Nashville's Tim Carroll turns a mite of a Vox into a mighty rock 'n' roll dragon slayer.
Nashville is a land of musical shamans. And in all lands of such potent magic, there is an inner circle that includes the most respected members of that class. Typically, they're not widely known to the outside world, but among their peers they are revered. Tim Carroll is such a shaman—a songwriter of such depth that John Prine chose to cover his work, and a ferocious rock 'n' roll guitarist whose ability to improvise around his writing's chiseled backbone is seemingly limitless.
Beginning in 2008, when Carroll was off the road or outside the studio, he began a semi-regular Friday evening Rock 'n' Roll Happy Hour residency at East Nashville's indie-rock mecca, the 5 Spot. For the last eight years or so—save for the pandemic lockdown—he's taken the stage there weekly, delivering two-and-a-half hours of steamrolling rock 'n' roll … nearly all original songs and no break. And with an almost preternatural blend of intensity and joy, and a tone so bold and raw it would ring right in an arena. As Broadway Danny Rose might say, he's dynamite.
The one I bought in Portland, Oregon, to stash at my brother's house, came in the box, and on the outside it said 'Practice Amp.' And I thought, 'Oh my god! This amp is so much more than that!"
Here's the rub: Carroll's amp is a Vox Pathfinder 15R. You might not know that model, since it was discontinued seven years ago, after a dozen-year run. The 15R is, of course, 15 watts, and the R stands for reverb. It also has tremolo, with the usual speed and depth dials, plus volume, reverb, gain, treble, and bass knobs.
There's also a gain-boost button. The speaker is a 1x8 Bulldog, and the amp measures 15"x14"x7". And Carroll has used the solid-state model—he owns five of them—for solo coffeehouse-style gigs, his residency and other club shows, outdoor sheds, many Grand Ole Opry appearances, and even, as a sideman, on the Late Show with David Letterman—twice.
Besties: Tim Carroll and his Vox Pathfinder 15R during soundcheck at East Nashville's indie-music mecca, the 5 Spot.
"I leave the gain button on and the master all the way on 10, and I nudge the gain up about an eighth of an inch for a gnarlier sound, and move it back to clean it up," Carroll explains. "The treble and bass point towards each other at 10 and 2 o'clock, and I never use the reverb, because rooms have their own natural reverb and I don't want to muddy it up." Occasionally, for slower tunes with his trio or for solo gigs, he uses tremolo, with each dial turned to less than halfway, just to add character. Carroll typically plugs a 2012 Gibson Les Paul Traditional strung with D'Addario .011–.049 sets into his tiny titans, and if you want to hear exactly how titanic he sounds, check out the full-length Tim Carroll Rock 'n' Roll Happy Hour video on YouTube. Three of his Pathfinders have a mod: He's had their plastic 1/4" jacks replaced with metal ones, for obvious reasons.
Carroll fell for the Pathfinder 15R at a rehearsal for a gig where multiple artists were backed by the same band. "They had a Pathfinder there for everyone to use, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is just great—so simple and perfect." He set about acquiring one, and then another, and more. "They were only $110 or $115 new, so I figured this is almost a throw-away amp. Well, not a throwaway, but I was touring a lot at the time and I figured I could buy a few and stash them in different towns, for when I flew.
For a humble 1x8, this amp has a lot of flexibility in its control set: gain, a boost button, volume, treble, bass, tremolo speed and depth, and reverb.
Sometimes, I would put one in my suitcase and pack clothes around it, and just check it as luggage. I bought one used, from Craigslist, for $55. I name all my amps something really simple, like A or B, so that one is 55. The one I bought in Portland, Oregon, to stash at my brother's house, came in the box, and on the outside it said 'Practice Amp.' And I thought, 'Oh my god! This amp is so much more than that!"
If you're still skeptical about the Vox Pathfinder 15R, consider that they're now commanding prices from $275 to $400 online. Better yet, if you can find one, plug in, turn it up, and rock the hell out.
Tim Carroll Rock'n Roll Hour
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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.