Anyone who is in the music business is familiar with the name Fender. They’ve been around for decades and have provided musicians everywhere with the tools they needed to express their feelings through their music appropriately.
This includes guitars, basses, keyboards, amplifiers, and more. One of Fender’s most famous amps is the Deluxe Reverb, originally released in the 60s and receiving a revamp towards the end of that decade.
Having owned a decent number of Fender amplifiers, both tube, and solid state, as well as having tried a wide variety of amps from Fender and other reputable brands, I can provide valuable insight regarding this classic and versatile piece of gear that so many players have grown to love since its release in the late 60s.
I have played mine on dozens of stages and I’ve used it to record countless tracks, and I don’t think it will be going anywhere soon!
In this Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb Review, we are going to go in-depth into this amazing amplifier that has achieved legendary status by being the tonal centerpiece in thousands of studio sessions, concerts, rehearsals and much more.
Bottom Line Up Front:
The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb hits the spot on so many levels that it is difficult for anyone not to want one in their collection.
Clean tones are what you’d expect from Fender: crystal clear, balanced, and articulate. At 22W, it starts to break up and naturally compress at a point in which the volume is not unbearable while allowing you to control how much compression you get by adjusting your picking strength and the guitar’s volume knob.
It accepts pedals exceptionally well, and some of the modern tweaks found on this model make it a much more desirable amplifier for those who are into the vintage scene but need to have something a bit more reliable and up-to-date with the rest of their gear. Including 2 different channels instead of the usual “Normal” and “Vibrato” was a master play by Fender, and you’ll love using both of them in conjunction with its dreamy reverb.
Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb Main Features
Let’s take a look at the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb’s main features to understand what this classic amplifier is all about.
22W of Tube-Driven Power
The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb is a Class AB amplifier with 22W of power. While it doesn’t put out nearly as much volume as a 100W head with a half-stack, it can most definitely keep up with the average drummer in most contexts, whether you are at a rehearsal, studio session or at a gig in a small to medium club.
For me, the Deluxe Reverb is perfectly balanced in terms of overall volume, headroom and weight. It isn’t a small amp that starts breaking up as soon as you increase the volume, but you don’t have to be playing extremely loud to start getting some hair on your sound.
Also, many players get to a point in their lives in which they get tired of hauling around heavy amps, and owning something that can get you the best of both worlds is very appealing. In any case, modeling amplifiers and other modern solutions are getting better with each passing year, and most people would not be able to tell them apart from a real amp in most situations.
A good compromise could be using a real tube amplifier for recording and rehearsing, where you have fewer things that can potentially go wrong, and using a more stable and reliable alternative for when you are out on the road and need to have everything in perfect shape all the time.
Dual Channel: Custom and Vintage
The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb introduces something that sets it apart completely from its older cousin. The old models had a “Normal” and a “Vibrato” channel. The biggest difference between these two is that when you plug into the latter, you get access to the reverb and vibrato (tremolo) effects, while the first one is completely clean.
With the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb, both channels (Custom and Vintage) have access to the reverb and tremolo circuits, so you don’t have to pick between a certain sound or the possibility of using the onboard reverb and tremolo.
Another key difference is that these two channels have different circuits. Not only do you get reverb and tremolo on both, but you also have a totally distinct tone and response when you compare the Custom and Vintage channels side by side.
The Custom channel features the Bassman tone stack, which gives it a very intense but pleasant bass. If you want to beef up your guitar’s tone, this is the channel you want to plug into. The Vintage channel is the same as the regular Deluxe Reverb.
Personally, I find myself using the Vintage channel more often, but I love how my single coil guitars sound when I’m using the Custom channel with an overdrive or fuzz pedal in the front of the amp. I can never set the bass above 5 before it is too “boomy” for my taste, but depending on your guitars and signal chain, it can definitely work.
Other features that Fender decided to incorporate in this line of amplifiers include quicker gain onset and reduced negative feedback. These make your amp break up sooner and also exhibit a larger degree of touch sensitivity while playing.
Lastly, since these two channels are wired in phase, you can blend them for an ever wider tonal palette. You can easily do this with an A/B/Y box.
Lush Tube-Driven Fender Reverb and Vibrato
For many guitar players, the reverb and vibrato (tremolo) effects found on some of Fender’s amplifiers are enough to justify purchasing one, and I fully understand them. Although I must say that I was more impressed by the tremolo on some of the Supro amps that I have tested, Fender’s reverb still holds the top spot for me.
However, I own a few different Fender amps that feature spring reverb, and they are not the same on all of them. For instance, my Deluxe Reverb blows my Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed out of the water when it comes to reverb, but one is also significantly more expensive than the other.
The vibrato is nice and you can toggle it on and off through Fender’s 2-button footswitch, which is included when you purchase the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb. It is available on both channels, which wasn’t the case with the earlier models. I tend to use my Strymon Flint when I need tremolo, but I would be more than happy with the onboard tremolo on my Deluxe Reverb.
Classic Silverface Looks
Looking at the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb instantly takes you back to the time when Fender totally revamped their already popular Blackface line of amplifiers, giving place to the Silverface models.
You can recognize these instantly by looking at their silver and turquoise front panel, aluminum grille cloth trim, and a gorgeous blue jewel that indicates when the amplifier is turned on.
I personally love this aesthetic and I prefer it to the Blackface and Brownface Fender amps. I can’t tell whether I like these or the Tweed amplifiers though, but that is all subjective to each player’s taste.
Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb Complete Specifications
You can take a look at the full specifications of the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb below.
- Wattage: 22 Watts at 8 ohms
- Voltage: 120V
- Channels: 2 – Custom and Vintage
- Inputs: 4 – 2 x 1/4″ on Each Channel
- Speaker Jack:
- Effects Loop: No
- Footswitch: Vintage Style 2-Button (Reverb and Vibrato), Included
- Speaker: 1 x 12″ Celestion G12V-70
- Preamp Tubes: 4 x 12AX7, 2 x 12AT7
- Power Tubes: 2 x 6V6
- Rectifier: 1 x 5AR4
- Front Panel: Silver
- Grille Cloth: Silver Turquoise
- Cabinet Material: Birch/Pine
- Amplifier Jewel: Blue Jewel
- Handle: Molded Plastic Strap with Nickel-Plated Caps
- Measurements: 17.5″ x 9.5″ x 24.5″ (H x D x W)
- Weight: 42 lbs
Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb Pros and Cons
Superb Clean Tones
The ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb can produce jaw-dropping overdriven tones when you crank up the volume (seriously, my biggest wish is to have a pedal that can capture the same sound and feel regardless of how loud I’m playing).
However, Fender amps are notably known for their rich, pristine and crystal clear clean tones, and the Deluxe Reverb is no exception. I have used it in all kinds of contexts, such as blues, jazz, pop, funk, soul, and its clean tone paired with the onboard reverb has never disappointed me.
I like to pair it with a compressor, and sometimes an EP Booster or the clean boost side of my Analogman King of Tone to give it some extra color, but an EQ pedal such as the BOSS GE-7 can also work wonders if you need to fine tune anything.
Fender amps are known for their excellent, punchy, and classic American clean tone, but their reverb is not far behind at all.
I have had several amazing reverb pedals such as the Strymon BigSky, Strymon Flint, Walrus R1 Reverb and the BOSS RV500, and although these are capable of producing amazing reverb sounds with their advanced algorithms, sometimes the spring reverb on the Deluxe Reverb is all I want to hear.
There is only one knob to control how much reverb you have, which is a lot less than what most pedals offer, such as controls for decay time, mix, tone, etc. However, a lot of the records you have listened to were recorded using the amplifier’s reverb and they sound fantastic, so why not simplify our sound as well?
Great Volume/Headroom Balance for Gigs and Sessions
The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb stays clean until the volume is at about 5 (depending on your guitar’s pickups), and then, as you dig in, it starts to compress and overdrive a little. For me, it is a perfect balance, but you can get less headroom by going with an amp with less power (this one has 22W), or more headroom if you choose something like the Pro Reverb (40W) or the Twin Reverb (85W).
At this point in my life, I would appreciate something like a Fender Champ to get those saturated tones more easily without bothering the entire building with high volumes, but I would also appreciate something with a lot of headroom to guarantee that my guitar consistently sounds clean regardless of the volume I’m playing at.
Takes Pedals Very Well
Just like me, many guitar players like to get their overdrive and distortion from pedals, placing them in front of a clean amp, or one that is starting to break up due to its volume. If you have tried a moderate number of amplifiers, you have probably noticed that some of them “accept” pedals more gracefully, something that people usually refer to as a “good pedal platform”.
I have used light overdrives, distortion pedals and a variety of fuzz pedals (fuzz face, big muff, tone bender, etc) with the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb and I can tell you that it is a pleasure to do so, significantly more than with my Blues Junior, even though there are considerable differences between these two.
The Vintage channel has had its bright cap removed to further enhance this amplifier’s compatibility with pedals of all kinds.
Tremolo Circuit is Slightly Noisy
It is difficult to find an amplifier with a built-in tremolo that is dead silent, so take this one with a grain of salt. There is an audible noise that occurs when the tremolo effect is engaged on the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb.
I am not extremely bothered by this, and I also tend to use the tremolo on my Strymon Flint because I love the harmonic tremolo mode, something that I would not be able to achieve with the Deluxe Reverb’s vibrato circuit.
Overdrive is Only Available with Pedals or Louder Volumes
Again, this might not be a disadvantage for many players (myself included) and others don’t even care for overdriven tones at all (yes, I am looking at all of you traditional jazz players!), so this might not be a con at all for some.
Nevertheless, anyone who is thinking of getting a Deluxe Reverb or any other amp from the ’68 Custom Silverface line should take into account that these amplifiers do not have Pre and Post Gain knobs nor a Master Volume. This means that the only way of getting that sweet overdrive is to turn it up until it starts to naturally break up and compress, or you can use pedals to achieve a similar result.
Lacks Mids Control Knob
The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb only has Bass and Treble controls on the Vintage and Custom channels. Other amps from this product line such as the Twin Reverb feature a Middle knob, which can be very useful, since Fender amps are known to be mid-scooped.
In my case, I like to compensate the EQ either with a very light overdrive (my Analogman King of Tone is excellent at this) or with an EQ pedal such as the BOSS GE-7.
Other Amplifiers to Check Out as Alternatives to the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb
The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb is truly an amazing amplifier that I don’t regret buying at all, but nowadays there are many fantastic choices for any kind of guitar player, and you should always try to find the best fit for your needs and taste.
If I wanted something similar to my Deluxe Reverb, or a slightly different flavor, I would most likely go for one of the amplifiers on the following list – check it out for a few suggestions spanning various prices and brands.
As digital alternatives to our favorite devices get better and closer to their older counterparts, it starts to make sense to replace some of our gear with something lighter, more practical, and more reliable, if the compromise on the sound is not very harsh. That is exactly the case with the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb.
At first sight, it looks just like an ordinary Blackface Fender Deluxe Reverb, but this one has quite a few tricks under its metaphorical sleeve. At only 24 lbs, this is the lightest Deluxe Reverb you will ever hold, which makes it an extraordinary candidate for those of us who are gigging frequently but still don’t have anyone to carry our stuff around.
In terms of sound, it nails the core properties of a “normal” Deluxe Reverb, even though it is a digital engine and not an actual tube amplifier. It comes with additional features such as an incredibly useful attenuator that can drop the power from 100W to an amazingly quiet 0.2W, appealing to guitarists who are playing in their bedrooms and trying not to disturb their neighbors.
This model has a lot more to offer in terms of modern features that aren’t typically found on tube amp reissues, such as a Mute Switch, a balanced XLR output with Impulse Response (IRs) that will be most convenient when you want to record silently, and a USB port for firmware updates.
Although I love my ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb to bits, I definitely wouldn’t mind owning a Tone Master Deluxe Reverb and taking it on the road with me just for more peace of mind.
You can generally find this amplifier for a price of around $950.
Next to Marshall and Fender, VOX is probably the amplifier brand I’ve heard the most about while I was growing up and learning about the electric guitar world. I remember associating them with The Edge and Brian May, as they were two players I listened to fairly regularly, but now this name means much more to me.
The AC30 is their most famous model, and if you aren’t afraid of a little more weight and volume, I would recommend going for this one over its smaller cousin, the AC15.
With the VOX AC30C2, you get a marvelous amplifier that pays tribute to the ones that put VOX on the map. You get two channels, Normal and Top Boost. There are 4 inputs, meaning that you can also jump the channels as many people do with their Marshalls.
The Normal channel’s only EQ is in the “Tone Cut” knob, which affects both channels. However, you get a 3-band EQ on the Top Boost channel.
Another nice feature of this amplifier is that apart from the Tremolo circuit with Speed and Depth controls, it has a spring reverb unit that has a Tone control, something that does not appear very often (the Deluxe Reverb, for instance, only has Reverb Level).
The AC30C2 is equipped with two 12” Celestion G12M Greenback speakers, and it is powered by 3 12AX7 preamp tubes and 4 EL84 power tubes. I see VOX amps as a great compromise between a good clean tone and a nice overdriven sound that pairs nicely with a huge variety of guitars in almost any music genre, and the AC30C2 is the one that represents this concept the best.
You can find the VOX AC30C2 for a price of around $1300.
Supro amplifiers have captivated me for a long time, and I almost regretted trying out a bunch of them because I couldn’t stop thinking about them for weeks. My favorite model was the Black Magick Reverb, and although I’m presenting the combo version, I urge you to check out the head and cab version as well.
This Class A 25W combo was designed in collaboration with Lenny Kravitz, and it is a rocking machine, as you’d expect. It has a Master Volume knob, meaning that you can get overdriven tones much more easily than you can on the Deluxe Reverb without resorting to pedals.
The EQ isn’t as flexible as some of the alternatives that were already discussed, but I didn’t feel like I needed much more than the 2-band EQ on this combo. After all, the Deluxe Reverb only has Bass and Treble knobs as well, and I can work with that just fine (an EQ pedal can be a great addition to your pedalboard if this concerns you).
The Black Magick features two independent channels that can be linked for more saturation and compression, a real spring reverb that sounds gorgeous, and a tremolo circuit that I wish I had on my Fender amps.
If I currently had the Deluxe Reverb and the Black Magick at the same time, it would be a real challenge to decide which one of them to take with me on gigs. I would probably take the Deluxe for most recordings since I find it a bit more versatile, but I’d be overly excited about taking the Supro for anything that would require edge-of-breakup tones and any overdrive/distortion/fuzz section.
You can find the combo version of the Supro Black Magick Reverb for a price of around $1600.
Question: Is the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb loud enough to keep up with a drummer?
Answer: At 22w of power, the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb is loud enough to keep with the vast majority of drummers. One thing to take into account is how clean you need your sound to be when playing louder. While it can put out a good amount of volume, it starts to naturally overdrive and compress after a certain point. If this is undesirable for you, you should look into an amplifier with more wattage such as the Super Reverb or the Twin Reverb.
Question: Does the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb have a lot of headroom?
Answer: My Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb starts to break up and compress a little once its volume knob is at about 4.5 or 5, depending on the guitar that I am playing. My guitars that are equipped with humbuckers naturally cause it to compress sooner, while my Stratocaster needs me to bump up the volume a bit more.
I find this to be a great point to start breaking up, since it is not ear-shattering loud, and I still get to enjoy this sensation frequently when gigging in most places, during rehearsals, and while recording, except at home.
Question: How many channels does the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb have?
Answer: The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb is equipped with two channels, named “Custom” and “Vintage”. Both of them have their own EQ section, and they share the Reverb and Vibrato circuits, meaning that you can’t have different settings of these effects on each channel.
The “Custom” input gives you access to the Bassman tone stack. I like using this channel the most with my Stratocaster and other single coil guitars that I tend to “beef up” with a clean boost or light overdrive.
The “Vintage” channel is dedicated to giving you the traditional Silverface tone, and it is the one that I tend to use the most.
Question: Is the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb a good amp for recording and gigging?
Answer: I consider the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb to be one of the best amplifiers for gigging and recording. It is not by chance that the Deluxe Reverb is hailed as one of the most popular amplifiers in studios, and I guarantee that you have heard them more times than you think on countless records.
The ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb offers a stellar clean tone, lush reverb, it interacts extremely well with pedals of all kinds, and you can cover so much ground with it that it doesn’t make sense not to have one in your collection.
Some people prefer smaller amps for recording, such as the Princeton Reverb, but then it wouldn’t be as versatile for gigging as the Deluxe Reverb, which is why I consider it to be an amazing choice to do it all.
Closing Considerations about the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb
At the end of the day, the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb is a superb choice for any guitarist who is craving the sweet and full sound of Fender amps, something we’ve grown used to hearing in an immense variety of records.
The Silverface aesthetic is as fresh as it was when it was originally released in the late 60s, but with a few tweaks that the modern player will appreciate, such as the addition of the “Custom” channel, which features the Bassman tone stack, the absence of a bright cap on the “Vintage” channel for increased pedal compatibility, and the inclusion of reverb and tremolo on both channels, contrary to what you see on vintage models.
A Deluxe Reverb (regardless of the version) is an iconic amplifier and I strongly believe that it has a place in anyone’s amplifier arsenal, even if you play metal or any other extreme genre. If you would like a bit more power and headroom and you don’t want to steer away from Fender or the Silverface line of amps, I’d recommend checking out the Super Reverb and the Twin Reverb. If you’re looking for the opposite, my best recommendation is the Princeton Reverb.