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Author Topic: Fender Blues Deville 60W  (Read 1395 times)

Matt

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Fender Blues Deville 60W
« on: March 20, 2015, 11:27:37 PM »
I thought it might be helpful to somebody sooner or later to know a bit about this amp and it's use for harmonica.
I've been gigging solidly with this amp for five years and know the nature of the beast, so to speak. As my main amp, the 4 x 10 configuration is adaptable to a wide variety of venues and stages. Having a massive 60W of power is handy too, but also a handicap in some ways. The Blues Deville is cheaper than a Bassman and has a lot more bite, but it is hard to take full advantage of it as this amp is so very loud that it simply can't be cranked right up without killing every living thing within four miles.
It is a heavy amp, heavier than the Bassman, and it will sooner or later hurt you in some way.

Preamp Tube Swap
In its standard configuration off the shelf it is a great guitar amp with plenty of range and that legendary Fender sparkle. Playing intensity effects how this amp barks, even more so with harp than with guitar. Very nice.
Feedback is a problem right from the start. I have swapped out the preamp tubes (12AX7) with a pair of 12AY7, and this has helped to tame the feedback and the overall output as well, and I would recommend this setup to anybody who is thinking of using the Deville for harmonica. This allows me to raise the volume (feed more juice to the power amp tubes) before feedback occurs. Working the power amp tubes harder means I'm getting closer to the sweet spot and earlier, warmer break-up. A 12AY7 has a gain factor of about 40, compared to a 12AX7 which sits around 90(+).

*I know many web sites recommend that harp players use the 12AU7 as a good replacement for the 12AX7, but I would disagree with this after experimenting with pretty much every tube that is a viable replacement for the 12AX7. 12AU7 tubes, in my experience, suck a lot of tone and leave the harp sounding less lively (can't think of a perfect term for this). I'm not saying that there is not a situation where a 12AU7 is a good choice, just that generally I find them a poor contender compared to the 12AY7 - for harmonica.

Phase Inverter Tube Swap
I have made another tube swap in the Deville - I replaced the phase inverter with another 12AY7. The phase inverter is not a gain stage of the amp, so the volume is not affected by this change. The idea behind this mod is simple: by using a lower gain tube in the phase inverter position this tube is worked pretty hard, adding a very subtle warm distortion to the signal before it reaches the power amp stage.

I know a lot of Bassman users have trouble with feedback, too, and the Deville is about on par with it's little brother in this regard. Of course it is only a problem when playing loud which usually occurs when the band is loud, and only at venues which allow those kind of volumes in the first place. If your band is not loud you will have few issues with feedback. The downside to playing at lower volumes is that you may not be working your amp to best effect. Smaller amps can be a good idea, and I also use a Series III Blues Junior for smaller venues. Sometimes a 4 X 10 is just not the best tool for the job, but if it is your only amp it still can handle any gig.

Speakers
The only other change I made to the amp was wiring the speakers so the phase was inverted. This was an attempt to arrest feedback, and it was a minor win, but ultimately I would still get feedback at a certain spot on stage or when standing a certain distance from the amp. Having tested this mod I do not recommend reversing the speaker phase. It hasn't caused any issues - it was just altogether an apparent waste of time.

The four factory 10 inch speakers are the well-known blue Eminence alnicos weighing in at 35W each. Personally I think these speakers are very suitable to the task of delivering your harp tones. There are better speakers to upgrade to, but the blue Eminence speakers are not bad at all.
recently I damaged one of the speakers physically while carrying the amp (drunk of course), and I plan to refit the cabinet with 40W or 50W speakers of higher quality. I plan to use different kinds of cones in the cabinet rather than having the same speaker throughout.
*In the interim I'm fitting a set of 20W Jensens that I pilfered from a friend's Bassman. Not an ideal 'upgrade' despite the Jensens being highly regarded, but all I can afford to do for now. Our band is in the middle of recording our next CD and I need the big dog up and working to finish off the last few songs.

Wear & Tear
The (unglazed) tweed finish didn't stay clean for very long, and certain morons pretending to be musicians sometimes think it is a great table to put beers (or their feet) on. As the years go by the Deville's dirty clothes are starting to look downright bluesy indeed, and once it frays a little it should look very sexy. Ahem.
The screen-printed-on-chrome markings for the controls and the compliance plate info wear off in time, there's not much you can do about it if you are bundling the amp in and out of the car all the time.

The dogbone Fender handle is extremely durable and gives me confidence when lifting the amp on and off of the amp stand.

This amp has done thousands of miles in the boot (trunk) of my car over rough country roads and even rougher city streets, lying on its back with no more padding than a double layer of yoga matting underneath, and is still going strong. The five year warranty was not needed.

My Rig
I've boiled my rig down to this basic setup:

JT30 vintage mic with Shure CR element.
JT30 vintage mic with Shure CM element.
Vintage Turner 254 with CM element.
Vintage JT30 (1942) with original crystal element.
Kinder Anti Feedback Device
Lone Wolf Harp Tone+
Fender Blues Deville
Fender Blues Junior

It's that simple. The Kinder takes care of any feedback issues and the Harp Tone+ fattens out the bottom end while also providing a way to attenuate the signal before it hits the preamp, ultimately allowing the volume knob on the amp to be turned up higher which means more juice to the power amp and better break-up. Both pedals feature impedance matching to get the most out of the vintage mics which are by nature very high impedance (much higher than a guitar).

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ProsCons
Versatile amp with a buttery, warm tone
The 4 x 10 speakers push a lot of air making it easy to be heard even at lower volumes
Well priced, a lot of 'bang for your buck' with an authentic Fender valve sound.
Two channels - clean and dirty - are both useful for harmonica.
Real spring reverb tank on board.
      The amp needs to be at a decent volume for best tone, and in that state it will be very loud (see my rig setup for solutions).
Solid state rectifier means that the much coveted 'sag' is not present as it would be on the Bassman.
This amp weighs more than your car
Not quite as good as the Bassman for harmonica use. If you have the extra cash, shell-out for the Bassman and don't look back

*If I think of any further points I will update this post. Hope this helps you to choose (or not) the 60W Fender Blues Deville, according to your needs.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2015, 11:45:05 PM by Matt »

Rick

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Re: Fender Blues Deville 60W
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2015, 09:41:54 PM »
That was a great article Matt.   It was very informative, and very humorous too.   Not dry at all!    Thanks!