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Boom Boxes: 5 Amps That Define the Music We Hear—and the Gear We Play

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Fender “Blackface” Twin Reverb

Seven years after their very first amplifiers began rolling off the line, Fender introduced the original “wide panel” tweed Twin. Its 25 watts excelled at clean, loud tones that were great for country artists and others who were playing in larger venues. The Twin joined the ranks of the Bandmaster, Champ, Princeton, Deluxe, Super, Pro, and Bassman in 1953, but it took another 10 years for the much louder, 85-watt Twin Reverb—with its sleek, “blackface” cosmetics—to emerge.

 

The Twin Reverb wasn’t Fender’s first reverb-equipped amp—that prize goes to the Vibroverb, which came out in February 1963. The Twin Reverb followed in September, and the Deluxe Reverb and Super Reverb also came out that year.

Modern-Day Alternatives

Fender’s reverb boom wasn’t over, though: The Princeton Reverb debuted in ’64, and the Pro Reverb came out in ’65. For a long lineage of guitarists, however, the Twin started a love affair that’s still going strong more than 50 years later.

Originally, the 2-channel, 10-tube amp’s “normal” and “vibrato” channels each sent the guitar signal through both halves of a 7025 tube—a low-microphonics military version of a 12AX7. The vibrato channel uses another half of a 7025 tube for a second gain stage. A 12AT7 phase inverter sends the preamp signal to four 6L6GC tubes driving a pair of 12" speakers—usually ceramic-magnet models like a Jensen C12 or an Oxford 12T6, though alnico-magnet JBL D120Fs were available for an upcharge.

The Twin Reverb on Record



The Beatles Abbey Road

 

 

Mike Bloomfield Super Session



Buck Owens and His Buckaroos Carnegie Hall Concert
 

 


Eric Johnson Ah Via Musicom


 

Nirvana In Utero

The reverb section uses both halves of a 12AT7 for the driver, and half of a 7025 for the return (sharing that tube with the vibrato channel’s second gain stage). The vibrato circuit uses both halves of a 12AX7. The rectifier is a solid-state unit.

Fender produced Twin Reverbs through 1986, though they changed considerably along the way, most notably with the 1968 switch to “silverface” cosmetics. According to Jeff Bober, Premier Guitar’s Ask Amp Man columnist and owner of EAST Amplification, the first year’s worth of silverface Twins’ bias, phase-inverter, and output-stage circuits differed from their predecessors, resulting in a semi-cathode-biased design that reduced overall volume and had a tendency to compress much more easily. The next year saw a return to the louder fixed-bias design, though the other changes remained—and more would follow (including the curious 1972 introduction of a master volume).

In 1982, Fender attempted to modernize and diversify the Twin Reverb sound with the Paul Rivera-designed Twin Reverb II, which shunned the tremolo circuit and adopted a distortion control. In 1992, the Twin Reverb’s venerated history led to the ’65 Twin Reverb Reissue line, which is based on early blackface models and continues to be a favorite for a wide variety of players to this day.

The classic Twin sound is the powerful, bell-like tone of early blackface models. Twins have been used by the Beatles, Mike Bloomfield, Jerry Garcia (his first amp was a ’63 Twin Reverb that he used for most of his career), Keith Richards, Don Rich, Steve Howe, B.B. King, James Burton, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Eric Johnson, and even Kurt Cobain. In short, Twins have been and are everywhere. They’re clean at virtually any volume, making them a nice jazz amp or an impeccable blank canvas for pedal experimentation—which is why pedal manufacturers and reviewers often use them to audition pedals.

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