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.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.