What a weird and contradictory world the amp world can be. As a young player idolising people on the cover of Kerrang or NME or Mixdown itself, you are quickly lead to believe that in order to achieve tonal enlightenment you must have a monolithic wall of stacks behind you; however, at one time or another we all learn the horrible truth. Like finding out that your parents… gulp… enjoy sex, some of the loudest, filthiest and most stadium filling sounds in recorded history squeeze their way into existence from shockingly tiny amps. Half of Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue was farted out of a knocked about old, low wattage Supro box and bands today render vibrations binary in single channel interfaces before they even attempt to push any air whatsoever. The myth of Tonehenge is more akin to a Spinal Tap joke than a hard and fast rule, and this is why Fender’s Blues Junior remains one of the most loved amps of all time.
Fifteen watts of tube driven grunt and a 12” Celestion is all you need, but hardly all you’ll get in this tuxedo black box. Fire up those 12AX7s, tap on the FET-style Fat Boost switch, and you’ll hardly believe your ears. Its clean tones are hot on the heels of bigger brothers like the ’65 Twin or Deluxe Reverb in their chime and sheen. Push the front end, however, and really get that speaker shaking its screws loose and it has the grunt and filth of Keith Richards’ perennially postponed hangover, almost like a pushed Princeton with its back against a wall. They have always been the dirty little secret of the studio world and, while originally intended to be little more than a practice amp, they are so favoured by everyone lucky enough to get to know one that they now grace backline hire companies’ equipment lists the world over.
Surely we know all this by now though, right? It’s not like we’ve stepped back in time and this little ripper is the newest invention in the shelves. Right, but the reason I bring your attention back to the pipsqueak prince of pitch is that the Blues Junior, like its comrade in clarity the Hot Rod Deluxe, has received a welcome yet tasteful makeover. Fender unveiled several version IV models a few short months ago and I had the great fortune of sampling the aforementioned Deluxe for a previous issue of this here rag. The updates to the whole line are nothing short of much longed for requests made by long time admirers of the Fender catalogue. First and foremost, the reverb tank is much more in line with their vintage builds, that blissful ‘60s sparkle that sounds like heaven’s hallways. It seems too that the humble Blues Junior has had some junk added to the trunk as the break up, which happens at a handily higher volume than previous iterations, is fatter and juicier than ever before.
It takes a particular type of player to stand in front of a wall of quad-boxes and burst eardrums willy-nilly. It takes another, entirely more confident one to jack straight into a 15 watt box of rock and blow the former out of the water. The Blues Junior is much more suited to the latter with its deft handling of sincerity, subtlety and devil-may-care attitude.
Hits and Misses
Tiny but mighty indeed