april 2018

A Brazilian take on ’60s Fuzz Faces serves up some gorgeous germanium and silicon sounds at an incredible price.

Clip 1: Squier/Warmoth baritone Jazzblaster with Curtis Novak Widerange Jazzmaster pickups, in the middle pickup position, into Raven (with master volume at 3 o’clock)—first bypassed, then with germanium circuit engaged (gain at 2 o’clock), then with silicon circuit also engaged (with volume at 2 o’clock and gain at 3 o’clock)—then into a J. Rockett Audio Archer (set to clean boost), an Ibanez ES-2 Echo Shifter, and an MXR Reverb routed to a Jaguar HC50 miked by a Royer R-121 and a Goodsell Valpreaux 21 miked by a Shure SM57, both feeding an Apogee Duet going into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.
Clip 2: Squier/Warmoth baritone Jazzblaster with Curtis Novak Widerange Jazzmaster pickups, in the middle pickup position, into a Catalinbread Topanga reverb, then into the Raven (with master volume at 3 o’clock)—first bypassed, then with germanium circuit engaged (gain at 2 o’clock), then with silicon circuit also engaged (with volume at 2 o’clock and gain at 3 o’clock)—then into a J. Rockett Audio Archer (set to clean boost), an Ibanez ES-2 Echo Shifter, and an MXR Reverb routed to a Jaguar HC50 miked by a Royer R-121 and a Goodsell Valpreaux 21 miked by a Shure SM57, both feeding an Apogee Duet going into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.

“Silicon or germanium?” is usually the first point of pontification for those debating which versions of the venerated vintage Fuzz Face are most desirable. With Brazilian outfit Red Hawk Effects’ new Raven, the point is moot: It aims to replicate the best of both transistor persuasions in a single box outfitted with an effect-engage switch and master volume on the left, and a right-hand footswitch that toggles between a color-changing LED and gain controls for both a germanium (top knob, green LED) and a silicon FF-style circuit (bottom knob, red LED).

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When this ’80s Sundown Artist came in for rehab, Jeff Bober got a chance to examine an amp that was the unique vision of player and builder Dennis Kager, who began his career at Ampeg in 1964.

An ’80s amp that displays the singular perspective of player/builder Dennis Kager, with multiple effects loops and unique tricks.

Hello, Ask Amp Man fans. Well, I’ve decided once again to forgo a reader question and instead bring you the story of another cool amp that’s recently crossed my bench. This amp may not be well known, but it’s yet another offering from the amplifier hotbed known as North Jersey. The area was first put on the musical map in the ’60s by a little company called Ampeg, which became one of the largest, most respected amplifier brands of the day—and still commands respect. As in the modern tech industry, Ampeg employees spun off to start their own companies. One such “spinner” was Jess Oliver, Ampeg vice president and inventor of the Ampeg Portaflex B-15 amp, who left and formed Oliver Sound Company. (Maybe one day I’ll do a column on an Oliver amp.) Another Ampeg departee of note, who is well known in our boutique amplifier world, is Ken Fischer. In the mid ’80s, Ken began building his own amplifiers under the name Trainwreck. They have garnered iconic boutique-world cult status.

Yet another, unfortunately lesser-known, amp guru who worked at Ampeg in the early ’60s and eventually decided to strike out on his own was Dennis Kager. Having already established himself as a great repair tech, Kager, along with a partner named Dennis Bock, opened Dennis Electronics in 1967. Being a guitarist as well as an electronic technician (a vital combination for a guitar amp designer, IMHO), he also decided to design and manufacture his own line of amplifiers. In 1984, Kager began producing Sundown amplifiers. Amps with channel switching and master volume were becoming de rigueur for guitarists, and that’s what Dennis was offering. They became the amps of choice for many players, including John Scofield, Allan Holdsworth, and even James Burton, so let’s take a look at this fine example I recently encountered.

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