Fender Blues Jr advice for beginner

captain_jack

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Hey All,

I'm thinking about getting my first tube amp and I saw a Blues Junior IV Sonic Blue at GC over the weekend that I really liked. With the recent price hike it's actually fairly expensive so I didn't walk out with it. Assuming it was limited edition because of the color (like GC sometimes does with guitars), I started looking around online for used amps, and that's when I realized that there are quite a few options (ie the III, the IV, black, lacquered tweed, etc). It seems like they mostly have the same tubes (3x 12AX7 / 2 x EL84) and that the bigger difference is the speaker. For anyone who has played multiple models of the IV, do they sound that different or would a beginner be happy with any if they are happy with one?

Regarding the III, based on reviews I've read online it seems like the tone did change quite a bit between the III and IV, for those that have played both are they so different that you like one and not the other (and if so, why)?

Apologies if this has been discussed to death already and feel free to point me to those threads, but searching for a while through old posts I was having trouble finding people comparing different models.

thanks!
 

twangjeff

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I think that you are right in saying that the main differences between all of the different models are cosmetic and speaker. They are all going to sound fairly similar.

The two biggest pieces of advice with this amp...

1.) Don't use the onboard reverb. It is really abrasive sounding.
2.) Understand the two volume controls and how they work together. IE- High Master and Low Volume is clean, Low Master and High Volume is distorted.

I would also look at the Pro Jr if you can find one. It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles, but is an outstanding amp that punches way above its weight.
 

tfarny

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The Blues Jr has been in production for a really long time, and the various versions supposedly have changed the sound over the years. People say the new ones are the best version. It's never been my favorite amp but I have played through a couple of good ones. You should be aware that the Blues Jr is NOT voiced to a classic Blackface Fender sound. It's a different circuit, different tubes.

In that price range you might also want to check out the Vox AC15, also not the cheapest. But it has better reverb, tremolo, and some great tones. There are plenty of other brands like Egnator and Blackstar to look at as well. I don't think Fender necessarily makes the best tube amps these days.
 

Tim S

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As a Blues Junior owner since 1999, I only have these suggestions:

1) Forget that it has “Fender” on it. That should not influence your decision.
2) Close your eyes and listen while you play it.
3) Try some other amps in the same price range the same way.

If you still think you want to buy the Blues Junior, then do so knowing that it earned your decision (I really wish someone would have told me that years ago)
 

Henry Mars

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If you are going to get one get a BJ IV version. They just sound a lot better.
Then again knowing what I know now after 60+ years of playing I'd go solid state. In blindfold tests 9 out of 10 players can't tell the difference. If you think the audience can telll the difference your kidding yourself. Just trying to save you $$$$ and grief down the road.
 

captain_jack

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Thanks guys, from other threads it seems like the Blues Jr can be a polarizing amp so I appreciate the rational feedback!

3) Try some other amps in the same price range the same way.

If you still think you want to buy the Blues Junior, then do so knowing that it earned your decision (I really wish someone would have told me that years ago)
I definitely plan try more amps, I just need to find a place that has some stuff in stock (my local store is a GC and it's not the best)

If you are going to get one get a BJ IV version. They just sound a lot better.
Then again knowing what I know now after 60+ years of playing I'd go solid state. In blindfold tests 9 out of 10 players can't tell the difference. If you think the audience can telll the difference your kidding yourself. Just trying to save you $$$$ and grief down the road.
I can guarantee you I would not be able to tell the difference in a blind test. But I like the idea of a tube amp. I like the tradition of it. Basically I want a tube amp because, well because I want one =). (But at least I'm aware of that and ok with it).

Does anyone happen to know if the Lacquered Tweed model uses the same circuity as the III, the IV or is completely different on it's own? That model seems to be more common on the used market (at least on reverb and facebook locally).
 

PCollen

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Hey All,

I'm thinking about getting my first tube amp and I saw a Blues Junior IV Sonic Blue at GC over the weekend that I really liked. With the recent price hike it's actually fairly expensive so I didn't walk out with it. Assuming it was limited edition because of the color (like GC sometimes does with guitars), I started looking around online for used amps, and that's when I realized that there are quite a few options (ie the III, the IV, black, lacquered tweed, etc). It seems like they mostly have the same tubes (3x 12AX7 / 2 x EL84) and that the bigger difference is the speaker. For anyone who has played multiple models of the IV, do they sound that different or would a beginner be happy with any if they are happy with one?

Regarding the III, based on reviews I've read online it seems like the tone did change quite a bit between the III and IV, for those that have played both are they so different that you like one and not the other (and if so, why)?

Apologies if this has been discussed to death already and feel free to point me to those threads, but searching for a while through old posts I was having trouble finding people comparing different models.

thanks!

The Sonic Blue BJ IV is a Limited Edition (although its been around for quite a while) and has an Eminence Cannabis Rex speaker. I have never played through one, but I heard a guitarist doing so with a Strat in a Florida GC and it sounded very good.
 

KC

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I've had the first two versions -- still have a II -- didn't find a lot of difference. People seem to love the newer versions. Hope they've straightened the reverb out. Judging from the Brooklyn address I'm guessing this will be a city amp, which it's pretty well-suited for; relatively lightweight for toting around, loud enough for most gigs, sounds decent at neighbor-friendly volumes. I like the AC15 a lot better but getting that sucker in and out of a cab is real curse-God-and-die territory. Try an AC10 if you can, or get very lucky and find a Gibson Goldtone GA-15 -- basically an AC15 in a small lightweight 1x10 box.
 

zhyla

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Wow, Blues Jr's are $750 now? Yikes. I would look for one used, they are very common.

Also I would do some cross shopping. The Pro Jr is cheaper and some say sounds better. The Vox AC15 is an outstanding amp for the price of a Blues Jr if you like the Vox sound (worth checking out). Supro has some versatile amps out right now that get good reviews but I haven't played them.
 

The Angle

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I can guarantee you I would not be able to tell the difference in a blind test. But I like the idea of a tube amp. I like the tradition of it. Basically I want a tube amp because, well because I want one =). (But at least I'm aware of that and ok with it).
At least you're being honest about your attitude toward tubes, which puts you leagues ahead of many others.

If money is an issue at all, shop the used market. Blues Jrs. are like buses. If you miss one, another will come along soon.

Also consider how much amp you really need. A 5-watt amp might be a better choice if you're in an apartment or a house with other people who want to study or watch TV. Most tube amps don't have a headphones option.
 
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JuneauMike

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You should be aware that the Blues Jr is NOT voiced to a classic Blackface Fender sound. It's a different circuit, different tubes.
Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times. If you are buying a Blues Jr. for "that Fender sound" you will be disappointed. It is a really good amp for what it is and its relatively inexpensive, infinitely tweakable, and a really awesome pedal platform. It's just not a Fender amp.

If you look closely at a lot of the complaints about the Blues Jr. it seems to all lead back to expectations. People expecting to get that mid-scooped tubby 6V6 tone and it's just not there.

The Blues Jr was my first tube amp and I loved it. BillM is right that it is a good amp that could be great. I think the final iteration of mine was transformer upgrades, both tone mods, power stiffening, Canabis Rex speaker and a larger cabinet. The larger cabinet made the biggest difference. The Cannabis Rex is really too powerful to be useable for my purposes, YMMV.

But this amp is a great gateway drug to tube amps.
 
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marshman

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Understand one more thing--if you're playing indoors with neighbors to contend with, a BJr, any version, is going to be LOUD by the time you really get the tubes cooking. Shoot, I have a 5-watt Epiphone Valve Jr combo with an 8" speaker that can rattle windows long before I max it out.

Beyond that, any special edition with the same Roman numeral suffix should be identical except for the speaker and the color. I don't know about the new speakers they're using, but the original BJr came with a ceramic Eminence speaker that was @ 101dB and those were big-time loud, and most of Eminences' new Patriot and Redcoat line are in the same ballpark.

No basis for comparison, but I had a bandmate in the early '00s that played one to devastating effect through many a bar gig. Sure, the reverb is not that great, but in mild doses it was more than adequate. It reacted well to tube swapping in V1 and power tubes (though it will eat those at a rapid pace, most EL84 amps do) and was fairly portable given it's punch.

Happy Hunting
 

'64 Tele

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I've had a Blues Jr. (Tweed/NOS) for about 9 years.
It's not the typical Fender Blackface sound, but you can get fairly close and I've had 2 BF Deluxe Reverbs (1964 and 1966) and a Blackface PR (1964) to compare to.
The "fat" button is your friend (especially with single coils) to get a fuller sound from it.
I played the black tolex version with (if I remember right) and Eminence speaker, and didn't care for it at all.
I liked the Jensen in the tweed covered version a lot more and ended up going with that.
Right now I'm pairing it with a 68 Custom Princeton Reverb via the stereo out from pedal board and the combination sounds absolutely huge.
 

marshman

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Understand one more thing--if you're playing indoors with neighbors to contend with, a BJr, any version, is going to be LOUD by the time you really get the tubes cooking. Shoot, I have a 5-watt Epiphone Valve Jr combo with an 8" speaker that can rattle windows long before I max it out.

Beyond that, any special edition with the same Roman numeral suffix should be identical except for the speaker and the color. I don't know about the new speakers they're using, but the original BJr came with a ceramic Eminence speaker that was @ 101dB and those were big-time loud, and most of Eminences' new Patriot and Redcoat line are in the same ballpark.

No basis for comparison, but I had a bandmate in the early '00s that played one to devastating effect through many a bar gig. Sure, the reverb is not that great, but in mild doses it was more than adequate. It reacted well to tube swapping in V1 and power tubes (though it will eat those at a rapid pace, most EL84 amps do) and was fairly portable given it's punch.

Happy Hunting
 

superjam144

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I have the tweed one version 3. I saw a demo and think the older versions were not as bright and more bassy.

It's a great amp but you might want to try a Princeton before you pull the trigger because many folks seem to prefer it here.

That blue one has a speaker that is highly lauded.

Here's a soundbyte.
 
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GGardner

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They're asking $800?! Wow.


It used to be that you could find a used one all day for $320 and the upgraded speaker (tweed) for $420. Are those days gone? Am i just out-of-touch again? Not opining on the BJ--because the topic sometimes stirs emotions--but I wouldn't buy any amp new (except may be an inexpensive modeling amp w/ the 15% discount and free delivery).
 
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