Summer NAMM 2019 arrives with new gear releases aplenty…
As usual, Fender is bringing a host of new products including their range of Tone Master amplifiers, an interesting remix of classic tube tone for the modern era and the brand-new Champion 100XL, the versatile workhorse for the gigging musician. Read on for the low down on these awesome new Fender amps.
Fender Tone Master
The new Tone Master amps do something hitherto never seen before, give you true tube tone in a digital amplifier. It’s a big claim from Fender but in their words, these amps are virtually indistinguishable from their vintage predecessors. Have Fender finally achieved what was previously thought to be unachievable?
The Deluxe Reverb has been played on countless hit recordings for decades. It’s a timeless classic, an indispensable workhorse for stage and studio with unparalleled rock ancestry. Even if you only casually listen to music you’ve almost certainly heard this amplifier somewhere. Its low wattage means it breaks up nicely at low volumes, a preferred characteristic for studio work, but it also has enough headroom to cut through during rehearsals and performances. Eric Johnson has famously used a Deluxe Reverb in a live setting and there are literally so many instances of it being used for recording that it’s hard to pinpoint a specific song or album. Ask any established guitarist and they will tell you they’ve used a Deluxe Reverb at some point!
The Twin Reverb was initially introduced before Fender even began selling the Stratocaster and (arguably) perfected between 1965 and 1967. World-renowned for what would become the industry-standard clean sound, the Twin gives you a glassy, bright guitar tone with tonnes of presence and works really well as a base for pedals. The original was known for the quality of its built-in Spring Reverb and has become the go-to amp for clean tones. The Twin is synonymous with great tone and has been utilised by a list of musicians that also reads like a who’s-who of rock and roll history, with everyone from Dave Gilmour to Joe Bonamassa utilising one. I went into the studio to record an EP a couple of months ago and a 68 Twin Reverb was the first amp we pulled out of the amp room!
A Fender First
The Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb and Twin Reverb amps inherit all the heritage of their more senior forefathers, without the associated weight and maintenance costs. Whilst the 60s Deluxe Reverb was powered by a pair of 6V6 power tubes, a GZ34 rectifier tube and four 12AX7 tubes in the preamp stage, the Tone Master Deluxe Reverb is only powered by a 100-watt digital power amp through a 1 x 12-inch Jensen N-12K neodymium speaker. The original 60s-era Twin Reverb was powered by four 6L6 output tubes and six in the preamp stage, with four 12AX7 and two 12AT7 types, whilst it’s younger brother the Tone Master Twin Reverb features a 200-watt digital power amp through 2 x 12-inch Jensen N-12Ks.
This digital processing power allows the Tone Master series to recreate all the headroom and dynamic response of its vintage tube-powered brothers, delivering the punchy power and crystalline tone virtually indistinguishable from the original, all housed in a unit that’s half the weight of a traditional 60s Tube Amp. The 100-watts of digital processing power in the Tone Master Deluxe Reverb translates into the equivalent of 22-watts of traditional tube tone whilst the 200-watt digital power amp in the Tone Master Twin Reverb gets you 85-watts of powerful guitar sound. The Jensen N-12K neodymium speakers are painstakingly modelled after the original designs that were present on the 60s version of these amplifiers, translating the work of the power amp into clean, sparkly shimmer just as well as it does sassy snarl when you crank the volume.
It’s incredibly bold of Fender to state that these amps are indistinguishable from the original tone machines, but early tests show that unless you’re a pure tone hound, these amps are as close as you’ll get to delightful 60s tube tone without remortgaging your house to get an original vintage version. The difference between the two is negligible and not only are these amps half the weight of the original, but they’re nearly half the price of a tube-based reissue too!
Vintage Front Face
The front face of both Tone Master amps is identical to their predecessors, both featuring Normal and Vibrato channels as well as four 1/4-inch inputs. All the controls you’d expect to find are present and accounted for, with the three Normal channel controls as well as the Reverb, Speed and Intensity controls on the Vibrato channel. It’s a clever move by Fender to model the looks as well as the sound after the originals, on stage they’re not only sonically similar but also visually indistinguishable from one another, so when you rock up to your next gig with one of these nobody is going to notice the difference, unless they help you with load in!
The back side of these amps are where the Tone Master begins to step away from your traditional amplifier. One of the most useful features here is the attenuation switch that allows you to drop the wattage without sacrificing your tone. Rapidly becoming a common feature on modern amplifiers, this handy switch means your neighbours will thank you next time you decide to practice some alternate picking with chromatic scales, as well as making the Tone Master amps equally at home in the rehearsal room. The Tone Master amps also feature a balanced line out with an XLR connection, cabinet sim and ground lift switches to ensure that you’re prepared for any scenario, from stage to studio.
Fender has really pushed the boat out with the Tone Master amplifiers and it’s not hard to see why. Who wouldn’t want all-tube tone at half the weight, nearly half the price and without any associated maintenance costs? Whilst previous tube tone emulations haven’t come close to hitting the mark, Fender has knocked it out of the park with their latest attempt at classic tone emulation. These amps are a tribute to the advancement of amp modelling technology, pairing vintage aesthetic with modern build-quality and connectivity and at Dawsons we really feel they’re going to be a game-changer!
Fender Champion amplifiers are solid-state workhorses that give you that ‘Blackface’ clean tone alongside a host of driven amp models at an incredibly affordable price. On the drive channel, You get everything from old-school British driven tones to all-out metal distortion and everything in between. I’ve seen many a Champion on the gigging circuit and own one myself, it’s a fantastically versatile amplifier with some awesome built-in effects that makes it incredibly versatile whether being used for recording or live performances.
The Champion 100XL drive channel has 16 amplifier models for you to sink your teeth into, giving you a sound for any situation you find yourself in. There are four stompbox-style effects alongside these, giving you Compression, Overdrive, Distortion and Octaver effects to play with. Not only have you got these effects but there are also 12 channel effects on both Normal and Drive channels for you to play with. Including the world-renowned Spring Reverb and Fender Vibratone. The included footswitch allows you to select your amp channel and effects on/off on-the-fly, giving you a plethora of options for your sonic assault.
Celestion speakers are synonymous with high-quality construction and pristine sound. Rugged and reliable, the pair of Celestion Midnight 60 speakers in the Champion 100XL ensure that the wealth of guitar tones are translated with clarity, punch and power. The classic Celestion tonal character is present and accounted for, versatile enough to deal with blues crunch as well as it does the characteristics of a tight, metal distortion. The speakers are more than a match for the 100-watt output of the Champion 100XL, delivering an intense output that’s great for small to medium-sized venues as well as dynamics and expressiveness when picking clean.
The Champion 100XL is perfect for the gigging musician on a budget. If you want a clear clean tone with texture and definition alongside a versatile drive section that covers a lot of ground, you can’t go wrong with an amp from the Champion range. The ‘black-on-black’ lends a unique look on stage, differing from the usual Fender amps’ style to match the stand out versatility of sounds that are on offer alongside any effect you could ask for, making this amp perfect for any musician, so whether you play jazz, blues, rock, indie or country you’ll find a sound that matches your style.
Get The Gear
Now you’ve got the low down on these fantastic Fender amps, check out these and rest of the Summer NAMM releases on the Dawsons website.
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Matt is a multi-instrumentalist, music geek and current Content Creator at Dawsons Music. He composes, records and produces out of his home studio in Manchester as well as playing in two bands, China Moon and Sawbones.