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Life in Fenderland Pt. 6

December 13, 2017

 

Installment 6 Fender by the Numbers - The '65 Twin Reverb

Before we get started on the Twin Reverb, there is one additional vintage reissue combo amp I would like to briefly comment on - The '59 Bassman LTD. This is another rather imposing amp; 45-watts into 4-10" Jensen P10R vintage style speakers. The amp features 3X12AX7 preamp tubes and a 5ARA rectifier tube and is driven by two 6L6 output tubes. It also features tweed style cosmetics. This combo was originally designed for bass players (hence the name), but has found favor with electric guitarists over the years. This is the one amp in the line I have limited familiarity with. I have worked with it occasionally in the studio, but have never owned one or used it frequently enough to develop a sense of its personality so to speak. OK, on to the Twin Reverb which is an amp I have a lot of experience with...

The Fender '65 Twin Reverb is arguably the most iconic of all the blackface combos, and the reissue builds on this tradition. The '65 reissue is a beast; at 85 watts into 2 12" Jensen C12K vintage style speakers it is the most powerful member of the reissue series. It features 4X12AX7 and 2X12AT7 preamp tubes, and a whopping 4 6L6 output tubes, and at roughly 20" high by 26-1/2" high and 64 lbs. this thing is not easy to lug around. The '65 Twin reissue was the first reissue series amp I bought back in the day, and it really is a one trick pony. If you like a resonant clean tone with the low end beef a pair of 12" speakers can provide, this is your amp. At 85 watts, the normal operating volume for me during tracking sessions was somewhere between 2-3 with just a touch of onboard reverb. But be advised, this thing does not do "overdriven" well. I once had a client who was looking for an overdriven Fender sound for his guitar tracks, so we mic'd up the Twin and cranked it to 7. Despite being blisteringly loud, the sound wasn't particularly musical and the amp wasn't very happy. I kept expecting the cabinet to explode in a shower of splinters. Definitely not recommended.... The biggest problem I had with my Twin, beside the lack of versatility, was that it felt (and sounded) "stiff"; that is it didn't respond to the player's dynamics very well. It was great for beginners who hadn't developed much touch or dynamic control - the amp provided a consistent level of volume and intensity, but experienced players seemed to struggle with getting the Twin to respond to their performance dynamics. Even after I owned it for 10 years, the '65 Twin still played with the stiffness of a new amp. That being said, if you are playing a Fender Rhodes electric piano, the '65 Twin is still the amp for you. The tone of those two together is classic...

So after much research and internal debate, I finally decide to trade my '65 Twin reissue for an almost new '68 Custom Twin Reverb that was at Guitar Showcase. Apparently someone had bought it new, took it home then decided it was way too heavy to gig with, and brought it back a week later to trade in for a lighter Fender combo. The '68 silver face Fender is not an exact recreation of a '68 Twin, hence the name. It is actually a two channel amp - a "Vintage" channel for a traditional Twin tone and a "Custom" channel equipped with a Bassman tone circuit. The thing that interested me is that Fender engineers reduced the negative feedback circuit on the '68 model to provide for greater touch sensitivity. Exactly what I was looking for.... but while the Vintage channel did offer a more player responsive feel, by reducing the negative feedback circuit the amp became noisier... a LOT noisier. The hum coming off the amp while it sat idling and between chord changes while tracking made it clear that I couldn't use the '68 Custom Twin Reverb for recording. Ouch, back it goes... So in returning the '68 back to the Guitar Showcase consignment shop, I had a chance to talk to Rich Longacre at length about I was looking for in a Fender Twin. His response was the '57 Custom Twin-Amp; the "real deal" was what he called it. The '57 Custom Twin-Amp is not for the faint of heart, as this hand wired recreation of a classic tweed low power circuit is one of the most expensive combos Fender makes (about $3K!). That being said, Showcase had one in stock so I had a listen. This amp is magnificent ! First off, it features the classic 5E8A tweed circuit, Fender Pure Vintage yellow capacitors and special Mercury Magnetics transformers. The '57 also uses 1X12AVT and 3X12AX7 preamp tubes, and runs 2 6L6 output tubes into two 12" Emminence special design Alnico speakers. As a low power circuit the amp is only rated at 40 watts (instead of the '65 Reissue's 85 watts), and at 56 lbs. it is significantly lighter than it's blackface cousin. Oh, and it doesn't have an onboard reverb (it's only drawback) like the reissue does. In fact there are very few similarities between the '57 Custom Twin-Amp and the '65 Twin Reverb Reissue other than the Fender badge on both. The '57 is way more three dimensional in sound and produces a rich and decidedly vintage tone (which is a really good thing). There's just something special about hand wired amps. Oh well, it's only money...This amp is too pricey for most folks, but if you are looking for a big, rich and decidedly vintage Fender clean tone and have the money, don't sleep on the '57 Custom Twin-Amp...

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