blackwing amps

A handbuilt setup that combines crystal-clean headroom with more than enough flavors of rich distortion.

The combination of tubes, transistors, capacitors, transformers, and wires that go into a well-built tube amp functions as a builder’s DNA. This truth is evident in the 50-watt Black Wing Screaming Eagle and the story of amp builder James Heidrich. Heidrich came to prominence as the founder of Bad Cat, a prominent entry into the ’90s boutique amp craze. After leaving Bad Cat James went into a “retirement” phase before getting the itch to start building again.

The clean channel was so inspiring that I could see this side of the amp spun off as its own standalone combo.

His new company is Black Wing Amplification, which debuted at the 2017 Winter NAMM show. Even over the din of that show, it was easy to hear familiar aspects of the Bad Cat DNA in the Blackwing Screamin’ Eagle reviewed here. And up close and personal it’s cool to hear how that DNA has evolved in such potent ways.

Clean It Up!
The 50-watt Eagle is a beautiful piece of amp design on all fronts. The head and cab are rock solid and wrapped in a beautifully flawless cream-colored Tolex. According to Heidrich, no terminal or PCBs are used in the construction; all the work is done by hand on terminal strips, which is a reasonable expectation for amps in this price range. The circuit itself is a class-AB design with Ruby EL34 tubes—a clear nod to the Marshall sphere of influence.

The controls are laid out in logical order: The top row controls the clean channel and the bottom row handles the dirt, with a channel selector switch on the far left. The layout is easy enough, but it takes a little detective work to fully understand how everything works together. Both channels feature a volume control(which affects preamp gain) and master controls.

Screamin’ Eagle 50 Ratings

Immaculate clean channel. Very useful tone controls. Hearty gain channel.

Somewhat confusing control set.


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