What we purchased: My first tube amp… about 20 years late

I bought my first guitar within the seventh grade. Had a few bands in highschool and faculty. And I nonetheless play repeatedly. But, I’m considerably embarrassed to confess that I solely simply purchased my first tube amp in April of final year. That’s proper, I performed guitar considerably significantly for round 25 years earlier than I went and acquired what is taken into account by many (principally obnoxious purists) the one sort of amp price enjoying.

Eventually, I set my sights on a Fender Blues Jr, a easy 15-watt, 1×12 amp. Specifically, I managed to snag a beautiful Tweed mannequin used for $400. It was too good of a deal to cross up (even when I did need to drive into New Jersey to choose it up).


Now, earlier than you all freak out, it’s not that I’ve by no means performed a tube amp earlier than. My bands typically rented a rehearsal house the place I used to be normally enjoying by means of Marshall half stack. A JCM800 if I keep in mind appropriately, however I’d be mendacity if I mentioned I cared about something aside from the truth that it was a Marshall half stack on the age of 18.

Fender Blues Jr
In addition to sounding nice, glowing vacuum tubes look nice.

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

When it was time for me to exit and improve from my tiny Yamaha observe amp, I simply bought the loudest factor I might afford on the time: a 2×12 120-watt Crate strong state amp. I wanted one thing that could possibly be heard over a drummer in my basement or in a small membership. It did precisely what I anticipated it to: It was delightfully crisp and clear, took pedals effectively and it was loud.

That was my solely amp for a lot of years. But, being 120w it didn’t actually do “quiet.” Even with the quantity at one it was sufficient to piss off the neighbors. So after I had my first youngster I knew I wanted to get one thing else. Again, finances and quantity had been essential (seems youngsters are costly). But as a substitute of being loud, this time I wanted one thing that may sound good at ranges that wouldn’t disturb a sleeping child. So I snagged a Yamaha THR10 on sale.

But over the previous few years I’d began getting critical about music once more. And, particularly during the last two years, I’d rekindled my love of guitar. Between that, and what I’m going to chalk as much as pandemic restlessness, I began trying to improve to an precise tube amp. I ended up deciding on the Blues Jr partially as a result of I nonetheless wanted one thing that didn’t get too loud. But I additionally didn’t want something terribly fancy. I needed tube heat and crunch at an affordable value and with out too many bells and whistles.

While it took me some time to seek out the amp’s candy spots, I’m a convert. I now primarily use my THR10 late at evening or if I should be cellular – say, taking pictures a review in my eating room. But in any other case, I’m firing up the Blues Jr everytime. It can do the jangly clear tones typically related to Fender at decrease volumes, and get an nearly Vox-ish crunch when cranked. I not often use the “Fat” swap, which boosts the mids, however I might see it being useful should you’re relying solely on the inner drive and must take a solo.

Fender Blues Jr

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The solely actual amenity you get is a spring reverb, which sounds fairly nice. Cranking it introduces an honest quantity of noise to your sign, nevertheless it actually nails these drippy surf tones.

Importantly for me, it has a grasp quantity knob (which not all amps do). That permits you to push the preamp till you begin to get some scrumptious breakup, whereas protecting issues at a degree that received’t get the cops concerned. But it will get loud sufficient for gigging too, in case I ever resolve to play music in entrance of different people once more (extremely unlikely).

The largest promoting level, although, was that it’s additionally a fairly strong pedal platform. As a guitarist with extra results than expertise, I wanted one thing that wasn’t going to get too muddy or noisy as I began stacking a number of delays and reverbs with fuzz.

The Fender Blues Jr has been round since about 1995. And, whereas it has undergone a number of revisions in that point, its core character stays largely unchanged. Honestly, I want I had found it earlier. Because, whereas I’ve fallen in love with loads of devices and results over the years, that is the first amp that I’ve been really enamored with.

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