Tone Spotlight: Fender

When a company lasts as long as Fender has, eras begin to emerge from historical analysis that help organize an otherwise complex story. Continuous evolution begins to take shape as a series of milestones that proceed logically from one to the next. Any developer will tell you that during these periods of intense growth this is about as far from the truth as it can get. Only in hindsight do things become much clearer.

The Fender lineage is organized most obviously by appearance, beginning with wooden frames; then covered in tweed; shifting to brown or white then black vinyl; ending with black vinyl and a silver control panel. Each design has a pet name. Generally speaking, these names identify specific traits about physical appearance. Here’s how were going to break down the legacy:

  • FROM WOODIES TO TWEED – 1946-53
  • A LESSON IN TONE AND TREMOLO – 1953-60
  • WHITE, BROWN, AND BLACKFACE – 1960-67 Part I
  • PIGGY BACKING – 1960-67 Part II
  • SILVERFACE AND POST-CBS – 1968-81
From Woodies to Tweed
Woodie

We are going to start with the period of time dating from 1946-48 where the “Woodie” lineup had already taken shape. Doc Kauffman had just left the company. A new logo was designed naming only Fender, and each amplifier had at least a Volume control or a Volume and Tone control for higher-end models. The lineup was specifically designed to feature larger speaker sizes, presumably to allow for more power handling, i.e. louder volume.

 

FROM WOODIES TO TWEED – 1946-53
Model Woodie T.V. Front Wide Panel
1946-48 1948-53 1953-55
Deluxe
1×10 1×12 ~
Princeton
1×8  ~ ~
Pro
1×15 ~ ~*
Super
2×10 ~ ~*
Champ
1×8  1×6  ~
Bassman
1×15 ~*
~ : carries forward the same dimension from the previous era
* : Bass + Treble and Presence, as opposed to a single Tone control
T.V. Front

As you can see from this period, Leo Fender was fine tuning their lineup, shifting the Champ to avoid redundancy in the product line. Power handling, cabinet size, and tone electronics were all in flux at this time. The next phase of growth would see new models coupled with a revised tone circuit for more control.

Note: The “tweed” fabric used on this era of Fender amplifiers is actually cotton twill. The choice was inspired by linen fabric offered on high grade airplane luggage. In other words, it was meant to be durable.

A Lesson in Tone and Tremolo
Wide Panel

It’s hard to imagine a time when amplifiers did not have Bass, Middle, and Treble controls but this was the reality in 1953. Interestingly, the initial premise for providing more control over tone was to allow for less distortion at louder volumes. In today’s terms that might seem counterintuitive but the intent was to remove unwanted distortion from signals that might present an unbalanced frequency response to the power amplifier.

A LESSON IN TONE AND TREMOLO – 1953-60
Model T.V. Front Wide Panel Narrow Panel
1948-53 1953-55 1955-60
Bassman
1×15 1×15* 4×10
Twin
2×12 ~
Bandmaster
1×15 3×10
Tremolux
1×12
Vibrolux
1×10
~ : carries forward the same dimension from the previous era
* : Bass + Treble (and Presence for non-Tremolo models), as opposed to a single Tone control
† : Bass + Middle + Treble controls, the classic Fender tone stack
‡ : Built-in Tremolo circuit, Speed and Depth controls
Narrow Panel

Note: Tremolo was first offered in guitar amplifiers as early as 1947 by companies like Danelectro, Multivox, and Gibson. It’s not clear why Leo Fender hesitated on making the decision to pad the lineup with built-in effects. However once established, these effects would become defining characteristics of the Fender legacy.

Hear It For Yourself with AmpStamp
VG207A Amplifier
VG1X12C15W68 Cabinet

The VG207A Amplifier paired with the VG1X12C15W68 Cabinet is modeled after a Tweed Tremolux with a speaker upgrade, typically done at the factory between 1963-67. This model most notably introduced tremolo into the Fender lineup. Reference tones include Eric Clapton’s sound from Derek and the Dominoes, as well as Larry Carlton’s searing leads from Steely Dan.

White, Brown, and Blackface
Blackface

Despite having a sizable roster of amplifiers to offer, introducing new models was a way to highlight new features. Introduced at the NAMM show in 1959, the Vibrasonic was covered in Tolex brand vinyl, sported a 15″ Lansing speaker, and offered a new type of tremolo/vibrato circuit. And though standard today, the controls were now placed on the front of the amplifier for easier access when behind the player.

While the Concert was a way to bring Tremolo to the Bassman-style circuit along with an updated design, it was the Vibroverb that would set the standard for the next era of Fender amplifiers with the inclusion of built-in Reverb.

WHITE, BROWN, AND BLACKFACE – 1960-67 Part I
Model White/Brown Tolex Black Tolex
1960-63 1963-67
Vibrasonic
1×15§
Concert
4×10 ~
Vibroverb
2×10 1×15
All amplifiers listed came with Built-in Tremolo, Speed and Intensity controls
§ : Stock Lansing speaker (JBL)
‖ : Built-in Reverb circuit, Reverb control

Though these models were all short lived, they set the tone for the Fender lineup: black Tolex with built-in Tremolo and Reverb. Simple but classic, and thus the Blackface era was born. By the end of 1965, most models would be updated in this way:

  • ’63 Deluxe Reverb
  • ’64 Princeton Reverb (1×10)
  • ’65 Pro Reverb
  • ’63 Super Reverb (4×10)
  • ’64 Vibro Champ (Tremolo only, 1×8)
  • ’63 Twin Reverb
  • ’64 Vibrolux Reverb (2×10)

† : Bass + Middle + Treble controls, the classic Fender tone stack

For the amplifier models not called out in this list, if they weren’t discontinued, they would find a new place in the Fender lineup as “piggy-back” models.

Piggy Backing
Piggyback

Continuing the challenge of getting more volume with less distortion, Fender augmented their lineup by separating some amplifiers from their speakers. This allowed the speaker cabinet to have a more optimal design. Promotional material from this era describes a new enclosure having a speaker Projector Ring which eliminated cancellation of front and rear radiation… essentially allowing mid- and high-frequencies to be turned up louder while wasting less energy on bass-frequencies.

PIGGY BACKING – 1960-67 Part II
Model Piggy Back
1960-63 1963-67
Showman
1×15 2×15
Bassman
1×12 2×12
Bandmaster
1×12 2×12
Tremolux
1×10 2×10
‡ : Built-in Tremolo circuit, Speed and Depth controls
Silverface and Post-CBS

Unable to cope with the rapid expansion, Leo Fender eventually gave the signal to begin talks to prepare to sell the company. In 1965 Fender was sold to CBS for $13 million. The CBS takeover was another era-defining moment. In fact, collectors are absolutely sure to note items that come from this post-CBS era; they are of no interest.

After a difficult initial period attempting to convince players to explore their new Solid-State line of amplifiers, CBS turned to Fender’s classics and decided to revamp them for the modern era. This involved both cosmetic and electronics “improvements.” Namely, the power supply and bias circuitry were updated to remove unwanted feedback and stabilize higher power amplifiers. Ultimately, these updates were sonically undesirable, leaving most amplifiers sounding less aggressive than their previous incarnations when turned up.

Hear It For Yourself with AmpStamp
VG205E Amplifier
VG2X12C100W68 Cabinet

The VG205E Amplifier paired with the VG2X12C100W68 Cabinet is modeled after a Silverface Twin Reverb with a speaker upgrade, typically done at the factory between 1963-67. The amplifier also shipped with built-in reverb and tremolo. Reference tones include Keith Richards circa Sticky Fingers, as well as several Grunge Rock artists of the ’90’s when paired with a distortion pedal.

The 35 year period detailed here is without question the core foundation of the Fender legacy. These amplifiers continue to inspire musicians old and new to make their best work. Experience some of these amplifiers for yourself with our application for iOS devices, AmpStamp. Find your sound and get started on your next masterpiece.

Sources

• Teagle and Sprung. Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1995. Print.
https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/19777-a-brief-history-of-tremolo
https://reverb.com/news/fenders-don-randall-offers-revisionist-take-on-leo-cbs-and-the-compnays-early-days-bacons-archive
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fender_Musical_Instruments_Corporation

AmpStamp Presets: V1.4

With the release of AmpStamp V1.4 we’d like to highlight a few sounds that combine some of the latest gear now available in the shop. We’ve added a classic tweed combo, another legendary 4×12 cabinet, one of the baddest fuzz effects, and the ultimate phaser. Let’s dig in!

Import All 4 PresetsImport All 4 Presets


Immodium

What’s left to say about such a classic fuzz? We provided three of the most desired variations and in this preset are running the pedal through a hybrid combo for best tone. But the whole point is to find your own sound and I think it won’t be hard with this effect. Make sure to tweak the Miller capacitance setting under the More Control section.

Import this preset – ImmodiumImport this preset – Immodium


Two Speed

This phaser has turned up on more recordings than you would expect. From classic recordings in the 70’s considered cutting edge at the time to grunge rock artists in the 90’s probably looking to revisit the sounds they grew up hearing, it’s an endlessly fun pedal due mostly to its complexity of control. Stacking two phasers seems like a simple task but once you start experimenting you’ll see it’s easy to get lost in the details. Best advice is to forget about the signal path and focus on what sounds good to your ear.

Import this preset – Two SpeedImport this preset – Two Speed


Larryland

When Mr. 335 came to this particular session it was just like any other. He grabbed his guitar, grabbed his amp, and headed over. What was not clear was that the combination of his signature “sweet” tone would explode when collided with the songwriting capabilities of the members of Steely Dan. Not to mention his ability to craft amazing lead lines over some of rock’s most complex progressions, it’s safe to say this classic studio tone is still in demand.

Import this preset – LarrylandImport this preset – Larryland


Lady

The mid-70’s… disco, electronic art music, “middle of the road,” acoustic jazz, it was an interesting decade. The “Me” decade. If musicians learned one thing from this time period it was that the fuzz goes after the phaser, but that wouldn’t be so for Ernie Isley. Wanting to take advantage of some of the latest effects technology for guitarists he would have to learn this lesson for himself. And with a top ten single we all got to experience this amalgamation. Considered a classic today, it’s now yours to avoid at all cost and secretly cherish at the same time.

Import this preset – LadyImport this preset – Lady

AmpStamp V1.4 – Legendary Tone

We think you’re going to love this next revision of AmpStamp, version 1.4. It’s vintage gear done right so you can sound closer to recorded tones, more than ever before. There are so many sounds packed into this release we didn’t know where to begin so lets just start by giving an overview of what’s new. Stay tuned for more detail about how to achieve some seriously legendary tones with our Classic Sounds Series.

Classic Combo

VG207A AmplifierWe’re sure by now that you’ve heard of the mojo tweed amplifiers can add to your playing. Loaded with an upgraded speaker (VG 1X12C 15W ’68 Cabinet), this amp will place you in one of several places… a hot studio in Miami recording some assorted love songs, the studio scene in LA circa 1976/77, or amidst the second guitar revolution that was launched in 1978. Regardless of the year the tone is unmistakable so make sure to check out the VG207A Amplifier, you won’t be disappointed.

Another 100W Cabinet?

VG 4X12B 100W '73 CabinetYou heard us right, we have another 100W cabinet, this time capturing classic tone from 1973. This cabinet barks and howls at exactly the right moments bringing you instantly into it’s sonic temple. From quiet finger-picked passages to blistering leads and everything in between, make sure to check out the VG4X12B100W73 Cabinet.

Heavy Fuzz

FZ104A FuzzSpeaking of blistering leads, get ready for some serious fuzz with the FZ104A Fuzz. What’s most impressive is how different this pedal sounds depending on which amplifier it’s being run through. We encourage experimentation and think you’ll find some really interesting tones. Turning the tone down will add more bass helping to overdrive small combos while turning it up will yield a high end sizzle ready to cut through any mix.

Ultimate Phaser

PH102B PhaserLast but not least is this awesome pedal, the PH102B Phaser. There is a lot going on with this effect. Simple put, it’s two phasers in one. And you can run them in series or parallel, with the latter configuration giving its characteristic deep phase effect. But that’s just where the fun begins, the second phaser can be controlled by a second LFO. In this configuration setting different speeds for each LFO will provide endless variations on some very unpredictable rhythms. Then each LFO can be toggled between sine and square waves for even more interesting effects. As if that weren’t enough we also provided a twist that allows the first LFO to be modulated by the second LFO. Needless to say there are a lot of options. Oh and try adjusting LDR sensitivity for a more mellow or brighter sound.

Same Subscription, More Great Products

As always, we think you’ll find that AmpStamp has endless variations of tone to satisfy guitar players in any genre of music. If you are already a subscriber then thank you! If you haven’t subscribed yet, then hurry up! You’re missing out! Check out our product page for more details and stay tuned for new products.

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Celebrate the Summer of Love

At The Musicology Group we’re constantly searching for vintage gear, listening to classic records, and reading various articles to build a picture of what artists were using in the studio when recording some of their most famous works. Whether trying to assemble a collection of different gear or taking one element and tweaking it to perfection, it has to sound good and it has to sound right.

With that kind of mission statement it’s no less than a miracle when we find the right piece of gear that not only sounds good but sounds right. This is the magic we have captured with the VG 4x12A 100W ’67 Cabinet. Plucked from the confines of a home lost to time, nearly invisible to passerby, it’s what makes for a great quest. We think you’ll agree we have captured the sound of the Summer of Love, the year 1967.

Along with the VG402B Amplifier, your tone will be unmistakably familiar. And you won’t hear it anywhere else as manufacturing techniques and circuit designs after this point went through dramatic change. The intent was to improve upon previous limitations but the result was to isolate a period of rock n’ roll history with a unique sound. Stay tuned as we continue to revisit a long list of classic tones for the electric guitar through our app for iOS, AmpStamp.

AmpStamp Presets: V1.3

With the release of AmpStamp V1.3 we’d like to highlight two sounds that combine some of the latest gear now available in the shop. We’ve added an earlier version of our classic non-master volume amplifier accompanied by its legendary cabinet, another classic 2×12 cabinet featured in several piggy back models of its era, a most recognizable tape echo, and our first foray into EQ effects. There is a lot to explore!

Import All 2 PresetsImport All 2 Presets


Sol

Summer, 1967. AKA the Summer of Love. San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, Haight-Ashbury, and the Monterey Pop Festival. The 100W amplifier had just been perfected and many were eager to get them on the stages of performing musicians. What took place was the union of music and technology, sealed in a moment in time as music and technology would forever change after that. Call it by any name, the holy grail, woody tone, legendary, this is the sound at the birth of an extremely creative period of rock n’ roll.

Import this preset – SolImport this preset – Sol


Nellcôte

Locked away from the rest of the world, living in hiding, living in excess. This was life for one of the most popular rock bands in history. Though the days may have blended into night, interrupted by breakfast boats on the Italian Riviera, music happened. It needed to happen. It had to happen. And with a simple amplifier, a modest 2×12 combo, and a little slapback echo, good times were rolling.

Import this preset – NellcôteImport this preset – Nellcôte

AmpStamp V1.3 – Find Your Sound

With this next revision of AmpStamp, version 1.3, we unveil some legendary speakers from the mid-1960’s, offer up one of the first tone shaping effects, and add a tape echo so classic, all delays that followed make reference to this seminal unit.

The Many Uses Of Tape Echo

EC101C Echo

From the first notes from Les Paul to the classic recordings made at Sun Studios in Memphis, treating the guitar with echo quickly became a new tool that all musicians had to learn how to wield. It started with a type of echo referred to as slapback, a short delay (longer than what’s used in chorus effects, but those hadn’t been invented yet) that sounds similar to shouting in a narrow alleyway between two buildings. Almost immediately many in the music technology field realized that with a loop of tape and possibly more than one tape machine, the record and playback heads could be used to add a repeat of what was played. This was at first reserved for studio recordings as most musicians did not carry tape machines for live use, let alone possess the technical skill or bring someone with them who could maintain and operate these units. But then in 1952 the EchoSonic was released, an amplifier with a built-in tape echo effect.

Quite a bit later this was productized into a more portable unit that could be used in a variety of settings. One key improvement that the EchoSonic and its successors had was the ability to feed back the current echo for additional repeats. With a simple potentiometer, variable decay could be dialed in and with a small signal amplifier, the repeats could be sustained and even grow louder! This is usually referred to as runaway sustain or oscillation, as the original signal is reduced to noise it’s an unmistakeable sound.

But what else was it about tape echo that makes it so desirable? Of course, the imperfections. As you dig deeper with the EC101C Echo, we’ve captured several elements that truly make a tape echo sound the way it should. First and foremost, tape is not a perfect medium. When first recording to a new reel of tape any studio engineer will tell you, the tape machine needs to be calibrated. Both frequency and level are not consistent even between two batches of tape from the same manufacturer. Furthermore, after heavy use specifically associated with tape echo effects the constant erasing will degrade the performance of the tape. And so with Tape Quality you can adjust this from near perfect to very poor. Additionally, the motors that drive the reels of tape often suffered from performance issues as well. And so we’ve provided a Wow and Flutter control to help capture some of the more extreme variation that you might experience with an older unit needing some maintenance. Of course, you don’t have to worry about that now, the control is all at the tips of your fingers.

Another 100W Amplifier?

VG402B AmplifierYou heard us right, we have another amplifier that captures classic tone in transition from 1966-67. We think you’re going to love the VG402B Amplifier. It captures the sound of the first super amplifiers with all of the extra Bass and additional part variations that were so common in amplifiers built during this period.

VG 4x12A 100W '67 CabinetBut it would not be complete without the VG 4x12A 100W ’67 Cabinet. This cabinet gives you the legendary sound of near unobtainable speakers. This is the sound of rock n’ roll from the mid-to-late 1960’s. You won’t hear it anywhere else as manufacturing techniques and circuit designs after this point went through dramatic changes. The overall effort was to improve upon previous limitations but the result was to isolate a period of rock n’ roll history with a unique sound, nearly lost for the generations to come.

We have been working hard to bring you the sounds of rock n’ roll history and this is another milestone for us. We can’t wait for you to rock out with this new amplifier and cabinet combination, or for that matter any combination of our gear, with a product this flexible keep an ear out for some classic tones. More on this soon!

Tone Shaping Primer

EQ100 Treble BoostLast but not least, it was also important for us to being our investigation into EQ effects. Tone shaping is a key component to modern day signal chains and whether good or bad, it can have a drastic effect. So like most things at The Musicology Group, we decided to start at the beginning with the EQ100 Treble Boost. This unit is rumored to have been used on some genre-defining recordings, though never confirmed, we couldn’t help but try it for ourselves.

We also added an additional twist to make things interesting of course. Accessing the More Control section, you can flip the effect from a Treble Boost to a Bass Boost and adjust the tone anywhere in between. Boost your solos or just tweak your sound with this first offering, you just might find the tone you’re looking for.

Same Subscription, More Great Products

As always, we think you’ll find that AmpStamp has endless variations of tone to satisfy guitar players in any genre of music. If you are already a subscriber then thank you! If you haven’t subscribed yet, then hurry up! You’re missing out! Check out our product page for more details and stay tuned for new products.

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AmpStamp™

We are excited to announce a new update to our application for guitarists, AmpStamp version 1.2.1!

What’s In A Name, Again

You are probably wondering, another name change? This time we think we landed on the perfect name, something that represents why this application sounds so much better than the competition. And also we wanted to avoid any confusion with the popular TAP-TONE Delay Pedal (please note there are no tone controls on this unit).

Still Real Cabinets, Still Real Sound

After many hours of playing through AmpStamp, testing out different effects, and capturing some classic tones which we will share with you via presets, we realized that effects pedals are only going to sound as good as the amplifier you are playing through. Even further, in most cases, the amplifier is the last piece of the signal chain that imparts its sonic signature most identifiably on your tone. With our technology we are able to stamp your guitar signal with a near perfect representation of the recorded tones of the amplifiers and cabinets that we characterize. We always knew this was the case but the exciting fact that this plays a huge part in your ability to achieve great tone means more great tones are on the way!

Same Subscription, More Great Products

As always, we think you’ll find that AmpStamp has endless variations of tone to satisfy guitar players in any genre of music. If you are already a subscriber then thank you! If you haven’t subscribed yet, then hurry up! You’re missing out! Check out our product page for more details and stay tuned for new products.

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