Another useful reference setting. Here the Blackbird is in ‘Creamy’ mode (red LED lit) and the controls are adjusted so that this mode sounds the same as the ‘Classic’ mode. ‘Creamy’ and ‘Classic’ modes are voiced differently to extend the range and flexibility of the Blackbird, however there is some overlap where they sound identical.
An extremely dynamic and responsive ‘crunch’ setting. Dig in to push the Blackbird into generating a wide spectrum of classic rock guitar tones from the raw rock tones of Angus Young in the 1970s to the more saturated, creamy tones of Gary Moore in the early 80s when he began utilising amps with high-gain ‘hot-rodded’ preamp sections. Again, the Blackbird overdrive channel sounds like a top of the range tube amp because it is based on exactly the same tube circuitry – no compromises, no shortcuts, period. Rolling back the volume knob on your guitar or picking more softly will produce a milder distortion with a more bluesy character making it easy to transition from chord to lead playing.
The Blackbird is capable of generating some fantastically devastating saturated sounds. This setting is perfect for dark, unrelenting chugging ‘metal’ chord work. The smooth, complex and creamy character of tube harmonic saturation makes a nice contrast to the harder sounding distortion of a typical transistorised metal effects pedal and can be quite addictive!
- The tone controls interact with one another and sometimes the frequencies you wish to ‘cut’ or ‘boost’ to sculpt your tone require adjustment of more than one control knob. Additionally, great guitar tone, especially overdriven tone, is often a subtractive process, that is, using the controls to cut rather than boost will more effectively achieve the desired result.
- The transformer isolated balanced output is designed for recording direct. Not only does it completely eliminate earth loops but also sweetens the sound. This output can also be connected direct to a tube amp using a standard TS instrument cable. In this scenario you’ll notice that sound is boosted a little and the mids are more focused.
- The 12AX7 has the highest gain factor of any preamp tube type and the Blackbird ships as standard with a trio of these tubes fitted. This gives the pedal greatest range and flexbility for overdrive sounds as it increases the input sensistivity and clipping occuring in the tube circuitry so that the Blackbird can generate harmonically saturated overdrive at higher ‘Gain’ control settings.
- Swapping tubes in the Blackbird will drastically alter the way it sounds and responds to playing dynamics. For example, a JAN Philips 5751 tube in centre position and Tung-Sol 12AY7 in bottom position will yield, lower gain for a more much more bluesy tone and feel. Additionally, setting the ‘Treble’ control at about 2 o’clock and ‘Middle’ at 9 to 10 o’clock will make the gain channel sound similar to the clean channel voicing.
These settings are really just the tip of the iceberg though and there’s much, much more to what the Blackbird can do. Think of this tube preamp pedal as a vital link between your guitar pickup and guitar amp, mixing console or sound capture device, an indispensible tone tool for ‘sit-in’ studio or gig situations to insure you’ll always be able get your tone.
For a more in-depth look at clipping distortion and how it affects guitar tone check out the article, ‘Guitar Preamp Tone Explained’