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The ultimate Smokey Amp experience

I previously wrote about building a cigarette pack-sized amplifier. The inspiration for the one I built came from something called the Smokey amp which was conceived in the 1980s by Bruce Zinky. The original amp came in a couple of different styles. One was in a plastic case and the other was in an actual recycled cigarette pack.

So the original Zinky amp looked cool and it could fit in your shirt pocket. It had no volume or tone control and had a couple of other problems. The version in the recycled cigarette pack was very flimsy and could easily deteriorate over time. But the biggest problem was that the sound of its overdriven amplifier playing through it's crappy speaker was terrible. The only way to get a good experience with the original was to plug it into a bigger guitar speaker. You'd still get an overdriven sound, but the quality was much better when it was driving a big speaker.

I know about these problems because I bought one of the red plastic ones. Of course, I set out to solve those problems.

Because the red plastic one is not in any way as cool as the one in the cigarette pack, my first step was to put the guts of the amp into a more durable package. I started with a "100s" sized plastic cigarette case sold on Amazon that a regular cigarette case can fit inside. I cut out the correct sized hole for the speaker and the two jacks on the bottom. I then printed out a correctly scaled picture of a Marlboro cigarette box on some adhesive vinyl paper and carefully smoothed it over the plastic box (of course a few trial runs were required to get it just right.

I still had a crappy, way too overdriven sound coming out of the speaker that came with the Smokey, so I replaced the speaker with the better brand of 2" speaker that I used in my Lucky Strike amp, but made this one a 16 ohm speaker to require a bit more power to drive it. It sounds quite a bit better than the original speaker, but you still need to roll down the volume on your guitar a bit to get something approaching a cleaner sound. The Luck Strike amp sounds a lot better because the amp is not so overdriven.

So how could I use my new Marlboro amp and get the best sound possible? Build a bigger Marlboro Extension speaker! I bought a wooden box on Amazon which had proportions that were similar to that of a cigarette pack, just at a larger scale, and was large enough to hold a Jensen Mod-5 30 watt speaker. I put a jack at the top that is wired to the Jensen and I can use a guitar pedal crank to connect to the Smokey's Speaker out jack. Just to give me options, I also put a 2.5 watt solid state guitar amp into the bigger box and an input jack, so if I want to use it standalone, I can do that too.

Overall, I'm really happy with the outcome. I've got a better sounding Smokey amp and a matching extension speaker to get really big sound out of it.


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