In the Shop with Mr. Zoom

The time that Billy Zoom puts into handwiring designs he says are “almost unbreakable” is what requires him to make gear in limited-production runs. As he works on custom builds and repairs in his shop, Zoom keeps his original amps with signature mods (including the wattage-varying “multiwatt” mod he came up with 25 years ago) on hand to show customers what he can do. Here’s a look at three of his main creations.

Little Kahuna
The Little Kahuna is an all-tube, high-end reverb and tremolo housed in one unit. These tone machines use one 6BM8 tube and two 12AX7s, with dual footswitching for silent movement between effects. The cabinets are dovetailed 7-ply Baltic birch covered in heavy NubTex that’s available in blonde, black, brown, or tweed. This is Zoom’s only current model in serial-numbered production, with the number made around 70.

Cowboy Amp
Zoom’s 20-watt Cowboy amp was built originally as a prototype for Gretsch. He plans to start production of this amp and his “Little Blue Killer” (see below) later this year, starting with runs of 50 amps per model. This design has the essence of cowboy-style amps from the ’50s and early ’60s, including tooled-leather binding, wraparound grille, and a steer-head logo. It also has the reverb and tremolo circuits from the Little Kahuna, as well as a modified Baxendale EQ.

The Little Blue Killer
This 18-watt amp (also designed for Gretsch) uses EL84 power tubes and has just a volume control and a single, active tone control. “When you turn the knob, it moves the boost frequency up or down, which gives it a fantastic range,” Zoom says.

Photos by John Gilhooley