Friday, May 01, 2009
Guitar Friday: The Fender Blues Jr.
by M A N
Hands down, this is my favorite amp. Which, of course, begs the question: why is a guy like me who cut his teeth with 80s shred in love with a little 15 watt peanut butter sandwich of an amp? Because. It. Sounds. Amazing.
The Blues Jr. has a single 12" speaker, 3 12AX7 tubes in the pre-amp, 2 EL84 tubes in the output section and is rated at 15 watts. 15 watts? That's it? Yep. Don't let the little size fool you. Those 15 watts pack a punch. I've annoyed more than a few neighbors when I used to have one. Naturally, this isn't going to be the amp you'd use on a large stage without any PA system, but it's perfect for studios and smaller stages.
As for the tone, you won't find anything that sounds better in its price range. It has that rich, warm tube sound that most players crave. It's great for getting SRV's tone without dropping 3 grand on a vintage Bassman amp or a tweaked out Twin. And this is where the 15 watts comes in handy. Unlike 100 watt Marshalls or Mesa Boogies , you can push the tubes into their "sweet spot" without having to turn it up so loud that it disrupts the migratory patterns of the local bird population. The Blues Jr. has a both a Volume and a Master control. The Volume controls the pre-amp and the saturation of the 3 12AX& tubes, allowing you to dial in everything from a smooth, crisp, clean sound to a fat and dirty cruch. The Master controls the overall volume of the amp, letting you crank the saturation while still keeping the neighbors happy.
Another great thing about this amp is that it is easily modified. There are several enclaves of people devoted to the tweaking and modding of these little titans, from switching out the speaker for a 12" Celestian Greenback to tweaking the bias and hotrodding the pre-amp section, turning the amp into a full-on Boogie clone.
Although the amp is versatile, it's more geared toward blues, classic rock, and country players. You can throw a Metal Zone in front of it and get all the thrash goodness you want, but the amp really shines when it's left to its own devices (though I like to throw a dyncomp and a blues driver in front). As for price, they're more expensive now than they were ten years ago, but still worth every penny. If you're looking for a stage amp that doubles as a monitor, you'll want something bigger. But if you're looking for an amp that just drips buttery tone, the Blues Jr. is for you.