The original Sunn Model T amp was developed by the Sundholm brothers of the band The Kingsmen from Portland, Oregon - where bassist Norm Sundholm felt that the amps available at the time were ill-equipped for providing the oomph they needed for their live shows. The early, initially bass-focused amps evolved into the Model T by the end of the 60’s and the amp became popular for purveyors of stoner rock in particular - for both guitar and bass use.
The Model T consisted of 2 Channels - Brite and Normal - which you could combine together for extra impact - which kind of became the signature setup for these amps - you had 5 input/output jacks on the front facia alongside 7 knobs - Brite (Channel 1) | Normal (Channel 2) | Bass | Mid Range | Treble | Presence | Master Volume - and then On and StandBy switches. These amps were super raucous 150 Watt beasts using 4 x 6550 tubes, and largely inspired by the Fender Bassman 5F6A amps.
Most modern pedal interpretations of the amp utilise JFET transistors in place of the tube component, and typically go with 6 key controls from the amp - the 3-band EQ plus Brite (Channel 1 Gain/Level), Normal (Channel 2 Gain/Level) and Volume. Some have an additional gain stage or boost, and some are just simplified versions inspired by the Sunn Model T, but not really trying to replicate the core circuit - for instance like probably the most well-known of current Model T style pedals - the EathQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold - which uses an entirely different LM1458 Dual OpAmp as its main tone generator. As far as I see it - there are essentially 3 main types here - the one knob variation, the standard 6-knob configuration, and 6 knobs + second gain stage or boost.
The first two pedals pictured are unerringly similar in look / topology and I initially though Daniel Carcharias might be using Coda Effects electronics for his pedal, but his instagram seems to show an entirely different proprietary circuit of his own devising - I feel though that the Coda Effects Black Hole probably came first and at least inspired the control topology of the Orbit! In any case the one version I have to date is Benoit's own Black Hole Model T - a very detailed JFET adaptation of the original amp's circuit. This pedal benefits from and additional Linear Power Boost toggle switch which nicely kicks things up a level - I find I can flick this switch with my foot - although it would probably be nice for a future version of said pedal to make this more accessible- courtesy of a second footswitch in this same enclosure format - possibly with the addition of boost level dial too!
I have funnily enough been after an Acapulco Gold for a while - it keeps fluctuating up and down and on and off my wishlist, for which I guess the D-Sound Sunny is a definite clone, while I also like the look of Sizzorfite's Acapulco Gold style clone with a couple of extra dials and a toggle switch for further fine-tuning.
As for the rest here - the Ground State Devices Sunn Model T PreAmp is probably my favourite compact take on the format - including the boost as a second footswitch and is therefore entirely to my liking. The Delcam California Doom gives you the further Boost level control mentioned, and the forthcoming Zander Circuitry Terra Firma Power Amp Distortion does something slightly different with the format - bringing with it the typical Zander 6-way clipper and quite a different control topology to the classic pattern seen on most pedals here.
I really like my Black Hole, and am currently not necessarily looking to add options here - but if I were to do it - I would most likely look towards the Ground State Devices Model T, the Sizzorfite Acapulco Clone and/or soon to be released Terra Firma - just for different takes on this format. As usual my preference is always first for practical compact format pedals, then vertical medium enclosures and then finally the horizontal medium format - although the California Doom kind of makes use of that extra real-estate to justify its format.
Several of these have their own fans/followings - like the Ground FX Burning Sunn, EAE Model feT and recently reviewed Kenny B Model T - although I don't necessarily see what they give me over the more compact Black Hole - while the other pedals I've highlighted genuinely bring something slightly different to the table. I feel I may have overlooked one or two other obvious ones out there at large - but this selection will hopefully give you as good a grounding as you need for this particular amp-like flavour.
Note that I've excluded the larger-size more floor-amp type versions from Correct Sound Custom - they make a series of actual valve-driven floor-based Sunn Model T style PreAmps for around $300/$315 which although great sounding, are far from pedalboard-friendly as far as I'm concerned - but if you really love the Model T sound - you might very well wish to sacrifice your floorspace to one such - and I thought I should certainly make mention of it in this overview.
Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand as usual:
View this post on Instagram
Had a blast recording some pedal demos yesterday with @hey_buddy6 and @brenneron at @junktlv! Now on to some editing... be on the lookout for some demo videos soon! In the meantime here are some clips. Sorry for the loudass drums. Not really though. \ud83e\udd18 \u2022-~\ud83e\udd88~-\u2022 #carchariaseffects #basseffects #guitarpedals #stompbox #pedalbuilder #pedalgram #diypedals #diyaudio #bassgear #knowyourtone #tonefordays #gearybusey #gameoftones #pedaldemo #stacking #preamp #uncle125 #bassoverdrive #lateralus
The highly coincidental similarity in look to the Black Hole notwithstanding, this seems to be very much its own circuit - and while currently out of stock as such - it still sounds a decent proposition courtesy of Daniel's instagram which has a brief video taster per the above. This would seem to be slightly lower cost Thant the Coda Effects Black Hole equivalent, and you might prefer the bright orange enclosure to the black. For me personally it does not really make sense to own both this and the longer established Coda Effects Black Hole which I already have.
I first came across Benoit Meijer's Coda Effects courtesy of his tap-tempo Tremolo pedal the Montagne. As I already had a full quotient of tap-tempo tremolos - I was switched onto the other two pedals he was offering, and soon acquired both his Dolmen Green Russian Style Muff and Black Hole Sunn Model T circuit replica. All three of his pedals are really great sounding - and especially beautifully documented on his site. The only improvement I can recommend for the Black Hole is that the LPB toggle switch be rather upgraded to a second footswitch - like on the Ground State Devices Model T - otherwise I'm very happy with my one current representative of the genre!
I covered Delcam in my fairly recent Spanish Pedal Builders article - obviously an amp builder first and foremost - but with 3 cool medium-enclosure pedals in its line too - including the 7-knob California Doom. This introduces a separate Boost level control in addition to the usual 6 controls for this genre - and of course deploys a corresponding second footswitch. I usually much prefer vertical medium enclosures, but really don't mind the California Doom in this format. Of the extended feature ones I'm probably still more likely to side with Zander Circuitry's forthcoming Terra Firma.
This is evidently a clone of the EQD Acapulco Gold - possibly using the same LM1458 OpAmp as that one too. I have the Orion Russian Muff with Mods pedal from this same builder - whose quality is really decent. This is obviously significantly lower cost that the original Acapulco - but it has a smaller dial - which is surely half the fun!
It's rather amusing that we're getting similar pairs appearing in this listing together - first the Orion and Black Hole, and now the Sunny and it's original inspiration - the Acapulco Gold. This pedal has been the EarthQuaker Devices pedal on my wishlist for the longest time - as mentioned in the intro - its fortunes vacillate back and forth for me. This is a simplified 'inspired' by Model T using the LM1458 Dual OpAmp as already mentioned - you just get the one big dial, and you use your guitar's Volume and Tone controls to further fine-tune the output! By it's nature it's rather raucous and not particularly controllable as such - which is why I'm currently leaning probably more towards the Sizzorfite variation on this - which adds those few controls needed to properly tame this beast. That said this is a perennial EQD favourite - and it really sounds great if you like that sort of full-on demeanour!
So this is the same builder I acquired the cool Dude Incredible Harmonic Percolator + IVP pedal from - and is generally best known for its Longsword and Dagger Distortion pedals. This is a fairly typical 6-knob transistor circuit replica which seems to be pretty well received. For this slightly larger form factor I would have thought we could have had a second 'boost' style footswitch at least. For my purposes I get more functionality out of the smaller format Black Hole - so that would typically be my preference here.
This is another classic 6-knob JFET variant of the Model T with the classic accepted control topology but no further clipping or boost options. It's generally very well received and is widely considered one of the best of its type. Of the vertical medium formats though I would probably more likely side with the Kenny B or Zander Circuitry variations as they give you a little more versatility.
So this is the second time in quick succession I feature this less-well-known British builder - who once had some of these for sale but seemingly not that recently. He references the Coda Effects Black Hole video - so one might surmise he is using one of Benoit's boards? He's done the clever thing though of enabling the LPB switch as a second footswitch - which is what I feel Benoit should also do default on his own assembled Black Hole. So this looks like a slightly more idealised form factor of the Black Hole - if you can get your hands on one that is! Note that Brite and Normal Channels are labelled here as simply One and Two.
This is the one I've most recently seen reviewed - courtesy of Pedal of the Day - seemingly a standard sort of Black Hole style configuration in vertical enclosure by Canadian builder Kenny B. According to his Reverb.com shop the last one of these sold approximately 6 months ago and there is nothing currently listed on the Kenny B store. On closer inspection - the toggle switch seems to be a Channel selector rather than boost - presumable to select Normal or Brite or both together. So something of a different configuration for this type of pedal - and all the better for it - increased versatility is always good in my book.
This Australian builder may or may not still be active - there seem to be a few Giant Sound pedals in distribution - but they vary enormously in price. I found one listed in Excellent condition on Reverb.com for about £185 equivalent which seems about reasonable. This looks like another JFET style replica in classic 6-knob configuration. You have plenty of options at this form factor - so I guess pricing and availability plays a significant part too. Here the Brite and Normal Channels are simply labelled Gain I and Gain II.
The Acapulco Gold has always been a great pedal - but it's somewhat raw and wild - and could probably do with a couple of controls or to just tame it a little or fine-tune is as it were. And this is exactly what Sizzorfite Studio has done here - in splitting out the original One knob to Pre Gain | Volume | Tone - and providing a 3-way tone selector which boosts different frequencies. There are many ways to tame the Acapulco Gold - via secondary EQ or Compressor or simply utilising your guitar's controls. But this obviously gives you finer control on the pedal itself - which can't be a bad thing. This pedal was recently discounted so I thought I may as well snap it up!
Alex Millar's forthcoming take on the Model T should be very imminent now - V2 circuitboards are in, final colourway has been selected (muted gold) and I guess now we're just waiting for the white ink screen-printed enclosures to start assembly. This is actually a fairly unusual take on this format - and utilises Alex's typical 6-way clipper within the overall circuit. Instead of the usual 3-band EQ, Brite, Normal and Volume we have quite different controls - Body | Shift | Tone | Level | Gain 1 | Gain 2 - with a second Gain 2 footswitch too. I did catch up with Alex at the Birmingham Guitar show, but didn't get around to asking how he'd gone about deconstructing the circuit for his take on the genre - I'm sure we will find out soon enough. There is a brief soundclip on the Zander Facebook page - and I will post up the first proper demo when when it comes through - this is certainly one to watch - as Alex is particularly good with these slightly more rawer sounding circuits.
I started off with one pedal before I did this review and acquired the second in the process - or the Coda Effects Black Hole and Sizzorfite Studio Acapulco Clone respectively. For such a well-loved amp type, I'm kind of surprised there aren't more mainstream variants - only EQD could really be considered to be mainstream from this group. There's certainly plenty of decent takes on the format at both ends of the pricing scale - and there will undoubtedly be some whose feel or particular timbre appeals to you more.
In concluding the review I don't feel like I necessarily need any more representatives here - but will certainly keep an eye out of the forthcoming Zander Circuitry Terra Firma which has quite a different take on the circuit. As you well know by now I like practicality and versatility - so the Ground State Devices Model T with separate footswitch would probably have been my first choice - were it currently available and if I had not already acquired the Black Hole. As it is I see no reason to need or want anything beyond said Black Hole as it offers the slightly extended range within the most compact of form factors.
So in terms of Simple, Standard and Extended Functionality - I have the Sizzorfite Clone and Black Hole, and would possibly be looking to add the Terra Firma at some stage - those would be my choices and therefore recommendations - although some of you may prefer other variants - for instance the Ground FX Burning Sunn gets very good reviews! I may still also get the EQD Acapulco Gold at some stage - you never know - pricing and availability!