60W, no channel switching, no effects, tweed covered, 4×10″ alnico blue speakers, made to replicate the old ‘uns. Internally, PCB mounted components, but I’m sure if Leo Fender were still alive, he would approve PCBs for mass production.
Although aesthetically similar to the 4×10 Fender Blues Deville, the Bassman is a very different and superior sounding product compared to the modern channel switching, all singing Deville packaged in vintage tweed.
Owned this from new in 1997 until 2006. Turn of the year in 1997, Fender UK’s distributor, Arbiter for reasons unbeknown to me, heaviliy discounted these new, and I paid IRO £700. They also discounted the external reverb units at the same time, but regrettably, I didnt have the spare cash to buy one.
After carefully unpacking the Bassman, with hindsight, it was difficult for it to match up to my (unrealistic) expectations, and to be honest, I was initially disappointed with the tone. Sure, it looked nice, but I couldn’t quite get my sound. The intention of buying it was having something I could drive the tubes & speakers at pub & club volume, compared to my 100w Fender Dual Showman Reverb. However, after about 4 rehearsals with my band, finally dialed in a sound, and what a sound.
To get this sound, I played my Clapton strat through a tube screamer into the bright input, with making sure the mid eq was boosted to about 9 along with the bass. Many of us guitarists growing up through the eighties, got used to dropping the mid range out, resulting in a scooped out guitar sound reminiscent of that period. However, if you’re using single coil pickups and you need your sound to fill some space with a 3 piece, boosting the mid range does work wonders.
I did purchase a tube rectifier to replace the standard solid state rectifier plugged into the valve base in order to get a truer vintage sound. However, I preferred the punchier sound of the solid state rectifier compared to the saggy, compressed sound of the valve rectifier.
Once dialed in, I received numerous comments from other guitarists over the years, particularly following each other on the bills of festivals, that it was one of the best guitar tones they had ever heard. In a smaller venue, it would fill the room with a luscious tone. I’m a big fan of 10″ speakers, especially for single coil pickups, and they round the sound off nicely, boosting those harmonic frequencies you want to hear. It really became as much of an instrument as the guitar.
Its sweet spot was with the volume on about 4 (no master volumes, remember).
Although I’ve never had the luxury of playing an original 1959 Bassman (although I have heard some of the boutique hand wired reissues close-up), I would safely say that this reissue would sound quite a lot different to the original. Similar maybe in terms of aesthetics and specs, but not as soft as the original.
However, it is still a very good sounding amp indeed.
I did have one of the 6L6 power tubes blow during one gig taking out the nearby screen grid resistor, but nothing a matched pair of tubes, a replacement resistor and a soldering iron couldn’t put right.
One of best sounding amps you’ll ever hear
None, however, points to note:
- It is very, very good at what it does, but compared to modern amps, it can feel a one trick pony. If you play guitar in several bands, covering several styles, you may need another more modern amp as well.
- Get the external reverb unit as well. If you’re used to playing Fenders with a touch of reverb, they can sound a bit dry, but its sacrilidge to play anything other than a tube driven reverb unit with it. They’re not cheap, so factor the Fender external reverb unit into your costing.
If you like warm blues tones, on the edge of breaking up, you’ll struggle to find a better sounding amp than the ’59 Bassman, even at boutique money (remember Fender mass produce which is why they’re much cheaper). They are also great for harp players as well, but strongly consider purchasing the external Fender reverb tank to go with it.
Would I Buy Another One?
Hell yes. I regret to this day selling it. And next time, I’ll take the reverb unit as well.