By Damian Fanelli
For the past few years, Black Volt Amplification, a small company based in the Silver Lake hills of Los Angeles, has been producing some of the most unique, high-quality guitar amps on the market today.
Essentially an industry secret—but a favorite of celeb players, producers and LA musicians in the know—these amps have been used on dozens of sessions, albums and shows, and they seem to be picking up momentum every day.
Black Volt's flagship amp is the Crazy Horse, a tweed-style circuit that's powered up and modified on multiple levels to achieve the Black Volt sound. The Crazy Horse continues the high-quality construction found in classic amps of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties.
Black Volt owner/designer Gio Loria was inspired by the raw sound of tweed, Blackface and Marshall Plexi amps; when pushed to their limit, these amps sounded like they were going to come apart at the joints and explode, but they hung in there and became the foundation upon which blues, country, punk and rock and roll were built.
Another inspiration was the untamed sound of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Young—with his humbuckers and old tweed amps—influenced the sound of so many different artists, like a force of nature, like a hurricane.
Crazy Horse Specs:
• Available as 10" or 12" combo
• Entire amp constructed and wired by hand in LA
• Two 6V6 or 6L6 power tubes. No re-biasing required/swap and play
• Two dual triode pre-amp tubes (12AX7-12AT7-12AY7 or 12AU7)
• 25 to 30 watts of Class A output power into one 10" or one 12" speaker
• Vintage solid pine cabinetry with oak hardwood splined miter joints for strength and solid wood corner to corner
• Gain/Mid Gain Boost switch for added drive and crunch, reaching Plexi-type tones
• Volume, Tone and Gain Boost controls or Volume, Treble and Bass
• 8-16 ohm 1/4" speaker output.
Black Volt also offers the Whitey, a Plexi/tweed Bassman mashup-style circuit that takes the best of both legendary amps and distills them into a single-channel, single-input powerhouse in true Black Volt fashion. These amps are completely hand made and hand wired from raw materials—one amp at a time—with all materials and components carefully selected for each amp.
All of the wood for the cabinetry is salvaged from old barn siding and reclaimed lumber, most of which is generally at least 80 to 100 years old and solid, dried, aged pine—although some cabinets are built from other woods, including mahogany, beech, ash and oak.
Besides building amps, Loria runs a full-service repair and modification shop. Black Volt's clients include Joe Perry (Aerosmith, Hollywood Vampires), Daniel Lanois (U2, Willie Nelson, Peter Gabriel, Slash), Bob Clearmountain (David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen), Chris Traynor (Bush), At the Drive In, Biffy Clyro, Tawny Ellis, Rich Costley (Foo Fighters, Muse, Biffy Clyro, At the Drive In) and many more.
Check out the new Biffy Clyro album, Ellipsis, to hear some great Black Volt Amplification tones:
Since we're on the topic, the new At the Drive In album, Interalia, was recorded entirely with Black Volt amps—one Crazy Horse and one Whitey:
Black Volt will be taking orders through the end of October 2017, and then cutting off orders to focus on completing amps for the year.
For more information, visit blackvoltamplification.com.