ToneQuest: Route ’66

Ten years after our first published amp review (the blackface Vibrolux Reverb), we still find ourselves answering readers’ questions about which amp to buy. We’re not complaining… your subscription to TQR has always included phone or email access for those contemplating a new gear purchase, but it seems that published reviews can still sometimes prompt more questions than answers. We understand, and like you, we are routinely faced with these same buying decisions just about every month as we look ahead to future issues. “Power” and “headroom” (or lack of it) seem to remain among the most daunting considerations for prospective amp buyers. This may not keep you up at night if you’re looking for a toneful box to play solely at home, but the range of clean and overdriven tones available from a single amplifier that can hang with a band is absolutely critical – the tipping point for guitarists who wish to have both clean and grittier tones available on the fly. And even the casual “bedroom” player (does anyone really play their guitars in the bedroom?) will quickly discover that big, lush guitar tones – clean or jacked into rich distortion – are often best obtained through a “bigger” amp. We’re not suggesting that we don’t love our ’58 tweed Tremolux or ’64 Deluxe – they both uniquely, timelessly epitomize great guitar tones – but an entirely different realm exists within the range of vintage Fender amps, and try as we might, we have never found another amplifier quite as versatile, user-friendly or uniquely toneful as the blackface (1965–7) 40 watt Pro Reverb – still the most under-valued and overlooked reverb amp from the entire blackface era, although aside from its 2×12 speaker configuration, the Pro is nearly identical to the Vibrolux and the Super Reverb amps.

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