Review #1 - Mad Professor Super Black > Boing! J Rocket Spring Reverb > Carvin Mach 100 > JBL K120
Over the past few days I've had the pleasure of tinkering with the Super Black from Mad Professor. It is a faithful reproduction of a Fender Blackface preamp flanked by the smooth goodness of their famous Sweet Honey Overdrive. All this in the size of a compact pedal.
The unit doesn't have reverb, so you'll need to compliment this pedal with your favorite reverb pedal. I chose the Boing! from J Rocket as it is a faithful recreation of a Fender accutronics reverb unit. It is a great spring reverb that doesn't try to do too much and doesn't get in the way of anything. The Mad Professor is going into the Boing, which is going into a Carvin Mach 100 pedal sized power amp, which plugs into a 1X12 cab JBL K120.
The Carvin is a 50W x2 power amp that is the size of a pedal. It produces a very transparent and powerful signal straight to your speaker cab. You can run it at 50W into a single cab or 50W x2 into two cabs. I'm not sure if it can be "bridged" as the manual doesn't say anything about it, but the 50W into the one JBL speaker is plenty loud for home use and would be fine for gigging with a mic in my opinion. I am only using the power amp at half volume and it is super loud and clear.
Now back to the Mad Professor. All I can say is, WOW! My first impression was to ask myself, "what have I been missing?!" I didn't realize that something like this was possible. Having a FYD TRP preamp, I am easily able to compare what the real thing should sound like, and let me tell you, this little guy comes really close. Going into the Carvin, I have the settings pretty much the same as I have them on the FYD, with the Treble all the way up, the bass all the way down and the Midrange at around 4 (10 o clock). I have the presence at around 3 o clock, the gain all the way down and the volume at noon. SOUNDS LIKE A FENDER TWIN!!!!
I found that using the volume knob on my guitar came in handy to switch between rythym and lead tones (without using the overdrive). So I set up the pedal so that with the guitar volume on 10 I could get some nice sparkly lead tones, then I am able to dial the volume back to 7 on the guitar and get the perfect levels for strumming.
But the true magic of the Super Black happens when you kick on the overdrive. The Sweet Honey is perfect for Jerry Lead tones. It doesn't sound that great with the preamp side off, but MAN with the preamp and the overdrive both engaged you can really hit the sweet spot for Jerry lead tones. Its the stuff dreams are made of!
I know this sounds like high praise, but this little guy deserves it. This is the closest thing to "Jerry in a box" that I have come across. I used my Strat with Voodoo 69s and Stratoblaster, as well as my Eastwood Tiger with DiMarzio Super 2 split middle and my Carvin with DGN JG Single middle coil pickup. In all three cases the unique tone of the guitar was able to shine through and make its own mark on the tone.
The only drawback to this setup is the absence of tubes. The more I played, the less it bothered me and I found myself getting lost in the goodness of the tone and the amazement that this small footprint was creating something so substantially great. But when I went back to the FYD/Mosvalve later that night, the tube goodness of the FYD washed over me and it made me realize that tubes really offer something that the Super Black cannot offer.
That said, for $225 - $275, I would highly recommend the Super Black. Go ahead and sell all your other overdrive pedals. Screw it, go ahead and sell all your amps. Pick yourself up a Carvin Mach 100 and a Mad Professor Super Black with a 1x12 JBL cab and call it a day! Or just plug the Super Black into your favorite power amp and give it a try. It may not be an FYD or an SMS, but it does deliver the goods in a format that fits into the palm of your hands.
In my next review I will be looking at the Shift Line Twin MKII, which is supposed to bring the goodness of a Twin Reverb in a pedal sized package, but this time through a tube. I am looking forward to giving this one a go. Also, I will be looking at the Joyo American Sound for those budget minded heads and seeing how it stacks up to the Super Black when paired with the Joyo Sweet Baby (clone of the Sweet Honey). The American Sound and Sweet Baby can be bought for around $60 (for both pedals!).