« Fender Vibrolux Reverb »Published on 06/25/01 at 15:00
I've played through MANY amps over the years. I know what I like - and I've gone to great lengths to get it. At one time back in the 80's, I played through a system so complex that it could have doubled as NASA's Mission Control System. I always thought that it could never be as simple as a guitar, a stomp box, and one amp. Well folks, I'm here to tell you that it can be that simple - if the amp is a Vibrolux Reverb. The non-master volume, non-channel switching, non-digital simplicity is just gorgeous sounding. Now, don't get me wrong, the sound is complex and detailed. Plug a Strat into the bright channel with the volume on 2, dial in a little reverb and subtle tremolo, and you will have an out-of-body experience. Every frequency of every note is served up on a silver platter in a virtual banquet of sonic treats. Tight, full lows that move you - crystal highs you can almost see - and mids that talk with the voice of an angel. Laying it on pretty thick, aren't I? You've just got to hear the clean sound of this amp to understand. You also need to bump that volume knob up to verify that this amp ain't no one-trick-pony. At about 4 it is really getting loud but retaining that clean, hi-fi quality. Rest assured that beyond 4 is not more volume, but more texture. Between 4 and 6 is a gritty overdrive that preserves the guitar's sound but takes it to the next level. With a Strat - it's SRV all the way, baby. Plug in a Les Paul, switch to the bridge pickup, and you're grinding meat. Now, leave that Lester on the bridge pickup and push the bright channel volume knob up to 8 (trust me - you might want to back up a little from the amp). You're not just grinding meat - you're shredding it. You will not believe the textures coming out of this conservative looking 2 x 10 combo. This is only the beginning. I've tried a lot of different settings on the amp with several different guitars and I have yet to find a sound that isn't useable. Country clean, blues, old rock 'n roll, modern rock, alternative - it's all in there somewhere with one exception - there is no scooped-mid death metal tone to be found. If that's your thing, this amp is NOT for you. Need more clean volume (a country player with permanent ear damage)? Plug in an extension cabinet. Believe me when I say this thing is loud for 40 watts. It's loud enough that I need to use an overdrive pedal for crunch when I gig. I play in the house band at a large club. In this setting, the amp breaks up into distortion at a level that's OK for 3rd or 4th set but it's a little too hot for the first set. A tube screamer is perfect to get a little crunch at a lower volume.
There is another channel on the amp. It's called the "Normal" channel and has the same Treble, Bass, and Volume controls as the bright channel. It's voiced just a little darker - and to my ears, it's just not as nice. There is a 2-button footswitch with the amp that controls whether the reverb and tremolo are on or off (they work in both amp channels). Seems a little silly to me to offer 2 channels but no switching. There's just one other thing that strikes me as a little odd and that's the choice of cream "ivoroid" knobs for this amp. Why? It does make the amp distinctive looking as it stands out from the rest of Fender's line-up. I'm just used to the good 'ol Fender blackface with black numbered knobs - the family resemblance shouting at you rather than just talking to you. I'm getting used to it - maybe someday those knobs will be at the heart of an elitist club of Fender Vibrolux owners. The club logo will be an ivoroid knob. (Har!)
Aside from the knobs (sorry - last jab) the amp looks traditional Fender. The cabinet is shallow and light but quite solid. It puts out a remarkable amount of low end. Tilt-backs are included and are a handy feature. It's obvious that the quality and attention to detail that the Fender folks have put into this amp are a source of pride. It's a high priced amp and built like one.
The Deluxe Reverb is a fine amp in it's own right - but the Vibrolux Reverb is FAR superior in many different aspects. I honestly didn't think I would like the sound of 10" speakers for guitar. These Blue Alnico speakers in the Vibrolux are wonderful - well matched to the amp. In conclusion, I'll tell you that there is no such thing as the perfect amp or the perfect guitar sound. As a working musician, I have to consider a lot of different variables to determine what is a good amp, or a great one, or a terrible one. The Fender Vibrolux Reverb is one great amp! It's simple, light, attractive, and it sounds superb. What more could you ask for?
This review was originally published on http://www.musicgearreview.com