Even with a recipe that''s concocted from familiar old-school Fender elements, the Vibro-King sings with a unique voice that’s suited to a variety of blues and classic rock settings.
Though you might not know it from a casual glance, the Fender Vibro-King is a relative newcomer, at least in amp years. When introduced in 1993, the twin Vibro-King was a Custom Shop amp—handwired and vintage styled. The Bruce Zinky-designed circuit wasn’t a reissue of a classic Fender tone machine, but rather a re-imagining of what a Fender amp could be using key elements of older amps. Over the years the circuit was refined–the early models used an EL84 tube for reverb, but it was replaced with a 6V6 to give it more durability. As it evolved it’s found favor among some very high-profile players, most notably Pete Townshend, who uses them as the foundation for his stage tone, but also Tom Petty, and blues wunderkind Gary Clark Jr.
Never one to miss an anniversary, Fender has reissued the Vibro-King in all of its wooly-toned glory. Unlike a lot of Fender’s most classic amps, the Vibro-King isn’t exactly a clean slate in the vein of a Twin Reverb. And at times, it’s a sensitive beast that bites back when provoked. Still, there’s a lot of unmistakably vintage Fender tones on tap, and when combined with some washy Fender reverb and perhaps a dollop of vintage-style vibrato, you can cover everything from raging Dick Dale-style surf runs and Bakersfield twang to higher gain tones less associated with the iconic Southern California brand.
A Heavy Classic
The Vibro-King’s front panel will look familiar to players that salivate over vintage Fender amps. On the far left side there are two inputs (hi and low gain) and dwell, mix, and tone controls for the reverb. The middle section contains a fat switch, volume, treble, bass, and mid tone controls, and speed and intensity knobs for the vibrato. Both the vibrato and fat switch can be controlled by the included 2-button footswitch. You won’t need to break out the manual to summon a wide variety of great tones out of this amp. It’s pretty intuitive and forgiving. But taking time to find sweet spots for the mid and treble is worth the effort.
The three-speaker array is based on three 25-watt alnico Jensen P-10R-Fs, not unlike what you might see in a tweed Bassman. Along with the substantial birch-ply cabinet (or pine, depending on your preference), they contribute to a heft that’s a lot less common in these small-combo leaning days. And weighing more than either a Twin Reverb or a Super Reverb, it’s likely to prompt a lot blue language among stage hands and bandmates charged with hauling it offstage.
Let’s Get Loud
I grabbed a Stratocaster loaded with Rio Grande pickups to test the amp’s headroom. With the reverb set for a comfortable but not cavernous wash, I lined up all the tone controls at high noon and started the volume at about 2. With 60 watts at my disposal, opening up the amp even that much pushed the limits of comfortable bedroom level, but that crisp Fender clean sound was very present. Although the Vibro-King didn’t have that buttery clean sound that you hear in say, a Princeton, it did have plenty of spank and when I switched to the bridge pickup, I had more than enough treble and cut to push through a muddy band mix. Pushing the volume up to about 4 reveals how incredibly touch responsive the amp is. With my guitar’s volume just about halfway up, I was able to get some pretty robust clean tones, and moving the Strat’s volume knob through the upper half of its range tapped into that sweet compressed tube overdrive. You can access those same compressed tones with more aggressive pick attack too. And every time I tried to trick the Vibro-King with some sudden dynamic shift the amp was right there with me. It’s very responsive. And while headroom isn’t exactly plentiful (once you move past about 4, the amp breaks up rather easily), it will stay relatively clean at the volumes you need for a small club gig.
One of the best and most useful features on the Vibro-King is the fat switch. I tended to almost always prefer the tone with the switch in the on position, regardless of volume. It gave the pickups in my Stratocaster a pronounced girth and tamed the gnarlier treble output. The humbuckers in a Squier Tele Deluxe made the fat switch’s impact less pronounced but it didn’t muddy the signal significantly. And in mid-to-low gain situations, the added muscle of the humbuckers pushed the Vibro-King’s preamp into a full, natural overdrive.
In order to replicate the amazing sounding reverb tanks of the early ’60s, Fender placed the tube-driven reverb before the preamp circuit—just as if you had an old Fender tank sitting on your amp. This small, but important, difference means the reverb compresses the tone a bit more at higher volumes.
With controls for dwell, tone, and mix and a 6V6 tube driving the works, the reverb can move from washed-out ambient textures and dark, brooding soundscapes to bright-and-springy surf tones that just beg for heavy strings and fast picking. Cranking the dwell and mix knobs gets you the chaotic and organic crashing sounds that few reverbs apart from a Fender can provide. The tone knob is arguably the MVP of the reverb control trio. And it’s especially useful on the darker side of the spectrum when you want the reverb to work more seamlessly with a delay. In total, it’s about the best, and most useful, reverb I have found on any of Fender’s latest amp offerings.
Even though the Vibro-King recipe is concocted from familiar old-school Fender elements, it sings with a unique voice that’s suited to a variety of blues and classic rock settings. The higher-gain settings are a great fit for most ’70s rock. And if you prefer a slightly cleaner—but not pristine—palette for coloring with pedals, the Vibro-King can cover those bases too. The Vibro-King’s abundant character is helped a lot by the 3x10 speaker configuration and the big 100-watt transformer, but in the end the amazing responsiveness is the real star. With a good sense of dynamics, a player can squeeze out a set’s worth of tones with a few simple twists of the guitar’s volume and tone knobs–a real throwback to the days when your feet weren’t dancing around an assortment of different colored LEDs. Combining that with a muscular punch makes the Vibro-King a modern-day classic.
Watch our video demo:
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.