REVIEWED: FENDER BASSBREAKER 45 AND 18/30 COMBO AMPS

Fender Music Australia / fender.com.au RRP: 45 - $2799 18/30 - $1999

The way I see it, being a household name has got to be more trouble than it’s worth. The progenitor of modern musical instruments, Leo Fender, must not have slept for decades trying to keep his beloved script logo from being eclipsed by any number of upstarts nipping at his heels, poor fella. Fender has consistently stayed ahead of the pack not only by building time-tested classics, but also by using these as springboards for new and improved versions of holy tonality. For many, the be all and end all of ear candy is the behemoth Bassman that has graced stages since almost forever. It is from this well that its direct descendants, the Bassbreaker Series of amplifiers, spring.

The 45-watt flagship of this range does well to respectfully tip its hat to its grandfather without resting too heavily on familial laurels. With all the bell-like, rounded clean tone of the ’59 Bassman as its weapon of choice, it harnesses the grunt of two EL34 for gristly, searing British break-up. Dial the output power all the way back to one watt using the output knob and you have a super versatile variant more than worthy of its lineage.

 

The 18/30 surprisingly enough tells a similar story in a much more nuanced and interesting way. The higher output 30-watt channel is as faithful a rendition of the Bassman as the 45, but with the lower power affording you more headroom and not driving the Celestion V-type speakers quite so hard. Those glorious, glassy overtones sing an even sweeter song and adore the slightest hint of overdriven juice, pushing your mids to ecstasy. Switch over to the 18-watt channel, whose circuitry is based on the lesser known ‘60s brown-face build, and the roof falls in on all of that headroom. Here you have a ton of hotter-than-hell tube compression for a tighter, warmer and more boutique voicing. The combination of these two distinct and unique channels make for one of the most flexible and original sounding new amplifier designs I’ve come across in a very long time.

 

On top of all that, the Bassbreaker series are workhorse builds through and through. The soaring ceiling in the clean sound of these amps means that they have more than enough room to move where pedals are concerned. In fact, where the Bassman would act as a foundation upon which you build a sound house, these amps play alongside your favourite stomp boxes in a much more cooperative way that rivals Supro circuits in its honesty and capacity for heavy lifting. I haven’t heard a dialed down OCD sound so widescreen as I did when I tried it into a Bassbreaker, and I can only imagine how they would handle things like POGs, organ simulators and the like.

 

Headroom in spades, harmonically rich and driven as a hungry dog, these amps are not only made to be played but also to be played with. They are exploratory in nature and limited only by the imagination of the person dialing them in. The dark grey lacquered tweed covering the birch housing of these amps, and their faithful 2x12 extension cabinet, is sure to become as recognisable as the hacked up black tolex of the original. 

Hits and Misses

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Incredibly clean with headroom for days

More sweet spots than you can poke a stick at with searing

Tube break-up on tap

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