Amplifiers

Fender ‘68 Custom Deluxe Reverb Amplifier

  • By Sarah FitzGerald @tonereport
  • February 25, 2014
  • 19 Comments

If you’re anything like me, your first amp was kind of a p.o.s. I won’t even tell you what my first amp was, but I will say that it had an 8” speaker and sounded, at best, awful. Eventually, I upgraded to a solid state Marshall that had a 12” speaker and a footswitch so I could go from clean to dirty without the use of a small pushbutton on the face of the amp. This got me by until I was asked to join a band for the first time—at which time I realized I had to get serious about my rig, STAT. There was only one obvious choice for my first tube amp, for my first band, for my first gig: the legendary Fender Twin Reverb. I had to let it go, sadly, since I couldn’t carry it by myself (having always relied on the kindness of the boys in my band) and replaced it with a couple 1x12 HRDx combos that wouldn’t break my back.

Though I’m obviously a card-carrying member of the Fender amp club, I’ve always sidestepped the blackface vs silverface debates. Here in Portland, I almost feel like I’ve seen more silverface amps in the backline than blackface amps—we’ve always been a music scene that embraces the less-loved, less mainstream equipment—and they’ve always sounded amazing. When I heard that Fender was releasing new silverface amps, I felt like maybe the SF was finally getting its due. Judging by the tones coming out of the new ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb—silverface might be the new benchmark for Fender tone. Might.

 

A bit of background: this silverface (and the ’68 Twin Reverb and ’68 Princeton Reverb that arrived alongside it) is NOT a reissue. Part of Fender’s Vintage Modified series, the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb takes its inspiration from the original but immediately detours into cool new territory: the reverb and vibrato work on both channels and the “custom” channel gets a killer modified Bassman tonestack that really opens up what you can do with the amp vis-à-vis using pedals. To be clear, these are two completely different channels—not simply a Normal & Bright pairing, but two unique voicings perfect for channel switching.

 

I plugged in to the Deluxe Reverb with both a ’69 Tele thinline and my go-to rock machine, a heavily modded Squier Jagmaster that has a L500XL in the bridge. Both guitars sounded great through the DR, but there was something magical about the Fender-into-Fender combination with the Tele. I dialed in my normal tone (I often nudge up the bass on a Fender and pull down the treble to keep it from being too piercing—especially with a Tele in hand) and ran through a couple tunes. What I noticed time and time again is that this amp is beyond responsive—it feels like it is actively responding in real time to what you are playing on guitar. Has Fender figured out how to put artificial intelligence into their tube amps or what?

 

Switching between a pick and my fingers, the amp immediately met me halfway, producing a wonderful sound full of shimmery overtones. Though it isn’t alluded to in any of the official product verbiage from Fender, the reverb on this amp seems to have a much more useable range. On my Twin Reverb and the other Fender tube amps I’ve owned, the reverb seems to have a bit of a range from 1-3, but at 3.5 and up is just all surf, all the time. The DR employs a very useable reverb range and doesn’t just go immediately to Dick Dale.

 

The Custom channel retains that Fender sparkle but rounds things off somewhat, providing a slightly smoother tone that is just a bit darker than your typical Fender sound—in fact, in concept it reminded me somewhat of the Humboldt Hot Rod, an amp purposely designed to roll off the Fender highs. I tossed a Spaceman Aphelion into the front of this channel for a tiny bit of grit and the DR loved it. Then, for fun, I smothered it with the entirety of my pedalboard. No matter what I threw at it (delay, pitch shifting, harmonic boosts), it hit back. One thing I didn’t try was putting a high gain pedal into the DR; I’ve never had luck doing so and besides—that’s why I own a Rockerverb.

 

At bedroom volumes, this thing still slays, but cranking it halfway, between 5-6, created perfect Fender tone: clean when you back off the guitar a bit, gritty when you really dig in. At 22 watts, it has plenty of headroom in a mic’d situation but still plenty of dirt available when you push it. The DR is powerful, nuanced, innovative, and best of all—lightweight. My Hot Rod Deluxes have been great workhorses in the gigging world, but honestly they don’t hold a candle to the responsiveness of this amp. Street price is a “little” on the steep side on paper (a thousand bucks) but it’s still cheaper than the ’65 DRRI and has a way cooler character. If you already love Fenders, like me, this amp is going to surprise you with how much more Fender-sounding it seems to be than your Fender. If you don’t already love Fenders, you might want to give this amp a test drive—its ability to interact with your playing just might hook you.

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19 Comments

  1. David

    Thanks for posting this review. Where I live, there aren’t many stores to go and try out these amps, so a hands on review like yours is greatly appreciated. I’m trying to decide on the 68 Deluxe Reverb or the 65 Super Reverb ( I use to own an original back in the day). I know they are 2 different beasts, but both are fine amps, I’m sure. Now, if I could only get you to review the 65 Super—hint-hint.
    Thanks a bunch.

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  3. Adam Svec

    Nice piece, just a quick comment. I believe these ‘drip edge’ re-creations are actually closer to the blackface circuit than the silverface circuit. 1967-1969 were the transition years from blackface to silverface, and most of the drip edge amps (e.g. metal rectangle on the outside of the grill) actually had blackface interiors. So, I guess this may mean that these aren’t truly a reflection of silverface-era fender amps.

  4. Adam

    Nice to hear you like these amps. I had a chance the other day to A/B the 68 custom and the 65 reissue literally side by side, and loved both of them. I have to say though that the 68 won by a hair for me, it is a bit of a horses-for-courses kind of thing though.

    The strong, bright, straight-ahead clean sound of the DRRI was insanely good at capturing ‘that’ Fender tone, but I found that the 68 custom on the Vintage channel could get very close to that with some EQ tweaks while still having that individual and aggressive, naughty character that made me enjoy playing it so much cranked up a bit on the Custom channel.  I’ll admit it was a bit noisier than the DRRI at idle, and I also experience a high-pitched whine at one stage while trying to sustain a note.  I encountered this same phenomena on my first VOX AC15HW1 when I got it, and they said it was probably a dicky tube and replaced it.


    Overall though, I was very impressed and it’s on my shopping list with a very good chance of it gracing my guitar room in the next few weeks.  It wil be mine, oh yes….

  5. Christa

    I’ve had one of these for a couple of months now, and I first must say that Fender’s QC could certainly use a major review if this is an example!!  The footswitch was inoperable out of the box, and there’s at least one (i suspect 3 or 4) crappy tubes in there. (Groove tubes are ALL hype and no quality).

    This being said, though, DAMN it sounds SO GREAT I couldn’t bring myslef to send it back!  I’ve pumped it with ‘61 Les Paul reissue w/57’s, 335 with Lollar lo-winds, Tele with Lollar (Tele-S types) and a Strat with Lollar “Vintage Blondes”.  I’ve tried compressors and OD pedals (Mad Professor Forest Green and Simble OD and JHS/Boss BluDri), Delays, and distortions and this little amp loves them all!

    It seriously is giving a run for it’s money to my main “go-to” amp, the Vox Heritage Handwired AC30 H2!  The “Custom” channel has a lot in common with that super fat EF86 channel in the Vox. For my little FusionRockJazzCountry thing, it is totally AWESOME.

  6. Mark

    Nice review. I also own this amp and I love it in many of the same ways that you describe. It is a very versatile amp. You get that thicker Bassman tweedish sound AND a DRRI sound from the same amp!
    I like that the new Custom series comes pre- modified with a British speaker & a Bassman tone stack in the “Custom channel”. I find myself plugging into the Custom channel 95% of the time. The touch sensitivity is off-the-charts compared to the 65 DRRI.  It still sounds like a Fender, but without the shrill or ice picky sound that the 65 DRRI can have with some guitars. I play a Rickenbacker and Gretsch’s into it with Filtertrons and Hilotrons and the sound is full and classic. I use pedals for overdrive and they really seem to become part of the amp, with an extremely rich, touch-sensitive, organic sound.
    The “Vintage” channel sounds like the DRRI… with a speaker that has a little more mid-range present.
    I am very happy with it. I also had a Super Reverb reissue and a Blues Deville – but I would rather have the 68 Custom for what I play (Petty, Beatles, Classic Rock). I also still own a Vox ac15hw1x for the Vox sound – between the 2 amps I can cover a lot of sonic ground. I have run both the Vox and 68 Custom at the same time and they nicely complement each other, especially playing the T. Petty stuff.
    Before buying it, I did search for a Vintage Deluxe Reverb, and I would rather have the real deal – but all in all I love the Custom Dlx Reverb. Oh, and it also looks great. The only mod I have done is to replace the teal jewel light with a Fender red one:)

  7. Dan S.

    I have the new 68 CDR - I really like this amp.  I used to have a DRRI and I always thought it sounded a little “cold.”  With the 68 CDR you get two very usable channels that can both utilize reverb/trem.  Awesome mod in my opinion.  The first one I purchased had a crack in the cabinet so it had to go back.  I have vintage Fender amps (handwired) and this new CDR sounds every bit as good as the old ones.  Rock on!

    P.S.  Please delete comment #2.

  8. Dave Singer

    I just purchased the 68 Custom Deluxe and love it!  One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the fact that you can get different response from using input 1 or input 2 on each channel.  Input 2 is attenuated by 6db and doesn’t break up as quickly as when plugged into input 1 on each channel so you get a different response.
    I also connect to both channels via a Morley ABY switch which adds more sonic flexibility.

  9. Kevin

    The “Custom” channel tone is fantastic, with much more emphasis on the lower strings. I don’t mean bassy, but more clean and clear bass notes, which gives the chords a much more complex tone. There’s no muddiness at all.  The “Vintage” channel lacks the sparkle of my old DRRI. I play clean mostly, just so you now where I’m coming from.  I’ve had mine for about a month, and it has started making a loud crackling noise (sounds like when you turn a bad Vol/Tone pot, but is continuous) in the “Vintage” channel. I tried moving all the tubes in their sockets, in case one of the prongs wasn’t making good contact, but it didn’t help. The “Custom” channel is fine, and the Vintage channel doesn’t make any noise when the volume is turned down. I’m taking it back tomorrow, and we’ll see…

  10. allen

    Great review, I could not agree more. The reverb on the amp is awesome.

  11. TT

    I agree with your comment that these new “custom” Fender amps may become THE Fender tone amps.

    I bought my 68 CDR last August and even since then have LOVED this amp.
    I kept testing between the 65 DRRI and the 65 TRRI, but kept coming back to the 68 CDR.  There is something nicer about the 68 silverface that I really liked.

    Some of those things are the fact that this 68 CDR has 2 different tone stacks so that this effectively becomes a 2 channel amp as there is a distinct tonal difference between the 2 channels.  Fender should have included channel switching on these “custom” amps, which is a big oversight imo.
    Yes and A/B box will get you there, but it would have been cleaner to have the connection internally and then switch via Fender foot switch.

    Another great feature that the reissues don’t have is that you get reverb and trem on both channels.  Realistically you don’t need reverb and trem on the reissues because even though there are 2 “channels” they are pretty much the same tone so basically there are single channel amps.
    These silverface customs are fantastic and give the player tonal options.

    The touch sensitivity is fantastic, even better than the already great 65 reissue.
    This 68 CDR responds quickly and beautifully to the lightest touch and then to a more dynamic punch if and when needed.  VERY responsive, VERY cool.

    As the reviewer mentioned the Celestion speaker in this amp is really darn great.  Sure you can greatly alter the amps tone if you put in something different, but what you would get is something different not necessarily something better, but then, “better” is in the ears of the player.  smile
    Suffice it to say that the Celestion speaker in this amps is an excellent pairing.

    I also purchased the 68 custom vibrolux that Fender released last September.
    I wanted another Fender amp that was driven by 6L6 tubes for that punchy Twin tone.  The 68 CVR is also a great amp with the same great features as the 68 CDR.  The only thing the CVR does need is better speakers.  Fender dropped the ball on the speakers in the new 68 CVR.  Even though the CVR has a $100 higher price over the 68CDR Fender did not put that money into better speakers and they should have.  Still the 68 CVR is also an excellent amp. It has a different Fender tonal character, something more between a Twin and HotRod DLX III.

    I find that I play my 68 CDR much more often than I play the CVR.
    For me the 68 custom deluxe reverb is better than the 65 blackface dlx reverb.
    The biggest negative for both the 68 and 65 reverbs is that Fender still hasn’t fixed the loud “POP” when standby is activated.  It’s quite annoying to have that nasty sound come in when putting the amp into standby, and people always ask if there is something wrong with the amp.
    Fender says there is not wrong and that that noise is “normal”.  I disagree.
    It may be typical that these amps have this nasty standby noise, but it is certainly not “normal”.  It’s a poorly designed standby circuit.
    Fender wants to call a bad design “normal”,  but I won’t and don’t accept that.
    Too bad the only way to fix is is to have a tech mod the amp because Fender won’t admit that both deluxe reverbs have a problem with the standby circuit activating.

  12. Isaac

    Thanks for the interesting review, Sarah. Got my eyes set on this amp for some time now, and after reading your review as well as some others, I decided that this would be my next big buy! Glad I did.

    Now then, I just got my brand new ‘68 Fender CDR (I’m from Israel and I waited a month or so to get it from the local dealer over here). Took it out of its shipping box and started playing right away! Have to say that everything works fine, build quality is excellent and the amp sounds great! Taking into account the long voyage this amp went through and the condition of the amp when I got it, is just amazing - Good work Fender!

    After playing it for 3 hours with my American Special Tele: both channels take effect pedals very well, there’s some minor hiss (when Idle) but that’s completely normal, the reverb sounds lush - couldn’t help myself turning it all the way up to “Surfland”...,  and the tremolo is vey good too, rich and beautiful, as you’d expect from an amp like this. As have already been mentioned before, this amp sounds “warmer” than the previous American vintage reissue ‘65 Deluxe Reverb.

    Personally I prefer the “Silverface” look and the amp looks so cool, especially with the new blue pilot light and the the turquoise/silver grille cloth. Go a get one, you won’t be sorry.

  13. Rudi Lebowitz

      Im reading this two days after my new 68 SF Custom Deluxe arrived via UPS from Guitar Center. They offered an incredible 36 months 0% interest deal on all things Fender (over $799). I’ve needed a good amp for a long time, and this amp - what can I say? Your review was spot on. The amp loves the only pedal I use - a Tech 21 Liverpool - but it really shines with my G&L Strat directly into the Custom #1 jack.
          The responsiveness is unbelievable. You’re right - this thing has a bit of magic in it, and seems to know where I’m going. It’s like playing with another musician when you seem to be attuned to each other. BIG smile on my face every time I power this sweetheart up. Which is all the time! Thanks for the great and accurate review!
    Rudi

  14. Craig Grant

    I ordered one yesterday.I had a real 1969 that I loved had to trade for an SG guitar love the guitar but hate that my DR has been gone a couple years I have outher amps but they aren’t a Dlx Reverb.so I have very high hopes will let you know should take about 2 minutes!

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