BLACKBIRD (Fender Blackface Tube Preamp)
BLACKBIRD (Fender Blackface Tube Preamp)
The Effectrode Blackbird ‘Tube Tone Engine’ is a genuine all-tube preamp in a compact pedal. This versatile tube preamp is designed to give guitarists access to a wide palette of burnished, rich guitar sounds whether recording direct to computer in the studio or when used with a tube amp in a live situation. The tone of the drive channel is best described as, “bourbon & honey” being voiced for a full-bodied, warm, bluesy overdrive and the clean channel has a beautiful, ‘glassy’ character.
As the gain knob is rolled-up the overdrive fattens up beautifully to become a complex, rich distortion full of depth and even harmonic overtones. The gain channel also features a second, entirely different voicing (“Creamy” mode) which hot biases the tube circuitry, adding more odd harmonics to thicken up the soup for some devastating classic rock, crunch and harmonically-saturated guitar sounds. This channel utilises exactly the same dynamic and touch sensitive all-tube clipping circuitry found only in an elite few hi-end guitar amps. By simply digging in or easing off with the guitar pick the tube circuitry responds musically and works with you to create soaring expressive solos and its natural tube compression means you can effortlessly transition into rhythm or chord playing.
The clean channel has a beautiful, pure, glassy tone that lends itself to country and jazz playing, however because it’s a replica of the ‘Blackface’ tube circuit, it too can be pushed into breakup and overdrive with higher output pickups or a booster pedal. A huge engineering effort has gone into developing and refining the thermionic circuitry in Blackbird and as a result of this the tone and feel of the pedal is superbly balanced—guitar tone really does not get any better than this. Again, this channel has great depth, clarity and richness—a polished, classy sound that tubes excel at.
The Blackbird preamp can be further ‘tweaked’ (a formal engineering term) to allow players sculpt their own truly unique signature sounds. The character of the overdrive response can be altered by adjusting tube bias points and swapping out tubes giving access to a virtually unlimited range of classic and undiscovered amp voicings. And it’s a tone hound’s dream—discovering bargain tubes, trying them out and seeing what effect they have on the guitar’s sound. In the time it takes to change a light bulb a tube can be swapped out for a NOS (new old stock) vintage type such as Mullard, Sylvania, RCA, etc altering the gain, biting point, response and fundamental tone of the Blackbird.
Bassists! The Blackbird also works superbly with electric bass—its input stage has an excellent low-end response and can effortlessly handle the higher output from bass guitar.
Balanced Direct Out ¼” TRS (stereo) jack socket allows connection of the Blackbird to mixing desk, computer soundcard or external audio capture device. This output is balanced and transformer isolated, eliminating earth loops and reducing hum to an absolute minimum. The Triad Magnetics audio transformer also imparts it’s own character, further enhancing and sweetening the tone. This output is driven by a discrete class AB amplifier circuit –
Classic/Creamy toggle switch selects between classic rock/blues drive tones (switch ‘up’) and more modern creamy distortion (switch ‘down’) on the hotrodded drive channel. In ‘Classic’ mode the Blackbird clips the signal asymmetrically producing strong even order harmonics. This creates a robust and musical sounding overdrive that seriously thickens and enriches the tone of low output single coil pickups and is amazing with Humbuckers for creating authentic 70s rock distortion. In this mode it is easy to transition from mellow breakup into a singing drive by simply digging in or easing off with the pick. ‘Creamy’ mode produces more symmetrical clipping distortion, which is rich in both even and odd order harmonics for a saturated, sustaining distortion. In this mode the Blackbird can effortlessly climb the gain curve to produce a huge spectrum of powerful heavy rock sounds. The response always remains focused and tight for excellent string-tostring definition and ensures each pickup retains its own character, no matter how much gain you pile on.
Gain knob adjusts signal level and the amount of clipping across four tube stages on the drive channel. It has a wide sweep for fine control over lower gain settings. With the control turned down below 12 o’clock you’ll discover some beautiful warm and musical bluesy tones. Turning the knob clockwise causes clipping in more stages so that the overdrive increases until at the Blackbird is producing a balanced and robust distortion. As the Gain is further wound-up the pedal will begin to produce progressively more saturated singing lead tones and effortless pinch harmonics. Classic Tone Stack Each channel has it’s own dedicated Bass, Middle and Treble tone controls. These tone controls are based on the passive tone stacks found on the ‘Blackface’ Fender Twin Reverb Amp. These tone controls are interactive and allow for a great deal of tone shaping flexibility. Bypass Footswitch enables selection between effectified and non-effectified (dry) signal. Silent true bypass switching ensures that ‘pops’ or ‘thumps’ are kept to a minimum when engaging the effect and there is absolutely no loss of tone from your guitar to your amp when the effect is disengaged. Channel Select Footswitch enables selection of the clean or overdrive channel. Balanced Direct Out ¼” TRS (stereo) jack socket allows connection of the Blackbird to mixing desk, computer soundcard or external audio capture device. This output is balanced and transformer isolated, eliminating earth loops and reducing hum to an absolute minimum. The Triad Magnetics audio transformer also imparts it’s own character, further enhancing and sweetening the tone. This output is driven by a discrete class AB amplifier circuit – essentially a miniaturised power amp output stage. There’s no substitute for the sound of a real tube amp moving some air, however the direct output is useful for recording in venues with poor room acoustics or excessive background noise. Reverb, eq or cabinet impulse responses can be added post recording to obtain a very realistic approximation of a miked guitar amp in an ideal acoustic space.
External Select ¼” TRS (stereo) jack socket. This enables an external footswitch (such as the Fender Twin Reverb Amp tremolo/reverb dual latching footswitch) to be utilised for remote switching of clean/overdrive channel and ‘Classic’/’Creamy’ modes.
Pre-emphasis toggle switch introduces additional high frequency pre-emphasis on the Blackbird’s ‘Gain’ channel. This not only adds a little top-end sparkle to the overdriven tone but also alters the clipping characteristic for a finer-grained distortion and more energised drive sound, a.k.a. ‘Crunch’!
- Internal Bias Trim-pot allows bias adjustment of the first tube amplifier section in the ‘Gain’ channel. Unscrewing the six screws on the base panel of the pedal accesses the trim-pot. Rotating the trim-pot clockwise increases the bias voltage, ‘hot’ biasing the tube stage and rotating anti-clockwise ‘cold’ biases the tube. This affects the pre-amp gain, sensitivity and the tonal response.
This unit does not sound or feel like any guitar pedal I've ever used. It has a liveliness and sense of space that I've not experienced other than playing through a good tube amp. I use it with the signal split; one side goes direct to my daw, the other goes into channel 2 of a Mesa Lone Star that's just starting to break up. The signal through the amp sounds better, of course, but the direct signal is excellent also. The main thing is that it makes the Mesa sound better than it ever has.
Wanting to go DI I found this and couldn't be happier. Nice breakup and the tone shaping is fantastic. Haven't had to replace any of the tubes yet but am considering experimenting with it. All you need is a good cab sim to go with it.
I'm only a few weeks into owning the Effectrode Blackbird SR71, but it is a keeper. Much has been said about it elsewhere and how fantastic it is. It is flexible, easily usable, very well built, and sits nicely on my desk. I have used it both through a Two Notes Cab M+ and through a Fryette PS-100 power map and a 2x12 cab. I love the flexibility and the available tones. I absolutely prefer the Blackbird to modelers I have used in the past.
I have swapped tubes around a bit with some I have sitting around and it's really going to be fun to experiment.
I'm as enthusiastic about Sound Shoppe, which packed and shipped the same day I ordered. They have earned my repeat business for sure! Thank you.
I'm playing a nice archtop guitar through an Acoustic Image amplifier. It's a great instrument but due to its unique design it gets a lot of overtones which bring out its acoustic sound but can cause some issues at more than the practice volume. It also doesn't have a tone knob.
I bought the Blackbird as a way of adding some of that tube glassiness and sustain to my sound and to function as an external tone knob, as well as enable me to explore some Scofield , Abercrombie, or Santana type tones.
I've only had it for a couple of weeks and haven't had a chance to fully explore those sides of the Blackbird yet, but I'm more than happy with the clean sounds I'm getting. There's no noticeable noise and the unit is really solid and well built.
I ordered some 12A7 tubes which should be here in a few days and I'm looking forward to swapping those in- being able to easily experiment is a really nice feature. I've played through mostly solid state amps in my life and have very little experience with Tubes so playing around should be fun.
I ordered the Blackbird from Sound Shoppe NY on a Sunday and it was delivered here to the Philly suburbs two days later so certainly pleased there.