Pros: Pristine Tone, Value, Class A Boutique Quality
Cons: Footswitch Hard To Find
Budda, Dr Z, Matchless, Tony Bruno, Dumble, Bogner, Victoria, Fender Deluxe II.. Can you tell what all these amps have in common? They are all boutique quality hand wired amplifiers. WAIT A MINUTE HERE LOU, what is the Fender Deluxe doing in there? Well my friends, if you gave me a little more time I would list all the Super Reverbs, Bandmasters, Concerts as well as a plethora of old Gibson amps that are absolutely boutique quality. Now, lets take a breath. Am I overstating the obvious or am I simply off my rocker?
Most boutique amps try to emulate their counterparts that hailed between fifties, sixties and early seventies.You always hear salespeople try to sell these amps using the analogies Blackface, Silverface, Pre CBS as well as a palette of other corresponding vintage descriptors. Of course if you decide to shell out for a Budda, Dr Z, Bruno, Bogner, Victoria you are talking about an investment starting around 3 thousand dollars; a Dumble will take you into the ten thousand plus stratosphere. On the other hand a Super Reverb in so-so condition will go $1600.00 and up with other vintage Fenders pushing that same envelope.
Stop the presses! It appears that one little Fender amp has gotten into the realm of the affordable, under the radar; enter the Fender Deluxe II!
THE RIVERA CONNECTION
Paul Rivera has long been known and acclaimed for his contributions to research and development of Marshall and Fender Amps. While at Fender he spearheaded an assault on the marketplace that Mesa Boogie was taking ownership of rapidly, high gain amps. It was during his tenure at Fender in the early eighties that a line of amps were developed, that today present the best value for those seeking boutique tone, the II series. Yes there were a host of others, but they were discovered long ago and their price tags are in the upper stratosphere. Not so with the Fender Deluxe II!
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CONTROLS
The Black Faced Fender Deluxe IIat first glance quite similar looking to pre and post CBS Deluxe Reverbs.. That is where the similarity ends. The Fender Deluxe IIwith hand wired circuits, all tube, class A construction, steel chassis, high quality sockets, pots jacks and switches are the order of the day here. The birch cabinet is joined with dovetail joinery and can literally be stood on! Make no mistake about it, the
Fender Deluxe II is solid as a brick wall and yet it weighs 45 lbs!
Hum Balance> Reverb input> Reverb output> Pedal Plain> Pedal Red> Line out/ Recording>20watt RMS > Auxiliary 120 watt socket> Fuse
The two input led indicated footswitch (plain & red line) is the Achilles heel here. No, it works great selecting channels and gain; it seems that for some reason they are hard to come by. I waited 3 years to find one on Ebay and ended up paying over a hundred dollars for it. I have seen them go for as high as three hundred dollars!
The auxiliary power receptacle is a welcome feature that has been lost on newer amps.
Although the Fender Deluxe II produces only 20 watts, it holds its own on small gigs and can always be miked or run direct to the board with its line out/recording capability and does so nicely with no hint of 60 cycle hum!
Dual inputs> Volume Push Pull /Bright > treble Channel 1> Bass Channel 1> Volume Push Pull/ Channel Select > Gain > Master Volume> Treble> Mid Push Pull / Boost > Bass > Reverb. Presence> Power Switch > Jewel
The push Pull design of the front panel Volume, and mid controls is reminiscent of The Mesa Mark1 and a host of older and newer Rivera amps, and incidentally, a feature that has found its way onto a few high-end boutique amps.
The push pull feature on the channel one control adds a real shimmer to your tone making it a natural lower key solo and funk work. Both channels share both the reverb and presence controls. The reverb is lush and very chorus like harkening to a fifties or sixties Bandmaster. Turn off the reverb and you have a super clean tone quite appropriate for country work with a Vintage Telecaster. A pull on the Channel 2 volume control engages high gain preamp section and you can really take a harder edged solo here. I find with the Fender Deluxe II, I generally leave overdrive pedals home, if fact I like to play straight in with this one as it offers such versatility.
TUBES AND SPEAKER
The power team here is comprised of a pair of 6V6 power tubes and five 7025 in the high gain preamp section with a 12 At7 pushing the reverb. High gain is more of an overdriven tone with a hint of fuzz at the higher settings. I would not recommend the Fender Deluxe II for metal aficionados but it will take on a nice edge for most other genres.
Fender was putting a 12 inch Eminence speaker in the Fender Deluxe II. The 12-inch speaker gives the amp real projection and dispersion. This little guy is loud; make no mistake about that! Can it carry overtop of a live band? Well, I have played it in venues under 200 people with no problems, and recently played a Lockheed Martin Corporate gig with over 11,000 people with the same amp running through the board with even better results. There is a sweet breakup around 11 o clock and pushing it beyond 3 o clock starts to push the limits of the amp. I find in spite of its size I stay away from amp stands and just sit it on the ground to enhance its bass response or an empty ATA case, to get it above the crowd a little.
We are talking about classic fender tone when the amp is clean in channel one. Jazz tones are rich when you throw a Gibson ES 175 in front of it but can also get into a fusionesque mode with the gain channel kicked in. I have used the amp for an acoustic with moderate results, certainly good enough to play a small coffeehouse job.
As I mentioned, this amp is great to play straight in with no outboard effects. I have only used a Boss 7 band EQ if the room acoustics are less then acceptable but really, no other effects are needed. The gain channel can pull off some Hendrix i.e. Cross-town Traffic material but you better forget doing Fire. I love the Fender Deluxe II as a blues amp as it has the soulful overtones necessary to really play the blues. R&B is another genre that this amp absolutely nails. We play a little Tower Of Power and I can emulate Bruce Conte solos with little effort tone-wise.
As the owner of many amps and guitars of all quality, I have to say my 1986 Fender Deluxe II is the most traveled of my amps and my go-to amp for most occasions. I love the weight; it beats carrying my Chieftain or Twin around. I purchased the amp from my 82 year old teacher who reminded me, Lou would be an idiot to pass this up for $250. I did not and today, if you can find one, you better be prepared to fork over upward of $500.00 - $1000.00. It is the best deal going today for a boutique caliber amp. A vintage Fender Deluxe can fetch close to $2000.00. The word is out, this one will eclipse that mark soon!