Friday, April 22, 2011

Fender's Forgotten Amps

Leo Fender sold his company to CBS in 1965.  Fender had created a great product line while he was at the helm.  CBS stuck to these products for years and had a great run through the remainder of the 1960’s on through most of the 1970’s.  By the latter part of 1970 other guitar and amplifier manufacturing companies were gaining popularity.  As we have seen with most all guitar and amplifier manufacturers, when the try to emulate the competition and deviate from the basics they have established, they create problems.

We all know about Fender’s great amplifiers, but what about the ones that did not make the cut?  That is what I am looking into today.

Bantam Bass
The 1969 Fender Bantam Bass was one of those great ideas, but with a not so great twist.  This amplifier was approximately the size of a Silver face Fender Super Reverb only it had the same controls one would find on a black face or silver face Fender Bassman.  For those unfamiliar, there were two channels, one bass channel with a deep switch, and one “normal” channel with a bright switch.  Both channels had two inputs.  

The tube configuration consisted of two 6L6 power tubes, two 7025-preamp tubes and one 12AT7 phase inverter. The rectifier was solid state.   It put out 30 to 40 watts, which was normal for club amps of that period.  


The odd thing was the Bantam Bass speaker.  Fender opted to use a 15” Yamaha made trapezoidal shaped speaker with a Styrofoam cone. Yes, I said Styrofoam.  The speakers did not hold up well and a conventional speaker replaced most.  Surprisingly this beast was manufactured from 1969 to 1971.

Bassman 10

A similar Fender amp called The Bassman 10 replaced it in 1972.  The specs were the same, but four 10-inch speakers replaced the 15” Styrofoam speaker.  This raised the power to 50 watts.  In later years, Fender introduced a new transformer, which increased power to 70 watts.




Ten years later, in 1982, Fender came out with the Bassman 20  This produced about 18 to 20 watts of power through two 6V6 tubes and utilized two 7025-preamp tubes.  It came with a 15-inch Eminence speaker.  It may have been a nice amp for recording or practice.  20 watts is not practical for stage work. This amp was only in production for one year.

300 PS




On the other extreme, in 1975 Fender produced two large stage amplifiers called the Fender 300 PS and the Fender 400 PS Bass amplifier.  

The 300 PS came as an amplifier unit with a separate 4 X 12” speaker cabinet.  Distortion was the only effect. 


The other controls were a series of frequency cut boost knobs.  The amplifiers power was rated at 300 ear-splitting watts of power.

The 400 PS Bass amp could be used for guitar or bass.  It came with a bass channel.  The normal channel had the usual controls with reverb and tremolo.  

The cabinet specifically was designed for bass as it consisted of an 18” speaker with a folded horn.  The cab weighed in at over 125 pounds and the chassis was 84 pounds.  The 400PS knocked out over 400 watts of power.

Fender Concert 1983 era
Fender attempted an update on the Fender Concert amplifier.  Amplifier designer Paul Rivera worked with Fender during 1983 and he designed this model, which was an update on Leo’s 1959 Concert amp.  The original was similar to a Black face Super Reverb, but without reverb.  (One would imagine the Concert should have been called a Super, but the 1960 Fender Super without reverb came out a year later and had only two-10” speakers.)



Rivera’s Fender Concert was part of what Fender deemed The Pro Series.  For years, Fender amps came with two separate channels, but no way to switch between them.  The Concert was one of Fender’s first channel switching amplifiers.  In addition to a volume control, there were two gain controls, a concept borrowed from Mesa Boogie amplifiers.  

The Concert came with twin twelve-inch speakers made by Eminence and produced 60 watts from two 6L6 power tubes.  The rectifier was solid state and the preamp section was a quartet of 12AX7’s, plus two 12AT7’s. 

Champ II
Another Rivera design was the Fender Champ II.  This amp beefed up the power to 18 watts through two 6V6 tubes.  The preamp consisted of two 7025 tubes.  Unlike the Champ, this amp used an 8 ohm speaker. This also came with a master volume control and a mid boost control.  The speaker was a 10” Fender Special Design model.

The Super Champ replaced the Champ II.  This amplifier was somewhat similar, but added reverb and a mid-range control.  It too produced around 18 watts of power into a Fender Special Design 10” speaker.




Champ 12
By 1987, Fender made a change with the Champ 12 amplifier.  The power was dropped to 10 watts RMS, and the speaker was now a Fender 12” Blue Label model.  The power tubes had changed to twin-6L6GC’s.  The preamp tubes were still two 7025’s and as usual, the rectifier was solid state.  Other interesting additions were two inputs for tape in and tape out, plus a line out jack and a headphone jack.  

Fender was offering unique tolex coverings that included imitation snake skin.

2001 Pro Reverb
The following amp caught my attention recently when I read an advertisement in a 2003 edition of Vintage Guitar Magazine.  This was the Fender Pro Reverb amplifier, which started in production in 2001 and lasted only three years.  This amp came with all the bells and whistles and was probably the first power-switching amp that Fender produced.  

It even included an effects loop.  This amp could be run in a normal 50-watt mode or the power could be dropped to 12.5 watts for home and small venues.  Two 6L6 tubes powered this amp.  The preamp section consisted of 7-12AX7 and one 12AT7 tubes.  The amp housed a 12” Jensen speaker.

Like the Concert, the Fender Pro Reverb was named after Leo’s Pro Reverb amp, which was a much different amplifier, in the style of mid 1960’s  Fender products.  Of course, the Fender Pro was also one of Leo’s first amplifiers.

In an effort to comply with the 1970’s, bigger-is-better philosophy, in 1972 Fender updated their Twin Reverb amplifier by added two more 12 inch speakers and some extra power.  They called this monstrosity, The Fender Quad Reverb.  It weighed in at nearly 90 pounds and produced over 100 watts of power.  Thankfully, it came with rollers.





Super Six

Not content to leave well enough alone with their Super Reverb, Fender made it bigger by adding two extra 10 inch speakers and two extra 6L6 tubes (a total of four) a calling it The Super Six.  This amplifier also produced well in excess of 100 watts and weighed in at nearly 100 pounds.  It also came with rollers.








Another 1982 Rivera design was the updated Deluxe Reverb II.  This was another channel-switching amplifier. The tremolo was gone and replaced by a presence control.  

The volume potentiometer had a push/pull feature that functioned as a bright control. 

Unlike the original Deluxe Reverb, this amp came with a midrange control.  


The power section consisted of two-6V6 tubes and the preamp tubes were 7025’s, with a 12AT7 as a phase inverter and a solid-state rectifier.

By 1990, Fender was stretching for ideas and came up with two similar amps.  The Super 112  was a 60-watt amplifier that got its power from two 6L6 tubes and used two-712AX7 preamp tubes.  This was a channel-switching amplifier manufactured during the era that Fender switched to red knobs.  This came with reverb and an 8-ohm, 12-inch Fender Special Design speaker.





The Fender Super 210 was identical in all of its features, but it was loaded with two-10 inch Fender speakers.

Fender produced an unusual practice amp it called the Fender J.A.M.   Information is lacking on this little guy, but I remember seeing it at several different music stores.  I recall it came with a great chorus feature and reverb.  


The odd feature was its four push buttons on the front.  These were labeled Clean, Bright, Crunch, and Distortion.  The amp produced about 25 watts of solid-state power into a twelve inch speaker.







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3 comments:

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William Charschan said...

Fender concert II had either two 10 inch speakers or one 12. I know, I have one I purchased in 1983. The original speakers were lame, and I had them replaced with two 10 inch electrovoice force speakers. Man, what a difference that made. Better sound, but it now weighed 70 lbs and I put casters on the bottom.

I personally prefer my mesa boogie dc 2 due its lighter weight and amazing tone, but if I need more on stage presence, the 60 watt concert is one loud amp.

Anonymous said...

I have the Fender J.A.M. amp. Bought it about 1991 for about $200.00 I seem to recall. Pretty dood sound, just have to manually select from one of 4 different sounds. The 4 channels seem to have different preset gain levels. For more info, I'd have to look at the manual. Sounds great with all may guitars.