A throwback combo that combines modern volume control with classic vibes.
Cranking a vintage blackface Fender combo is a satisfying, almost primal experience. It doesn’t rearrange your internal organs the way a dimed plexi might. Instead, there’s a warm sweetness in those Fullerton designs that players and builders have been chasing ever since. Thanks, Leo.
Nashville amp guru Jamie Scott is happy standing on Leo’s shoulders, but he doesn’t mind breaking from tradition to take classic sounds forward. His Wooly Coats brand began as a place where he could build classic, simple circuits without the extra bells and whistles of his 3rd Power line of amps.
But the 18-watt Spanky MKII has just enough bells and whistles and old-school Fender tones to be feel like a blackface classic that never was—or the kind of amp that Leo might build in 2017. We checked out the 1x12" combo version that comes loaded with a 40-watt Eminence Alessandro GA-SC64 speaker. (A head version is also available.)
Back to the Future
The Spanky MKII borrows the vibe and aesthetics of its blackface inspirations. The solid pine cabinet is, well, solid. The controls along the front would be familiar to even the most casual blackface fan, save for a few thoughtful additions. There are two separate inputs, low and high, along with a three-band EQ (yay for the mid control!), a single knob for reverb, and a volume and the HybidMASTER knob that we’ll discuss in a minute.
For many, the big addition to the control setup will be the mid control. For years, the thing that stuck in guitarist’s craw about vintage blackface combos (the Twin Reverb is one exception) is the lack of midrange relative to Fender’s British rivals. Scott’s addition of the mid control and the clever way in which he voices were a revelation to my ears—enabling the amp to toe the lines between blackface, tweed (and tweed-influenced British amps) in many beautiful ways.
If I needed the amp to work as a pedal platform, I’d keep the mid control around 10 o’clock where things sounded warm, round, and punchy. If I wanted more amp drive, I could push the mids to summon growly, tweed-style grunt. Digging in harder yielded even more bite and growl.
One of the 3rd Power line’s most useful features is the HybridMASTER control. Scott originally had planned to leave this out of the Wooly Coats line, but decided to add it to the MKII version due to customer demand. It doesn’t function like a traditional attenuator, which diverts or dissipates some or all of the amplifier excess power. Rather, it regulates internal operating voltages, current flow, and audio signal levels across multiple circuits. HybridMASTER’s more intricate system for fooling the output section means that the amp retains more of the amp’s natural gain characteristics. And boy, does it make a difference. I plugged in my Schroeder Chopper TL loaded with Jason Lollar Special T pickups and left all the tone controls at noon. With the volume around 10 o’ clock, I was able to adjust the HybridMASTER control to fit the room I was in. On a recent pit band gig I was able to get the clean headroom I needed at lower volume without coloring (or subtracting color from) my tone.
When I cranked the HybridMASTER control and the volume control past noon, the 18-watt circuit felt bigger and more alive. The output was rich and organic with heaps of headroom. And even though the amp’s controls felt very responsive, the amp felt most responsive to playing dynamics and attenuation from my volume guitar volume knob.
It’s hard to think of all those iconic recordings powered by blackface combos without considering the haunting enhancements from spring reverb. And it’s become a bit of a litmus test for amps in this niche to see how faithful the reverb is to the originals. For my tastes, Fender-style reverb circuits tend to sound too deep too quickly. (I’m not a devout surf rocker.) So I really appreciated Scott’s decision to tune his own reverb to the overall vibe of classic spring-style reverb, but with an intensity range that doesn’t totally mask the dry signal.
Even the most close-minded blackface purist would find it hard to resist the Spanky’s combination of vintage sounds and contemporary volume control features. The controls are well thought out, the reverb is addictive, and the midrange helps bridge the gap between blackface and tweed tones. It’s also super portable and road worthy. Given those factors, the flexible volume attenuation scheme, and the reasonable price, the Spanky MKII stands a better than fair chance of becoming a gigging classic.
Watch the Review Demo:
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
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.