by Adam Husk
The Deluxe Reverb is the tidy 22 watts of Fender magic that has been at the top of many guitar players wish list since 1965.
Thanks to its appetising wattage, this amp is no stranger to the live room of many recording studios around the world. Not only is it a practical and manageable volume for the studio, but its sonic characteristics are so desirable that it is considered one of the most recorded amps that has ever existed. Now, in a courageous move from Fender, the analog organs of the Deluxe Reverb have been lovingly removed from its body and replaced with a digital brain. Tone purists, brace yourselves for this months dive into the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb.
It might take more wattage from a Class D ampliﬁer to move the same amount of air as a 22 watt valve amp, but luckily these extra watts don’t mean extra weight. In fact, the best thing about the Tone Master is its new mass. At nearly half the weight of its predecessor, this ampliﬁer will see you cruising past all of the other guitarists lugging their traditional amps up the stairs to your conveniently located local venue. The pine cabinet acts as the home that encapsulates the amp’s internals, holding everything in place and protecting it from the harsh life that a guitarist’s amp is subject to. Pine has been used in many of Fenders creations and its sonic characteristics help to deliver the authentic sound of the boxes you know and love. The signal bursts and ﬂows through the pine, fusing the whole device into one resonant explosion of sound. This sound emanates from the Jenson N-12K speaker, which is designed to give the same frequency response as the Jenson C12k found in the original version of the Deluxe Reverb. The speaker utilises a neodymium magnet to further lessen the overall weight of the unit.
Fender have used the fresh digital blood ﬂowing through this beast’s veins to incorporate some additional features. Guitarists are increasingly looking for great sounding ampliﬁers at lower volume levels. As fun as it might be to rearrange your next door neighbours living room from vibrations alone, recording a loud amp tone no longer has to be a loud process. Thanks to the balanced XLR line output mounted to the rear panel, the process can actually be silent. Flick the switch on the rear into mute and the light on the front panel will turn amber to signal a silent mode. In this setting the speaker will be deactivated but the line output will still give signal. A switch next to the output gives you the ability to select between two impulse response cabinets or bypass them completely, enabling you to use whatever IR you desire. The level adjust knob also allows you to adapt the signal level from mic to line depending on what you are sending the signal into. Another additional feature, switchable from the back panel, is the output level. Full power starts at 22 watts of simulated tube amp performance. With ﬁve positions in total, you are able to attenuate the level all the way down to 0.2 watts. As the point of breakup and saturation is determined by a digital amp model, the point at which these phenomenon occur do not change. You can simply ﬁnd the sound you like at low level and then to get the same sound louder you just ﬂick up the output power a notch. This can be great for getting the perfect level on stage or at home for practise.
A large aspect of your backline is to look the part, and the traditional black Tolex suit combined with the black faceplate is an iconic image sketched into the fabric of music history. With such a historic visual, it is not a surprise that the Tone Master is only discernible from its honourable counterpart, by a badge on the front of the speaker cloth. Not only does this amp still look the part, but it sounds the part too. Even the best pair of ears would struggle to tell you whether the sound was being created by valves or technology in a blindfold test. It doesn’t sound better and it doesn’t sound worse. It sounds the same. It is clear that there is a culmination of factors that have led Fender to release this product that span outside the realms of tone. Weight is clearly a massive catalyst for the pull towards digital but so is practicality. Valves are like light bulbs, they all have different lifespans and they will need replacing at some point in time. Whether that be before you have a recording session, during a band practice or maybe even smack bang in the middle of your set. When you do away with valves all together, you eliminate the need for this type of maintenance, resulting in a much more reliable piece of kit. People may still tell you that digital does not sound as good as analog, but the digital revolution is here and it is up to you whether you want to take advantage of it. Hear it for yourself. Get down to your local store.