Fender subtly updates a classic, delivering value, dynamics, and versatility.
Sparkly tones. Dynamic response. Great value.
Low-end loses some focus at high volumes.
Fender '68 Custom Princeton Reverb
The Princeton was never the amp for everybody, but it came pretty close. If you’re working with a loud drummer and like your tone clean as can be, it won’t take long to reach the limits of 12 watts and a ten-inch speaker. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to hear guitarists say: “If your band’s too loud for a Princeton, then your band is too loud.” The dictum is truer than ever in an age of better and more powerful P.A. systems.
Fender stopped making the original Princeton Reverb in the late ’70s, though the company has used the Princeton name for other models over the years, some of which bore little resemblance to the original. A few years ago, Fender added a Princeton Reverb to its line of ’65 Reissues, and recently introduced the ’68 Custom Princeton Reverb featuring circuit tweaks that, while less vintage-correct, are friendlier to pedals and deliver more modern and immediate response.
Despite the amp’s name, Fender is up-front about the fact that this is not a strict reissue. While the amp captures the general vibe of vintage units, it’s wired for less headroom and less negative feedback (for a more dynamic response).
Fans of Fender design minutiae will love the vintage-accurate silver-and-turquoise front panel and grille cloth, aluminum trim, and chrome hardware. In fact, the only obvious differences between the Custom ’68 and a vintage Princeton Reverb are on the rear panel, where there is now a standard cord socket, a metal cage protects the power tubes, and in a nod to 21st century safety compliance, there’s no ground switch.
The amp has two inputs (the second is padded by –6 dB). Six knobs control volume, treble, bass, reverb, and the tremolo’s speed and intensity. A blue jewel power light replaces the original red one. The rear panel is similarly streamlined: there’s a fuse, an on/off switch, two speaker outputs (one for the built-in speaker, another for an extension), a 1/4-inch TRS jack for the included vintage-style two-button footswitch (for controlling reverb and tremolo), and RCA in and out jacks for the amp’s spring reverb tank.
The tube array is vintage-correct: two 6V6 power tubes, three 12AX7s, a 12AT7 reverb driver, and a 5AR4 tube rectifier. The transformer is a Schumacher, and the speaker is a Celestion Ten 30.
It took all of one note from a Gibson ES-335 with stock ’57 Classic pickups to know I was going to like this amp. Even at living room volume, the Princeton possesses the sparkly and slightly spongy response you hope for from a good Fender amp. The nice, fat jazz sound from the neck pickup had me reaching for my Real Book. The output remained clean until the volume knob reached 4 or 5. This setting was loud and clean enough for most jazz gigs. Above that, the Princeton gets surprisingly loud and begins to break up in a most musical way.
What really knocked me out was how sensitively the amp responded to varying types of pick attack and guitar volume knob settings.
But what really knocked me out was how sensitively the amp responded to varying types of pick attack and guitar volume knob settings. With the amp’s volume around 6, I could go from playing clean chord comps with my thumb to a more saturated sound when digging in with a pick. The amp’s inherent compression narrowed the volume differences between those extremes, which makes the ’68 Princeton ideal for conveying dynamics without blowing away your bandmates in louder passage.
I also tried the Princeton with a Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Custom and loved what I heard. Played clean, the tones are quintessentially Fender, ranging from nice, jazzy warmth with the neck pickup and the guitar’s tone control rolled back, to biting bridge-pickup twang with the controls wide-open. Just for fun, I tried a Jim Campilongo-inspired move and turned the Princeton’s volume, bass, and treble knobs up all the way, controlling the volume only with the guitar. Played this way, the amp had amazing range, though it became hard to control the bass response at louder volumes. When pushed with a TS-9-style pedal, the amp provided excellent overdriven sounds.
You’d expect this amp to have sweet-sounding reverb, and it does. But as nice as the reverb sounds, complete saturation occurs with the knob at about 5 or 6, which Fender chalks up to the reduction in negative feedback. The amp’s vibrato is gorgeous, deep, and as authentic-sounding as the reverb.
The Custom ’68 Princeton Reverb is a great amp. It’s not a down-to-the-letter vintage replica, but for some players it may prove more versatile than an original. Yes, some gigging players need a little more volume than the Princeton can deliver. But anyone seeking that classic sparkly Fender tone at a less-than-boutique price needs to check out the ’68.
Review Demo - Fender '68 Custom Princeton Reverb
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.