Limited to 1500 units worldwide, The Black Ash is a fuzz/overdrive that takes some cues from the vintage 3-knob Tone Bender. It uses a highly curated cache of rare and irreplaceable components including paper-in-oil capacitors and NOS half-watt carbon composition resistors from Jamie Stillman’s personal stash to light a fire under this classic fuzz/drive with an explosive-yet-detailed treble response, a sturdy midrange, and subterranean bass extension.
The three controls on the surface of the Black Ash are for Level, Fuzz, and Top. Level sets the output volume with unity gain around 10 o’clock. Fuzz adjusts the amount of gain from cooled-off amp-like breakup at lower levels to scorching fuzz tones when cranked. The control labeled Top works on frequencies between 2kHz and 10kHz to adjust how “forward” the guitar sits in the mix and helps pair the Black Ash with different pickup types.
At lower Top settings, Black Ash takes on an organic, woody character that blankets the signal in warmth like an ol’ Kentucky hug. As the Top is increased, new harmonics appear, and the Black Ash gives a stiffer response with a sharper attack that can make humbuckers chime and will make single-coils glisten like pearly dewdrops in the morning sun. We find the Top control to be most pronounced when used at lower Level and Fuzz settings with low-to-mid-output pickups and a reasonably clean or edge-of-breakup amplifier.
Each Black Ash is built one-at-a-time, the hard way, by hand by amateur dendrologists in the arboretum of Akron, Ohio, USA.