Announced during that strange period we'll refer to in the history books as digital NAMM 2021, the one that did not happen, Fender's ‘68 Custom Pro Reverb and Custom Vibro Champ have been officially released today.
Two of the most keenly anticipated old-school guitar amplifiers of 2021, the valve combos feature the classic silverface design that Fender introduced in 1967, replacing the black-fronted look with a brushed aluminium front panel complemented by the aluminium drip edge trim around silver-turquoise grille cloth. Here, the jewel power lamp glows blue on both.
These vintage looks bely a circuit that has been modernised, with less negative feedback making for a a more dynamic and touch-sensitive response. Purists might scoff, but during this period Leo Fender was forever modifying the circuit in pursuit of a better amplifier.
At 40-watts, the Pro Reverb is the larger of the two, slimming down the original model to offer a single-channel set up with controls for Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Reverb, Speed and Intensity, plus a Bright Switch.
The addition of a midrange control will please today's player, and the amp ships with a two-button footswitch to control the tube-driven reverb and grid-bias tremolo.
Under the hood you'll find a trio of 12AX7s and a pair of 12AT7s in the preamp, with two 6L6's in the power amp. There's a lightweight 12“ Celestion Neo creamback speaker nesting in that pine cabinet. At 35 lbs (15.9 kg), it is considerably lighter than the 2x12“ original.
The Vibro Champ is altogether more portable. Offering 5-watts and featuring a single 10" Celestion Ten 30 speaker, it weighs in at 20.4 lbs. (9.25 kg). Again, it is a single-channel affair, with the two-button footswitch sold separately.
With Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb, Speed and Intensity, controls, the Vibro Champ's front panel is similar to a Princeton Reverb. It's almost like a little brother, or little cousin, with the power stage scaled down to accommodate a single 6V6 valve, while a pair of 12AX7s occupy the preamp.
That said, the 2021 Vibro Champ has a little more oomph to it than its vintage counterparts, packing more depth in the low end thanks to its larger 10“ speaker. It's the ideal size for throttling in the studio for a recording, or as a domesticated tube combo. There is now an onboard hall reverb, too, and like the Pro Reverb it ships with a fitted cover.
If you need a little more power, a lot more headroom, the Pro Reverb is a good shout. And it should make a very decent platform for your pedalboard too.
The ‘68 Custom Vibro Champ is available now, priced £799 / $749 / €899, while the Pro Reverb is priced £1349 / $1299 / €1499. See Fender for more details.