Blues Tools – Pignose: Portable Power

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Club Blue 728×90
The famous Pignose Amplifier
The famous Pignose Portable Amplifier

There is no doubt that every amp-using blues player has his or her idea of the ultimate rig. In poring over dream amplifier choices, however, practicality is often thrown right out the window. Many amps are too expensive, too large or even too difficult to maintain for the average player to consider owning them. Sometimes all one needs is a convenient box to plug into and make some sound. This is particularly true of situations such as backstage warm ups or when living in confined quarters (perhaps even right above the landlord).

One answer to this common problem is the Pignose. The Pignose amplifer was introduced in the early 70s and quickly became a popular fixture for small gatherings and practices. The Pignose is battery-powered and contains a single 3-inch speaker. Six AA batteries provide the juice for five little screaming watts of solid-state sound. A DC power supply may also be used in place of batteries. The amp has a single knob (shaped like a pig nose, of course!) on the front for controlling volume and turning the unit on and off. It even has buttons at the top of the case so that a strap can be slung to it and it can be carried around while playing, providing a roving concert experience if the user so chooses.

While it may not seem like much, the Pignose does its job in spades. It has a very quiet circuit with no hum, quiet enough even for recording purposes. The amp also has an output jack so that it can be used as a preamp for a larger amplifier. Clean tones are quite suitable, and with a twist of the volume knob it is easy to turn the Pignose into a crunch machine filled with all the overdrive one could want for either guitar or harmonica. Oddly, in its 1986 film debut in the movie “Crossroads,” the amplifier even mysteriously developed a tremolo circuit. (Don’t hope for this at home, kids. Only Ralph Macchio and movie magic can pull this off!)

After all these years this little portable squealer is now called the “Legendary 7-100,” but it remains the same as it was when first created. If you’ve not had a chance to try one out, keep your eyes peeled for them at music and pawnshops and give one a spin. They trade on eBay all day long brand new for about 75 bucks and much cheaper used. The Pignose could be a great first amp while waiting for your dream rig, or it could simply get you out of dutch with the landlord for using your 100-watt Marshall as a practice amp.

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