june 2018

A great amp builder builds a boost that—surprise—feels like a seamless extension of your amplifier.

Many boost pedals claim transparency. Dusky Electronics makes no such boasts for their MOSFET-driven Mandorla boost. In fact, they go out of their way to call it a colored boost. So I laughed when I plugged in the Mandorla and thought, “It’s so transparent!” Upon reflection, and after a trip around the simple two-knob control set, I agreed with Dusky’s assessment. I didn’t hear transparency, but something better—a seamless interface between guitar and amp that retains the personality of both while expanding the tonal range of each.

It makes sense that Mandorla comes from the mind of an amp builder. At times, it can have a console preamp’s sensitivity and equalization power. It feels direct and immediate. The boost is considerable. But the real flexibility comes from the “meat” control that functions as a treble boost/bass cut left of noon and a bass boost clockwise from center. For little amps like my Champ, it can lend a steroidal muscularity that makes an 8" speaker feel like a 12"—especially in recording situations. On bigger amps, the treble boost capability is the star, adding a charged and reactive presence that makes leads and slashing chords rip.

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Except for the gain issue reader Rick Patterson describes, this month's amp is in remarkably good condition for

its half-century lifespan.

Transforming a vintage pedal platform into a powerful player.

Dear Amp Man,

I have a '60s amp sold by Fender. It's a Regal R-1160 dual 6V6 with tremolo. Seems to be the same as a Lectrolab R600B. This amp does not saturate before almost full volume, and it's very subtle at that. I read your column on modifying negative feedback loops and I'm wondering if you could look at the schematic and show me where I would make this modification and what value caps you would recommend? I'm new to this sort of modification and would like to improve the tone without destroying the amp. If you need any pics, I can provide whatever you like.

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Myriad subtleties lurk within this lovely-sounding pedal named after Neil Young’s filmmaking alter ego.

Named after the “Bernard Shakey” pseudonym Neil Young takes when directing films, and built in Medellín, Colombia, Lovell’s 4-knob trem features rate and depth dials, a knob to morph between triangle- or square-wave modulation, and a mini pot that blends between positive and negative sawtooth waves. Designer Tim Lovell says that, to address the volume loss often perceived in trem circuits, Shakey “progressively DC offsets the LFO [low-frequency oscillation] when manipulating the depth control” to ensure your signal never feels diminished or lost.

Although it’s not as much of a problem as it used to be, too many trem stomps still neglect tantalizing tortoise-slow rates in favor of strobe-fast speeds. Shakey deserves kudos for offering both. The wave-morph knob lets you go from a tranquil, amp-like feel to abrupt and stutter-y at extremes. Meanwhile the sawtooth-tweaking control goes from more traditional, immediate-attack-and-decay response (at minimum) to a ramp-up swell that yields almost reverse-playback like effects at maximum. Though subtle, the latter can add unusual and trippy vibes to spacious mixes.

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