Tweed Bronco Vs. Frontman 15G (Vs narrow panel Champ?)

totterer

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I just came across these little Bronco amps, and they really have me interested. The clips on YouTube actually sound amazing! Sparkly clean with a little hair on the end as you turn it up. I have read everything I can on them and I am still puzzled. I have found numerous people claiming they are just a repackaged Frontman (or Bullet), however, according to the owners manual they have a redesigned power amp to mimic a tube amp. My technical understandings of schematics is pretty limited, especially solid state amps. I looked at the schematics and indeed there are some differences. I am not sure what part is the power amp? I am hoping to put this topic to rest. I am also considering getting both and tearing them down to really see the differences. I might get super geek on this thing!
To further explain where I am coming from, I have built a 5F2-1 (in a big cab with a 12") and a 5E3. I realize I need a small practice amp that takes headphones still, maybe it is all I really need. Both of these amps are wonderfull, but really too loud for most of my time playing. I do love tweeds!
On a further note I would love to find a way to compare the Bronco to a Frontman, and to a Champ. I am surprised no-one has done this! It would be great on Youtube. The Monoprice Champ has a built in attenuator and looks nice, but no headphones.
 

totterer

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I have been doing more digging and it appears the Bronco is sadly just a rebadged Frontman. I was comparing the schematics of the Frontman 15G with the Bronco. The Bronco was built during the time of the earlier Frontman. I would love it if someone out there with more knowledge on schematics would look at these to see if I missed something, but they look identical except for the Reverb circuit on the Frontman.
The mystery deepens for me because in the Bronco owners manual on page 2 it clearly states the amp was designed to emulate a tube amp. Either Fender was lying or the Frontman was also designed in this way. It is funny how putting an ugly amp in a pretty package all the sudden makes it sound better. Maybe the lowly Frontman isn't such a dud after all?? It is still a Fender. I love that they have reverb even though it probably isn't the best. I may pick one up as they are practically free! Maybe all they need is a little love in the form of a new speaker and a pine cabinet with tweed on the outside. I may have to be the one to do this, but I need to hear a side by side comparison of a Frontman and a Champ.
This amp (Bronco) really interests me because, someone correct me if I am wrong, this appears to be Fenders first attempt to market a solid state amp directly to the tube community. If you look at the current line of solid state amps, Tonemasters, Blues Cube etc. etc. this concept has become sort of the holy grail for those who are open to new technology. I guess nothing will ever replace a good old tube amp.
 

old soul

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I love the way the broncos look with the tweed, and apparently lots of others do to with the price increase. I'm no frontman basher, I really like the older ones with reverb
 

hdvades

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It is a Frontman SS amp in a tweed cabinet. And neither sound like a 5F1 Champ.
fyi...Fender did make, for a short period in the 60's, a tube amp called a Bronco. They have nothing in common with the latter SS version.
 
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totterer

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It is a Frontman SS amp in a tweed cabinet. And neither sound like a 5F1 Champ.
fyi...Fender did make, for a short period in the 60's, a tube amp called a Bronco. They have nothing in common with the latter SS version.
I am not doubting you on this, but have you played them next to each other? I think it would be fun to compare. I would also think Champs can sound very different from each other depending on lots of variables. I think it would be cool if all these throwaway Frontman amps I see everywhere could actually be a decent little amp with some attention. This thing sounds good to me.
 

Tim E

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The mystery deepens for me because in the Bronco owners manual on page 2 it clearly states the amp was designed to emulate a tube amp. Either Fender was lying or the Frontman was also designed in this way. It is funny how putting an ugly amp in a pretty package all the sudden makes it sound better. Maybe the lowly Frontman isn't such a dud after all??

I can't recall any ss amp that wasn't designed to emulate a tube amp. I'm never surprised how much we hear with our eyes. I wouldn't be surprised if all it takes to open up the tone of the small Frontman amps is to plug them into a decent speaker cab rather than rely on the built-in crap speakers.
 

archetype

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The Bronco PR 258 circuit and Frontman 15G circuits are 95% the same. The power sections are configured differently around the same op amp. The Frontman has an FET in front of the op amp, perhaps for more gain.

IMO if the speakers are identically broken in, there's nothing going on in those two circuits that would produce any discernable difference, other than believing that 'tweed fabric sounds better.'

Other Deep Thoughts:

Both cabs have two round ports in the baffle board, presumably to extend low end, but IMO it's ludicrous to think that Fender went through the design math to match the ports, cab size, and speaker together. Some folks have opened a port in the back panel with mixed results. In both models the generic, ceramic mag speaker is junk. Replacing it with almost anything will improve tone. Good luck, though. The speaker mounting studs are pressed through the MDF baffle board and glued in place. Fender spec'd elastic stop nuts that wouldn't vibrate loose, but you have to apply enough torque to remove them that the studs often spin in the MDF. You can't get to them to replace them. The baffle board, with grille cloth, is glued into the cab and can't be removed without destroying the cab.

Tone can be improved with a Weber Signature 8AS or 8s, WGS 8GA or 8GC, or Celestion Eight-15.

The best thing one can do is to plug into an external cab and start with all tone knobs on zero. Fiddle with them until it sounds best.
 

hdvades

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I am not doubting you on this, but have you played them next to each other?
I have a 5F1 that Dave from Boothill Amps put together for me awhile back. I found one of these newer Broncos a few years ago on Marketplace and bought it. I A/B'd them. Nice cab, MIA etc, sounded okay but I sold it.
 

totterer

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Replacing it with almost anything will improve tone. Good luck, though. The speaker mounting studs are pressed through the MDF baffle board and glued in place. Fender spec'd elastic stop nuts that wouldn't vibrate loose, but you have to apply enough torque to remove them that the studs often spin in the MDF. You can't get to them to replace them. The baffle board, with grille cloth, is glued into the cab and can't be removed without destroying the cab.
Ok, thanks for the heads up. My plan, if I proceed with this amp, is to build a new cabinet anyway and scrap the speaker and cab. Also thanks for the insight into whatever is going on with the evolution of this amp. It is beyond my realm of understanding. I just listen and say hey that sounds pretty good! And that is with a ****ty stock speaker and nasty particle board cabinet. For a speaker I want something to tame the treble a little bit and darken the tone, which seems common to many Fender amps. Or possibly some felt over the speaker. That is another rabbit hole. I guess a lot will depend on the guitar pickup as well. Thanks again!
I have a 5F1 that Dave from Boothill Amps put together for me awhile back.
I built a 5f2-A a while ago with the Champ mod to remove the tone control. If I end up proceeding with this I plan on doing a little shoot out between the two using the same speaker cab setup, so it is a fair comparison. Obviously I don't expect them to sound the same, but I have a feeling the Frontman will hold its own. I will follow up with any conclusions if I ever reach any LOL!
 

totterer

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Since I want to build the cab myself, I can't justify the extra expense of the Bronco. The retro chassis is cool indeed, but the old Frontman has a charm of its own, and there's Reverb! Soooo I bought a Frontman Reverb yesterday for $40 including shipping!! These things are walking the plank everyday on various auction sites and sitting sadly in pawn shops, thrift stores, everywhere. We will see what kind of condition it is in, all they said was it turns on. I figure worth the risk at that price. Looks pretty clean. At some point I plan on giving it the royal treatment. New pine tweed cabinet, speaker, fresh caps, and maybe a custom faceplate or even a reverb tank upgrade, we will see??? I will share my results when I get there. There is something really satisfying about taking something nobody seems to want and turning it into something unique and wonderful.
 

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I had an EC Vibrio which is a 5F1 with tremolo. Weber alnico straight cone signature speaker. I've owned a 68 drip edge Vibrochamp with the original Jensen P8R and a 78 Vibrochamp with Weber Signature ribbed ceramic.

The neighbour. lad has a Frontman I bought him with a guitar when he moved in.

It's a great little inexpensive solid state amp. But it sounds nothing like a Champ of any description.

It's not the MDF cabinet, or the speaker. It is what it is. I wouldn't waste any money trying to make it what it's not.

It's your amp and your money but a pine cabinet and high end speaker won't turn it into a 5 F1 substitute. Just save the money and play it like it is.

Fender can probably buy a Frontman from it's suppliers for less than the cost of a transformer for the 5F1 reissue.
 
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The Angle

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It's a great little inexpensive solid state amp. But it sounds nothing like a Champ of any description.

It's not the MDF cabinet, or the speaker. It is what it is. I wouldn't waste any money trying to make it what it's not.

It's your amp and your money but a pine cabinet and high end speaker won't turn it into a 5 F1 substitute. Just save the money and play it like it is.
I bought a Frontman 15 about four years ago from the local Goodwill store purely for the cabinet. It was one of the square-front models with a perforated metal grill. All I wanted was the wooden box to turn into a 10-inch speaker cabinet.

But after I'd done that and the bare amp had been pushed around on the table for a few months, I got curious about it and started plugging it into various speakers. I concluded it wasn't a half-bad little amp, so I quickly cobbled together a pine box for the head and a matching cab for a 10-inch speaker.

IMG_20220623_105802480.jpg

There is something really satisfying about taking something nobody seems to want and turning it into something unique and wonderful.

My feeling exactly. Eventually I'll get around to staining the wood and covering the fronts of the head and speaker cab with matching grill cloth, and adding a handle and some feet; it just hasn't reached the level of priority yet.

A good speaker definitely improves the experience of playing this amp. I've paired it with a 10-inch Cannabis Rex, an Eminence GA10SC64, a Greenback, a Warehouse G10C, and a few generic 10-inchers salvaged from dead Vox and Ampeg amps. All were better than the original 8-inch speaker. The SC64 was the best to my ears, followed by the CR.

But as Dacious said, none of that turns a Frontman 15 into something it's not, like a Princeton or especially anything tweed. The clean channel is fine, and the gain channel is usable if you have the good sense to never turn the gain above 2 with humbuckers or 3 with single coils. Anything beyond that sounds like you're scraping an MXR Distortion+ across a blackboard. Drive pedals work well enough with the clean channel as long as you keep the pedal's output level at or barely above parity and rely on the drive knob to generate your distortion. This amp doesn't like having its preamp heavily overdriven with high input the way tube amps do (true of pretty much all inexpensive SS amps, IME).

For a cheap SS amp that sounds and looks vintage without paying the insanely inflated price that Broncos fetch now, try the Behringer Gx108. It can sound respectable at or just past the edge of breakup if you spend some time dialing it in with your rig, and you'll probably never find anyone daring to ask more than $70 for one. The Jay Turser Classic is another good, low-cost option; the trick is finding one. For a cheap SS amp that sounds vintage but doesn't look it, any Peavey Transtube amp will deliver.

po4oyyhcwpttvxodoskc.jpg
 
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totterer

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It's your amp and your money but a pine cabinet and high end speaker won't turn it into a 5 F1 substitute. Just save the money and play it like it is.
Oh man if thing wasn't so damn ugly I would! These things look like they were made in 1980s Soviet Union! I have enough wood lying around to finger joint together a small pine cabinet. I also have some real tweed remnants and several yards of vinyl tweed. A new pine cabinet will definitely not hurt the sound of this amp. Will it help?? I don't know. As far as the speaker goes, we will see. If I end up liking this thing, I may upgrade the speaker. After building The 5F2-A and 5E3 I realized my favorite part of the amp building process is actually upholstering the cabinets. I consider any time building things to be time well spent.
As far as 5F1 substitute, I realize this thing will not have the lovely breakup of the Champ. The most important thing is that it seems to have a very nice tubey clean sound. It may be a little more blackface than tweed, but it is definitely Fender. A pedal can do the rest. The funny thing I had almost forgotten is my first amp was a Frontman. I spent hours and hours toiling away on the ridiculous hi gain channel. That was 30 years ago and all I wanted was something bigger and louder like a Marshall stack. I guess I have come full circle. One thing I know about the Frontman, it is an honest amp.
For a cheap SS amp that sounds and looks vintage without paying the insanely inflated price that Broncos fetch now, try the Behringer Gx108. It can sound respectable at or just past the edge of breakup if you spend some time dialing it in with your rig, and you'll probably never find anyone daring to ask more than $70 for one. The Jay Turser Classic is another good, low-cost option; the trick is finding one. For a cheap SS amp that sounds vintage but doesn't look it, any Peavey Transtube amp will deliver.
I think we are cut from the same cloth! Thanks for the tips on those amps, I have a feeling my amp journey will not end with the Frontman. I think those Jay Turser classics may be the same amp as the Rogue v15g very similar to Esteban and Belcat also. I was considering those as well. All probably less than $50 bucks. The Esteban 15 watter has spring reverb. I just started reading about the Fender sidekick amps. Many people like those for a tubelike breakup.
 

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You might want to throw the 25R into the mix. Not because the amp sounds all that much different, but it gives you the chance to test out some 10 inch speakers before you spend time building a cab.

I found these small fender amps to be extremely bright. To the point you almost can't EQ it out. A speaker that'll takeoff the edge while having more body helps a lot. Fender definitely uses the cheapest speakers they can find.

In the 10 inch eminence line, the Legend 1058 or Lil' buddy (hemp con) are good choices. The hemp is a little bit darker than the 1058.

The clean channel is good. I found the best clean sound is the gain channel but with the gain only set at about 9 o'clock. That's not enough to get any distortion but it opens the sound up quite a bit. You can go a little higher on the gain and get a little bit of distortion but beyond a little bit it just sounds nasty, and not in a good way. A better choice is to use pedals and come in at unity volume. Something like a clean boost driving your overdrive, etc but then set back to unity before you hit the amp.
 

The Angle

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I think those Jay Turser classics may be the same amp as the Rogue v15g very similar to Esteban and Belcat also. I was considering those as well. All probably less than $50 bucks.
That's what I suspected when I bought the Jay Turser amp off eBay, but it's not. I also have a Rogue V15g, and it's actually OK for a $50 amp. Its real drawbacks are in durability; on mine, anyway, the input jack started failing and the pots started getting noisy within a year. But the electronics are different between the Rogue and the JT. For starters, the Rogue is a two-channel amp and the Jay Turser is one channel. The JT's gain knob acts more like a true gain stage than the Rogue's gain knob which a) acts more like a gate that shunts part of the signal through clipping diodes and b) should never be used if it can be avoided. The JT has decent gain, at low levels anyway, and it behaves more like a tube amp. Not that you'd ever be fooled by it, but it's certainly among the better cheap SS amps I've picked up. And yes, I am oddly intrigued by cheap SS amps.
 

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I’ve read that Johnny Rzeznick of the Goo Goo dolls used a SS tweed Bronco driving a 4 x 12 cab to record a bunch of tracks on one of their albums.

I’ve also read a bunch of anecdotal stuff saying that Frontmans (Frontmen?) look like cheap little SS crapboxes but are actually pretty capable if dialed in.
 

totterer

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You might want to throw the 25R into the mix. Not because the amp sounds all that much different, but it gives you the chance to test out some 10 inch speakers before you spend time building a cab.
I looked at that one as well, I figure I will build the new cabinet just large enough to accommodate a 10". My thoughts exactly about the brightness of these amps. I think the right speaker will do the trick. These look like a real steal for someone who wants a little more power.
I’ve also read a bunch of anecdotal stuff saying that Frontmans (Frontmen?) look like cheap little SS crapboxes but are actually pretty capable if dialed in.
Its pretty funny to read all the comments about the Bronco(Frontman). People gush over them. Any suggestion that it might be a Frontman is ignored or disregarded as impossible. I could see myself fall into this as well. I have been comparing the audio clips of the Bronco, to clips of vintage tube amps and it sounds like it fits right into the mix. I believe it is a lot like wine. So many people believe that they can tell the difference between high end wines and the cheap stuff. In several extensive tests, with well known people in the food industry, this has been proven false. There was no consensus when comparing them. Price has nothing to do with it. Quality on the other hand is a different story. Well made wine will always be expensive because of all the effort. It isn't always good though. With music, a good musician can always pull the best out of even the cheapest gear. I realize the feel of a Frontman will never be the same as a tube amp. I am sure there will be a lot of knob fiddling. That is one thing I love about the Champ. It has one setting, good.
 

mexicanyella

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I looked at that one as well, I figure I will build the new cabinet just large enough to accommodate a 10". My thoughts exactly about the brightness of these amps. I think the right speaker will do the trick. These look like a real steal for someone who wants a little more power.

Its pretty funny to read all the comments about the Bronco(Frontman). People gush over them. Any suggestion that it might be a Frontman is ignored or disregarded as impossible. I could see myself fall into this as well. I have been comparing the audio clips of the Bronco, to clips of vintage tube amps and it sounds like it fits right into the mix. I believe it is a lot like wine. So many people believe that they can tell the difference between high end wines and the cheap stuff. In several extensive tests, with well known people in the food industry, this has been proven false. There was no consensus when comparing them. Price has nothing to do with it. Quality on the other hand is a different story. Well made wine will always be expensive because of all the effort. It isn't always good though. With music, a good musician can always pull the best out of even the cheapest gear. I realize the feel of a Frontman will never be the same as a tube amp. I am sure there will be a lot of knob fiddling. That is one thing I love about the Champ. It has one setting, good.

I used a Peavey Audition 20 in a pretty low volume band situation for awhile years ago, probably a pretty forgotten 1980s Peavey model that is more or less analagous to the more recent Frontman.

I’m fully on board with the idea that Little solid state amps can be effective tools, and sound great in a mix. I chose that amp at the time because I thought it sounded cool and suited the material, and for awhile there I really enjoyed the easy carry and setup.

If that Bronco sounds cool, who cares if it has embarrassing unstylish Frontman parents. Or not. It’s its own thing now, and a useful tool. Let’s hear some sound clips!

@Chiogtr4x might stop by with a reminder that a Frontman amp can bring the rock-n-roll in some settings. Maybe still show that young retro punk Bronco a thing or two. Like Carl Perkins taking Eric Clapton to school or something.
 




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