I Played The Fender Tone Master Amps Today

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Otis Fine, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Just got back from rehearsal. Feisty original punk rock band.

    Tonemaster Deluxe Reverb arrived today. So I took it straight to rehearsal.

    I'll get right to it - it is an outstanding, outstanding amp. I've owned at least 5-6 good DRs (serviced BF and SF) and good DRRIs (biased right) over the years. This is easily as good as the best of them.

    1. Loud as hell. My favorite previous DR was a DRRI that I got used. Low noise floor. Lovely clarity and breakup. But it was just a hair quieter then some. Cranked to 7 it could keep up in the rehearsal room and small shows, with my guitar volume rolled back maybe 30% for rhythm but just barely. And if things got spirited I couldn't keep up. This one I had on the 12w setting. With the volume on 6, bass on 3 and treble on 6, it was plenty loud, even with weak 60s lipstick pickups and the volume on the guitar rolled back to 50%. I had to check twice to make sure I was on the 12w setting. Yep. And when I swapped it to 22 briefly, there was a lot more available.

    2. Lively. To me, this is THE hallmark of a great BF/SF Fender amp. They all have it. A special life to the tone. Like notes just want to explode out of them, but will play it sweet if you do. This one has that. This was my greatest "fear" for these amps. That they would be a bit more flat. Not so "juicy" and "explosive" and dynamic. I was prepared to settle a bit as a compromise to get the light weight, the attenuation, etc. Nope. No compromise. None. The second best DR I had was a blackfaced SF with a replaced grille cloth. The dynamics of that amp I had never experienced before (or since). Until this amp. The difference was, the juicy dynamics in the vintage one came a high noise floor. Nothing bothersome while playing, but it was there. The Tonemaster has those dynamics and life. But with amazingly low noise floor.

    3. Presence in the mix. We're a 4 piece. 2 guitars, bass and drums. The drummer is dynamic but likes to hit the kit. I had NO problems slotting in the mix and haring myself from various parts of the room, with the settings above. Punchy as hell. If I wanted "more", my right hand dynamics or my guitar volume gave me everything I needed. After I set the amp, I never had to touch the amp to get the volume changes I needed.

    4. Breakup. That gorgeous, clear but filthy BF/SF breakup, and edge-of-breakup and clean is all there. Again, with picking dynamics and guitar volume. Amazing.

    5. Trem and reverb. Yep. As good as any I've had on my prior DRs and frankly better than most. The trem doesn't tick. It's not stuck on fast-faster-fastest like many vintage ones. It's not inaudible. Again, very dynamic. I'm not a reverb snob. I use it as an effect. As we were plugging in and chatting, I cranked the verb to 6 and immediately started playing Walk Don't Run. Couldn't help it. Not that noisy, overly thin and bright reverb you find on some of the BF/SF ones, especially before servicing. If I have a slight critique, the tail might be a bit long. But on the reverb dial doesn't turn into an on/off switch at about 1.3 on the dial, so you can get usable reverb sounds there too.

    6. Small touches. I always feel like Fender still has practical, gigging players on staff and in mind. So many amps today have the IEC cable. Maybe it's even required, I don't know. But so, so many manufactures have the socket on the back of the amp, flush with the surface. So you can't set the amp on its back in your trunk, with the IEC cable plugged in. But if you unplug it, it will disappear. But not Fender. They have a handy retaining strap affixed to the inside side wall. And another on the bottom to affix the footswitch. Nice.

    This is all just my opinion and impressions. Duh. But 30 seconds into our first song, I forgot I was playing a new amp. Let alone a SS or digital amp. I just did it's job and did it very well. With nothing to annoy me or detract. But when we broke down, I sure appreciated it. I know a tube DR is only about 42lbs. But we have a basement studio at the rehearsal building. Down and then back up a narrow, concrete, winding, long-ass staircase. And you know what, it gets pretty precarious with a pedalboard on my back, guitar in one hand and amp in the other. So usually I take 2 trips. Not with the Tonemaster.

    I'm buying a Twin as soon as I can.
     
  2. tonfarbe

    tonfarbe Tele-Holic

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    Now this was a useful review. Thanks!
     
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  3. dreamingtele

    dreamingtele Friend of Leo's

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    Seems pretty detailed review. I like it.. I havent played through a vintage amp, but if this hangs with the best of them, I'll wait for the Twin to hit the stores here!
     
  4. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    I'm curious to try.
     
  5. Bristlehound

    Bristlehound Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for the great review MM.
     
  6. Mr_Martin

    Mr_Martin Tele-Afflicted

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    Then you never have played a Peavey Bandit.


    .
     
  7. Durtdog

    Durtdog Poster Extraordinaire

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  8. NewKid

    NewKid Tele-Holic

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    That’s a big IF indeed.
     
  9. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire

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    the woman is the coding genius, the guy is posing.
     
  10. Strato50

    Strato50 Tele-Afflicted

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    So people are actually thinking this is as good a vintage BF and SF Deluxe. Lol
     
  11. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Some folks asked some follow up Qs on another forum so I’ll post here as well. Sorry for the long posts. Not trying to dominate discussion, honestly.

    I’m not a big pedal guy. But I do use a FoxRox Festival for boost/OD.

    When I kicked it on, sounded and felt just like going into a DRRI. More level and more compression/natural breakup from the amp.

    I’m not a “slam the front end” kind of player. And I don’t like to use an “always on” pedal hitting the preamp hard. I’d rather turn the amp up a bit than keep the amp low and raise level with a pedal out front. But I didn’t notice that my Festival level was higher than normal when I first kicked it on. Other than being to loud and a brief jolt during the song, I didn’t notice anything unusual.

    I’m largely self-taught and one thing I “taught” myself was to bash with my right hand and clutch with my left. I’ve been working hard the last couple months to unlearn that. Notes ring truer. My hands don’t get tired/tense. And my playing can be more nuanced.

    Anyway, one thing I noticed right away was that the Tonemaster is VERY responsive that. Even when I had the Festival way too hot, I just lightened my touch way up and that solved the issue for the first lead.

    All I can say is, I quickly forgot it was a new amp or a different amp. It just played, sounded and reacted like a really, really good Deluxe Reverb.

    Also, it just dawned on me that the speaker had zero play time before I plugged in at rehearsal. I don’t want to get greedy but that suggests after a month or so the amp will get even better. But I didn’t notice any of the things I sometimes do with new speakers (sometimes they give me a spiked/harsh/grainy, but yet overall dull top end, for 5-10 hours).

    It’s a honeymoon review for sure. And only based on 90 minutes at rehearsal. But so far so good.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  12. Lawdawg

    Lawdawg Tele-Holic

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    I think Fender explained it pretty clearly -- they're using a 100 watt SS digital amp to achieve the same dynamic range as a traditional 22 watt Deluxe Reverb. They're literally saying what the product is -- a 100 watt digital modeling amp -- and then saying how it should perform -- like a 22 watt tube amp. Where's the discrepancy?
     
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  13. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Tele-Afflicted

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    Other than 1 or 2 of us who have actually heard it, the rest of us are just speculating, and trotting out the same old hypothetical arguments (tube vs SS, cheap vs expensive, etc). It all comes down to how it sounds. Clearly, for the price, Fender is trying to compete in the "boutique" SS amp market (ie, Quilter, etc), and is not aiming for the Katana crowd. If this new amp truly sounds great, then there will be a good market for it, given the advantages of weight/cost/maintenance/etc. If it does not sound quite good enough, then it will fail, because (a) serious players will stick to the original tube versions, and (b) less-serious players will not shell out that much dough when there are plenty of cheaper SS alternatives.

    I find videos to be useless. There are so many variables to how something sounds in a recording. Anything can be made to sound great, or to sound crappy. But in my own limited experience, I have found that in the room, the sound that hits your ears from a tube amp is different. More 3D, or something. I have a Roland Blues Cube Stage. It sounds great. But side by side, in the room, the Princeton Reverb sounds better. But that is beside the point. Because the Roland is not the Tone Master. Bottom line, I will be very curious to hear the Tone Master, and will reserve judgement until then.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  14. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Tele-Afflicted

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    Thanks! Please keep us updated on your opinion as you use it more.
     
  15. Strato50

    Strato50 Tele-Afflicted

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    But does the Princeton sound better than this modeling amp?
     
  16. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Tele-Afflicted

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    Exactly my point. No idea.
     
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  17. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    @Marc Morfei - As it happens, I bought a used Quilter Aviator 210 last week. Tried it at the last gig.

    Nice sounds. Good features. Did not hold a candle to the Tonemaster DR for me.

    I had to run the Quilter DIMED on the Clean or the Drive channel in a small club (where I could comfortably run a DR at 5) and I still was barely present in the mix. None of the life and dynamics of the Tonemaster. Took boost fine (thankfully, as I had to run a boost all night to be audible).

    So the Quilter went back. Nice SS amp. I think they advertise it as 200w but you only have 100w available on each channel. For me that made for a stark difference in headroom and dynamic range.
     
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  18. RetroTeleRod

    RetroTeleRod Poster Extraordinaire

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    Ok, I really really want one now. I've been thinking about a DR for a while now and if I can nail that sound without the maintenance of a tube amp, I'm in!
     
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  19. Strato50

    Strato50 Tele-Afflicted

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    Amps that last 50 years have little maintenance. Wait till one of the modelers takes a dive. Why the laziness on maintaining a tube amp? If you gig regularly it’s a no brainer to keep your amps in good working order. The tone chasing will never end I guess. But I look at these as fads. Like all the rest of the things amp makers do. It’s like Leo said his biggest competition are his old amps. Keep on pickin.
     
  20. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'd qualify that...

    I used to own the older Peavey Bandit 65 that was big and clean amazing Reverb. And it was every but as loud as my primary 2-12" , '67 Pro Reverb . But sold both amps, as I got a '68 Deluxe Reverb...

    Years later ( as I now had an ailing ' 68 DR that I shelved, and thought I would need a more powerful amp than my backup 15 watt/tube Blues Jr.) on a bit of a whim, I bought a 65 watt Transtube Studio Pro 112 , that actually had very good Clean and OD options, but it was just invisible! In our band context ( and I was the only guitar) - could not hear it!
    My 15 watt tube BJ, blew that 65 SS amp out of the water.
     
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