A well-conceived reboot of a beloved amp. Nice clear and lead tones. Tasty tremolo and reverb.
Shared EQ settings generally require compromises.
Unhealthy Cat Black Cat
Unhealthy Cat has gained over lots of gamers within the time for the reason that California maker constructed its first high-quality, hand-wired amplifiers in 1999. Then, the corporate was an unapologetic follower of the Matchless template (which itself borrowed greater than somewhat from Vox). And in reality, the 2 corporations have lots in widespread. Unhealthy Cat employed Matchless co-founder Mark Sampson to design Unhealthy Cats at a time when Matchless was on hiatus, and Unhealthy Cat amps from the interval have been even constructed with Matchless-branded sign capacitors of their circuits.
If Unhealthy Cat have been a bit spinoff at first, they constantly developed, repeatedly including options and altogether new designs. The brand new lineup is completely revamped, nonetheless. And whereas they use previous mannequin names just like the Cub, Lynx, Sizzling Cat, and Black Cat mannequin names, every amp has new options and is constructed round circuit-board building. Fortunately, the brand new Black Cat’s many British-flavored sounds are adequate that you just most likely gained’t suppose an excessive amount of about particulars like point-to-point versus circuit-board manufacturing.
Although they’re comparatively widespread, even amongst massive title builders, $2K amplifiers with circuit-board building nonetheless give some gamers pause. However the high quality of manufacturing I see right here falls in keeping with revered latest choices I’ve encountered from Mesa/Boogie, Friedman, Tone King, and Soldano.The Black Cat’s revamp means some fashion modifications, too, and a few long-time followers could mourn the lack of signature options. The illuminated cat eyes within the brand plate, for example, are gone, and there’s no EF86 preamp tube within the circuit both.
Nonetheless, the revamped Black Cat bridges versatility and ease properly. Unhealthy Cat diminished the Black Cat’s energy from 30 watts to twenty watts. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless generated by a pair of EL84 output tubes, cathode-biased for sophistication AB. (Older 30- and 15-watt Black Cats, the Cub, and different fashions that used cathode-biased EL84s have been billed as class A.) The preamp is pushed by three 12AX7 tubes, rectification is solid-state, and the reverb is now digital somewhat than tube-and-spring pushed. Hefty custom-spec transformers are mounted on the underside of the chassis.
The clear channel provides tons of glassy chime, loads of readability, and nice word separation—however with a beautiful harmonic swirl that provides depth and dimension and retains the Black Cat from sounding brittle.The 2 footswitchable channels are designated clear and lead, and every has an unbiased quantity and grasp quantity management. They share treble, bass, and minimize controls, in addition to reverb stage and depth and pace for the bias-modulated tremolo. The again panel options an enter for the included 2-button footswitch that handles channel switching and tremolo on/off. There are additionally a ship and return for the buffered results loop, speaker outs rated at 4 ohms, 8 ohms, 16 ohms, 2×8 ohms and a couple of×16 ohms, a line out, and energy and standby switches.
The rugged cupboard is comprised of Baltic birch ply and measures 23.75″ x 19″ x 10.5″, and the amp additional alerts its roadworthiness by the use of a considerable 48-pound carry weight. The only 12″ speaker is a 60-watt Celestion that Unhealthy Cat says is a variation on the Classic 30. And although the black vinyl, gold-grille fabric, and gold piping look a contact businesslike, in addition they tie a visible line to Unhealthy Cats previous and new. I believe most guitarists will discover the less complicated light-up brand plate elegantly understated as properly.
I examined the brand new Black Cat with two very traditional and acquainted guitars—a Gibson 1959 Les Paul reissue and a Fender 1954 Telecaster reissue. With each devices, the brand new Black Cat combo hinted closely at Unhealthy Cat, Vox, and Marshall tonalities of yore, however with flexibility and vary I don’t keep in mind listening to earlier than in Black Cats. The clear channel provides tons of glassy chime, loads of readability, and nice word separation—however with a beautiful harmonic swirl that provides depth and dimension and retains the Black Cat from sounding brittle. Pushed towards most quantity, it begins to interrupt up simply sufficient so as to add chew and texture. However there’s lots of headroom for a 20-watt amp, and the Telecaster specifically stayed characteristically clear by a lot of the quantity vary with the grasp maxed out.
Like lots of its predecessors, the Black Cat is predisposed towards brightness, so I normally stored the treble round 10 o’clock. Easing again on my Telecaster’s tone knob a few ticks helped additional rein in any ice-picky tendencies. The amp’s minimize knob is a big asset, too, decreasing the high-frequency content material on the output stage as you flip it up. The tremolo delivers a wealthy, toothsome throb with nice vary of pace and depth, and I doubt many gamers other than die-hard surf devotees will bemoan the substitute of springs with digital reverb. It sounds evocatively atmospheric with out obscuring the core tone.
Switching over to the lead channel, I discovered delectable Vox drive tones that, at instances, verge on Marshall-like with out being dead-on plexi or JCM800 copies. Increased-gain sounds are girthy and have a tendency to sizzle and saturate when you situate the quantity previous 1 o’clock. I most likely loved the amp most with the quantity knob within the 10:30 to 11:30 zone with the Telecaster, and a hair decrease with the Les Paul. At these ranges, the Black Cat offered a broader, extra natural, and really rock ’n’ roll type of snarl and chew that you would be able to simply drive to extra screaming heights with an overdrive. The low finish can get somewhat free in larger achieve settings, and the shared EQ part generally means you’ll be able to’t dial an EQ profile that works completely for each channels. Normally, although, it’s cool to have a lot vary within the lead channel.
When you like Brit textures that exist exterior strict Vox and Marshall confines, the brand new Black Cat is a formidable all-around performer. It provides loads of wealthy voices that work for a variety of taking part in types and a well-considered characteristic set. Construct high quality is superb too, even with out Unhealthy Cat’s vaunted point-to-point circuit building. This amp revamp might need some gamers cherishing their previous fashions. Change tends to try this. However the brand new cat on the town actually has a lot to supply.
Unhealthy Cat Black Cat Demo | First Look