If Smokey® Amps are any indication, good things really do come in small packages. Powered by a standard nine-volt battery, this little box is deceptively loud while providing a huge dose of naturally warm distortion. Created by innovator Bruce Zinky, who formerly designed for Fender’s® custom shop, the Smokey® amp will surprise you with the kind of breakup found in tube-driven amplifiers. But there is so much more to this incredible mighty mite.
Forget about the usual guitar gear hype; Smokey® amps are the real deal. With a mere two inch diameter, the flattened speaker cone, which seems nearly indestructible, serves up a desirable sonic balance that is somehow enhanced by the recycled cardboard cigarette pack housing. Plug in and listen closely. You can even hear harmonics jumping out of the speaker. Not sure the best cigar box equipment can do that. For recording purposes, Zinky’s invention can be quite effective, in the way Eric Clapton used a simple battery powered Pignose® amp for songs on 1974’s 461 Ocean Boulevard album.
If you still are not convinced about the possibilities of a Smokey® amp, consider this. According to the company’s website, “Les Paul’s estate auction included his Smokey® Amp (in a cigarette box) and we couldn’t be more flattered…” Knowing Paul owned a Smokey® amp is quite a testament to Zinky’s invention. As a result, we had to take the amp out for a personal test drive. Move over skeptics; the results were surprising.
In essence, this dinky guitar device acts like a fuzz box with just the right amount of breakup. As far as operation and having an effective interface, there are no knobs or volume controls on the amp. You just plug in a standard 1/4″ guitar cord and play. Using the extension speaker output, the Smokey® will drive a four, eight or 12 ohm cabinet. We tried it and discovered the little monster had no problem with a 1×12 Blackstar®. Vintage reproduction P90s and the Seymour Duncan ‘59 humbucker/trembucker combination worked exceptionally well straight up. We added Catalinbread’s Formula Five® tweed clone and an Ibanez Tube Screamer® TS808 to the path which provided greater volume control. All in all, the Smokey® Amp lived up to the test. We didn’t try it with slide. But at $33.00, go for it. Other models are also available.
Video: Smokey amp – pockleberry/YouTube
Photos: own work