The 5E3 “narrow panel” Fender Deluxe is one of the most sought after vintage combos due to its proven performance as a blues/roots-rock amp par excellence. Victoria’s recreation of this 14-watt tweed classic is the model 20112 ($2,095 retail), which features the original-style circuit using two Russian made Tung-Sol 6V6GT power tubes. The cathode-biasing scheme also allows you to change tubes without having to readjust the bias (handy from a maintenance standpoint), and the other tubes are a NOS CBS-made 5Y3WGTA rectifier, a NOS GE 12AY7 in the preamp (an E-H Gold 12AY7 comes stock), and a TAD 12AX7 phase inverter.
The beautifully crafted combo shows superb attention to detail in all areas, including the tidy handwired circuit on a vintage-style fiber board, which sports high-grade Sprague Atom electrolytics, custom “orange drop” audio caps, and carbon-comp resistors. Phenolic tube sockets, U.S.-made transformers, and a Standby switch round out the chassis accouterments. An Eminence Legend 12" speaker is rear mounted in the finger-jointed solid-pine cabinet, which is covered in tweed cloth and lacquered for beauty and durability.
Though the controls are simple—Bright and Normal channel Volumes, and a master Tone knob—a spectrum of tones are available depending on which of the four input jacks you plug into. The Bright channel is the higher gain, and its inputs are different sensitivity too, so whether you’re playing humbuckers or single-coils it’s easy to find a good match for your guitar. Plugging straight in, you can dial up a ballsy overdriven tone by cranking the Volume knob to 7 or higher and then back off the volume on your guitar for a crisp, gritty rhythm sound. If you need a cleaner and/or “browner” tone, use the lower-gain Normal channel. You can also “jumper” the channels a` la four-input Marshall for even more gain and tone options.
The 20112 excels as a “stompbox” amp, and tested on gigs with an Alairex HALO distortion pedal, a Way Huge Supa-Puss analog delay, and a DigiTech Hardwire reverb, it delivered enough volume to keep up with bass and drums in a four-piece rock band, sounding full and muscular while doing so. The dynamic response of this little amp is quite amazing, and using the Bright channel with the Volume set around 5 provided a range of tones that covered clean fingerpicked parts, grinding rhythms, and lots of sustain for solos with the second channel of the HALO engaged. The reverb pedal sounded great with this amp and not much of it was needed since the 20112’s old-school cabinet design delivers a naturally open and resonant sound. It’s why we often don’t miss the lack of reverb on old tweed Fender amps. The 20112 may not project quite as well as a blackface Deluxe (which has a more rigidly built cabinet), but it definitely sounds gushing and alive when you’re hearing it onstage.
If you’re a fan of the tweed Deluxe, but don’t want to subject a vintage model to steady gigging, consider the Victoria 20112. This boutique recreation of the famed 5E3 brings it all together in a package that is the closest you can get to buying a brand new Deluxe in 1955. —Art Thompson
For more information contact victoriaamplifier.com