Massive lows from a modestly sized 1x15 combo.
With humble beginnings as a Toronto music store repairman, Peter Traynor started selling his first bass amp, the DynaBass, back in 1963. Even though the Traynor brand was phased out for years before being revived by Yorkville, Traynor products have long had a reputation for quality at a reasonable price.
This year Traynor introduced their latest line of bass combos with the Small Block series. These compact and lightweight amps have a single 10", 12", or 15" speaker, and their combination of power and portability is aimed at the working musician. We tested the SB115, the most gig-friendly of the three.
New Kid on the Block
The 200-watt SB115 looks and feels great out of the box. How can an amp “feel” great? Well, it only weighs 31 pounds, impressively light for a combo. The plywood cabinet measures a scant 21" x 18" x 15", making it small enough for a subcompact car, or for that matter, the subway. But don’t let the footprint fool you—the Traynor folks have packed some useful features into the SB115.
The SB115 has both passive and active inputs, and the latter is padded with a -6 dB cut. The amp also boasts 4-band EQ plus a low-expander control, which I couldn’t wait to use to test the limits of the 15" speaker. The control panel’s pots felt a little loose, though that may be a matter of personal preference, since I like making slow, small adjustments.
The SB115 also has a tweeter, along with a topside defeater switch to disengage it if desired. There’s a balanced XLR (pre EQ) DI jack, plus a limiter on/off switch and a ground switch. Rounding out the control panel appointments are 1/4" headphone and aux jacks.
Block Rockin’ Bass
I auditioned the SB115 with a Music Man StingRay and a Gretsch Electromatic. Powering up with the StingRay plugged in, I was greeted by a little red light that turned blue to indicate that the amp was ready. I set the gain, master, and EQ controls to 12 o’clock, with the low expander control turned all the way down.
The amp sounded a little throaty and thin at this initial setting. But when I eased up the low-mid, mid, and treble knobs and brought the low expander up halfway, the StingRay sprang to life. The SB115 sang beautifully, and the amp didn’t color or interfere with the bass’s innate tone. When I pushed the bass EQ up to 2 o’clock, the amp started sounding massive. It suddenly became the little amp that could.
I put the amp through its paces from top to bottom. And for the bottom here, I dropped the StingRay’s tuning to D while easing up the low expander. This reduces mids and compresses the bass tone while adding massive low end and moving more air from the amp’s rear port. The SB115 showed power and guts as I played louder and louder. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but I had the amp’s gain and master volume maxed. The signal was as clean as can be and the speaker didn’t mind it at all. With the StingRay, I felt that the amp sounded best with the tweeter on, though players who dig a mellower tone may switch it off.
As cool as the low expander is, it’s not even necessary to make this amp sound good. There’s plenty of low end with the expander off and the bass EQ bumped. Adding the expander to the mix with the 4-band EQ just provides more shaping options.
I took the SB115 for a spin in a large club gig, using the hollowbody Gretsch. (The band was a quartet with piano, cajón, and acoustic guitar.) Again the amp did well tonally, and I liked how the low expander paired with the Gretsch. Set halfway up, it enriched an already smooth tone. The FOH engineer admired the DI’s transparency, which allowed him to EQ to his liking.
Considering the size of the venue, though, I may not have given the amp a totally fair chance. Even with the SB115 directly behind me, I came away thinking the big club was just a bit too large for it. A kickstand or tilt feature might have helped, but any amp can only do so much. However the SB115 will perform beautifully in smaller clubs, and it certainly has enough power for the rehearsal hall, or to rattle the pictures on your bedroom wall.
The Traynor SB115 is powerful for its small size, if not as massive as some other current combo options. Its features and tones will keep many working bassists happy. It travels well from the bedroom to venue, though its size and output might not be quite sufficient for bigger clubs. Traynor has a reputation for reliable amps at respectable prices, but the SB115 may be a little on the pricey side. But with its lightweight design, low-end presence, and quality features, the SB115 could be the last practice/small-gig amp you buy.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
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.