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A real pleasure for me was the tone of the P-90 at the neck of the Duesenberg. It broke up less easily, so I could really lean into a gritty half-clean tone without it crumbling and losing the defined attack. I was able to take it from thick and bluesy to lean and jangly— without touching the amp. More than any other pickup I ran through it, the P-90 showed off the superb touch sensitivity of the amp; it kept me riffing “Chickamauga”-style for the better part of an afternoon.
The biggest surprise has to be the clean tones. Those are going to catch everyone off guard. Think blackface Super and you’re more than just in the ballpark. Switching over to straight single-coil guitars made my head spin. The bridge pickup on a Tele produced a confident, snappy twang that went positively gnarly with some gain on it, while the neck pickup went fat and deep while staying beautifully clear—and it just wailed when I rolled up the guitar’s volume knob. My Nash S63 strat poured out everything from old-fashioned golden tones to overdriven Texas blues, slinky funk and soul tones and twitchy, punk grittiness. In particular, the “notched” settings on this guitar sold me on the power of Goodsell’s mojo, invoking shades of Hendrix and Tommy Bolin (in his less-fuzzed-out moments).
The Black Dog also features a footswitch control that works like a boost; it bypasses the tone stack when engaged—Goodsell says the switch makes about 20 – 25 dB more gain available, while also kicking in a fixed midrange compensation cap. Stomping on it turns the amp into an unrestrained, fire-belching incendiary device. Fortunately, the Treble control still works as a high frequency roll-off in bypass mode, or there’d be no way to stand in the same room with it. If you want more saturated high-gain intensity than you thought was plausible in an amp of this design, here it is—but get some hearing protection.
The Final Mojo
Did I mention that after a day’s worth of blissful tone tripping all the amp’s controls are still set at noon! I’ve decided not to mess with them until after I’ve balanced my checkbook, and taken it up on stage—I could really use a gigging amp that doesn’t distract me with the urge to tweak it all night. Among the features I expected to find here, a presence control isn’t missed. And though four inputs is pretty common for the single-channel, Marshall-inspired 50-Watters, the lack of them is no loss here—not just because it keeps things simple, but also because there’s at least as wide a range of gain control with the Black Dog’s single input. When you add in the extra gain from the bypass boost, it’s probably a great deal more than most. For an amplifier this simple, the tonal versatility of the Black Dog 50 is just plain huge. Richard Goodsell might’ve had in mind a gain-heavy stage rig when he designed it, but it’s also easy as hell to imagine it taking up a second job as the go-to amp for studio work.
you want an amp with superb dynamics and sensitivity that travels fluently across the spectrum of vintage tones.
you’re a card-carrying member of the “Marshalls Only” club, or you’ve got to have an effects loop.
MSRP (as tested) $1899 - Goodsell Amplifiers - superseventeen.com