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Microphone Month

Amp of the Day: Fender ’57 Deluxe Head

’50s-era Fender Deluxe amps, in all of their tweed-covered glory, are highly prized and sought-after by guitarists and collectors; if you’ve ever heard one, you know why. Sparkling top-end, tight lows, and creamy mids with just the right balance of natural compression and pick attack make these amps great sounding and just plain fun to play. They’ve been heard on countless recordings and stages, in every genre of music, and have been called “the cornerstone of the boutique amplifier market” spawning scores of clones. So, when Fender decided to re-stake their claim on the ’57 Deluxe, they did it right — then they broke the mould with a head version of the traditionally combo-only amp!

Initially, several samples of vintage Deluxes and boutique clones were carefully measured and listened to until Fender’s design team decided on one “golden sample” on which to base their new amps. The coveted 5E3 circuit was painstakingly recreated by Fender and the transformer was designed by none other than Mercury Magnetics, known for their stellar, vintage transformer clones. The ’57 Deluxe Head’s all-tube circuitry is handwired on an eyelet board by a separate team in Fender’s Corona, California factory. Groove Tubes provides two 6V6 power tubes, one 5Y3GT rectifier, and a pair of 12AX7 preamp tubes to make the ’57 Deluxe head sing.

The amp’s controls couldn’t be any simpler; individual volume controls for the instrument and mic channels and a master tone control are all that are needed to achieve tweed perfection. At lower volume settings, clean chime with pronounced low end is heard. With the volume setting on “5,” the ’57 Deluxe Head shifts into smooth overdrive, which can be controlled by pick dynamics. Dimed, this amp really screams with thick, tight distortion that has excellent note clarity and touch sensitivity but still cleans up nicely by turning down the guitar’s volume control.

Top-mounted controls, chicken-head knobs, tweed covering, vintage-style brown/gold grille cloth, and a leather handle give this amp old-school good looks. Internal shielding, ground wires, a 3-prong power cord, and the addition of a stand-by switch are the only non-period-correct features on this amp and they allow Fender to meet up to modern electrical codes for manufacturing. These features also increase the amp’s safety and convenience and do not affect its tone. Even though the original ’57 Deluxe was issued as a combo amp only, having the vintage circuitry in a head format makes it really convenient to match with any speaker cabinet; it sounds equally brilliant through a variety of speakers.

The Fender ’57 Deluxe Head is an excellent tribute to an amp that is considered the pinnacle of guitar tone. Get one for yourself and hear the whole story.

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