Video: The Secret Effect Behind Black Sabbath's Tone

Black Sabbath (1970). Photo by: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer. Getty Images.

The churning distortion that brought heavy metal out of Birmingham's factories was the result of a surprisingly Spartan rig.

In our video above, Andy Martin breaks down the basic elements of Tony Iommi's sound and shows off a few pedals that can give you that same tone today.

While listeners may think the Black Sabbath guitarist was using a fuzz pedal to help make his gigantic tone, it was actually just a Dallas Rangemaster treble boost pedal into a high-gain amp. In the early years of the band, that amp would have been a Laney LA 100 BL, with various other Laneys and a modded Marshall Super Lead 1959 coming into the fold as he continued to experiment with his sound.

The Rangemaster—having been used not only by Iommi but also Eric Clapton for his "Beano" tone, Queen's Brian May, Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore, and other guitar greats—is a rare and expensive vintage effect to find these days. But luckily the circuit has been replicated by plenty of brands.

The Catalinbread Naga Viper is a great and affordable clone, while the Greer Moonshot and Analogman Beano Boost will also take you to those same heights. The Tony Iommi signature Laney Black Country Customs TI-Boost takes the emulation a step further—tweaking the circuit to sound exactly like Iommi's own Rangemaster plus the sound of his Laney LA 100 BL amp. It's the entirety of early Black Sabbath tone in just one pedal.

Watch the full video above to hear it in action, and then find your Black Country Customs on Reverb here.

Gear Used in this Video
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