Brown Eye and
the amp, but it was still possible to drastically
change its response by rolling back the guitar’s volume knob.
As I mentioned, PG’s review unit arrived with
all of Friedman’s available modifications.
Other than the Clean and Gain knobs that
constitute the Simple Clean Channel mod,
these extras are accessed on the back panel.
First in line is a Fat switch, which thickens up
the low end to help fill out rhythm parts. I
liked this because it didn’t increase the gain
at all. Engaging the Fat switch livened up
the tone from a Tele without adding grit to
its spanky sound. This simply helped the Tele
project better across the room.
Adjacent to the Fat switch is another switch
that controls Friedman’s Custom 45 response
mod. Flipping this switch smoothed out the
tone a bit more, while adding a bit of chime
and openness to the highs.
When I was ready to hear what sorts of gain
this monster could muster, the next control,
Sat (saturation boost), helped me do so—in
spades. Throwing the Sat switch, I immediately understood why Steve Stevens and Jerry
Cantrell are using the Brown Eye in their rigs.
The pure, raw aggression lunging from the
amp was staggering, to say the least. Low
notes were super tight and punchy, and the
highs carried a really nice sting.
As far as midrange voicing, I think you’d be
hard-pressed to best the Brown Eye’s overdrive.
With all the versatility and power it offers, what
really sets it apart is its Presence control. The
knob doesn’t simply boost highs and add shimmer, it adds more girth, dimension, gain, and
perceptible volume. Taming the Brown Eye’s
high-gain settings only required lowering the
Presence knob, which softened the high-end
response and eased off the screaming gain a
bit. It’s as if you have a retractable muzzle, with
the higher settings pulling back the mask to let
the razor-sharp mids and highs bite through.
With the gain channel, Friedman reveals his
intense love of vintage-Marshall-flavored overdrive, but what about those lovely old plexi
cleans? I was really curious about this, because
my favorite clean tones have come from sweet
vintage Marshalls. I’m happy to report that
the Brown Eye nails the distinctive, percussive
tones that plexi amps are known for.
Thanks to the Simple Clean Channel mod, I
could adjust the preamp gain in tandem with
the master volume. There’s nothing in the world
like standing in front of an old plexi set clean,
and forcefully hitting a bunch of chords in succession. The sound hits you in the chest in a
way that no other amp can duplicate, but the
Brown Eye gets really, really close. Armed with
my Les Paul, I got wicked midrange punch and
a solid low end, but with a slightly hi-fi edge to
the upper frequencies. The detailed highs were
especially noticeable with a Telecaster. I wouldn’t
say it was a sonic detriment, but rather an unexpected result. The slightly modern edge of the
amp’s clean sound might turn off some players
who like bouncier, spongier tones. That said, the
Brown Eye’s spectacular clean voice—which has
massive amounts of headroom—is muscular and
rings evenly throughout the guitar’s range.
The Final Mojo
With the Brown Eye, Dave Friedman has
packed decades of circuit design and modification know-how into a head that represents the
finest Marshall-inspired tones he can muster.
Players who gravitate toward amps with a
strong upper-midrange spike and immediate
attack should really take a look at the Brown
Eye. If you love the pure aggression of a
healthy, late-’60s plexi, yet demand modern
features like channel switching, the Brown Eye
is extremely hard to beat.
you want one of the finest representations of classic and modern
British high-gain tones available.
you want a traditional
Street $3000 100-watt head; $2800
50-watt head; options from $50-$500.
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The Naked head has a storied history.
Friedman produced the original line more
than 10 years ago in very small quantities
(around a dozen were made, and most went
to Japan). The first Naked was designed
with the input of A Perfect Circle guitarist
Billy Howerdel. Friedman had previously
modded Howerdel’s 1978 Marshall JMP
100-watt head. The preamp in this circuit
was key to Howerdel’s tone, and it was
influenced by a certain boutique amplifier
that Howerdel was a fan of. Howerdel loved
the amp so much that he commissioned
Friedman to build several amps based on his
beloved JMP. Thus, Howerdel’s request for a
high-gain, clear-sounding amp with supreme
touch sensitivity was the inspiration for the
Naked 100-watt head.
I can clearly recall the first time I heard A
Perfect Circle’s self-titled album—I was
amazed by how unique the guitar tones were.
The mushy sound of typical radio-rock grind
was replaced with a crisp, robust wall of
sound that had dimension and texture. When
I asked Friedman why he waited a decade
to release this amp as a production model,
he said “Today, it’s easier to promote amps
like the Naked because of the Internet. Ten
years ago, the market was different, and it
was a lot harder to get the word out about
something like this. But now, the rules have
changed. So, why not?”
The new Naked is based on the circuitry of
the first Naked amps, and it offers many of
the same functions. You can switch between
two channels, clean and overdrive, using
a single-button footswitch that plugs into
one of the front jacks. Both channels share
a simple 3-band EQ with a highly sensitive
Presence control. The Naked’s minimal features are rounded out with an effects loop
that’s wired in series.
Aesthetically, the amplifier is an homage to
the Marshall Super Lead models of the late
’70s, with large rocker switches for Power and
Standby, and white piping instead of gold.
Howerdel’s Friedman-modded ’ 78 Marshall
JMP was not only the tonal basis for the
Naked, but obviously had a major impact on its
visual accoutrements, as well.