Today we look at the classic Fender Amp tone that many of us typically refer to as an American guitar amp tone.
Fender amps have been a staple in the music world since their inception. They are favored by many professional musicians and have been used to record some of the most iconic songs of all time, including everything from “Layla” by Eric Clapton to “Californication” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Fenders come in a variety of sizes, ranging from only 10 watts up to 100 watts. There are also plenty of features that sets these amps apart from others on the market-such as foot switchable channels for easy switching during live performances, dual reverb controls for creating unique sounds and of course that classic Fender tone! It doesn’t matter what type or size amp you’re looking for-Fender has something perfect just for you.
Different Types of Fender American Amp Tones
When you hear someone mention they love the Fender sound or the American tone they are most likely referring to one of two classic Fender amp types, Tweed or Blackface. As you will see with the different amps, they all produce the classic Fender amp tone but have very different sounds and characteristics.
Note: Fender produces several other models with a variety of sounds to meet the needs of artists ranging from country to a metal band. They also produce a full line of digital modelling amps such as the Fender Mustang. We will do a full Fender Mustang review in a separate post and for simplicity sake, will keep our focus on the two classic Fender amp tones for this post.
Fender Tweed Tone Guitar Amps
The Fender Tweed Amps are always a popular choice for guitarists and are some of the most famous amplifiers produced. It has been one of the most iconic tones in modern music. The Fender Tweed tone produces a warm and traditional tone. Fender amps are “American voiced,” and their clean tones are fantastic. They have a bright treble high end and are generally scooped in the mid-range. Think of the tone of Clapton, Duane Allman, Joe Perry, Joe Walsh and Keith Richards for reference.
Some popular models to capture that classic tweed sound from Fender and other manufactures include:
Fender ’57 Custom Champ – Great Sound in a Small Package
An all-time great recording amp, this faithful reproduction of the ’57 Fender Champ is classic Fender Tweed tone (think that tone in Layla for reference).
The Champ is only 5 watts of power and one of our top small, low-watt amps. It runs one 6L6 for the power tube and has a 1×8 Weber Special Design with Alnico magnet speaker and a finger-jointed solid cabinet. The Fender ’57 Champ uses a single 6V6 power tube, a 12AY7 preamp tube and 5Y3GT rectifier tube.
If you are looking for the tweed tone in a small, low-watt package you cannot go wrong with the Champ.
Fender '57 Custom ChampTube Guitar Amp Lacquered Tweed
Victoria 20112 – Classic Tweed Fender Amp Tone
The Victoria 20112 amp is a recreation of the original 5E3 circuit tweed Fender Deluxe. It produces spine-tinglingly real tweed tone that takes you back to the heady days of the late 1950s.
It’s built to an exceptionally high standard and produces 14 watts from a pair of 6V6 output valves into a single 12-inch Eminence driver. It’s perfect for small clubs and studio work, and is aimed at serious collectors, professionals and enthusiasts.
Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue
The Blues Deluxe turned into the modern, more vinyl-clad Hot Rod Deluxe and has had a few different incarnations. They currently have the Blues Deluxe Reissue which is a 40 watt amp that was designed to bring back some of the early tweed Fender amps with its unique tone and feel. It’s an open, woody sounding amplifier with onboard spring reverb that was made to emulate the tone of the original tweed amps.
The Fender Blues Deluxe takes effects pedals
Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40-Watt Guitar Combo Amp - Tweed
Fender ’57 Bandmaster
The 1957 Bandmaster amp was popular for its edgy dynamics and has now been recreated in a custom-shop reissue. The Bandmaster has a solid pine cabinet, hand-wired circuitry, and three custom-made Jensen 10-inch drivers to reproduce the edgy dynamics of the time.
This amp was also the inspiration for another Fender classic, the Bruce Zinky-designed Custom Shop Vibro-King. Both amps are still popular today and will have you saturated in tweed tone goodness.
Fender Blackface Guitar Amps
There’s nothing quite like the allure of vintage gear. Whether you’re a player or collector, certain words and phrases just have a way of capturing our attention. “Blackface Amp” is one of the names for guitar amps that have a special place in history.
For Fender, their Blackface amps are some of the most coveted and famous products they’ve ever made. Named for their black control panels, these amps are known for their iconic sound. Think of Mike Bloomfield, James Burton, Johnny Winter.
Blackface amps were immediately popular upon release and used on numerous famous recordings. They continue to be a backline and recording mainstay of musicians who seek a great, chimey Fender clean and, when pushed, a classic overdriven tone. Fender offered a full range of amps in their Blackface line, ranging from the diminutive Champ to the massive Twin Reverb that can produce ear-splitting volumes..
Collectors and players divide Fender amps into two categories, depending on when they were built. A “Pre-CBS” (mid-1963 to mid-1965) guitar amp with a “Fender Electric Instrument Company” label, and a “CBS” (mid-1965 to mid-1968) guitar amplifier with a “Fender Musical Instrument” label.
Blackface amps were successful upon release and were used on many famous recordings. They also served as a backline for many musicians seeking a clean Fender tone and when pushed, a classic overdriven tone.
The amps’ cosmetic features included black control panels with white lettering. The cabinet covering is a black tolex with a silver thread grill cloth. Blackface Fenders are well-known for their exceptional dependability. Even the original 50-plus-year-old amplifiers will be thumping long into the future thanks to their indestructible build quality.
Fender Blackface Sound Samples
The thing we love about Blackface amps is the ability to get that wonderful clean tones with tons of headroom. Want to hear classic Fender Blackface tones, check out Mike Bloomberg’s guitar sound in the video below.
Fender Blackface Tone
Fender Blackface Overdrive Sound
Normally we are looking for that chimey Fender clean tone with tons of headroom out of Fender Blackface amps but they can be driven to get some fantastic distorted tones.
Below is an example of a Blackface (BF) amp driven and the tone it produces. Note this is a BF Bassman, the Blackface Bassman isn’t a typical BF amplifier, and its breakup characteristics are somewhat different from the Deluxe Reverb or Twin. A Blackface Bandmaster is another Blackface amp I like to use for the natural overdrive from the amp.
Amps to Achieve the Fender Blackface Tone
When looking for that classic Fender Blackface sound you do not have to look any further than Fender itself to amps to produce that perfect tone with chimy, glassy clean sound tone. Some popular tube amp models to capture that classic Blackface sound are below:
Fender ’65 Twin Reverb
Looking for clean tone in spades from a classic 6L6 tube amp, you cannot go wrong with the Fender ’65 Twin Reverb deluxe. This reissue on the classic ’65 blackface amplifier is LOUD and designed to be played out at gigs. The output is wonderful chimey, glassy tone goodness. The Twin Reverb is a powerful amp with a lot of history.
The Fender ’65 Twin Reverb is a reissue amp that was designed to bring back some of the classic tones and feel of the original Fender amps. The Twin Reverb has been one of the most iconic amplifiers in rock and roll thanks to its powerful cleans and, with an effects pedal, a timeless overdriven tone.
Although the Twin Reverb will produce all the tube power one could want, a re-tube of this big boy is not cheap. The Fender Twin Reverb takes 4 6L6 power tubes, 4 x 12AX7, and 2 x 12AT7 preamp tubes.
As you might guess from the name, Fender’s ’65 Twin Reverb is a period-correct remake of this legendary amp with updated features to meet today’s standards. This modern take on an icon offers improved reliability, easier functionality and updated circuitry for enhanced performance. Like the original, two channels are available, one clean and one vibrato.
The Fender ’65 Twin Reverb features two 12-inch, Jensen C-12K speakers, upgraded with Alnico 5 magnets and specially treated natural fiber cones to replicate the sound of vintage speakers.
Fender '65 Twin Reverb 85-Watt 2x12-Inch Guitar Combo Amp
Some Drawbacks of the ’65 Blackface Reissue vs Original ’65 Amp
A few notes on the reissue that i do not love compared to the originals.
- They are printed circuit board (pcb) vs the hand-wired. I have not had any issues with reliability but usually like point-to-point wiring in case something does go wrong it can be worked on after the warrenty expires.
- The reissues lack a master volume control, thus they’re intended to be played loudly. I wish this had been added like the silverface amps. If you play at a low volume, your signal to noise ratio will be poor without the master volume so no “bedroom” levels for this amp.
- The optocoupler in the tremolo circuit is exchanged by a separate, smaller PC board of solid-state device that creates the effect, but it is much noisier and less effective.
Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb – Perfect Recording Clean Fender Amp Tone
Another one of my go-to recording amps is the ’65 Princeton Reverb. This 15 watt amp is one of my favorite low wattage amps that is great to use at home, in the studio and still has enough power to play clubs and be heard over a drummer. A great all arounder for sure.
The Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb has been one of my favorite amps to record with for about a year and a half now. I like that the tone is very consistent and seems unaffected by what other effects I put in front or after it. It also sounds great running it clean and has that chimy Fender tone we all love. This amp’s clean channel still gets plenty dirty when you crank the volume up (starts to get grit at around 11 o’clock) but stays clear enough for single-coil pickups, even at higher volumes.
The reissue features 1 10″ Jensen C-10R 40 Watt Speaker with Ceramic Magnet. This is a drawback to a lot of guitarists as they prefer a 12″ speaker that gives more bass. For my playing style the 10″ works great and I have ran it to an external speaker in some cases if I really need a 12″. One of my favorite external speakers for the Princeton is a Celestion Greenback, they sound terrific together.
The Princeton Reverb is a pedal pro and takes about any effects pedal I have thrown at it like a champ. Add a Fulltone OCD Overdrive effects pedal in front of the Princeton and the built-in spring reverb for tones for days. For some sample tones, picture the early 2010s Mike Cambell performances as he regularly used a Princeton during shows.
Fender '65 Princeton Reverb 15-Watt 1x10-Inch Guitar Combo Amp
Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb
A perfect all around amp that should be way up on any guitarist The Fender Deluxe Reverb is a 40 watt amplifier that was introduced in 1963. The dual 6L6 bridged tube output section produces pure Fender tone, and is famous for its slightly overdriven sound. The Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb Amp pays homage to this historic amp by incorporating all its original features, and at 22 watts is still powerful enough to hold its own in a small club or recording studio.
The Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb uses a 1×12″ Jensen C-12K speaker that gives the amp a little more bottom end and midrange response, which is perfect for guitarists who want that classic Fender tone in a smaller package. The two channels (normal and vibrato) each have their own volume and tone controls, and the reverb control allows you to dial in just the right amount of ambience for your sound.
We hope our discussion describing some of the Fender amp tone you can get out of tweed and blackface amps has been helpful in your search for an amp to achieve your desired sound.
If you’re looking for a classic Fender amp sound in an amp that can be used at home, on the stage or in the studio, then we recommend checking out some of our favorite models. The ’65 Princeton Reverb is one of my go-to amps when recording and has been for several years. I like how versatile it is and there’s no need to add additional pedals to get great tones with this amp. If you want something bigger but still very affordable, try getting your hands on a ’65 Deluxe Reverb Amp (just 22 watts) which also sounds fantastic running clean and overdriven!