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First Fender amp — which one: 2021 edition

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by ataylor, Apr 21, 2021.

Which 60s-inspired small-ish Fender combo for home/recording use?

  1. Tone Master Deluxe Reverb

    6 vote(s)
    20.7%
  2. 65 Princeton Reverb

    19 vote(s)
    65.5%
  3. 68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb

    4 vote(s)
    13.8%
  1. ataylor

    ataylor Tele-Meister

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    I'm notorious for drawing out my guitar-related purchases and a Fender amp has been no exception. I posted this thread about a year and a half ago and I thought I'd get a new round of input, along with a poll this time!

    So yeah, I want a Fender amp. The short version is that I'd like small combo that sounds, looks, and feels like a classic 60s Fender amp, to be used almost entirely for noodling and recording at home at family-friendly volume levels.

    I play mostly clean. I love reverb. I'm an acoustic guy and like fingerpicking and strumming folksy chords on electric guitar and adding texture and fills to acoustic-based songs, though over the years I've slowly gotten more confident as more an electric player with more riffs and runs and pseudo-lead type of stuff.

    My electric guitars are a Baja Tele and a reissue 65 Casino. I have a Vox Pathfinder 15R which I love in every way — sound, size, and looks. A 60s-sounding Fender amp seems like a good complement to the warmer tones of the Vox.

    In no particular order, here are the three amps I've got on my shortlist:

    Tone Master Deluxe Reverb
    The flexibility of this amp would be fantastic. No tubes is just as much a pro for me as it is a con, if that makes sense. I like the option of attenuating the volume for home use, as well as the XLR out for recording. I love the way this amp sounds in all the reviews and comparisons I've seen, and I did play one briefly a couple years ago and liked it a lot. I do wish there was a headphone jack to go with the other modern features, and the physical size of the amp is almost outside what I really would like to have to store. These didn't get the price hike the tube combos did, which is nice.

    65 Princeton Reverb
    This seems to be the entry point into the ideal all-tube, analog-reverb/tremolo mid-60s Fender combo. I love the tone of these amps. I also love the mid-60s look. The footprint is more ideal than a Deluxe. As someone who hasn't ever owned a tube amp and isn't DIY with electronics and such, long-term care and maintenance is a question mark for me, even though I'm sure that concern is overstated. I also wonder if a 12w tube amp is still too much amp for me at home and if I'd benefit from the full range of tones on the volume knob.

    68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb
    This is the new entry to my shortlist. This amp is appealing in terms of physical size, which is right about the same size as my Vox. Also appealing in terms of price, which comes in a bit lower than the TMDR or PRRI. The demos sound really great, and I like that it has a 10" speaker. It's almost like a smaller Princeton in that sense. I do wish it had spring reverb, but digital is not a dealbreaker for me considering I have the Tone Master on my list. Fewer tubes to manage might be nice for me as a noob. Aesthetically I prefer the mid-60s Fender look, but don't necessarily dislike the 68 trim.

    The Blues Junior got dropped from the list I made last time around because based on the times I've played one and based on reviews and comparisons, I think it would overlap more with my Vox. That and it doesn't have tremolo. Aaaand it just doesn't have the iconic 60s look I'm after! I like the 50s styling a lot too, but the 60s Fender amps are just where I'm interested.

    The Champion 20 left my list because I got one for my daughter. So, it's technically hers but I do find I like to borrow it sometimes! I was actually surprised by how much I like it, and it's only made me want a classic 60s combo more.

    Another brand I've been looking at is Milkman, whether that's their pedal-format The Amp or whether it's "what if I splurged and got a little hand-wired combo in one of those gorgeous wood cabinets..." But I'm probably leaning heavily towards the familiarity and more traditional route of a Fender though for now.

    Anyway, I type too much. High fives if you made it to the end. Put your vote in the poll that will almost definitely possibly determine or influence to some small degree what I choose!
     
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  2. J. Bonkosky

    J. Bonkosky Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I voted for the champ. You will be able to turn the volume knob enough to get the amp to it’s sweet spot. The Princeton is too big for home use without a load box of some kind. You don’t need that power for home use. The speakers on the deluxe and Princeton are too large for home use also. I think the single 8” speaker is just about right for bedroom and apartment use. Any bigger and you are moving too much air.
     
  3. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    PR is the classic small class AB amp. It’s probably a forever amp. The champ being class A is its own thing, for me that’s a “nice to have” but not essential sound. The tonemaster is too much for what it is (I’d rather just get a good amp sim and figure out power amp situation or PA use). Don’t be concerned about maintenance - It costs the same to pay a tech to fix an SS amp as a tube one.

    You can always put a 12 in with a different baffle, slide it into a head cab yourself to use with whatever speaker config, or pay a tech to beef up the PR transformers in the future, or add cathode bias, or bypass the tone stack, etc. too.
     
  4. JamesAM

    JamesAM Tele-Meister

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    PRRI for the tubes. I’d rather have an iridium over the tonemaster for the purpose you describe, if I’m being honest. Half the price and even more versatility for di and recording.
     
  5. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    I watched a couple of demos of the new Vibro Champ the other day and I think I want one. Easy choice is the PRRI, unknown but possibly better bedroom amp is the Vibroverb. Depends on if you're willing to take a risk or play it safe.
     
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  6. aadvark

    aadvark Tele-Meister

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    I love my Princeton for home use... but it won't really cook if you want a more driven sound because it'll be too loud for home. inn which case the champ...

    so I'll vote Princeton with that caveat.
     
  7. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

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    I think those are all good choices.
    I am biased to Princeton. I have the SE model with a 12" speaker but I previously had the standard PRRI and liked it a bunch.
    The VIbro Champ is an interesting new choice and the Fender demo sounded good but the guitarist was excellent and probably make a can sound good.
    I like the Tone Master a lot and one may be in my future.
    If you buy it from a big box store or quality on-line retailer they all have return policies that favor you. Give one a go and, if not satisfied go with your second option.
     
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  8. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    The Tone Master.
    Runner-up, the Princeton.
    Both will sound great, and record beautifully, but the TM will probably be way less "noisy".
    The TM will also have better tremolo and splash-free reverb.
    It will also be more gig-friendly, if you do that.
    Good luck!
     
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  9. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    For you, the champ sounds perfect but even that might be louder than you expect. Too small for me, though - any amp I buy has to possibly be giggable, since I already own the perfect practice amp (Yamaha THR10c). What you really want, that they don't make, is probably something like a Princeton with a good master volume.
     
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  10. Wipey

    Wipey TDPRI Member

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    The correct answer is all three.
     
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  11. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    If you're going to get the Tonenaster you might as well just record straight in a PC. There's tons of plugins which make the Tonenaster redundant.

    If you want to record a real amp reverb is also redundant because you're better recording a dry signal and adding it.

    The VC digital verb will always be digital verb.

    The Princeton will always sound real.
     
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  12. EspyHop

    EspyHop Tele-Holic

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    1. PRRI
    2. TMDR

    I can’t really recommend that amp they’re calling a Vibro-Champ simply because you can get an actual vintage Vibro-Champ for about the same price.

    I bought a ‘70s Vibro-Champ last summer. It needed new tubes, a new speaker, and some internal work. All in, it was less than $800. However, I used new old stock US tubes.
     
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  13. Tarkus60

    Tarkus60 Tele-Meister

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    I have a princeton and my buddy has a tone master. Both are perfect!
     
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  14. adjason

    adjason Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    None of the above- get the new pro reverb
     
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  15. Neener

    Neener Tele-Holic

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    Anything with tubes and reverb :)
     
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  16. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    PRRI.
    Great for at home.

    Put a GOOD Mic if front of it at a gig and it will serve you well.
     
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  17. 985plowboy

    985plowboy Friend of Leo's

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    Get the Princeton.
    OD pedals abound if necessary.
    At least own one classic tube amp in your life and a PR is a fine starting place.
     
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  18. dan40

    dan40 Friend of Leo's

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    If you play mostly clean as you mentioned above, the PR will do just fine at low volume, clean tones. It would be my pick of the bunch for that type of playing.
     
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  19. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    I have a TMDR, and its beyond perfect.

    But I can't stop thinking about the Vibro Champ.
     
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  20. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    You can also buy an attenuator for the princeton - if you take 6 decibels off it should be noticeably quieter and still sound great.
     
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