When Bad Cat Amplifiers trimmed its line to just four models with modern circuits, some wondered if they’d capture the magic of the hand-wired wonders that built the company’s reputation.
Their new flaghip is the Black Cat, a 20-watt/two-channel 1×12 combo with a pair of EL84s and a custom 12″ Celestion Vintage 30. While its name is familiar, this is a complete redesign, not just an update. Aesthetically, it’s classic Bad Cat, with smooth black tolex, chickenhead knobs, and an illuminated logo. Front-mounted controls are Treble, Bass, and Cut along with Volume and Master for each channel, Reverb, and Speed and Intensity for the tremolo function. The back panel has inputs for a buffered effects loop, line out, and footswitch.
Plugging a Telecaster into Channel 1 (clean), with Volume at 9 o’clock, Master at 1 o’clock and all EQ at noon yielded beautiful, chimey, clean tones with punch, clarity, and outstanding string-to-string definition. With Volume and Master beyond noon, tone got crunchy, with more punch and compression.
Backing down the guitar’s Volume brought back clear, chimey tones, even with the Master dimed. No need to worry about headroom because the Black Cat cleans up beautifully. Channel 2, with its higher gain and sustain, yields smooth tones at lower gain settings. With the Volume cranked up and Master to 3 o’clock, a Les Paul Junior sang with tons of juicy sustain and harmonics. Regardless of how much gain is thrown at this amp, it stays clear and musical with a percussiveness that makes it fun to play.
Switching back to Channel 1 and engaging the Reverb and Tremolo creates a different world of tones. Set Speed to slow, Intensity around noon, and Reverb at 2 o’clock and tones emerge thick, rich, and addictive. The digital reverb rivals many spring and tube-driven circuits – it’s that good.
The new Black Cat brings the vintage-meets-modern features, tone, and feel that have brought so many players to the Bad Cat name.
This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.