Gear Stories With Sylvia Massy: Triangles, Tubes and UFOs

Aug 17, 2010 4:06 PM, By Sylvia Massy

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I found it up in an oven-hot attic in the middle of summer. The place reeked of bird crap. I was rummaging for treasure in an old music store, tip-toeing around in an area that was strictly off-limits to anyone but shop personnel, and I found this massively crazy amp literally stuffed between a pile of old marching-band tubas and a stack of Chinese violins. I knew it was something weird and special, covered in a thick layer of gray dust and pigeon excrement. A big old wood thing, built like a classic console television or something. It had an instrument jack on the front and two large round speakers pointing outward from a large tube.

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I am bored with the typical. We all wake up in our boxy bedrooms and pour cereal out of a box, turn on the box to watch the news, climb into our box to drive to work. We tolerate our mundane existence as we pull our guitars out of boxes, connecting one box to another to make sound come out. Stomp on another box to make it sound groovy. So I was lucky to find a real gem that had nothing to do with traditional square guitar amplifier construction. My attic treasure was called a “Tuned Tube” and was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Either this designer was a genius or he was really freakin’ high. (Somehow, I think the latter applies here.) Built to fit into the modern look of the early ’60s living room, it was a solid-state amp designed around a large physical “tube” with speakers mounted at both ends pointing outward. It had cabinet-quality wooden reflecting panels on hinges used to aim the sound coming out of the tube, controlled with small adjustable ropes. (Ropes?!) With these “reflectors,” you could set up the amp in your living room, carefully focusing the sound at your favorite chair. Despite its strangeness, the Tuned Tube really did sound amazing! Deep tremolo and spring reverb made this a favorite clean tone played by Mike Campbell during our Johnny Cash sessions, among many other great projects.

Maestro's Rover Amp

Maestro's Rover Amp

It looked to have been stored there since it was new, with original store tags still attached, but someone had cannibalized every control knob off of the front. I excitedly dragged the huge thing down three flights of stairs, as whisperingly quiet as possible, before presenting it to the old geezer at the counter. “How much is this?” He looked at me covered from head to toe in sweat and soot, knowing I’d been snooping around where I shouldn’t. “Well,” he said as he gave me the stink-eye, “for you, $200.” I couldn’t resist. This was to be my biggest guitar amp discovery of 1994.






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