it may be that the impedances of the pickups, the Villex and the Deluxe match perfectly but, whatever the reason, the combination works magnificently. The subjective overall volume drop with the guitar volume turned down that I noticed with both the other Strats was still there, which would confirm the sensitivity of the Villex boost circuit to its electronic environment.
However, the Villex unit gave me an unexpected personal bonus. On my baritone Strat-a-like, like most other Strats, all the action on the volume control is in the last 15-20 percent or so. The apparent compression of the final travel with the Villex boost switched in makes it seem smoother to me — which is another reason that the Villex is now fitted to my baritone and why it won't be going back after this review.
So what does all this prove? It appears that the Villex Stratocaster passive boost can work very well, quite well or not well, depending on the guitar, pickups and amp involved. To me, it seems to shape the overall sound as well as just boost the midrange, especially if the guitar volume is turned down. I'd recommend that you experiment with your Strat and amp before committing to it. As it is currently only available direct from Villex Europe, you'll want to check their returns policy. I've bought one, and I'm certain that if it wasn't for this review, I'd never have got round to trying it out. If you're a Strat player and think that some mid-range enhancement will help your sound, it's definitely something that you should try to check out. When it works, however it may actually achieve the result, it works really well. 0
Published in PM October 2007
Villex Stratocaster Passive Booster £79
A simple drop-in replacement for the Strat's output jack socket, the Villex offers a passive midrange boost of up to 7dB with no added noise. Actual boost level will depend on pickup and amplifier combination, but when it suits a particular Strat and amp, it really does boost the mid-range and add to the overall sound of the guitar. It can make the output subjectively quieter when the volume control isn't flat out and there will be some amp and guitar combinations where it doesn't work that well.
This model and the other products in the Villex range are currently only available direct from Villex:
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