The Black Dog serves up all the tone you can handle without having to tweak every knob to get it.
|Sound Clips Coming Soon!|
As a result, when the amp came out of the shipping box I made a number of assumptions about how it would sound based solely on the way it looked. The Marshall-style big box head cabinet said only one thing to me—classic hard rock— so with only a few minutes to test it out that day, we hooked it up to an Egnater 4x12 closed-back cabinet loaded with Vintage 30s, and plugged in a Richmond Dorchester with Lace Alumitone humbuckers. We dialed it in for “heavy” and immediately got the tone we were looking for: a meaty midrange grind with an assertive low-end thump. We also immediately noticed the sag-free “tightness” that signals a more-than-adequate power section and solid-state rectifier. Goodsell informed me later that this amp really began with not much more than a JCM800 transformer and the itch to “go big.”
It’s easy enough to tell that this single-channel brute is powered by EL34s, but I wouldn’t have guessed it’s a cathode-biased design. That makes the “50” in its name more of a model number than a description of its output power, but it sounds plenty big enough to top a half-stack. When I did finally get time to give it some in-depth investigation, I found out that the real departure here is farther from the typical tones and features of amps in the vintage “plexi” mode, and less from Goodsell’s stock-in-trade. Those departures, however, will be a real treat for all but the most dyed-in-thewool Marshallites. Goodsell is already highly regarded for his more refined, lower-power EL84 combos, like the Super 17 and the Custom 33, so it makes a lot of sense for his entry into the medium-power/high gain zone to retain much of what made those amps so successful—I just wasn’t expecting it. His “less-is-more” approach is readily evident on the outside: with only a single input, On/ Off and Standby switches, volume, gain, and 3-band EQ, the Black Dog is bare bones. The back of the amp demonstrates simplicity as well, with two speaker outs (switchable for 8 or 16 ohms), and a jack for the “by-pass boost” footswitch as the only “extra”—what a kick, too! I’ll explain a little further on.
Figuring that not a few players attracted to this amp are going to want to plug in a vintage Les Paul with real-deal PAF humbuckers, but not having one of those around at the moment, I decided to go first with the Duesenberg Mike Campbell signature model, since the Grand Vintage humbucker at the bridge has very similar qualities. I set all of the amp’s controls at noon and let fly. With the guitar’s tone knob down around 3, the Black Dog had all the aggressive punch and definition of an old-school Les Paul/Marshall combination, so it’s definitely able to rock that early-seventies vibe. While the overdrive is less creamy than the typical plexi-inspired design, that roiling, ballsy low-mid crunch is just as ample, and the dynamics are just as generous. If you’re still digging Thin Lizzy, Humble Pie, and Free, the Black Dog will surely get you there.
Moving through a few adjustments, though, the surprises started coming quick. With the tone knob rolled all the way up, the amp gained a different character altogether, with the humbucker producing a rawer bite that evoked a more modern Marshall tone, but without the raspiness of too much preamp gain, and more open-sounding, less “vowelly” in the mids. The lack of filtered negative feedback lent it an edgier, less refined top end that nevertheless stayed clear of brittleness.
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
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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.