The Evolution of Fender Amps

Before the Broadcaster and Precision Bass, Leo Fender was tinkering with speakers and amplifiers in a little shop in Fullerton, California. Fender and his company helped change the sound of popular music with an ever-innovative line of guitar and bass amplifiers. Through the '50s and into the post-'64 CBS era and beyond, the look of Fender amps evolved as new circuits and models were introduced and improved.

A 1948 Deluxe and a 1949 Champion 600

TV Front 1948 - 1953

The first generation of Fender amps lacked any sort of covering, using just finished wood for the cabinet. By the end of the ‘40s, Fender had adopted a casing style with wide panels on all sides of the grill, echoing the look of early Television sets. Successful models in this era include in Champion 600 and 800 which evolved into the long-running Fender Champ.

A 1953 Deluxe

Wide Panel 1953 - 1955

By 1953, Fender transitioned into what’s known as the Wide Panel design. These amps used wider panels on the top and bottom of the grill (like the TV Front era) but with thinner strips on the sides. By this point, the Tweed used to wrap the amps had also changed to a darker tan with diagonal lines. Classic amps introduced in this era include the Twin and the Bandmaster

A 1956 Bassman and 1957 Champ

Narrow Panel 1955 - 1959

The amps produced during Fender’s Narrow Panel era rank as some of the most iconic and collectable amps of all time. These legendary pieces featured thin panels on all four sides of the speaker grill and rich tan tweed coverings. In this era, amps such as the 4x10 Bassman and 3x10 Bandmaster set the bar for all rock amps to follow. It's said that the original Marshall JTM-45 was inspired by the Narrow Panel Bassman of this era.

A 1962 Concert Amp and 1961 Bassman

Brownface and Blonde 1959 - 1963

The stretch between 1959 and 1963 marks a point of some variation for Fender amp design. In this era, amps were made with a variety of tolex wraps including Brown on amps Concert and Bandmaster. For some of the stack or ‘piggyback’ amps, a lighter Blonde Tolex was used. In this era, more and more Fender amp lines were augmented with editions that featured onboard Reverb and Vibrato. In many cases, these amps came to supplant the non-Reverb amps. The Fender Twin, for example, was discontinued in 1963 to make way for the Twin Reverb which launched that same year.

A 1964 Twin Reverb, a 1964 Bassman Head, and a 1964 Champ

Blackface 1963 - 1967

Fender amps with black tolex, black control panels, and silver grills started to appear on certain models in mid 1963. Now referred to as the “Blackface” style, this period of Fender amps is perhaps the most recognizable and replicated of all Fender amp designs. It was in this era that models like the Twin Reverb and the Vibrolux hit their peak, helping to define rock music along the way.

A Bassman 10, a 1977 Twin Reverb, and a 1973 Champ

Silverface 1967 - 1980

Silverface Fender amps used the same black tolex as their Blackface predecessors, but with Silver metal control panels. For collectors, Silverface amps are less desirable than the Blackface era due to a number of a changes brought to most of the amp designs as well as an overall decrease in quality seen through the CBS-era. Early Silverface amps feature an aluminum trim around the speaker grill known as a “drip edge.” Also in this period, Fender introduced its first Solidstate amp models.

"The Twin" and a Hot Rod Deluxe III

Beyond 1980 - present

The Silverface era lasted through most of the 70s and though Blackface style amps started to creep back by the end of the decade. The early '80s were another major transition point for Fender, and 1982 in particular saw a major overhaul of the entire amp line. Since then Fender has released an array of diverse amps, with classic reissues harkening back to the of the '50s and '60s and newer designs embracing the latest in digital modeling technology.

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