Fender Princeton Reverb
Review Date: Wednesday 15th of April 2009 06:21:10 PM
Last Updated: Monday 7th of December 2009 03:19:32 PM
Reviewed By: Huw Price
The sweet-toned, low-powered Princeton Reverb always gets vintage Fender amp fans scrabbling for their wallets.
Despite having similarities with a Vibro Champ, the
Princeton Reverb is a totally different animal. This is no mere
practice amp, and there's nothing small or boxy about the tone. It's
impressively loud, and it even with the volume turned down it still
sounds big. Background hiss or hum is extremely low, even when things
are cranked right up – and, believe me, you'll enjoy cranking this one
If you want to know what your guitar really sounds like, this
amp is the one to show you because it enhances – or even exaggerates –
sonic flavours. We tried numerous guitars: a Telecaster twanged and
chimed like never before, a hollowbody with P90s sounded amazingly
pure, sweet and 'acoustic', and a Gretsch Tennessean sounded
fantastically woody, twangy and clear… better, in fact, through this
Princeton than any amp it's been played through before. Moreover, every
guitar displayed complex timbre changes between pickup settings that
went way beyond 'more bass' or 'more treble'.
Princetons are very
popular amongst jazz players; Bill Frisell has been using one for
decades. At low volumes it's easy to understand why, because the
Princeton Reverb has an almost hi-fi quality without the blandness or
sterility of some clean solid-state combos. However, in reality,
there's not much clean headroom. With single coils the onset of
overdrive occurs between 4 and 5 on the Volume knob, and you can barely
stay clean up to 4 with humbuckers and P90s. But, just like the Treble
and Bass controls, Volume is very gradual and easy to fine-tune – and
since the Princeton is so responsive to playing dynamics, you can also
easily control the overdrive by hand.
As the Princeton Reverb
progresses further into overdrive the sound gets fatter and richer and
the clean jazz tone gradually morphs into a more driven Charlie
Christian or Barney Kessel-style sound, then progresses to a singing,
bluesy bite at around Volume 5 or 6. Push the volume higher and the
sound fills out in the midrange and bass and the snappy clean highs
melt into a haze of harmonics. This amp can get very overdriven indeed,
although it’s nothing like a Marshall crunch or even a Fender tweed
tone. Somehow Fender's blackface and silverface circuits always seem to
retain clarity and transparency no matter how hard you push them. The
Princeton Reverb is no exception, and because it isn't too powerful you
can nail that cranked-to-the-max SRV tone at reasonable volume levels.
the bass performance does deteriorate as volume increases. There's
plenty of low end, but it starts to get farty and spongy towards full
whack. Never mind: since the bass gets fatter as volume increases,
rolling back the Bass control can alleviate the problem. The treble can
also be a bit edgy at every volume level, especially with added reverb
– but hey, that's what the Treble knob is for.
Plugging in a 2x12"
extension cab proved revealing. The edgy treble is down to the stock
10" speaker, but those loose lows are probably more attributable to the
output transformer – and we learned that the Princeton can be
incredibly loud through a pair of efficient speakers.
As for the
onboard effects, I'm hugely impressed. The tremolo is huge, deep and
strong, and the reverb is lush and three-dimensional. Best of all, you
get overdrive and compression by default – and since the Princeton
weighs only 12.7kg you can sling your guitar on your back, grab the amp
with one hand, and go.
Despite using modern construction techniques Fender has made a fairly faithful reissue, warts and all. If you cherish Princetons for what they were rather that what you might have preferred them to be, this is an exciting and surprisingly affordable amplifier. Best of all, itís utterly mesmerising to play. It wonít give you metal sounds, it wonít do loud and clean, and it wonít make your guitar into something itís not Ė but for jazz, country, blues and rootsy rock, itís amazing.
1. Fender Princeton Reverb
2. Fender Princeton Reverb guitar amp review| Sounds