Friday, June 6, 2014

Fender Deluxe Reverb: The Holy Grail of Guitar Amplifier Tone

The Fender Deluxe reverb has become a standard by which other guitar amplifiers are judged, and for good reason.

The Fender Deluxe Reverb appears to be a fairly unassuming little amplifier. It's only 22 watts. It's got only one 12 inch speaker. It doesn't even have "distortion", "drive", "saturation", "gain" or many other bells and/or whistles. It's not much really. In fact, to the uninformed, it might appear to be downright boring. But spend a few minutes with a Deluxe Reverb and you'll realize what all the fuss is about. Fender's marketing propaganda claims the DR is the most recorded amp in history. I'm not sure if that's true or how you'd even go about proving it, but I would believe it.

Deluxe Reverb Back Story

First introduced in the early sixties, early versions of the DR feaitured white or brown tolex covering before the familiar black tolex. It featured two 6V6 power tubes, four 12AX87 pre-amp tubes, and a pair of 12AT7 tubes - one for the reverb circuit and one for the phase inverter. At only 22 watts and packing a single 12 inch speaker it was a rather petite little package. It featured two seperate channels: one with volume, bass and treble; the other with volume, bass, treble, reverb and controls for the foot-switchable vibrato rate and intensity.

Black Faces Vs. Silver Faces

The earlier "black face" models (pre 1967) are considered more collectable and will command a pretty penny. And even the later "silver face" models are by no means cheap. The change from the BF to SF design happened when Fender was purchased by CBS in 1967 - hence you'll often hear the term "pre-CBS" in amp collector circles. While there is much debate about the changes that were made to the SF design, most tube amp enthusiasts still consider the SFDR to be a pretty nice amp, especially when you can pick one up for alot less money than a BFDR. There were some changes made to the circuitry but the silver face models still kept the same basic design and footprint.
One interesting little aside is that the post CBS Fender actually launched a solid state version of the DR which was a dismal failure. They looked terrible, they sounded worse and the amp buying public avoided them in droves! They were like the Edsel of guitar amps! Seeing the error of their ways, the company returned to the tube version.
The SFDR remained relatively unchanged throughout the late sixties and seventies. In 1978, a pull-boost function was added that many collectors view as sacrilege. However, just leaving the pull-boost "un pulled" leaves the original circuit intact. The DR was discontinued in the early eighties....until it was re-introduced in re-issue form in the 90's. While the reissues (referred to as DRRI's) aren't bad, they are not the same animal as the earlier version. The DRRI uses PCB circuit boards instead of "point to point" wiring, among other casualities that come along with mass production. They are true to the look of the original BF versions, but calling them a "reissue" is a bit of a stretch.

So what's all the fuss about?

All you need to do is plug into an original BFDR or SFDR to understand why these amps are so sought after. You'll immediately be impressed with their pristine, clean tone. Fender is famous for their lush reverb and the Deluxe Reverb is perhaps the flagship of the reverb fleet. Turn the volume up and you'll begin to hear the warm tube break up. You'll never get full on distortion unless you crank it all the way up, but there are some delicious overdriven stops along the way. At 22 watts the DR is an amp that can get a good overdriven sound without breaking the windows, but don't be afraid of not having enough volume to keep up with a drummer.
The Deluxe Reverb is the perfect launching pad for the serious guitarist. Some will opt to keep it pure, enjoying the crystal clear cleans and warm, natural tube overdrive. Others will put a few pedals in front to great effect. Either way, the Deluxe Reverb is possibly the ultimate amplifer canvas on which a guitarist can create his or her art.

Originally published by the author at