Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 121
Vacuum Tube Preamp
n a nutshell, the Effectrode Blackbird is
a tube amp's entire preamp section in a
floor unit. And just why the heck would
someone want that?
The Blackbird is housed in a heavy metal
chassis with a Daka-ware knobs and highgrade components. It's no accident that the
box's tubes are accessible on top, allowing the
user to easily switch valves to fit their tonal
needs, even on the fly. An external switch on
the rear allows rebiasing for 12AX7, 12AU7,
and 12AY7 preamp tubes, while an internal
trim will accommodate other tube types
such as dual-stage miniature B9A tubes like
12AV7s and 12AT7s.
Arriving outfitted with three 12AX7 tubes,
the Blackbird has two channels with a threeband EQ on each. The first channel is a replica
of a vintage Fender blackface circuit, covering
sonic territory from clean to nicely overdriven
with warm textures galore. The second channel picks up from there with an additional Gain
control, going from mid-gain Marshall plexi
to Dumble-style heavy saturation. Using the
tube-buffered output, the Blackbird was tested
with a small tube combo, resulting in serious
"stack tone." The transformation was shocking
and delightful - with the Effectrode smacking
its front end, the 15-watt 1x10 sounded more
like a 50-watt 2x12.
Marchione Guitars' OMC is made of
rosewood, maple, mahogany, ebony,
and spruce using hand-planed joinery
and hot hide glue. It has ebony and
oxbone fittings, Sperzel tuners, and
a soundboard pickup by Dimarzio. It
has a 25.5" scale, 1.75" nut width.
In addition, the Blackbird can be sent into
a mixer, PA, power amp, or digital interface
for gigs or recording, using the Transformer
Balanced Out function. The Blackbird was
also tested into a Line 6 home-studio interface
and cut cool, usable tracks in GarageBand
via the buffered output. Even on tracks using
Apple's software amp simulations,
the Blackbird yielded a huge
difference - these
sounded much more organic, convincing,
and indeed tube-like than typical.
In all, the tones here won't disappoint.
Big, glassy cleans and naturally compressed
crunch are but a few of the highlights and,
again, the Blackbird made that small tube
combo rage against the machine. There's
also a voicing switch on the back that goes
from Classic to Creamy for even more highgain textures.
This is the entire front end of a seriously
good tube amp, but in a floor unit that can
be tossed into a gig bag. - Pete Prown
Price: $469 (list)
Roland's JC-22 Jazz Chorus amp has
two independent power amps, customdesigned speakers, the company's Dimensional Space Chorus, and reverb that
operates in true stereo with front-panel
input for connecting effects for stereocapable delay, reverb, and modulation.
121 VINTAGE GUITAR
XOTIC EFFECTS SOUL
The Xotic Soul Driven AH has controls
for Volume, Gain, Tone, and a Mid Boost.
Other features include true-bypass
switching, LED indicator, and the ability to
run on 9-volt battery or 18-volt adaptor.