A rockin’ custom guitar amp with swappable modules for a flexible sound
Who is Bruce Egnater?
Before we begin on the the Egnater Mod 50 amp, let’s get some history on Bruce Egnater, for whom the amp is named.
Bruce is from the Detroit area and was a guitar player in the late 60’s and early 70’s, aspiring to be a rock star influenced by his love for Hendrix and Cream. Things did work out for Bruce to be a rock star, just not as a musician. Instead, he became a rock star in the amp field.
Bruce became more interested in gear and especially amps. He was always tinkering with amps and looking for different tones. Bruce first went to the University of Detroit Engineering School and also worked at Zoppi’s Music on 8 Mile Road in Sterling, Michigan. He was working on amps and set up their service department (Zoppi’s is not far from where I once lived, which is pretty cool). After graduating, he decided to open a repair shop in 1975 fixing and modifying amps. He was playing around with various amps to understand them because amps were a new fad as nobody really had a lot of in-depth knowledge of them. One day, Bruce combined a small Gibson amp with a Marshall head and discovered that he was finally heading in the direction he wanted. Bruce used a load resistor from the Gibson and took the signal from there and put it into the input of the Marshall. Word got out about what he was doing and soon became in demand. To this day, his amps are still a popular item to have.
What is the Egnater Mod 50?
The Mod 50 is a modular, tube guitar amp head that Egnater no longer has in their production line. It is still a popular item in the used market for around $1,400. Unlike most tube amps, what makes this unique is that it has modules that can be swapped out for different tones that the player wants. For this discussion, we will be looking at the TD (Twin Fender Deluxe), COD (California Overdrive), SL (Super Lead), and EG5 modules. There are other modules listed below that can be interchanged. The amp allows you to plug in any two modules at a time. Each module has two channels and its own Master and Gain knobs for each section of the module. They both share bass, middle, and treble. I have provided a link to the manual HERE.
Jimi Alan (Rockslide Studios, Bubba Grouch, and Damn the Torpedoes) helped us to review his Egnater Mod 50 to get a personal perspective of what this amp is all about.
MUSICXPLORER — Jimi, can you give us a run down of the amp?
Jimi — Sure, the Mod 50 is basically a 50 Watt Power Amp. It’s not a metal amp, and as you mentioned, it has interchangeable modules that have some flavor of a circuit from another amp, but they always have the Egnater touch to them, of course. I have the TD (Twin Fender Deluxe), COD (California Overdrive), SL (Marshall Plexi / Super Lead), and the EG 3/4 modules. The amp itself is very dynamic, very touch sensitive, and if you play gently, it cleans up really nice. If you dig in, it gets grittier. I typically don’t even use the full 50 Watts of the amp. I usually run it half power or 10 watts. This allows me to get a little more power tube saturation. The Head has 5881 tubes, which are based on the “American” type amps. The tubes are a little bit more compressed and don’t have as much bite as the smaller EL34 tubes that give you a British-sounding type amp. The amp can also use 6L6 tubes, as well as others. The Pre-amp and the modules use typical 12AX7 type tubes.
Does the amp have any built-in effects?
Jimi — The amp has no effects, and it doesn’t have reverb either. It is dry as a bone, so you need to get a pedal if you want any effects. The amp does have a serial and parallel effects loop.
What are serial and parallel effects loops?
Jimi — The effects loops basically run between the pre-amp and the power amp section. The serial loop breaks the path and inserts something, meaning it breaks the signal path, runs through the effect, and then returns to the circuit. The parallel loop does not mess with your tone as the serial loop does. It sort of splits the signal and it doesn’t break the signal as an insert. The parallel loop allows you to blend in the overall amount of effects, whereas, the serial loop, you need to carefully set the levels.
Getting back to the modules — what do you like about the modules you have?
Jimi — The Fender Twin has a bright, clean sound, while the Deluxe is warmer and breaks up more. What I love about the California Over Drive is the way the notes just sustain, especially when I turn it up. It’s a very “creamy” lead tone based on the Dumble ODS and Mesa Mark IIc. You can get some killer feedback and it’ll go on forever. The SL is based after the Marshall Super Lead. It’s a great sound for rhythm and lead guitar and has great medium gain. It can get pretty hairy too. Very British. The E/G 3/4 module is based off Bruce’s signature, Tone of Life amps, and channels three and four, respectively. It’s not a bright sounding module like the Twin, but a darker sounding module. The EG5 is a super high-gain module, and I relate it to the Soldano. Great gain with clarity.
The other cool thing about the modules is that you can also swap out the tubes, right?
Jimi — Yeah, the modules can be interchanged with different tubes that can give you different feel and tone. For instance, I currently have Groove tubes in the EG5, and for my SL module, I have Chinese 12X7’s. I have JJ’s running in the TD and COD. Bottom line is that you will get something slightly different out of every tube.
Do you like any of the other modules?
Jimi — I definitely want to get the Vox module. It just has “that” sound and gain.
How did you come about having the Mod 50 as your main amp?
Jimi — I first had the Egnater Rebel and loved the tone of that amp. I soon as I tested it, I took the money out of my pocket and said, “It’s mine.” I then checked out the Renegade. The Mod 50 I have now was a fairly recent purchase, as I’d been looking for a long time. My Renegade took a shit on me at a gig. It literally caught on fire. Not a real fire, but smoke and fireworks. The area that my amp was in was dark, and I think it had something to do with the power, because the owner was messing with the lights, and all of sudden, I looked on the back wall where my amp was, and saw the flashing. It was like a Christmas Tree, Dude! I noticed a flash of light from the back wall where my amp was. I looked over and saw fireworks, sparks, and smoke everywhere. It was like a Christmas tree all lit up, but it wasn’t on fire. I mean it was smoking, and it was a lot of fireworks, but no actual fire. With that being down, it was motivation to really find and get the Mod 50.
That sounds pretty weird?
Jimi — I know, I’ll never forget it!
What drove you to like the amp?
Jimi — I love the fact the amp is a tinkerer’s amp, and the fact that you change modules and tubes. I also love the Egnater mid-range. There is something there that just really appeals to me.
Is there anything you do not like about the Mod 50?
Jimi — I don’t like that each module has to share the EQ (bass, middle, and treble). I am going to have Jaded Faith in Bordentown modify the modules. For example, for the twin side, maybe they’ll put another bass or boost knob. The other thing I don’t like is that the serial loop runs a hot signal, line level, to the effects. I recently picked up an Ebtech line level shifter to remedy that, though.
Egnater has discontinued making the amp, but it seems to still be popular on the used market?
Jimi — Yeah, they stopped making the amp in the early 2000’s to be more focused on a model that was more commercially viable. Used mod 50’s are hard to get. There is a new company called Synergy that is picking up where Bruce left off, and he had consulted with them when they started out. Synergy is now building new modules and amps and working with guys like Friedman and Metropolous. Some killer sounding stuff that is all compatible with the Mod series.
- B’Man (59 Fender Tweed Bassman)
- SL2 (Hot-Rodded Marshall Super Lead)
- VX (Vox AC-30)
- ERect (Mesa-Boogie Dual/Triple Rectifier)