A killer handwired tweed-style amp for under a grand.
True tweed flavor. Vintage-style workmanship. Cool design refinements. Great price.
The cabinet seems to have been assembled before the finish had fully dried, but the cosmetic consequences are minimal.
Ease of Use:
North Carolina’s Mojotone has fingers in several pies: pickups, cabinets, guitar parts, amp supplies, and more. Among the tastiest pies are the company’s DIY amp kits. The two I’ve built yielded great-sounding, vintage-correct Fender and Marshall clones at very reasonable prices. (You can also order their kits fully assembled for roughly 50 percent more than the complete kit price.)
According to Mojotone, tweed Deluxe kits based on the beloved 5E3 circuit have been the business’s bread and butter. But while the new USA-made BlackOut (available only in a $995 pre-assembled version) is 5E3-inspired, it’s not a clone. Its updates retain tweed character while conceding to modern tastes. So you get 2-band tone control à la Fender’s 1960s blackface models, greater clean headroom, and both high- and low-gain input channels.
Despite its deviations from the 5E3 spec, BlackOut is one of the most authentically tweed-sounding modern amps you’ll find. My very first amp, a 13th-birthday gift, was a tweed Deluxe that a previous owner had painted black. I still own it. And every time I play—or even look at—BlackOut, the déjà vu is overwhelming.
Updates notwithstanding, this amp is truly made the way they used to make ’em. The components are handwired on circuit board. They’re Mojotone-brand parts—good stuff. The power transformer is a spiffy Heyboer. The cabinet is solid pine. (Among the few concessions to cheaper modern materials are the plastic tube sockets and input jack assemblies.) The workmanship is generally excellent. I encountered my only issue when disassembling the amp to inspect the electronics. The rear panel that protects the tubes seems to have been attached before the black finish had completely dried, and some paint peeled off in the process, buut only on the inward-facing side, which isn’t normally visible. (Mojotone says it has since remedied the humidity issue that causes this problem).
Interestingly, the 12" speaker is a ceramic-magnet 30-watt Mojotone BV 30H, the company’s Celestion G12H30 soundalike. I can’t say the speaker imparts a particularly “British” flavor, though—this just sounds like a really nice tweed. You certainly get a tweed’s iridescent sparkle and exquisite dynamic response. The first audio clip features the normal channel with all knobs at noon.
A Tweed in Need?
After years of reader complaints about how crappy my demo clips sound every time I review a tweed-inspired amp, I’ve started adding a disclaimer: For all the lore attached to tweeds, many modern players just don’t relate to them. They expect warmer, fatter tones when they crank the gain. Maxed-out tweed tones often get flabby on the bottom and screechy on top.
Here, though, there’s markedly more clean headroom. In fact, when plugging a guitar with vintage-output pickups (like the 1963 Strat used for the demo clips) into the normal channel, the distortion doesn’t get terribly heavy—even with the volume cranked. Tones are relatively tight, minus those potentially alienating tweed-on-10 characteristics.
The modern channel employs both sides of the 12AY7 preamp tube, one cascading into the other. As you’d expect, tones are far gainier, yet they remain well defined. Happily, there’s no loss in dynamic response. Check out the second demo clip, where I floor the amp’s gain and manipulate the guitar’s volume knob for tones ranging from crisp to burnt.
EQ Times Two
If you want tighter, more modern high gain tones, just plug a crunch pedal into the normal channel, as heard in the third demo clip. (I used homemade distortion and vibrato pedals and a JAM analog delay.) You get both singing sustain and articulate note attack. Ambient effects retain their definition.
The final demo clip showcases the blackface-style EQ. I play a repeated riff, exploring the full ranges of bass and treble controls between repetitions. No question: The augmented tone stack dramatically expands the range of possible tones.
Mojotone’s BlackOut performs an impressive feat—capturing the coolest aspects of tweed tone while refining it in ways that may please players who might not be comfortable with strictly vintage models. The result isn’t some wishy-washy compromise—tones are rich in tweed character. You simply get more headroom, greater spectral variety, and tighter-than-tweed high-gain tones. I’d be shocked if 90 percent of contemporary players didn’t choose BlackOut over a vintage tweed Deluxe in a blind-listening test. The amp is expertly made in true vintage style using top-shelf parts. It’s a great deal too. You’d ordinarily expect to pay more than $995 for a fine handwired tweed, let alone one with such appealing sonic refinements.
Watch the First Look:
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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.