AF’s Weblog

July 2, 2012

Fender Super Champ X2 Review

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see:  Fender Super Champ X2

In the world of guitar amps, war is raging. The transistor forces from the digital world are fighting the tubes army. Turning itself into a peace dove, Fender tries to put an end to this war by introducing a hybrid concept: the Super Champ X2. This new amp made in Mexico combines digital technology with tubes has finally seen the light of day. It’s on neutral ground so I can start examining the beast. Hopefully this leads to a peaceful co-existence.

What a Cute Combo

Fender Super Champ X2

I thought I would break my back carrying this new amp. But surprise, surprise, the newcomer is light (considering it’s an amp!), so I was able to climb up the stairs carrying it single-handedly. Aesthetically, it is very Fender looking: black vinyl covering and silver grill cloth with Fender logo. The front panel in Blackface style is not what I’d call original, but it still looks very nice. Manufactured from 1964 to 1967, the Blackface is part of Fender’s legend. Insiders will understand that I refer to the Princeton Reverb, Deluxe Reverb and Vibro champ. The dimensions are somewhat small (9.2″ x 17.5″ x 15″) and the weight reasonable (24 lbs). It will match a vintage environment perfectly. Under the hood, you’ll find all you need to have a blast! You get a pair of 6V6 power tubes for a total output power of 12 watts, one 12AX7 tube in the preamp stage and several transformers matching the tubes. The speaker is a 10” Fender Special Design allowing the combo to stay compact.

Too Much for Beginners?

Doctor J.’s minute!

Vibratone? This effect was conceived in 1941 by Donald Leslie. The Leslie cabinet (better known as Leslie Rotary Speaker) includes its own tube amplifier. A Leslie amplifies the signal and sends it to the speakers. The sound of the low-frequency speaker is sent to a closed baffle through a rotating drum while the sound of the high-frequency driver is sent to a rotary horn. This speaker cabinet creates interesting sound modulations. The source seems to move forwards and also from left to right alternatively while the loudness varies.

One of my worries with digital technology is that you have to turn and push a lot of different controls and you can’t understand anything without the user’s manual. But don’t fear this Super Champ X2: it provides only a few, easy-to-understand controls. The amp provides two separate channels based either on tube or digital technology. Both channels share the EQ section with Treble and Bass controls, the FX selector, the Tap Tempo switch, and the FX Adjust control. Each channel has its own volume control. Plus, there’s a channel selector and a 16-way Voice selector. The rear panel is even more simple: a mains power socket with On/Off switch and fuse. You also get a speaker out, a line out, a footswitch connector (unfortunately, a matching footswitch is not provided), and a USB port. When it comes to effects, we’ve been spoiled: Reverb (Large Room, Concert Hall, spring reverb, delayed reverb), Delay (130 or 300ms), Chorus (fast sweeping, deep sweeping, chorus+delay, chorus+reverb), Tremolo (slow, normal or fast speed), Vibratone (slow or fast speed).

Now let’s take a closer look…

….

Nobel Peace Prize?

The Super Champ X2 is a nice surprise. The amp models sound very good, the tube power amp adds natural warmth and compression to your tone, and you get a dedicated, easy-to-use software. Considering the wide range of amps provided, you’ll easily find your own tone, regardless of your playing style (blues, rock, ska, metal, etc.). Unfortunately, the output power (15 watts) won’t allow you to use the amp in all situations. It’s perfect for playing at home or in a recording studio, but it’s not powerful enough for rehearsals if you have to compete with a drummer. Fender won its bet with this small combo sold for $300 — and this small jewel is also available as an amp head for $250. Unfortunately, the matching footswitch is not included…

Advantages: 
  • Compact size
  • Weight
  • Voicings
  • Effects
  • Tube power stage
Drawbacks:
  • A mid setting on the front panel would be nice!
  • We wish there was a version with more output power
  • Footswitch not included…

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see:  Fender Super Champ X2

April 2, 2012

Fender Bronco Bass Combo Review

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender Bronco Bass Combo Review

Do you feel like a cowboy? Do you like the smell of ponies and old leather? Do you like riding on a weird mount and sweltering under an old stinking hat?

Me neither! Personally, I’m more of a take-the-law-into-my-own-hands kind of bass player, a guy who isn’t put off by anything except effort, and who has enough respect for stallions and bulls to avoid them. Even on an early Sunday morning after having spent a full night playing a drunk upright piano in a saloon. My Bronco is a Fender. It eats no oat but it surely spits 40 watts of power when you give it a bass guitar to chew on. Let’s go — or as they used to say in the old west: Yeehaw!

Small Pony

Fender Bronco

It’s so gray and small… And after all, it isn’t so tiny: it’s the size of a 20-liter bourbon barrel (11.25″x18″x15.25″) and weights 30 lbs. It looks pretty sleek: dark gray vinyl covering, black metal grill, only eight controls and three flashing buttons. You could almost walk past the amp without noticing it, like if it were a marmot crossing a valley. In short, it’s one more combo in a product range that already includes a dozen. Fender’s range even includes a 75 watt amp at almost the same price: the Rumble 75.

So, why should I buy an amp with less output power and a 10″ instead of a 12″ speaker? Do they think we bass players from the west are all dumb deadbeats?

“Now, hold ya horses,” says the sheriff, “yuh’re wrong, kid! The Bronco ain’t one of ’em combos like all others. Ptooie!” (that was the sheriff spitting…)

– Really? What’s in for me then? If I wanted to give my money away, I’d rather play poker in the saloon…

– Why, son, with this Bronco, yuh can ride through th’ F-key Prairies while whistling “Down th’ Mountain” in 80 different variations. An’ that ain’t nothin’! If yuh plug it into yuhr computer via th’ USB port, yuh can use it as an audio interface, edit as many presets as yuh want an’ share ’em on the web using th’ Fuse software. Yuh get ’bout 10 effects, eight amp models, an integrated tuner, an’ a free Ableton Lite version.

– Why, Sheriff you sure know a lot of things!

– Wal, kid, I jest read AudioFanzine when I ain’t have nobody t’ track down…

So, this small combo makes all these things for only $250. I’ll have to track it down to see if it’s true. Just give me a mule and my rifle, no French Cancan for me tonight…

Let’s take a closer look …

And for a few bucks less…

Like the Mustang, its counterpart for guitar players, the Bronco 40 is an appealing alternative to many products currently available on the market for about $250. The amp doesn’t have enough output power for rehearsals with a drummer, but it can be the perfect practice amp. We can also imagine ourselves in a home studio recording some bass grooves with it and taking the best out of its wide sound range. Add to that the unique, easy-to-use and intuitive software tool Fuse, the possibility to use the amp as an audio interface, the good manufacturing quality, and the value for money, and you end up with a very attractive combo for people looking for a higher-class practice bass amp.

Advantages: 
  • Good manufacturing quality
  • Ease-of-use
  • Simple control panel
  • Fuse software
  • Can be used as a (backup) audio interface
  • Value for money
Drawbacks:
  • Output power: almost too much power to play at home, but not enough for rehearsals with a drummer
  • Modulation algorithms from the same modulation stage can’t be used simultaneously
  • Some effects seem useless to me
  • Fender offers four different Mustang combos but only one Bronco

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender Bronco Bass Combo Review

July 19, 2011

Fender Super-Sonic 100 Review

We reviewed the Fender Super-Sonic 22 combo in September 2010, and it seduced us with its numerous positive features. A few months later, the American manufacturer decided to complete its range and launched the 100 Series including a 100-watt amp head, two speaker cabinets and a combo amp. Today, we want to examine the head closely…

The new 100 Series brings not only more output power, but also some very welcomed changes like an additional clean channel and a Notch Tune control in the lead channel. But let’s start at the beginning…

Unpacking

Fender Super-Sonic 100

Unpacking is rather painful because of its weight: 53 lbs. are no joke! Later on you’ll understand why the Super-Sonic 100 head is so heavy… The design is very nice and the head is available in two different finishes: Black/silver or Blond. We received the Blond version, which is a good thing because we like it better. However, the finish presented a minor problem: on one of the corners of the birch plywood cabinet, a small piece of vinyl covering was not perfectly glued. It’s a small detail but it’s a pity for an amp in this price range. The amp isn’t what you’d call compact (10.53″ x 26.25″ x 10.5″) but it includes many accessories: a nylon protection cover, a very rugged 4-button footswitch and a comprehensive user’s manual with diagrams.

Under the hood we discovered seven 12AX7 tubes for the preamp stage (the Super-Sonic 22 had only five preamp tubes), four 6L6 power tubes (twice as much as in the 22), and a pair of 12AT7 tubes for the reverb. This makes a total of 13 tubes — hopefully this won’t bring any bad luck! In short, this head is fully packed with valves, and also with a solid-state rectifier and a big transformer! Now you know why it is so heavy…

Now, let’s have a look at the front and rear panels.

Front

Fender Super-Sonic 100

The front panel provides controls for the two clean channels (yes, there are two, didn’t I mention that before?), for the lead channel and for the reverb. The controls of the clean channels are very simple: 3-band EQ (bass, mid, treble), gain and volume controls. A switch to the right of the gain allows you to select either the Showman circuitry (Twin Reverb Blackface) or the Bassman circuitry (Tweed Vintage). Note that if you crank up the volume of the clean channel, the gain acts as a single volume control like old vintage Fender amps did. Another switch turns the lead channel on. The latter offers more settings than the clean channel… First of all, it has two gain controls — primary and secondary gain — allowing you to set respectively the distortion amount and sustain. In fact, the second one allows you to thicken the sound and make everything sound fatter. You also get a 3-band EQ and a volume control. But the main new feature in this channel is the Notch Tune setting, which gives you the possibility to choose the frequency affected by the mid band of the EQ. This allows you to go from a typical American sound to a more “British” response and everything in between. As you can hear in the sound samples, this control changes the tone radically and allows you to freely shape your sound. We had already seen similar features in competitor products (Blackstar) and we are happy to find it again on Fender’s Super-Sonic! Let’s close this front panel overview with the reverb, a spring Accutronics system like on the small 22-watt combo we already reviewed: Why change a winning team?

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

There is no doubt that this amp will make many 6-string addicts green with envy after they read this review. This amp head is very close to being perfect: it provides a wide range of clean tones, it can deliver a good crunch sound and offers a very versatile lead channel thanks to its Notch Tune control. Add the spring reverb, the effect loop, the auto-bias facility, the damping control, the 25-watt mode, and the 4-button footswitch and you get a perfect amp… if you can afford it! In case you like Fender’s clean tone (but not only) and have the money, don’t hesitate and go for it!

Advantages:

  • Look and reliability
  • Available in black or blond finish
  • Two complementary clean channels
  • Crunch sound
  • Very effective lead channel
  • Notch Tune control that increases the possibilities greatly
  • Accutronics spring reverb
  • 100 or 25 watt selection
  • Perfect 4-button footswitch
  • Auto-bias
  • Damping control
  • FX loop

Drawbacks:

  • Rather expensive
  • Rather heavy

To read the full detailed review see:  Fender Super-sonic 100

February 21, 2011

Fender Rumble 150 Review

Filed under: Amps, Bass — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:11 pm

I got a bit nostalgic when I wrote this review. I was 16 when my first amp was waiting for me under the Christmas tree. Not a 15-watt amp but a big one. To play in a band, do live gigs and be cheered by a wild crowd. In short, I could stop playing by myself in my room. The amp was almost more bulky than the Christmas tree: it was a second-hand Fender BXR 300, a huge combo with casters. I played my first live gig with it — this 15″ amp brings back lots of memories.

Sixteen years later, I’m reviewing the Rumble 150. This descendant of the BXR is conceived for bass players looking for a first amp to play in a band — like I did at that time. Let me wipe a tear… And now, let’s get on with the review!

Workhorse

Fender Rumble 150

64 lbs, impressing size (13.4″ x 22.8″ x 23.6″) and 150 effective watts. A big 15″ woofer, a tweeter for high frequencies (it was missing on my BXR) and enough volume to provide a big and deep sound. The manufacturer kept the front port for the bass-reflex (it’s the third generation), and removed the bright LEDs and the carpet covering. The latter is replaced with a black textured vinyl covering. Carpet or vinyl? It’s all a matter of taste. Personally, I don’t like to dust nor vacuum clean. On the other side, Tolex is easily marked. It’s an aesthetic or practical choice.

The front side is sleek and simple, which is a good thing: just a black protection grill and a black panel with white silkscreen. As for controls and connections, everything is on the front panel. Nothing on the rear panel except the power connector. The connections are quite comprehensive: instrument input (with active/passive switch), effect loop, RCA aux input (for connection to a PC, MP3 player…), phones output, footswitch connector (for overdrive control), and XLR line output.

Fender Rumble 150

The amp also provides numerous settings: gain control, overdrive section (with gain, balance and bypass), two shape switches (punch and scoop), four-band EQ, and an on/off switch for the tweeter.

As mentioned in the headline, the Rumble 150 is equipped with four rugged casters. It also has two recessed side handles with springs, which are a bit too thin for my taste. However, they do their job. I love casters! What would be of our backs it it weren’t for them? Considering the price, it’s not surprising that the amp and preamp stages use solid-state technology. A big fan on the rear panel ensures cooling, and it also makes a bit of noise. This noise is not deafening but it is clearly audible when you aren’t playing.

So, what’s new? To make it short, the Rumble 150 has more output power than its predecessor. Indeed, the whole product range got more watts, except for the Rumble 15. I guess nobody is going to complain for getting 50 watts more, plus overdrive. The manufacturer doesn’t offer the 2×10″ alternative, which is a good choice considering that users of this amp want to play loud and heavy rather than gently.

The product is made in China. The overall manufacturing and finish quality is good. Ok, now let’s plug a bass guitar! For this review, I used my American PB deluxe 5, a Boss RC-20 (my faithful sampler on stage) and a Zoom H2.

As well as a pair of cables — never forget the essentials!

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

My impression at the end of the review is that the combo provides a wide sound range, in spite of its rather sophisticated sound character. The sound samples show that the user can shape the sound easily to find the tone he wants. A very good point if this is your first amp. If you are a beginner, you probably don’t really know what kind of music you’ll end up playing.

It’s always important to stay open and have the possibility to become an all-round bass player and have fun with any music genre. Considering its price, the Rumble 150 is an interesting product for musicians who start playing in a band and want enough output power for that. The quality and value for money are good. Give it a try and compare it with competitor products.

Advantages:

  • Value for money
  • Actual output power
  • Easy setting
  • Versatility
  • Casters

Drawbacks:

  • Tweeter distorts at loud volumes
  • Neutral sound character, especially when the tweeter is off
  • I’m too old for such gifts under the Christmas tree… I want my youth back!

To read the full detailed article see:  Fender Rumble 150 Review

September 20, 2010

Fender Super-Sonic 22 Combo Review

In 2006, we saw the new Fender amps, dubbed Super-Sonic, with 60 watts under the hood and available in head or combo version. In 2010 we see a combo version of 22 Watts, sharing characteristics of its older brother. It sounds very clean and Fendery, with also saturated and high gain tones as well. Focus on the Super-Sonic Combo 22 today…

Fender Super-Sonic 22 Combo

Fender amps are known and recognized for their clean sounds, sometimes bright with models like the Vibrolux, sometimes warm and full with other references, like the famous Bassman.  But for heavily distorted sounds, the story is different, and guitarists are often forced to resort to overdrive or distortion pedals in order to saturate an amplifier lacking a real overdrive channel.  So we could have just stopped there and continued to adore the clean Fender amp sounds and happily connect our pedals to make some noise. But Fender wished otherwise, launching the Super-Sonic series, whose main goal is to offer both clean sounds worthy of their greatest signature amps, and overdriven sounds, very overdriven tones to please biggest fans of sturdier sounds.

The going fashion is to have low power (relative) tube amps.  Fender is spoiling us with a version a bit quieter than the previous 60 Watts. The Super-Sonic has 22 watts under the hood, and is available in two finishes, black or blonde (cream).  We received the black version for this review, but we would have preferred the iconic 1961 blond treatment, which matches better with the cream plastic knobs.  But it’s not too bad, the black version is still very nice…

We Unpack

Fender Super-Sonic 22 Combo

The combo is made of birch/maple plywood 1.9 cm thick and has the following measurements: 21.6 x 61 x 44.1 cm and measures 18.2 kg on the scale, which is quite reasonable without making a traveler’s amp out of it!  The look of the amp is very classic, with the old school script metal logo, the ivory ‘radio’ knobs and the large red LED on switch.  The grille cloth covering is black vinyl on the blond version, and gray on the black versions. The “Dog Bone” handle on the top of the amp is plastic, but looks very solid, and metal reinforcements are placed at the bottom four corners of the amp cabinet.   Everything looks good to handle things down the road and finish is impeccable.  In the box we are provided in addition to instructions, diagrams showing the guts of the amp. The latter, for sure will be the conversation topic at your next dinner party….guaranteed!   The icing on the cake: a nylon cover is provided to protect your precious from dust- classy!

Under the hood, we find no fewer than five lamps for preamp section:  three 12AX7 and two 12AT7, and two 6V6 power tubes for the amplification (modeled on the Deluxe Reverb). The lamps are protected by a gate at the back of the amp, just above the 12 inches (31 cm) speaker, a “Lightning Bolt” model by Eminence.

Let’s see what the Super-Sonic offers us now in terms of settings and connections …

Conclusion

For about $1400, Fender offers us a 22 Watts all tube amp of flawless quality.  The look is very successful and it has ample power to play quietly in groups.   The clean sounds are typically Fender for our delight, the crunch sounds are not standing still, and we have a real distorted channel, to top it all off.   Add to that an effects loop, Fender long-spring Reverb by Accutronics®, robust and complete pedals and a protective cover, and you get a receiver complete and flawless.  We only lament the price and weight, both a bit high for a 22 Watts. But when you get this sound, we are ready to make such concessions!

Fender Super-Sonic 22 Combo
Advantages:
  • Quality Manufacturing
  • Successful Look
  • Available in two finishes
  • Signature Fender clean sounds
  • Some very interesting crunch tones
  • A true saturated channel, ready to rock
  • Accutronics spring reverb
  • Adequate power for group play
  • Boost on the clean channel
  • Pedal 4 switches very robustly
  • Eminence Speakers

Drawbacks:

  • A 22 Watts at $1400
  • Moderately heavy and bulky for a 22 Watt
  • Not suitable for extreme metal
  • Heavily saturated tube distortion and sustain

To read the full detailed articles with sound samples see:  Fender Super-Sonic 22 Review

January 29, 2010

[NAMM 2010] Fender Rumble™ Bass Amps

Watch this and other videos/news from NAMM 2010 here.

December 10, 2009

Fender Bassman TV : Old-School Amp

Filed under: Amps, Bass — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 3:48 pm

Bassman TV Twelve Review

The 50’s saw the birth of the first electric bass guitars by Leo Fender with the famous Precision Bass model. Inevitably, the first Bassman amps with their tweed covering quickly appeared on the market. To celebrate its non-birthday, Fender introduces a new amp series based on these pioneer models.

Fender Bassman TV SeriesFender has always made good use of the desire most guitar and bass players have for legendary instruments that are very difficult to get a hold of nowadays. Obviously, that also applies to bass amps. That’s why Fender introduced the new Bassman TV Series whose look and sound is very close to the Bassman amps of the early 50’s.

The series includes four models: the Duo Ten equipped with two “Fender Special Design” Eminence 10″ speakers, the Fifteen with one Celestion Green Label 15″ speaker, the Ten with one Celestion Green Label 10″ speaker, and the Twelve equipped with one Celestion Green Label 12″. We will test the latter in this review. For your information, both the Duo Ten and the Fifteen are equipped with casters which is a good idea considering their weight (61.3 lb).

As soon as you unpack it you’ll be immediately seduced by the old-fashioned tweed covering, the chrome chassis with mirror effect (so you can redo your hair), the black chicken head knobs… It isn’t missing anything! The Twelve, with its 12″ speaker, is quite heavy (44.6 lb) and bulky (20″ x 22″ x 12.75″). In other words, it’s huge! The manufacturing and finish quality leave no doubt about its sturdiness–it will surely withstand long rehearsals, studio sessions and live gigs without a hitch. The old Fender logo, the small red light and the cloth grill in front of the speaker round up this compelling Bassman TV. The plastic handle is the only minor drawback–we’d rather have a leather one.

Now let’s take a closer look under the hood….

Conclusion

Fender understood that nostalgia is not only a guitarist’s thing. Even though they, once again, combine some new with some old stuff, the look and the sound quality of this Bassman TV are a real joy. The amp is easy to use, has a personal look and an awesome sound. What could you not like about it? That it’s unique: it has a particular sound and personality and you won’t get anything else out of it. You either like it or not!

Advantages:

  • Sexy look
  • Manufacturing quality
  • Great vintage sound
  • Ease of use
  • Musical and effective controls
  • XLR output
  • Personality…

Drawbacks:

  • … but poor versatility
  • The bright switch is inconsequential
  • No standby switch

To read the full detailed article see:  Fender Bassman TV 12 Review

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