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Chasing Tone - Pignose & Dwarf

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Now approaching 50 years since their original creation… a little look into the differences, use, some repairs, working modifications and hopefully… successful resurrections of older Pignose & Dwarf solid-state portable guitar amplifiers.

Several months of study & de-construction here… all reduced to four different “pages” / postings… and very surprisingly… some, now still-working amplifiers. Some, were actually resurrected.

Other “pages” to follow here as images and text are prepped & merged:

1. Overview
2. DC power
3. The Pignose
4. The Dwarf
5. [Maybe]… the Rock Amps’ - “Petros 1”

All  of “this” with my thanks to: Howard Chatt / Pignose, Dieter Höller / SongBirdFX.com, MacOS9Lives.com, many folks over at TDPRI.com, Tim - Petros I, Ian League, Craig - B.B. King’s Estate, Mel Patrick & The Blue Wabbits, cooldaddy-O #3303, GaryN, Michael Bryant #675, Jim Buonocore, Eric - Pignose, Mr. Tubehead ’77 PN, Tom Cleveland, Mr. Happy and of course… MacOS9Lives.com’s very own Herr DieHard.

…and that guy down in Decatur Alabama. #3448

À votre santé!


“Not just for buskers anymore…”

For those interested in clear, clean guitar tones that rival / and can approximate the early Fender Tweed amplifiers - without the often painful financial investment that such amplifiers normally require… an examination of (two) 70’s era - solid state amplifiers will follow.

Viewed by many as practice amps (or as mere “toys” by others) the Pignose 7-100 and the slightly more powerful (and rare) Dwarf amplifier, might actually surprise you - and most certainly when cost-compared with today’s much larger and much more expensive alternatives. AND especially… compared to the original 50’s era Fender Tweed amps and those current prices.

What is surprising are the current prices on newer, used Pignoses on eBay now… when you can buy a brand new Pignose from GC / or elsewhere, for around $75.00.

Of those “notables”, known to have used Pignose amplifiers in the past (and some still): Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Santana, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Frank Zappa (among many others).

Zappa’a modified Pignose was extensively utilized and reportedly is still in use today by his son Dweezil. I’ve read that Frank’s Pignose was modified to run on 18 volts instead of the customary 9 volts. I’d love to get a look inside. (Have briefly pushed a 1977 model Pignose here with 12VDC and it didn’t melt or smoke.) Howard Chatt of Pignose recently commented that Dweezil had just had his Dad’s old Pignose in “for servicing”. Still would like to take a peek inside but Dweezil’s just not taking my calls right now.

Frank Zappa “Black Napkins” / Mike Douglas Show - 1976: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q0nImsfMvE

Certainly these little amplifiers (AC & DC powered) can’t compete with the volume levels of higher-powered amplifiers but when you eliminate the hum & noise inherent with the bigger, more powerful AC powered amps, perhaps therein lies the simple beauty and one of the primary advantages of these little demons. Crisp, clear and clean tones (with mad distortion if you want it) and ZERO AC HUM when DC powered. Mic it!

Cigar box guitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYPq6mf4NR4  (A favorite, ‘round here lately.)
Just-for-fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aryigCJJIc

Dial in volume and desired tone… and mic the little devils. Used by a great many musicians in recording environs as well as in live performances. Some (Pignose & Dwarf amps) are simply used as pre-amps with today’s larger amps. And recently, been running a Dwarf here straight into an external speaker cabinet with a well-used, old 12” Fender-Eminence speaker http://www.tdpri.com/threads/diy-walkin’-blues-speaker-cab.923252/#post-88966 - and while it could use just a wee bit more output power, the tonal range is amazing. There’s also a mod for the Pignose to add a speaker-out jack too. (A standard “out” provided on the Dwarf.)

Recently restored Dwarf.  Some say ash - some say oak.

Pignose example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPnE2rMfqEE (Might want to skip ahead in this video to around 3:00.)
*Not a great quality sound recording but you’ll get the idea.

So, for those of you DAW fiends still playing “live” guitar in your tracks, or for guitar players (noodlers, harp players, etc.) still chasing “that tone”…
read on. (More to follow, probably every other day.)

•Using only a small delay (or reverb) pedal… to add just a little “depth”… dime the volume on the amp and dial the guitar volume & tone pots “to taste”. Now simmer and then slowly bring to a steady boil. Sure, one can now purchase a Roland Cube or some other such portable offering, but where’s the fun in that… when you can resurrect and play through one of these little monsters, on the cheap?

This is an awesome post !

I play on my newly acquired (donated from a dear friend)  PiggyNose everyday while running the computer store and it rocks.

--- Quote ---Long Live the Pig !... and maybe the dwarf :)
--- End quote ---

Had no idea about these. Fender tweed always sparked my interest. Pretty cool that zappa used them.

frank zappa!


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