Electro Harmonix Freedom Amp

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Loud things come in small packages…

When Tim set up his Tym Guitars retail shop in Fortitude Valley, he filled it with amps & guitars that he’d accumulated over the years but never used. There were WASP’s, Goldentones, Vase’s… it was a gold mine of rare amps. I bought one of his awesome vintage 100 watt WASP heads, and a Goldentone 2×12 bin. But sitting in the corner all this time was a tiny looking amp. I’d walked past it over the 2 years the shop had been open and wondered what it was. I was mildly surprised to find it was made by Electro Harmonix… makers of the fabled Big Muff pedal.

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It actually took me another year to be bothered to plug it in. I pass by Tym’s on my way home from work Friday afternoons to say g’day to Geordie. This time while looking at the amps upstairs, I saw that the Electro Harmonix amp was plugged in, so I thought I’d give it a test run. It’s a tiny thing, so I assumed it was a regular 10 watt solid state practice amp. It was ridiculously light and about as big as a Peavey Rage amp or something. I wasn’t expecting much… the regular ok-sounding clean sound you get from an old solid state amp.

I put it on the chair next to me, plugged in a Strat and cranked the volume. My ears then proceeded to get torn off my head. This was followed by a thud as my jaw hit the floor…. then “…HOLY SH!T!!!!

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The sound was a perfect blend of power and that clean treble grit as used by Hot Snakes & The Wipers. Put a single coil neck pickup, preferably a Danelectro lipstick through this amp and you have the ‘Automatic Midnight’ sound from the first Hot Snakes album. It sounds ridiculous but true. My mind was blown.

The controls are pretty unique as well. Instead of the usual ‘Volume/Bass/Treble’ settings, you have ‘Volume/Tone/Bite’. The tone control is really useful… It goes from Fender Bassman thickness to Fender Twin treble. The bite is the genius part. It goes from giving a bell like clarity to the sound to giving that high treble/shred you usually get from cranking an Ampeg Scrambler pedal or something. With the volume on full, it’s like the best sounding, crisp Big Muff ever. It’s an insane, totally usable & desirable sound. And the reason it was so loud is that it’s an incredible 55 WATTS!!! No wonder my ears are still ringing 3 weeks later!

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I had a look over the rest of the amp and was laughing how cheaply built it was. The knobs were actually knobs from the original Big Muff, as was the steel control plate and the font the text was written in.

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The grille cloth looked like it was black shadecloth from a garden supply store. The speaker looked like an old hi-fi speaker from some 70′s muscle car’s 8 track stereo system. It was totally Electro Harmonix… built from cheap parts but by some stroke of luck and genius it sounded amazing.

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I screamed at Geordie downstairs “THIS AMP IS FRIKKEN’ AMAZING!”, and he agreed. He couldn’t believe that awesomely LOUD sound coming from upstairs was that tiny forgotten black amp. I rang Tim and the first thing I said was “TIM!!! ELECTRO HARMONIX AMP!!! WHAT THE HELL?!” I think Tim was a little confused, but he got what I was trying to say. Tim had owned the amp for years and decided to get rid of it when he opened his new shop as he hadn’t played it for a long time. He said they’re really rare in the US, and that there were probably only about 2 in Australia. I REALLY wanted to buy it, but I’d just bought a Mesa Boogie Mark 1 that week so I couldn’t. This thing would be totally fine to gig with, miked up.

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After my slightly unhinged rant over the phone, Tim decided to take the amp home and try it out himself. I received a Facebook message the next day: “Hey Tone, I’m keeping that Freedom amp. HOLY F#*K !!!!!!”… followed by a message from Geordie to Tim: “I can’t believe that amp was sitting upstairs for 2 years and I never played it!!!”

What makes this amp even more desirable to me is that I have sneaking suspicion it’s the sound behind one of my favourite bands. The Hot Snakes guitar sound changed the way I listened to music. Instead of the thick, distorted rock sound I grew up with, they had a clean almost bell-like single coil tone which was powerful sounding thanks to their relentless down-stroked rythms but thanks to the sparkle clean but dirty sound you could hear all the notes. On a post on the Swami Records message board, Speedo was explaining all the gear he used to get his Hot Snakes sound. At the end of his long list of amps, he added “…About this time we discovered something very special that I will choose not to share. An amp to end all amps that is hilariously rare. Now, whenever one pops up we all fight over it. Needless to say, I don’t want to fight with more people than I have to.”

My opinion is… is the Electro Harmonix Freedom Amp is that amp. I may be wrong, but THAT sound is in there!

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The next part of this story is exciting. After agreeing that this amp was a freak of nature, Tim has agreed to build me one. I have a beautiful  old Goldentone/Daison vertical 2×10 combo which I bought for $60 but which is fried. Tim is gutting it right now and making it into a Freedom clone. I can’t wait!

And if anyone in the States is reading this and find one of these in a Thrift Store or something… BUY IT!!!

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*UPDATE* The Tym Freedom prototype is finished! I got this message from Tim today… It’s all ready to go. The only Goldentone part left is the cabinet. The pre amp is handmade on veraboard and the power stage is PCB. 50Watts into 8 Ohm.”

It looks awesome in it’s vintage Goldentone cabinet. Unfortunately I can’t pick it up until next Wednesday as I’m out of town for a few days! Bah! I’ll let you know how it sounds next week.

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As it happens, there’s a Electro Harmonix Freedom Amp for sale on eBay at the moment. As I now have a custom Tym version, I don’t need it… so you guys should snap it up.
Thankfully it had some cool pics up on the auction, so for those of you who requested nude shots of the Freedom’s innards… here are some.

As you can see, there’s not much to them… pretty sure there’s some rubber bands and chewing gum involved in the circuitry.