Silver & Black

A brief history of Fender’s heavyweight champ amp—plus, how to make it float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

“If an alien came to earth and wanted to hear an American guitar sound, I’d play him my Twin with a set of Jensens.”

I found this statement many years ago and it summarizes my feelings about the Twin Reverb, the flagship of Fender amps. So, let me share my insights about the biggest brother in the Fender family and discuss speakers, tube swaps, and how to unlock its secrets. My goal is to turn you all into educated fans of this legendary amp that has somewhat lost its place in the modern world. But first, a few facts.

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A close-up look at the author’s Fender Vibrolux, with a 12" Celestion Alnico Gold on the preamp side of the amp and a lighter, 10" neodymium Jensen Jet Series on the other.

How to expand classic Fender amp sounds with different speaker configurations.

As you know, replacing or augmenting the speakers of your Fender amps is the easiest way to organically change your guitar tone. So, let’s discuss some alternative speaker configurations for classic Fenders. We’ll also explore some basic knowledge about resistance, current, and power distribution along the way, which will enable you to safely experiment.

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Need more headroom or gain? Spin the bottles.

[Originally published: 9/2/2019]
You might guess from the title of this column that I love Fender amps. And you’d be right. From a musical and engineering perspective, I think vintage Fender blackface amps are the best ever made. With bright, American-style speakers, they deliver pure and natural tone. Their channels, with volume and EQ, are intuitive for any guitar, bass, or keyboard player. It’s impossible to not find a decent tone in less than 10 seconds. From a technical perspective, their handmade tube-based circuits are simple, and they were built with high-quality components. And today, there are easily available parts and schematics, and an abundance of other online technical information, which makes it possible for many techs and players—including you—to service these amps.

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The author’s Collings D2H rests on his favorite Fender amp combination for acoustic guitar: a Bandmaster Reverb atop a 1x12 extension cab with an Eminence Maverick inside. The amp has a custom-made baffle board with two 8" speakers, so can go it alone for smaller gigs.

Interested in plugging a flattop into your favorite silver- or black-panel beauty? Here’s what you need to know.

Have you ever tried to plug your acoustic guitar into a classic-style Fender amp? There are some hurdles to overcome, and this month I’ll provide some advice on how to get past them. But first, some background.

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