Ask a collection of experienced players what amp they’d want if they could own only one, and more are likely to agree on the Fender Deluxe Reverb, which can lay claim to several titles: ultimate grab’n’go amp, killer club amp, and ace studio amp. It’s easy to forget today, with Fender often called out as the standard for onboard tube-driven reverb and tremolo, that the Fullerton, California, company was somewhat late to the party in adding these features to its creations. Once they got them together in late 1963, however, they ran the table for lush atmospherics.
Although the channel that carries both effects is labeled “Vibrato,” the modulation itself is actually tremolo rather than pitch-shifting vibrato. Pair it with the amp’s lush reverb for instant one-stop sonic splendor. And, in addition to its effects, the Vibrato channel’s signal passes through an extra gain stage between the preamp and output stages, allowing it to drive the amp pretty hard when cranked up.
The Deluxe Reverb also featured two independent channels with their own Treble and Bass controls, which both expanded the amp’s EQ capabilities and fronted an entirely different preamp circuit. From their independent inputs, each channel ran the signal into one 12AX7 (aka 7025) gain stage, then the tone controls, then the volume control, then into the second gain stage to make up for signal level lost en route. The voicing of this preamp circuit and the tone controls it encompassed encouraged a clean, clear, somewhat scooped voice, with firm lows and crisp highs. In short, it introduced a new Fender classic in the tonal arena, one that was very different from the rounder, more midrangey sound that the tweed amps had established just a few years before (and now considered equally seminal). If you think spank, twang, and sparkle when you hear the phrase “Fender amp tone,” you’re mind’s ear is hearing a sonic palette established by the blackface Deluxe Reverb and its ilk.
While redrawing the front end, Fender also radically reconfigured the back end of the Deluxe model. The brownface models before it had become a little more powerful than the ’50s tweed Deluxes by running its dual 6V6GT output tubes in fixed bias and at slightly higher voltages. The blackface Deluxe Reverb upped the voltage even further, to levels in excess of the rating limits of the tube, according to standard specifications. As a result, the Deluxe evolved from around 15 watts to a tighter, crisper 22 watts in just half a decade. And, since the bias network was now adjustable, it was easier to dial-in any 6V6s for optimum performance. Put it all together, and a blackface Deluxe Reverb is an impressively loud, punchy combo for its size, and a great platform for any overdrive pedals you might want to throw in front of it.
It’s sometimes easy to forget the charms of the humble mid-’60s Deluxe Reverb amid all the fancy boutique offerings today, the heady maelstrom of a roaring Marshall plexi, or the sultry kerrang of a vintage Vox AC30. Find a good one, though, and plug in and play a while. Chances are it feels like, well, coming home.
> Dual channels, Normal and Vibrato, with independent Treble and Bass controls
> Two 6V6 output tubes generating around 22 watts
> Fixed-biased output stage (adjustable)
> One 12AY7 preamp tube and one 12AX7 phase inverter
> GZ34 rectifier tube
> Tube-powered tremolo and spring reverb
> Single 12" Oxford 12K5-6 speaker