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The drive channel is bad, don't use it! But the clean, OMG, the clean, this is the one. This is the best sounding clean sound from a budget tube amp. Also handles pedals very good and the dinamic responsivnes of the preamp is too good to be true. To get "the tone" I put a 5751 in V1 and ECC81 in V3, with a stock V2 and power tubes. Use this amp every day.
So about the drive channel... It's very trebly, and to get some tone the bass knob has to be on 12. This is not a big deal until you start to switch channels. With the bass at 12, if you switch to clean, you have a muddy bassy tone. On the other hand, if you dial in your clean tone and then switch to drive, the tone is thin. Fender should've balanced these channels a lot better IMO. Also in a small space the drive channel can sound O.K. to you at room volume, but when you get on stage and listen from 10 yards out, you notice that the amp farts out, and sounds awfull.
The main reason I like this amp is because of it's clean channel, and how it reacts to your playing dinamicaly, and also because it handles pedals great as well as my preamp. For a budget tube amp, I think you can't get a nicer clean tone than this. The difference from this and a Hot Rod Deluxe is that the Blues Deluxe uses the whole V1 tube and half the V2 tube for the clean channel. This gives a very vintage, warm tone, coupled with a real spring
reverb this unit is equiped with, you can't get much better at this price range.
I set the middle and treble around 6-7 and bass at 8, with presence at 6 and reverb at 3-4.
If pluging the guitar straight in I use input 1 with bright switch pushed in, and plugging through pedals I use input 2 with the bright switch off. The volume is around 4 to be right on the edge of tube distorsion. Playing soft gives you a nice glassy clean tone, and playing rough causes slight overdrive, as it saturates the tubes.
This amp is LOUD! At 40 watts, it really pushes air, even at 2. This is mostly because the pot is linear and not an
audio taper, but the volume is very impressive. I used a solid state 100 watt amp before this one, and this one is twice as loud. In most night clubs there is no need to mic this amp to the P.A., only in big auditoriums or playing outside on a big stage.
In fact using the amp with original tubes, it was pretty hard to tame, and sounded a bit harsh, but putting 5751 in V1 reduced the tube amplification from 100% to 70%, and using an ECC81 in the V3 as the phase inverter also tames this amp well. The result is a much nicer tone, think SRV, and also the volume pot is not so sensitive as it is with stock 12AX7 tubes.
Aestheticly the amp is georgeous. Looks very vintage, the tweed is very nice and sturdy, and the grill cloth looks great. For that vintage feel, the chicken knobs on chrome panel look fantastic, but at times hard to see in dim or colored lighting.
I've gigged with this amp for 7 years and never had any problems, it handles the road very well. It comes with a protective cover, but I recomend a hard cover to keep the tweed from damage. If you like clean sounds, I highly recommend this amp - Bluesmannus