Sporting the company''s innovative new Railhammer pickups (half pole-pieces, half rail), the Sensei RA represents the heavier side of Reverend''s lineup.
Since industry veteran Joe Naylor founded the company in 1996, Reverend Guitars have produced some of the most distinctive guitars of the past two decades. Their unique vintage-with-a-contemporary-twist looks and sound have attracted the attention of players such as Billy Corgan, Bob Balch, and Unknown Hinson—who the company eventually worked with to develop a signature model. Affordability has also long been a key ingredient in the Reverend recipe, and their Sensei line was developed to provide guitarists with a high-quality, dependable guitar at a reasonable price. Now the company is setting its sights on players who desire a little more iron in their metal with the introduction of the stripped down and hot-rodded Sensei RA.
A Lesson In Tone
The Korean-made RA is basically a variation of Reverend's Sensei series that's targeted at rockers with heavier styles. It looks a little like the Sensei 290, and is made up of solid korina wood with a three-piece, medium oval-shaped korina set neck which is topped with an ebony fretboard with 22 medium jumbo frets, graphite nut, and pearloid block inlays. The streamlined look is highlighted by its single-layer binding and classy satin black finish, and is available in either wine red or black. Our wine red model had a flawless finish job, with a slight transparency in the top coat that reveals some of the korina's grain.
The RA's electronics are the real game changer that set it apart from the rest of the Sensei line. It's the first production guitar to feature Railhammer brand pickups, designed by industry veteran and Reverend founder Joe Naylor. The patent-pending design uses both rounded-profile rails and cylindrical pole pieces to produce fatter tones on the high strings, while keeping the more guttural tones produced by the lower strings tighter and more percussive. They’re also pretty eye-catching. The RA is loaded with their Chisel models—which are powered by ceramic magnets and wound to produce extra punch in the upper midrange to cut through the mix with more precision—and are entirely passive, with outputs of 7.5k and 13.0k in the neck and bridge, respectively.
The guitar's controls make it a pretty versatile beast. A three-way switch and Reverend's signature custom-tapered Volume and Tone controls handle the tonal shaping of the pickups, along with a Bass Contour knob that effectively rounds off the guitar's low end frequencies—much in the same way that a conventional tone knob pulls back the highs.
The Student Becomes the Master
Everything about the Sensei RA radiates affordable refinement, right down to the fit, finish, feel, and tone. The pickups' tones covered a pretty wide variety of musical styles, although with a sharper edge and more front-and-center tonal qualities that aren't usually a part of warm, more vintage humbucking tones.
While running clean with a '65 Fender Twin Reverb reissue, the Sensei RA's bridge humbucker was powerful—loaded with rich mids, taut highs, and a lot of low end. It’s surprising to hear that much low end you can get from the Twin's open-back cabinet, which is really designed for more high end-friendly tones. The guitar's Bass Contour control at max opens up the pickup's low frequencies to almost ridiculous levels, but it was easy to pull back and tune the guitar's low end response with the amp to my liking. And as I lowered it even further, the lows gradually disappeared and revealed the pickup's striking highs and upper midrange—showing off the pickup's impressive range for jazz, funk, and country coverage.
The bridge pickup lived up to its potential as well—keeping the lows tight without choking their sustain and allowing the high end to breathe and expand with varied levels of pick attack and bending. Switching to the neck pickup and picking jazz chords with an yielded similar results, but thankfully the pickup reacted to the more percussive style by giving more of a bite on the high B and G strings. It’s pretty difficult to dial out all the immediacy of the attack and the relative sharpness of the top end without losing a little high-end clarity. And I chalked this up to the ceramic magnets powering the pickups, which tend to give a stronger, more focused set of tones. But for picking arpeggiated progressions that demand a strong snap in the highs with plenty of detail, like Andy Summers and Adrian Belew, their performance was outstanding.
To test the Sensei RA's modern rock leanings, I warmed up a 2011 Mesa/Boogie Multi-Watt Dual Rectifier. The Mesa's second channel roared in drop-D tuning—staying airtight and extremely focused. This particular Recto has a fairly taut low end, but I had rarely heard it sound so mean and cutting before. The guitar's Bass Contour control was still at a pretty low setting—only about 1/4 of the way up—so bringing it up, the Mesa's characteristic low frequency fullness started to come into play. Moving past the control's halfway point started to smother the lows and mids a bit. And quickly switching playing gears between fast, Exodus-style thrash to grungier tones with fatter lows was only a matter of keeping my pinky finger at the ready for when I needed to perform a quick adjustment of the knob.
Reverend's Sensei series has developed over time to cover everything from rockabilly, classic rock, jazz and country, and the Sensei RA now fits the needs of modern rock and metal quite well. The Railhammer Chisel pickups are a great pairing, but if you're turned off by the aggressive nature of ceramic magnets, they might not be your bag. Still, its great build quality and highly intuitive Bass Contour control make it a must-try for the modern player on a budget who's looking for something a little out of the ordinary.
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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.