NAMM 2014: Black Widow unveils tube-based modelling preamp

The Black Widow MGP-1A emulates 18 different amplifiers using real valve combinations
The Black Widow MGP-1A emulates 18 different amplifiers using real valve combinations

NAMM 2014: Black Widow might have come up with the ultimate solution for those of us looking for a variety of tube sounds, but not sold on digital modelling. The MGP-1A is a 3U rack-mounted unit that utilises a huge 18-valve circuit to emulate tube amps in an all-analogue modelling process.

Black Widow says that this means you'll notice the feel of the amp change as you switch settings because you're using actual valves to drive the amp's tone and power.

In total, the system emulates nine classic amps, divided into three sounds apiece for the clean, crunch and drive channels, including the Fender Bassman, Marshall JTM-45 and Vox AC30 for clean tones, the MESA/Boogie Mark IV, Marshall JCM800 and Orange Graphic Mk II 'Pics Only' for crunch, and the MESA/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Laney GH-100L and Engl Powerball for the drive channel.

That figure of nine classic amps, actually then doubles to 18 when you take into account the 'mod' switch, which changes the selected model to that of a "a related but different amplifier circuit", so if you select a Fender Bassman, the mod option gives you a Fender Deluxe, or your Dual Rectifier tone changes to a Triple Rectifier etc…

Another feature that will likely appeal to the analogue-inclined is that the control system is totally menu-less, meaning that each function is controlled from the flat panel by a traditional switch or dial.

It's a fascinating idea, but unlike digital emulations only provides you with one channel of tone from each amp and will probably leave you more susceptible to the whims of your valves than ever. Still - if it delivers - there could be a real demand for this kind of product from the right sector of tube-devotees regularly in need of a wide tonal palette.

The real catch, though, is that the MGP-1A is not actually in production yet, and is launching a Kickstarter campaign shortly after NAMM in the hope of remedying that situation. In the meantime, keep an eye on the Black Widow site and Facebook for updates.

Black Widow MGP-1A Modelling Guitar Preamp press release

The MGP-1A Modeling Guitar Preamplifier will forever change the way you think of guitar amp modeling. Digital amplifier modeling is as popular as ever, but you have to ask yourselves:

"If digital modeling actually sounds like a tube amp, why are they adding tubes?"

The MGP-1A is completely different: It's not digital. The MGP-1A gives you 18 all-tube, all-analog preamplifier circuits in one easy to use 3U rack mount unit. Factor in tone shaping features like a bright switch, a deep switch, an EQ shift, and two unique tone stacks per Model and you have access to 264 of the most sought after guitar tones in history before you even turn a knob.

The preamp's modeling capabilities are a result of our patent-pending VEnuM™ technology. This technology accurately models the breakup, harmonics, gain and filtering characteristics ensuring you sound exactly like you were playing through the real thing. You'll notice the actual feel and response will change with the settings you apply. This is the result of REAL tubes doing their REAL job.

We designed the MGP-1A as a 3-channel preamp to make it extremely easy to use. No menus, no jog wheel navigation, no hidden features. Each and every function has a switch or knob accessible from the front panel. Operation is straightforward; pick your Channel, choose a Model, and use the Voicing and EQ Switches to customize as you see fit.

The MGP-1A Modeling Guitar Preamplifier is for real musicians who demand real, fluid and responsive guitar tone. If that's you, be prepared to be amazed.

All-Tube Signal Path

There is perhaps no better application for the vacuum tube than guitar amplification. Compared to bi-polar and FET transisitors, vacuum tubes distort in a soft and musical way. So why use anything else?

From start to finish, your guitar signal travels only through resistors, capacitors and vacuum tubes. This is as authentic as tube tone gets.

VEnuM™ Modeling Technology

VEnuM™ Modeling Technology is different than digital modeling because it's not digital modeling: It's Analog Modeling. VEnuM™ is the result of YEARS of study, equations and research based on the question: "What makes a guitar amplifier sound the way it does?". This research allowed us to capture tube tone and create the most exciting modeling device designed for guitar players to date.

3-Channel Preamp

The MGP-1A is just as happy on stage as it is in the studio. Its 3-channel architechure gives you maximum flexibility; It will go anywhere you need to sound like a pro. Most amplifiers are known for the sound of just a single channel. We've loaded each channel with only the best amplifier sounds that correspond to that channel which ensures you have access to the perfect tone for any situation.

Unique Clean Channel

The MGP-1A's Clean channel is a dual-input design commonly found in vintage amplifiers. A dual-input design is essentially 2 discrete clean channels in parallel. Each input has it's own gain control and is voiced differently. This design allows you to access a greater range of guitar tones than a standard clean channel would. The MGP-1A allows you to use both at the same time, allowing you to create new tones by blending the two gain knobs to taste.

Voicing Section

It's these switches that determine the character and overall tone of the MGP-1A. The Mod Switch modifies the selected Model to that of a related but different amplifier circuit. The Bright and Deep Switches (Crunch and Drive Channels) voice the amplifier for more highs or lows respectively.

EQ Section

The EQ Section controls the behavior and tone of the EQ circuitry and combine for 4 unique EQ responses per channel. EQ Shift modifies the selected EQ circuit for a less dramatic but useful tonal variation. Alternate EQ calls up a completely different tone stack which opens up an entirely new range of sounds each Model produce.

InPhase™ Phase Correction

Most multi-channel guitar amplifiers have a big problem lurking in their design: Phase Reversal. When playing alone, you won't hear it. But get the band together and suddenly your tone sucks. InPhase™ Phase Correction eliminates this issue by always outputting it's signal in phase, regardless of the channel used. If crappy tone happens, it's someone else's fault.

Matt Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.