This thread got me doing a little research on the red knob Fenders.
Here's a post I found from a Fender employee that was witness to the red knob amp story. Very, very insightful.
What I get from this is that the red knob amps were a cost cutting project from Fender and a had a quality consistency problem from one amp to the next.
Here's the post:
Hi, Ive had my S60 from about 1990, I have a review for it from a 1989 Guitar Player mag (email me for a copy) that said the designer was Mark Wentling. I tracked him down and emailed him for info and he kindly supplied this...
Thank you for your email.
Iíd be happy to answer any questions about the Super 60.
It followed the Champ 12, and The Twin, all made during my time at Fender from 1985 to mid 1989.
Paul Rivera left Fender prior to the management buyout from CBS by Bill Schultz and team, which occurred in March of 1985. Iím not sure of Paulís actual departure date, but it may have occurred in late 1984, as there was an exodus of people when CBS put the company on the block for liquidation.
I designed the tube amps during this period, including a couple models (early 90s) after I left Fender in the summer of 1989 to become a partner in an export distribution company.
I came to Fender from Music Man, and all of the amp designs from 85 onward were unique from Paulís designs that were produced prior to that time. Paul actually worked in Fender marketing, and spent much of his time specifying the product designs, while other design engineers in Fender R&D performed the actual product development work. Regardless, Paul always had a hand in the final signoff, and the tweaking of any products produced during his time.
I arrived just in time to move everything from Fullerton to Brea. Mostly sorting out the offices, and packing boxes, while doing a little work on the Champ 12 in between. The original concept for the Champ 12 came from Bill Hughes, (creator of the Ampeg SVT), but I had to heavily modify it to reduce parts count and cost. It needed to be a bare bones design. Bill left Fender in 85 to try working at Peavey in Mississippi, but he returned about a year or so later to rejoin me in R&D.
In the first several months immediately after the buyout from CBS, we had a fair number of CBS built chassis, that were Work-In-Process (WIP) units that came out of the CBS factory just prior to the Fullerton shut-down.
We purchased cabinets locally in Placentia and people in our Brea warehouse set up a small assembly line where they completed some Concerts, and I believe some Deluxes, and Champs. These were Rivera amps, with black faces and numbered knobs. They were sold in 85, maybe some still left in 86, however the chassisís were actually built back in 84 before CBS closed the Fullerton factory. These amps were sold through our distribution channels to generate cash flow, but I donít believe that they were ever actually marketed as our formal product line-up. Iím not sure.
We also scrapped a lot of WIP electronics because we did not have the space to hold all of it. Various amplifier chassis, ARP Chroma Synthesizers, Rhoads Piano parts, etc.
Paul is a good friend of mine. He actually spent time tutoring me on amp design when I first arrived at Music Man from MXR Innovations back in 1979. However, he had no involvement with any amplifier designs from at least late 1984 onward.
The red knobs were also the result of a cost cutting effort. The molded knobs were made in Garden Grove and cost about a nickel each ($0.05). The traditional black numbered knobs were about $0.40 each. This could multiply out to a good cost savings on the bigger amps. We were tasked by marketing with coming up with a unique cosmetic look that would differentiate the new Fender amps from the old Fender amps. In part due to the pervasive quality issues of the CBS made stuff.
No one, and I mean no one could agree on the new look. We built up many prototypes, and eventually ran out of time. Finally the word came down to engineering from marketing that we would use the Fender corporate colors of that time which could be found on the business cards and stationary. Red, Grey, and Black. The knobs naturally ended up being red, and we used grey grill cloth. The first protos were airbrushed in red guitar lacquer and looked pretty good, but the production knobs could never match the painted look, and we finally had to move on.
I hope that his information is helpful.
I forgot to mention that the Super 60 itself was a very cost conscious
We were under great pressure to build a tube amp for minimal cost, as one of
our leading competitors was Peavey, and Peavey had a very vertical factory.
Fender only had the SUNN factory which relied on outside vendors for most
component parts, so our costs were higher right from the start. (An
identical amplifier could be made and sold for less from Peavey.)
So the Super 60 could only have the five tubes which was pretty much the
minimum for a 60 Watt amp with switch-able overdrive. Three of the tubes
were for the power amp, leaving only two 12AX7s for the preamp with
It was difficult to get consistent performance out of so few parts. So there
is some variation from unit to unit, and there are also a couple of parts
that are hand selected at the time of manufacture to compensate for
tolerances in the VACTROLS, potentiometers, and to a lesser extent the
tubes. (Not the most ideal engineering design, but a compromise to get by on
So some Super 60s will work better than others.
There was also a rack mounting head version of the same amp with a fan and
and LED level readout, but no speaker.
The Super 60 speaker was the same as the one used in the Twin of that time.
It was our design developed together with Eminence. We only had two 12 inch
speakers then, the heavy duty (used in the Twin etc.) and a light duty (used
in the Champ 12), both from Eminence.
Best regards, Mark
Here's the link to the whole thread. If you are pursuing a red knob Fender amp, I strongly recommend reading this: