MY FIRST THOUGHT ON SEEING THE NAME “Machete” on this big new head was that its muscle-car looks promised revved-up tones. And Fender’s new 6L6GCpowered, 50-watt channel-switching fire breather didn’t disappoint; the Machete did indeed rock with a fat, dynamic, tube-fueled goodness that finally brings this storied amp maker squarely into the 21st century. If this makes Fender traditionalists want to read no further—perhaps turning away muttering, “too many damn knobs …”—well hey, it’s only two independent channels of five controls each plus a dedicated Notch control, with a shared Reverb knob for the digital unit, and a Resonance switch for cab response. You can handle it.
The Machete lives and dies by its lead channel, and that’s clearly where the bulk of the R&D went in. Yet Channel One, ostensibly the amp’s “clean” channel, is sweet enough to be a successful single-channel beauty on its own, and winds into some thick, juicy crunch with its footswitchable Boost engaged. But for now, back to the smokin’ hot surprise behind door number two. Fender hasn’t done much in high-gain territory since the very cool, yet underappreciated, Prosonic combo of the 1990s, or has it? In fact, the company launched the Super-Sonic series a few years ago, and is behind the successful and supremely sizzling EVH 5150, so some thought has clearly already been paid toward cascading preamp stages and swirling harmonic saturation.
The Machete, though, is no repackaged 5150, and has very much its own feel and flavor. Channel Two has a broader, more versatile character that rolls from thick, creamy classic rock lead tones to surprisingly confident modern shred and metal. In the world of contemporary high gain, it doesn’t reach the scorched-earth extremes of, say, a Bogner Überschall, but it will do a little of just about any vintage or contemporary tube-powered overdrive sound you might need with impressive note clarity and just a little fizz when you get it to full-tilt wail. The only issue that gave me pause through a fun couple of days blasting this lead channel (swapping between a Stratocaster and a Koll Duo Glide with TV Jones Power’Trons, through a Machete 4x12 as well as a 2x12 cab loaded with Celestion G12-65s) was some excessive “splash” from the reverb behind the notes, even at lower depth settings. And come to think of it, a good old analog spring reverb might still be my choice, but this digital algorithm sounds great for more contemporary atmospherics.
Circling back to Channel One, I was continually impressed with its ability to dial from meaty tweedy tones to glassy, scooped black-face to very different yet equally valid in-between tones. Both channels, for that matter, boast huge sonic ranges, thanks to the very usable EQ, plus a Notch control that helps you hone the core of your midrange voice. With a great selection of usable bonus features, plenty of power for today’s live stages, and most importantly, inspiring, dynamic tones wherever you point the knobs, the Machete is, quite simply, a winner!
PRICE $1,699 street (head); 4x12 cabinet $899 street
KUDOS Meaty, dynamic high-gain tones that rival many of the better-established channel- switchers. Impressively versatile clean channel.
CONCERNS Digital reverb can be “splashy” behind higher-gain tones. No variable control for Ch 1 Boost means potentially big volume jumps at some amp settings.
CONTROLS On each channel: Gain, Volume, Low, Mid, High, Notch; Pull Bright and Pull Gain Boost (also footswitchable). On Channel One: shared Reverb control and 5-way Damping switch
POWER 50 watts Class A/B
TUBES Five 12AX7 and one 12AT7 preamp tubes, two 6L6GC output tubes
EXTRAS Digital reverb; effects loop with independent Send and Return Level controls. XLR Line Out with switches for Power Amp Mute and Cab Emulation. Dual speaker outs with 4/8/16Ω selector. Four-button footswitch included for channel switching, Ch 1 Boost, and effects loop
SPEAKER Tested with Fender Machete 4x12 loaded with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers
WEIGHT Head 42 lbs; speaker cabinet 90 lbs