1962 Blonde Fender Bassman
OK, time for some more guitar gear stuff.
I just picked up an old Fender piggyback Bassman for $200. It was broken when I bought it, so I had it looked at by Bryan Sours at Soursound here in Portland. It ended up needing to be recapped and the speakers replaced, which weren't original anyway. Funny thing about it... someone had spray painted the head and cabinet black, which it turns out was not an uncommon practice after Fender changed their amps to black in 1964. People wanted newer looking amps! But the original blonde tolex was there underneath the paint and came out fairly clean after using hefty amounts of graffiti remover. It still looks old, but the discoloration and cigarette burns give it a distressed vintage vibe that you usually have to pay extra for. I'll post some pics when I get around to taking some.
I had Bryan order a pair of Weber Vintage Series Ceramics (12F150-A) to install in the 2x12 cabinet, and they sound perfect. The great thing about the amp is that other than the caps, power tubes, bias adjustment, grounded AC, and speakers, the head and cabinet are 100% original from 1962, choke, transformers, everything. It's a 1962 Blonde Fender Bassman, brownface (pre-blackface), with the original 6G6-A circuit. And boy does it sound good. All told I am in to the amp for less than $700, which is what the heads alone can sell for on eBay. Mine's not in the greatest cosmetic shape. But the tone is there!
This is my first true Fender tube amp. I got my first tube amp back in 1998, a used Laney 50w 1x12 combo. Since then I have owned a Marshall JTM310, Marshall TSL602, Mesa/Boogie Road King, Budda Superdrive 18, and a TopHat King Royale. I have been playing through the TopHat for a few years now, which is basically a Vox AC30 circuit in channel one and AC30TB circuit in channel two, modified but very similar. And I have really liked it. It cleans up pretty well when I roll back my guitars volume, but gets nice and crunchy when I open it up. And it definitely has a Vox vibe that is different from Marshall and Mesa. People like to call it "chimey", which isn't exactly how I would describe it, but it's close. It's hand built, point to point wired, and the craftsmanship is off the scale. It's a great amp. But perhaps my ears are tiring of the Vox thing, because this Bassman is really a much better sounding amp to me.
Until now I never really liked the sound I heard from Fender amps. I had a band mate once who played a HotRod Deluxe. I didn't care much for it, but it was a nice contrast to my Marshall tone at the time. And I've heard plenty of Twins and always thought they were shrill. But this Bassman is something different. It's warm, rich, and full. Yes, the clean top end can saw your head off if you're not careful. That's what Fender's do. But the 2x12 closed back cab has plenty of bass response. And I keep the treble knob right at about 12 o'clock, which is just right. Plus the old Bassman's have a presence knob, not a bright switch like later Fender circuits. So it's not an on/off thing, too bright versus not bright enough... I can dial in just the right amount of shimmer without getting too harsh.
I would say that the Bassman is not quite as dynamic as the King Royale. It doesn't crunch quite as hard, and certainly doesn't come close to the modern high-gain my Marshall's have. But it has a wonderful clean tone that beats them all! With the guitar volume rolled back just a bit it sounds like warm glass. And cranked up it does have a nice gritty bluesy classic rock tone. So there is quite a bit of range. Just not all the way there. It's a unique thing I guess. It does what it's supposed to do. None of my other amps sound as good clean or slightly pushed. Now I know why so many people swear by Fender's for clean and Marshall's for gain. Maybe a dual amp setup is in my future??
I am planning to eventually post some gear review videos, maybe do a shoot-out between a couple of my amps. Play a variety of guitars through them. Listen to the different tones they create. Maybe do a Fender vs. Marshall "clash of the titans" vid? I've been thinking for a long time that it might be fun... and educational at the same time! I figure I'll learn as much about my amps by doing it as anyone will by watching it. Maybe I'll have some time this summer...