It just so happens that I not
only collect whacky guitars, but old plastic
radios, as well. So when I see anything that
looks remotely like it’s made out of Bakelite,
Styron, Catalin, or other vintage plastics, my
attention is immediately engaged. This is how
I met amp maker Dennis Menard. I discovered
through his website (dentonepedals.com) that
he makes some cool-looking stompboxes, but
what really caught my attention is the little amp
“Della, get Paul on the phone for me, Tragg is
breathing down my neck …”
Playing guitar through something that
resembles the intercom you’d find in the office
of classic ’50s and ’60s television lawyer Perry
Mason’s office is weird enough, wouldn’t you
say? But the real mind blower is how great this
little amp sounds—which is, well, even weirder.
PLAYABILITY & SOUND
First, a little background information. Vermont
amp maker Menard seeks out old plastic radios
and intercoms. He takes out whatever is inside,
and puts in a one-half-watt, solid-state amp
circuit of his own design. He usually uses the
speaker that came with the original model.
With just one knob, you don’t have a lot of tonal
choices, but what you get are clean sounds from
volume settings 1 to 3, overdriven sounds from 4
to 6, and, above 7, it’s full-on distortion.
For tonal variations beyond that, the circuitry is
designed with a buffered input that takes pedals
quite well. When the amp is turned up all the
way, it gets about as loud as an acoustic guitar.
But unlike other little one-knob amps, the Call
Sender never gets screechy or barky when it’s
dimed. In fact, the amp always sounds full and
resonant. Want more dispersion and sound?
An extension speaker output is provided that
can power a 1x12 cab quite capably. The Call
Sender runs on a 9-volt battery or an optional
DenTone Boutique Bakelite series amps run
around $295—when you can get them. Menard
states on his website that Bakelite enclosures in
good condition are hard to find, so sometimes
only one amp is offered for sale at a time, and
the rarity factor is pretty cool. In addition, when
you take into consideration what antique stores
are charging for radios from the ’40s and ’50s,
then add in the Call Sender’s custom circuitry,
three hundred simoleons is a sweet deal.
WHY IT RULES
It’s super small—just 5" high and 7" wide—it
weighs practically nothing, and it sounds huge.
I miked up the Call Sender in my studio, and it
made my Strat sound like I was playing through
a full-sized amp. And just imagine the anxiety
and disbelief you’ll sow when you show up to
an important session with this tiny blast from
the past. Happily, once everyone hears what the
Call Sender can do, everything will be a gas (that
means “good”), and they’ll be talking about this
amazing little amp for quite a while.