Okay… so I’m in a band… again… And I’ve got GAS… again…
BUT having reviewed literally hundreds of different kinds of gear of over the life of this blog (has it really been 9 years?), I’ve developed the discipline to not give into my initial urges and force myself to test gear thoroughly and in a variety of settings before I make a decision about getting something.
I tell you, that guilty-before-proven-innocent attitude has literally saved me thousands of dollars as I would discover that many things I’ve tested may sound great in one or two settings, but just fail horribly in other areas. Not that something has to perform well in all areas, but it must perform well in the area in which I will be using it the most.
Such is the case with the Fender Deluxe Reverb Limited Edition amp that I borrowed from a friend with the intent to buy it if I really liked it. My first sound tests were great, as they focused almost entirely on the clean tone. We all know that you just can’t go wrong with Fender cleans. But then I hooked it up to an attenuator so I could crank it up without bursting my eardrums.
Talk about a deflating experience. The custom speaker sounded like crap, so I bypassed the internal speaker and hooked up the amp to my custom Aracom 1 X 12 with the Jensen Jet Nighthawk, and the skies parted, and manna rained down from heaven. So I resolved to swap out the speaker before my band rehearsal and see how it would perform.
But life happens, and I just couldn’t find the time to do a speaker swap. But I wanted to test the amp in a band environment, and so I took it to my rehearsal as-is; no attenuator, just the stock configuration. When I got to rehearsal, I hooked up my gear, and set the amp to about 5, so I could get a little breakup with the volume knob on my guitar set to dead-center. That way, I could clean up the signal or dirty it up more with just some volume sweep. But I also took an overdrive pedal with me for some extra oomph when it was time for me to do a solo.
Dammit! I couldn’t believe my ears when we started going through our songs. The tone was absolutely marvelous! So much so that about a half hour into rehearsal, I made up my mind: I was going to keep the amp. What I realized was that the stock speaker, which I hadn’t been all that impressed with needed to be pushing air for me to really get a feel for what it was capable. And when it was able to gets the SPLs up, my mind was blown. This truly was one of the best-sounding amps I’ve ever heard, and that’s saying a lot, as I’ve heard some GREAT amps. It was right on par with the quality of my Aracom amps’ tone. Some people had mentioned that the amp produced a bit of an ice-picky sound. I didn’t get that impression whatsoever. It might very well be that up close you’d get that kind of artifact. But standing 8-10 feet away from the amp, I just got a very nice, rich tone that didn’t have any noticeable high-frequency artifacts. For me at least, I was in tone heaven!
So here’s my dilemma: I dig no, LOVE this amp. But unlike my previous experience with other gear where I loved the tone right away, only to be disappointed when I used it in the environment that I was going to be primarily using it, with the Deluxe, it was the exact opposite experience. I had mixed feelings initially, but when I used it where I’d normally be using it, it was #mind-blown!!! That was NOT supposed to happen. Rehearsal was supposed to confirm my initial findings. Instead, it turned my world upside-down! And instead of my GAS being relieved, I’ve got it stronger than ever!
Another thing that really appealed to me was the amp’s simplicity. With just a single volume knob with no master, you just set it where you’re comfortable, and just go. I know, a lot of people like to have a master volume. Almost all my amps besides this one have a master volume. BUT, with this amp, I look to it as being more of a platform for pedals. It doesn’t have enough overdrive to do it on its own; that is, if you don’t want to make your eardrums bleed or completely step on the band. So I’ve been using it with overdrive and distortion pedals, and it rocks with those! So the setup for me, is set the EQ’s to the guitar I’m playing, then set the volume level where it’s comfortable.
I’m actually quite impressed that I don’t see any modifications that I have to make – yet. Just for shits and giggles, I may replace the pre-amp 12AX7’s with some 1959 RCA Mil-spec tubes that are just wonderful workhorse tubes and sound great to boot. I may even bias the power tubes just a tad cooler to add a smidgen of clean headroom. But frankly, I’m in no rush to do either. The amp is freakin’ awesome as-is!