During the 1960s, and of course up till now, Fender made some of the best guitar amplifiers on the market, and one of these amps — the Fender Deluxe Reverb — is highly sought after by collectors around the globe.
They were renowned for their precise tone, loud volume, and great looks, and their smaller size makes them ideal for gigging musicians. These amps are rare and difficult to find, and if you do manage to get your hands on one, you can expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars depending on the condition.
Luckily, Fender has done us a favor with the ’65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue, and that classic look and unmistakable tone is now available at a far more reasonable price.
At 22-watts, you’ll have plenty of power to play along with a band but in a small and lightweight package. Plus, you’ll be able to overdrive it with ease and pull out a natural-sounding and classic overdriven tone.
There are, as always, some caveats — this is a reissue after all — and Fender did not simply go back to the factory and make the same amp with the same components.
From the outside, it looks like a mint condition ‘60s Deluxe Reverb, but the interior components tell a different story.
In this review, we’ll go in deep and take a look at what makes this reissue a worthwhile replacement for the classic, and what departments — if any — it falls short in.
The “FDR” as it is affectionately known as has a long and winding history and has become an iconic amp among collectors for many different reasons. Fender claims that the FDR is the most recorded amp in history, and with the Beatles using it on many of their hit albums through the ‘60s, we aren’t about to argue.
These amps are a classic relic from the ‘60s, often referred to as the “blackface” era of Fender amps, due to their black control panel and white lettering.
This color combo changed toward the end of the ‘60s when CBS purchased Fender, giving birth to the “silver face” era that continued until 1980 when they were switched back to black. The FDR’s production was halted in 1982, but it is the ‘60s, blackface amps that are so highly sought after.
The Deluxe is hailed as the ultimate workhorse among guitar amps, a trustworthy piece of equipment that could withstand the rigors of the road and still sound great, nonetheless.
There is a seemingly never-ending list of iconic guitar players that have used this amp, including The Beatles, John Mayer, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Keith Richards, and probably almost every studio guitarist working during the ‘60s!
|Speaker||12-inch 8-ohm Jensen|
|Effects||Spring reverb, tremolo|
|Preamp||Four 12AX7 preamp tubes|
|Cabinet||Textured black vinyl and silver grille|
The Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue is an all-tube combo beast, with dual 6V6 Groove power tubes, four 12AX7 preamp tubes, two 12AT7 preamp tubes, and one 5AR4 rectifier tube. This is what gives this amp its unmistakable clean, crisp tone that breaks up beautifully at higher volumes.
A single 22-inch Jensen speaker does the heavy lifting and is the perfect match for amps size and 22-watt output, resulting in a sweet balance of tone and volume.
There are two-channel options, Normal and Vibrato, and each channel has two inputs: a normal input and a lower ohmage input specially designed for guitars with active pickups.
The Vibrato channel has two controls for the speed and intensity of the Vibrato, plus a separate control for reverb, which, disappointingly, is only available on the Vibrato channel.
Fender stuck with its heritage by making the reverb a true spring reverb, though, and not a digital replication, which is a nice touch. The amp comes with a footswitch to switch between channels and turn the reverb on and off, plus a beautiful black Fender amp cover.
While the Deluxe Reissue is not the loudest amp on the planet, it can pack a surprising punch with all the valves hanging around in the interior.
It is more than enough for gigs in smaller venues and will definitely be heard next to your drummer at practice. This allows the amp to naturally distort beautifully at higher gains, giving you an authentic overdriven tone that very few pedals can match.
That being said, this amp is loud for its size, and it can take a fair bit of volume before the tone starts breaking up. If you are looking for a high-gain monster that distorts with ease, the Deluxe probably won’t cut it.
It will start distorting at around four or five o’clock, which we can tell you from experience is loud. The amp is perfect in its sensitivity though, and your playing can dictate just how much of that drive you want to come through.
For studio work, however, this amp is perfect and can provide the cleanest of cleans and signature muddy overdrive if needed too.
Fender amps are known for being slightly on the bright side in tonal quality, and this amp lives up to that. Some guitarists find this a bit too harsh for their tastes, however, a bit of tweaking according to the guitar you are playing is all that’s needed.
Still, at high volumes, you may be lacking for a bit of bass response, especially when using single coils. Ideally, pair this amp with a reissue Stratocaster and you’ll be transported back to the ‘60s!
Another classic Fender caveat is hiss — and this amp has the same hiss that so many Fender tube amps are known for. Luckily, it’s not so loud or prominent to be a distraction, and even when playing at low volumes the hiss is fairly inaudible.
- Impressive “classic” tone reproduction
- Surprisingly loud for a small amp
- All-tube amplification
- Two channels, each with two inputs
- True spring reverb
- Included footswitch and amp cover
- Takes a fair bit of volume to overdrive
- Bright tonal quality
- Slightly lacking in bass frequencies
- Mild background hiss
Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue vs Original?
Many guitar amp aficionados will argue the merits of the reissue versus the holy grail of the original amp. Of course, the reissue can never live up to its predecessor’s fame, in tone or value. But what is the difference? Only those with an expert ear will be able to detect the subtle tone qualities that stand out on the original, but for the rest of us, the difference is negligible.
Leo Fender made Fender amplifiers easy to fix, and so vintage amps are typically easier to repair than the modern reissues. Modern amps involve a lot more circuit boards which take a lot of expertise to fix. Of course, this is best done by an experienced amp technician.
This makes the original Deluxe amps superior workhorses, and if they are looked after you’ll find amp today still playing as if they were brand new. That said, as mentioned earlier these vintage amps are expensive, and so if you are a musician who is gigging regularly going for a reissue may be a good option. You likely won’t notice any difference in sound at high volumes anyway.
As far as sound goes, collectors will tell you that the original amps sound “warmer”, but this is largely subjective. Most vintage amps will have had some parts replaced at some point, including valves or speakers, and so are not “original”. This means that every amp will have a different sound, depending on the age, replaced and original parts, and the technician who worked on it.
If you are a collector and Fender enthusiast, it makes complete sense to go for the original version. However, for anyone that will be using the amp for gigging, the reissue will save you a lot of money for a very small sacrifice in tone.
The Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue is an all-tube amp. Many modern amps aim to replicate this sound with circuit boards and modeling software, and, to be fair, some get pretty close.
Valve amps use these tubes to amplify the signal, whereas solid-state amps use electronics to amplify the signal. Both have their pros and cons, but the end tone is definitely noticeable. Tube amps almost universally have a superior, warmer tone, although solid-state amps are getting closer.
Tube amps are more delicate and more expensive to maintain as you’ll need to replace tubes occasionally. Solid-state amps require almost no maintenance but are a lot more difficult to repair should something go wrong. There are hybrid versions too, using tubes for added tone but electronics for power and amplification.
Tube amps will almost always sound better, even hybrids, but for musicians who gig a lot and their amps are being constantly moved from place to place, solid-state amps are generally tougher.
Tips for tube amp care
As we mentioned earlier, tube amps are fairly delicate and thus need special care that solid-state owners don’t need to worry about. Here are some tips for using tube amps like the Fender Deluxe to keep them lasting long and sounding good:
- Let your amp warm up before using it. The Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue has a standby switch for just this purpose. Let the amp stay on for a few minutes before switching off the standby.
- Additionally, let your amp cool down and sit still for at least 10 minutes before moving it.
- Always replace all your tubes at once. If one is broken, we recommend replacing the rest too. Never mix different tube types together, and never mix old tubes with new ones as this can damage your amp.
- Always use good quality signal cables. If your guitar cables are cracking or popping this disturbance could damage your tubes or amplifier speaker.
Answer: The Deluxe Reverb is rated 22-watts, which one paper may not seem like much. While it may not enough to fill arenas, it can certainly hold its own next to a drumkit, and the all-valve construction makes it seem a lot louder than you’d expect from a 22-watt amplifier.
Many guitarists nowadays have become accustomed to wattage ratings concerning transistors amps, in which case 22 watts is no more than a practice amp.
However, tube amps are a different beast, especially Fender amps which are known for their comparatively high volumes. For the majority of players, even regularly gigging musicians, this amp has more than enough volume. Plus, you could always invest in a high-quality microphone and mic the amp up.
Answer: The Deluxe Reverb is an iconic amp, appearing on literally thousands of famous recordings since its introduction to the market.
The amp has been hailed as one of the ultimate workhorses in guitar amplification and the Vox AC30 is perhaps the only comparison one can make in terms of legacy. Most bands during the ’60s and ’70s preferred louder amps for stage shows, but the Deluxe was the go-to for recording sessions.
The amp has an almost inexhaustible list of famous players, but Mike Campbell, Jackson Brown, Vince Gill, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Keith Richards, John Mayer, The Beatles, and BB King are just a handful of players that are known to favor this iconic amp.
Answer: The Deluxe Reverb has no line output, and so if you want to hear the amp coming through your monitor or through the main PA system, you’ll need to mic it up. Now, live playing and recording are two very different beasts, and you’ll very likely mic the amp up in different ways for each situation.
For either case, the go-to mic is the Shure SM57, as this mic, in our humble opinion, will give you the best reproduction of the amp’s tone. For live situations, you’ll just need one placed between the speaker cone and the outer rim of the speaker for an even sound.
For recording, there is more room for experimentation, and you should place another mic behind the amp to get a fuller sound, plus another “room” microphone if you are recording in a great-sounding room. This is a situation where you’ll want to experiment a bit, but you’ll get the best sound from having at least two mics on your amp
Does the reissue of this classic amplifier from Fender live up to its legacy? We think so. The amp has a crisp, clean, clear, and cutting tone with plenty of volumes to jam with drummers in small venues.
Almost 50 years after its first iteration, this reissue does a great job of following in its predecessors’ footsteps, and is, in our opinion, just as good as the real deal.
You could potentially fork out tens of thousands of dollars for a mint condition ‘60s Deluxe, and the reissue will give you an almost exact replica of the tone at a fraction of the price.
All in all, Fender has done an excellent job of preserving the legacy of the infamous amp, and it is now available to the average musician at a highly affordable price.
In fact, at this price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better sounding tube amp.