We review a line of hand built Greek stompboxes from Crazy Tube Circuits.
Crazy Tube Circuit pedals are the brainchild of Chris Ntaifotis of Athens, Greece, whose first circuits were the modded clones of boosters, fuzz and distortion pedals he built for himself when he couldn’t find the right sound for his live rig. In 2004, he began designing his own pedals, orientated somewhere in between vintage and modern and aiming for tube-like warmth and harmonic richness. He also began putting together a team of talented gearheads, and since then, Crazy Tube Circuits has seen a continually expanding line of effects—and Ntaifotis now also spends a good deal of time building custom amps and preamps for a variety of Greek bands and solo artists. All standard Crazy Tube Circuit pedals are built by hand on high-quality PCB, using Wima and Panasonic capacitors, precision metal film resistors, Alpha pots, Neutrik/Cliff jacks, high-quality 3PDT switches for true bypass, hand-selected transistors and Burr Brown/Texas Instruments opamps. Pedals operate on either batteries or external 9V DC power supply.
|Clips coming soon!|
One look at the Black Magic should signify that it was intended for harder forms of rock, with a three-band EQ section, Presence control, mid-boost switch, and devil woman graphics. Figuring that the Flying V would be the right tool for the job, I ran it into the Black Magic and then into a Marshall 2555 halfstack. Tonally, the Black Magic falls more into the high-gain Marshall area than anything else, as the gain has a very nice upper-mid quality to it. While it doesn’t quite have that sharp JCM800-esque bite to it, the sound is highly muscular in comparison. Think Celtic Frost instead of Slayer. Kicking on the mid-boost toggle switch didn’t seem to have much of an effect, really. There wasn’t enough of a difference that I could see myself using it. I certainly didn’t expect the Black Magic to have anything in common with either the Starlight or Ziggy, but it also shares some of the same darker qualities of those pedals, and the high degree of touch sensitivity. Most high-gain rock pedals have a problem with either ice pick highs, harsh mids or farty lows when the volume is cranked. I didn’t notice this at all with the Black Magic—cranking the Marshall just made it sound thicker, meaner, and more responsive. It literally sounds better through a raging tube amp, which is the exact opposite of the experience I’ve had with pedals like this. The Black Magic reacts like an overdrive, but sounds like a European metal beast.
you're looking for great British-styled high-gain rock tones and excellent touch response.
you have no need for high gain or larger EQ section.
|Clips coming soon!|
Masquerading as a simple overdrive pedal adorned with 1930s-era sci-fi movie graphics, the Starlight offers a very smooth overdrive using a mix of JFET and MOSFET gain stages. The layout is relatively simple, with the standard array of Volume, Tone and Gain controls. In addition to the familiar controls, a mid-boost switch is nestled close to the Volume and Tone knobs. Using a 2007 Gibson Flying V into a Fender Twin Reverb Reissue, I followed the recommended setting of placing the Gain control somewhere between 7 and 9 o’clock (I had it at 8:30). The first open G chord was infused with an impressive, clear tone. I was taken back a little at how much gain it added at this low setting. Normally, this particular Flying V has a brighter edge when using distorted sounds, but the Starlight wasn’t about to let that happen. Even with the Tone knob maxed, the sound was relatively dark.
The tone is certainly not on the bright end of the spectrum, but it’s a good one. Switching to a 1996 Fender USA Stratocaster helped bring the highs out into the forefront a little bit, but not in any extreme sense. It’s a great tone, but its subdued nature might turn off some players. Coupling it with a bright amplifier (such as the Twin that I was using) can help alleviate that if it’s an issue. Now that the pedal had proven to me that it was capable of restrained, cultured tones, it was time to push it further. Keeping the Strat connected to the Starlight, I started to play around with some higher gain settings. While lead lines and fills kept a snappy, responsive punch, riffing at any setting higher than 2 o’clock caused the tone to loose its consistency. However, even when higher settings caused the tone to muddy up, the attack was brazenly present. This is certainly one of the Starlight’s strong points, if not its strongest. Players with characteristically brighter amps will want to take notice.
you're seeking a lower gain '70s rock machine.
you need a bright high-gain overdrive.
|Clips coming soon!|
A discrete overdrive engine consisting of MOSFET-cascaded gain stages mixing the voicing of two British amps, the Ziggy (anybody else instantly think about The Spiders From Mars?) shares much in common with the aforementioned Starlight, with a simple, customary control layout of Volume, Tone and Gain. It also shares the dark tonal qualities that the Starlight exhibits, but with a different gain structure performing the work. According to Crazy Tube Circuits, the Gain control moves between two distinct British tones—from 7 o’clock to noon aims at a top-boosted sound, and past noon a crunchier sound with added low frequencies— providing a one-two-punch mix of Vox AC30 and Marshall JTM45. A Gibson Les Paul Custom (a 1978 model, and not a natural finish one like Mick Ronson’s, regrettably) into a 1973 Marshall Superbass halfstack seemed the like the right recipe for a pedal bearing this namesake.
From striking the first chord to running down a gypsy fill, the Ziggy certainly had that dark, spongy feel that I noticed with the Starlight, but with a lot less gain. The Ziggy really seems like a traditionalist’s overdrive pedal, one for the player that understands that tube amps open up and react more when cranked. I can’t say that I noticed any issues with congested drive tones, but the bass response was a little on the weak side, even with the guitar and amp that I was running it with. Beyond the Ziggy’s inherent, great-sounding tone is its sensitivity to attack. By slightly backing off a bit, I was able to get some very usable clean but very lightly overdriven tones, and never had to touch my volume knob. Those old amps that the Ziggy is nodding to exhibited this quality in spades, and it performs admirably well in this department.
you want a great sounding, mixable light overdrive with notable sensitivity.
you're not looking for darker tones, or you need more gain and stronger bass response.
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.