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Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Wyzsard, May 21, 2012.
Which Red Knob Fender Amps Are Desirable ? Seems I read where one or two models were quite decent.
Solid state deluxe 85 enjoyed some cult popularity for its cleans in the jazz crowd from what I understand
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The Evil Twin?
I have an M-80 I got 22 years ago. Very nice clean channel w/ 94W of power.
The Princeton Chorus has quite a bit of fans. The Power Chorus, too.
The Super 60 seems to be well accepted with some folks, too.
I bought an evil twin when it was new,,, Still love it. My back doesnt like it much though.
Ive had 3 different red knob "Champ12"s. Its a good practice amp, I giged with one a couple of times. not quite enough power for that.
The red knob Princeton Chorus is a pretty darn good SS reb knobber. And you can find them for $150. The Twin delivers, although it is 85w instead of the 100w you'd expect from a Twin - this can be good. They are the cheapest of the Twins too.
In that era, Robben Ford's specified rental amp. Set up right they're quite good.
I thought I read that Steve Cropper will only play on red-knob Twins...
For all the talk... I had the FUNNIEST experience with a red knob Princeton: So were playing a bar in an area where we play alot and know everyone... so anyway, a buddy was playing through the red-knob Princeton and there was this random guy walking around and inspecting/ "critiquing" our gear (REALLY ANNOYING/distracting while you're playing aye...oh AND trying to TALK to me while Im SINGING/PLAYING WTF???) and, thankfully, he waits till set-break to launch into an unsolicited review if the Princeton repeat with the usually innacurate historical info... but he says "...and that one with the red-knobs is the best TUBE AMP ever made...."so Well when we told him that it was an SS amp he gets mad and defensive but walks.away when we don't bite on the lies, but he comes back after we're finished and starts all over again... so I finnaly got so fed up with hi. I simply asked "Where are these "TUBES" you're SO SURE the amp has???" So he looks around and starts to point to the transformer and just says "in there"... and then starts in on a diatribe about how "you CANNOT GET 'that'the tone from an 'electric' amp..." at which point we ask him to tell me with his eyes closed which amp we were playing through (my Peavey C50 or the Princeton) and he of course goes 0/5 at which point he gets even MORE incensed and goes to get "back-up" to prove his.point... he brings over another growled looking drunk who despite not knowing his right from left manages to try to set him straight with amazing accuracy about what is what in our gear... 1st dude STILL doesn't want to get proven wrong so he says, finnaly correctly for once, that the weight will tell him and.when.he couldn't lift my C50 (it ain't THAT HEAVY...) he's SURE its a tube amp and then when he nearly THROWS the Princeton off its stand (all the while were trying to stop from TOUCHING our stuff) he just looks at everyone staring at him in angry disbelief and LEAVES and has NEVER been back ... made ME laugh, sometimes.people get SO caught up they just act like idiots instead if just listening to the.music and enjoying themselves... it wasn't the last time a person tried to call it a "tube amp" but it WAS the funniest, and most memorable... point being that the red-knob Princeton Chorus (I believe???)and can do a pretty good "tube amp" impression with a nice clean tone... don't know that its "desirable" as other amps but its still nothing to HATE like some do automaticaly... man, just typing this all.out it strikes me how odd an experience "playing out" can be aye. So many funny stories surrounding just trying to get up and play some songs for people can be aye hahahaha. Made ME laugh when it was all over too, but I thought I was gonna have to get all "red-headed" on the schmoe... that never ends well...
I am a fan of the Red Knob Twins. They sound really good IF you know how to use them... More versatile than any Twin before or since.
If you want a hand wired 5 watt class A tube amp with only a volume and a tone knob, don't get an RK Twin...
I have a Fender Stage Lead 11 made in Japan with black knobs - will I get improved tone if I replace them with red ones?
Sometimes I think we sweat the insignificant things too much when we could be making music instead.
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.
I’d 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. I’m not sure of Paul’s 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 Paul’s 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 chassis’s 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 don’t believe that they were ever actually marketed as our formal product line-up. I’m 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:
I've had a Deluxe 85 since about '89...used to be the only amp I'd ever use until I got my '65 TRRI...no there's not a tube in sight and yes, it does have it's issues and detractors, but I've loved it for many, many years and it has been a dependable workhorse no matter what guitar or pedals have been plugged into it. I think you can get these on the 'bay for usually less than $200, an incredible steal, IMO.
The only one I don't like is the little Fender J.A.M. Otherwise, I really like both the solid state and tube red knob amps. My rackmount M80 is 22 years old now with no issues or problems, is loud as hell, and sounds great.
The red knob solid staters are on my long list of "worst sounding amps ever built". The red knob tube amps, I haven't found a bad one yet, if you like Fender amp sounds. I generally don't, but I find these to be as good as any.
I've never understood why people say the red knob SS amps have good cleans. Yeah, they sound great, by themsleves at low volumes. Put them on a gig in a band mix and they're just plain awful. I'd rather have my teeth drilled with a ball peen hammer than have to listen to one of those amps ever again.
Red knob tube amps do not bother me to gig next to. They are HEAVY though. Even the little ones will surprise you with their weight. The Super 210 I had was a hernia inducing masterpiece.
That is my experience, too. I was a band for about 7 years and the other guitar in the group used an evil twin. You could not find ANY setting on that thing that sounded good to me. He never seemed to notice, but to me it sucked big time. The last time I was in Houston I borrowed the amp for an evening, and no matter what I did with it, I hated it.
I know a fellow currently who uses one and tells me he loves it, but it still sucks to my ears. Fortunately he just picked up an old Bassman that really does sound great so maybe he will retire the monstrosity.