Deluxe Reverb 5E3. Accidentally Fantastic?

arlum

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I've read so many books on Leo Fender over the years. It many of them they bring up the subject of his "grail" amp tone he was always striving for. From the late '40s until the early '60s every amp he built was a quest to get the cleanest possible guitar voice amplified so an audience could hear and appreciate a guitarists playing. While hollow bodied guitars could at least be heard unplugged solidbody guitar builds were required to be amplified or they were worthless. For the guitars Leo wanted to build, and did build, quality amplification would be a must. From the very beginning he was going for a pure, highly defined clean tone. It's understandable because that was the sound of the times. Whether Country, Jazz, Big Band or whatever a loud, clean amplified electric guitar sound was the target to shoot for. All through the '50s Tweed period each new Fender design was attempting to clean up any breakup Leo noted in earlier models. It wasn't until his Blackface models were produced that Leo felt like he had arrived. So. That's that. I'm not going to diss the Blackface line because I've always loved the Blackface Vibroverb, Deluxe, Twin and Super. But.... all these years later it's the Tweed amps of the '50s that legends have grown up around. Everyone knows the "Bassman" and most know the Tweed Twins of '57 and '59. Many other Tweeds are also highly sought out. Yet ... of all the Tweed amps ... the Fender Deluxe 5E3, (at least among "Blues" players and early "Dirt" players), is considered the best of the best. Pure genius! It just doesn't get any finer. From what we know about Leo, he thought it was just another failed attempt toward getting a clean guitar voice and continued to the next and next and next model. I have to assume Leo noted the Deluxes popularity since he continued to build it for 5 years but ... the voice of the 5E3 was not the voice Leo was going for. Times change. Tastes change. By the late '50s and on through the '60s, '70s and right on up to today the 5E3 Deluxe became one of the most charished and copied amp builds of all time. Boutique builders have offered dozens of 5E3 versions from "Dead on original" to "Tweaked" for whatever reason. I really consider the 5E3 to be the first Fender amp to ring the bell at the Carnival. Tweed Twins, Bassman, etc. came later. Was Leo lucky or blessed or what? Or maybe were Leo's buyers lucky or blessed? Considering, in Leo's mind, the 5E3 would have been considered just another step towards something better ...... Are we all just lucky? Are we all just blessed? THe 5E3 is quite a bit more than just "something special" in the world of guitar players. Your thoughts?
 

dreamingtele

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I love my Tweed tone. The Bassman is special, and so its beefed up brother the 5F8A High powered tweed twin.

However, the 5E3 is a fire breather and I
Love it for what it can do.
 

Paul G.

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Eh, it's ok. I'm not the biggest fan of the 5E3, I like it for what it was designed for -- a good sounding, clean amplifier when the volume is set at 3 or less. Once it starts getting dirty, it is not my favorite, the cathodyne PI raspiness when overloaded, the flubby bass and spiky brightness as you bypass the tone control make it moderately unpleasant. I think people like 'em because they're easy to overdrive, but it's not the best.

Leo Fender was a thoughtful engineer, he was not a genius. The early circuits came directly out of the RCA tube manual, and even later developments were based on standard practices, not invention. What Mr. Fender did was figure out how to manufacture high-quality products efficiently, and how to market professional-grade products to the masses.
 

JRapp

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A 5E3 is good for what it is, a small amp suited for the studio or low volume gigs. I prefer using it for its clean tone as well as the larger E series amps. Not a fan of the late Bassman circuit which is sortakinda the predecessor to the Concert, etc. I'll take the schematic version of the 5F6A.
 

Dukex

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Players like the 5e3 because they sound great (both clean and overdriven), not because they're easy to overdrive. You can just buy a cheap pedal for that. Not everybody likes them. But everybody has an opinion, right?
 

Axis29

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I love my 5e3. It's great amp. But, I'm still haunted by the tones I got from the '59 Harvard I played 20 years ago.

I love my 5f6-a Bassman more. I honestly believe it is the beginning of the Blackface tones Leo eventually discovered. That mid knob makes all the difference in the world.

But, I love my '59 Twin more than the others. It is bigger, deeper, warmer, thumpier. It has the same circuit as the Bassman, but bigger iron. It (sounds, to me, like it) has the most harmonic content of all three. But, not congested and busy. There is always some clean in the dirt and always a little dirt in the cleans... In a really, really good way!


I've had situations that the 5e3 couldn't handle (not enough volume, not enough clean headroom, etc.). I've had the same problem with a Deluxe Reverb. Outdoor gigs, especially. But, I've never had that problem with the Twin.

In the studio, any of the three sound incredible. On stage the Deluxe can get lost... As much as I'd love to say otherwise, I spend a Hell of a lot more time on stage. So, the 5e3 isn't the ultimate to me. But, I see where it could be for many!
 

2L man

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I'm still haunted by the tones I got from the '59 Harvard I played 20 years ago.
Harvard sound starting at 1:45 is haunting me :) Can you say is it typical?

I have built only one 5F10 and although it did sound good I was not able to get nowhere this sound. I did install Screen resistors and I don't remember did I try it without them but when I build next I build without. Another what could have made difference was 6AT6 which I had only one. Using booster pedal the sound did bet closer to this but was still nowhere as interesting. Now I have few more speakers which are more run in.

 

Axis29

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Harvard sound starting at 1:45 is haunting me :) Can you say is it typical?

Hmm, maybe... But, that was not the sound I chase.. Mine is a good bit cleaner. Less compressed. Open, chimney, but not brittle. Treble was crisp, but smooth. Bass was tight.

There is an Uncle Doug video I watched a few days ago. He fixes up an old Harvard. At one point, he tests it and I hear the tone. Not all over his test, but in spots. It almost sends chills up my spine.

Juicy. That's the word I was looking for....

The beginning clean bits are similar to what I am chasing.

 

mrfitz98

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Hmm, maybe... But, that was not the sound I chase.. Mine is a good bit cleaner. Less compressed. Open, chimney, but not brittle. Treble was crisp, but smooth. Bass was tight.

There is an Uncle Doug video I watched a few days ago. He fixes up an old Harvard. At one point, he tests it and I hear the tone. Not all over his test, but in spots. It almost sends chills up my spine.

Juicy. That's the word I was looking for....

The beginning clean bits are similar to what I am chasing.


I would say my 5f10 is very much on the clean side, not getting really furry until the volume is over 8. It's pretty loud and clean at 6. Very "snappy." My favorite small tweed.
 

Dacious

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I've read so many books on Leo Fender over the years. It many of them they bring up the subject of his "grail" amp tone he was always striving for. From the late '40s until the early '60s every amp he built was a quest to get the cleanest possible guitar voice amplified so an audience could hear and appreciate a guitarists playing. While hollow bodied guitars could at least be heard unplugged solidbody guitar builds were required to be amplified or they were worthless. For the guitars Leo wanted to build, and did build, quality amplification would be a must. From the very beginning he was going for a pure, highly defined clean tone. It's understandable because that was the sound of the times. Whether Country, Jazz, Big Band or whatever a loud, clean amplified electric guitar sound was the target to shoot for. All through the '50s Tweed period each new Fender design was attempting to clean up any breakup Leo noted in earlier models. It wasn't until his Blackface models were produced that Leo felt like he had arrived. So. That's that. I'm not going to diss the Blackface line because I've always loved the Blackface Vibroverb, Deluxe, Twin and Super. But.... all these years later it's the Tweed amps of the '50s that legends have grown up around. Everyone knows the "Bassman" and most know the Tweed Twins of '57 and '59. Many other Tweeds are also highly sought out. Yet ... of all the Tweed amps ... the Fender Deluxe 5E3, (at least among "Blues" players and early "Dirt" players), is considered the best of the best. Pure genius! It just doesn't get any finer. From what we know about Leo, he thought it was just another failed attempt toward getting a clean guitar voice and continued to the next and next and next model. I have to assume Leo noted the Deluxes popularity since he continued to build it for 5 years but ... the voice of the 5E3 was not the voice Leo was going for. Times change. Tastes change. By the late '50s and on through the '60s, '70s and right on up to today the 5E3 Deluxe became one of the most charished and copied amp builds of all time. Boutique builders have offered dozens of 5E3 versions from "Dead on original" to "Tweaked" for whatever reason. I really consider the 5E3 to be the first Fender amp to ring the bell at the Carnival. Tweed Twins, Bassman, etc. came later. Was Leo lucky or blessed or what? Or maybe were Leo's buyers lucky or blessed? Considering, in Leo's mind, the 5E3 would have been considered just another step towards something better ...... Are we all just lucky? Are we all just blessed? THe 5E3 is quite a bit more than just "something special" in the world of guitar players. Your thoughts?
You're massively overthinking this

Leo was a radio salesman which also meant repairman in those days. When you bought tubes you got a tube manual. They have basic audio circuits in them. You are free to use these circuits with no fee - selling the tubes was what counted. There's only so many ways to make a tube amp. Any patents had long expired.

When he and others started making guitar amplifiers they simply used generic audio circuits. Like for record players, theatre projectors, jukeboxes, public address systems, factory and office paging systems. That's why it had for instance 0.1uf coupling caps instead of later 0.047 or 0.033 or 0.022uf more typical of modern guitar amps. The first amps mirrored the first record players in having just a volume control.

Parts were expensive, as was labour to handmake the amps. You wanted to use the minimum component count.

Once they'd been building a particular model for a while they responded to feedback (!) from users and competition to refine and incorporate features - the first 5E9 Tremolo is a developed 5E3.

The 50s Deluxe was a two channel amp intended to allow a performing pro to plug a mic into one channel and guitar in the other when the likelihood of venues having a pa was small. It actually works pretty well.

Not loud enough for rock (which didn't exist when it was devised) but definitely for a swing band with a doghouse bass. Or country band with fiddle and National or Dobro before amplified pedal steel. If it distorted a bit, what did it matter? It was tough and simple and transportable.

The 5E3 simply followed the 5D3, 5C3 etc. The new Noval mini tubes replaced octal preamp tubes on the earlier models. As time went by, they were refined, some based on musicians' comments, some for component cost or count, some for reliability or serviceability.

Before the 5E3 became the 6G3 it gained negative feedback, fixed bias for a bit more power and separate tone controls. It's louder, more headroom, better note separation, harmonic vibrato, punchier and more gain. A better mousetrap.

By then the four piece drum kit and electric bass with two guitars was the pop/rock band format bass and drums needed more power and projection with clean headroom.
 
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JRapp

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I used a '54 5C3 for a while in a band with acoustic piano, sax, upright bass, and drums. I was the only one with an amp. Did a great job, but was at its limits for clean/semi-clean tone.
 

printer2

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Hmm, maybe... But, that was not the sound I chase.. Mine is a good bit cleaner. Less compressed. Open, chimney, but not brittle. Treble was crisp, but smooth. Bass was tight.

There is an Uncle Doug video I watched a few days ago. He fixes up an old Harvard. At one point, he tests it and I hear the tone. Not all over his test, but in spots. It almost sends chills up my spine.

Juicy. That's the word I was looking for....

The beginning clean bits are similar to what I am chasing.


There was a video of the Harvard that blew me away, can not find it anymore. It had a guy filming it with a camera going around the amp with someone else playing. It almost sounded 3D, there as a video of a Bassman that did the same thing as well as a Tweed Super (I think) that was recorded in a hallway. This video is just lovely.
 

gabasa

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The Harvard is the pickiest amp I’ve ever owned in terms is speaker selection. When you get it right though, it’s damn near impossible to beat.

The 5E3 has such a strong personality that I find it mates well with many different speakers.
 

ruger9

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I love my 5e3. It's great amp. But, I'm still haunted by the tones I got from the '59 Harvard I played 20 years ago.

I love my 5f6-a Bassman more. I honestly believe it is the beginning of the Blackface tones Leo eventually discovered. That mid knob makes all the difference in the world.

But, I love my '59 Twin more than the others. It is bigger, deeper, warmer, thumpier. It has the same circuit as the Bassman, but bigger iron. It (sounds, to me, like it) has the most harmonic content of all three. But, not congested and busy. There is always some clean in the dirt and always a little dirt in the cleans... In a really, really good way!


I've had situations that the 5e3 couldn't handle (not enough volume, not enough clean headroom, etc.). I've had the same problem with a Deluxe Reverb. Outdoor gigs, especially. But, I've never had that problem with the Twin.

In the studio, any of the three sound incredible. On stage the Deluxe can get lost... As much as I'd love to say otherwise, I spend a Hell of a lot more time on stage. So, the 5e3 isn't the ultimate to me. But, I see where it could be for many!
Still no brown amps? ;)
 




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