Even if you’ve never actually read Don Quixote I don’t imagine the blurb of Miguel Cervantes’ defining tome has escaped anyone; stately madman goes roaming the countryside on a hallucinatory quest accompanied by his donkey and faithful off-sider. What a strangely fitting metaphor for the relationship between a guitar player and their amp of choice. We are the lance-wielding maniacs off hunting imaginary dragons while dragging along humble wattage on whatever adventure we see fit. For the better part of a decade now I have had a Fender Hot Rod Deville 4x10 in tow as the Sancho Pança to my Man of La Mancha and it has yet to fail me in my battles against windmills. As 2018 sputters into life like an old tractor, Fender unveils the new and improved Hot Rod series, of which I respectfully introduce myself to its Deluxe IV 1x12.
In the Fender building, the Hot Rod family’s door has long been the one to knock on when looking for a resolute workhorse amplifier. Their simple black tolex and aged silver grille cloth has been the image of stage-ready power and pedal friendly humility since its debut and the updated version IV is not about to buck that trend. Even in the 1x12 variation there is more than enough power, 40watts to be exact, for just about any situation, on stage or off. The EQ stage is as comfortable and flexible as it ever was with an even more relaxed mid-range and chime behind the presence knob. One thing that has improved in leaps and bounds is the drive channel. Historically a little on the muddy side, there is a revived sense of chirp and clarity on tap here more so than in its predecessors, which is a definite tick in the right box. The spring reverb too has had a tweak; while older iterations tended towards the dry and dark, a pinch of smoothness and shimmering length brings it more in line with the tanks built into the back of Princeton or Deluxe Reverb amps.
Having loved/flogged my Deville for such a long time I must admit I was skeptical upon learning about the updated version of this old favourite. My 4x10 has a well worn in sense of warmth, heft and sensitivity that for me feels like an old pair of jeans and I would shudder at the prospect of Fender fiddling with a winner for the sake of it. On the contrary, it seems like the oldest name in the game have done nothing but listen to the requests and advice of their pre-existing players in ironing out the remaining wrinkles in this already smooth garment. Straight away this Deluxe IV feels as familiar and ready to get to work as it does refreshed and reinvigorated. As soon as the standby switch was off I could feel all the headroom I know and love, the clarity and bottomless clean tone that makes my guitars sing and the sturdy trustworthiness I’ve come to rely on.
In the end Quixote and Pança ride side by side into the sunset, having thwarted all the imaginary dragons they could find. With a whole line of new sidekicks ready to go out into the world, it is comforting to know that Fender’s Hot Rod Deluxe is as faithful as ever and as keen for adventure as they come.
Hits and Misses
Sturdy, lightweight and reliable with headroom for days