Gene Baker recalls his three go-to rigs from Roland, Centaur and Elmwood.
In the past year my musical travels have introduced me to a variety of new gear and club situations. I’ve played solo acoustic gigs where they basically want you to be background music – something I wasn’t quite accustomed to; small restaurants with my band, where we all had to play acoustics just to keep the volume levels in check; average clubs where there’s no need to mic your guitar rig; and nice-sized venues, warming up for bands like Thin Lizzy. Because there were so many different venues, I found myself constantly trying out different rigs, all in the search to find the perfect tool for the job. Now, I’d like to introduce you to three amps that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. These are not paid or free gear endorsements – these are all amps that I have purchased and that have performed when I needed them most.
The Roland CUBE Street
This is a tiny, little guy, capable of running on six AA batteries, making it a great camping/boating companion – of course, if that was all it did, you probably wouldn’t see it on this list. It packs in two channels, with a third input for an iPod. The first channel is primarily a vocal channel (a mic/line input), with its own Volume, EQ and effects. Channel 2 is aimed at guitarists, but it is versatile enough to be used for any electrified instrument. The controls on this channel include Volume, Gain, EQ, two sets of effects and models of your favorite amps.
I’ve been using this amp for quiet acoustic gigs and it has been working like a charm. The “Acoustic Guitar” setting has a nice compression that keeps you from blowing out the dual 6.5” speakers, and it makes for a simple vocal PA in a snap. The built-in effects let you leave the pedalboard at home, making it great for small gigs and backstage warm-ups. The only things I would add to make this a complete package are a speaker on/off switch and a pole stand adapter, although I may be able to modify it for that.
The Centaur A1525V
This Southern California-based company has made a name for themselves by producing an excellent line of acoustic amps. I originally found one used on eBay a year ago and have since upgraded to one of their newer amps, having been so impressed with the early model. Weighing in at 50 pounds, it packs a major punch in both volume and tone. Better yet, when it comes to acoustic/vocal reproduction, the A1525V is very honest – what goes in is what comes out. I use this amp for most solo acoustic gigs, but it even handles our three piece band, consisting of guitar, bass, electronic drums and three vocals. It definitely makes for a flexible rig – I’ve used it as a PA stage monitor and in a stereo guitar rig with an effects feed from my main guitar amp. With fat, clean reproduction of anything you feed it, it has become my Swiss Army amplifier. I wish it had a pole mount, but that’s nothing I can’t fix. If you’re interested, check them out at centauramp.com
The Elmwood Modena 90
At one point during the year, I found myself searching for a smoking, all-in-one amp rig. I needed something with a big, warm, clean tone; a nice crunch tone; and capable of burning leads with a solo boost and effects loop. Fortunately I was introduced to the Modena 90, straight out of Sweden, through destroyallguitars.com. I love complexity served up simply, if that makes any sense, and the Modena does this nicely. It has two basic channels – Clean/Crunch, both with independent tone controls – and adds a second set of gain stages to each channel with two Master Volumes, essentially giving you six settings in two channels.
What I like the best about the Modena 90 is that it does its own thing – it’s not an imitator. In addition, despite pumping out 90 watts of juice through two KT88s, Elmwood was able to keep the head smaller than a full-sized Marshall head. The clean channel can go from super clean to a hefty, defined crunch when the second gain stage is added. The Gain channel is borderline ridiculous, in a very good way. The first gain stage is enough to make any gain lover smile, and it can be dialed from percussive, crunchy rhythms to over-the-top leads. Toss in the second gain stage and hold onto your hair because you’re going for the ride of your life. It cranks out more gain than I’ve ever heard, yet stays tight and focused. You may not need to throttle it up that high, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if you need it. If you have a police-calling neighbor, you’ll want to stay away from Elmwood’s website – elmwood.se.
Any questions or comments visit
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fine Tuned Instruments LLC, home of his “b3” instruments.
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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.