2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2014
******* SUMMARY ********
I have a lot of experience with various fender amps, and other amps (Orange, Mesa, Marshall, Vox, Roland, Crate, Line 6, others.) This is now Rev 5 of my review, and I've had the amp for 6 months, used it for band practices, and a few gigs.
All in all, I love the amp, and just wish fender had included a dust cover, rubber feet, tilt back legs, a better footswitch -- and eliminated the "pop" when going into standby. You can probably negotiate 20% off the sticker price if you try locally. I love amazon but that savings from negotiating makes some of the suggested upgrades easier to swallow like the cover, rubber feet, tilt-back legs, etc. Overall, I don't think you will be disappointed buying this amp, unless you are looking for a Rectifier or Marshall sound. It's not that, but with the right pedals in front, might be able to get close. (For instance a wampler triple wreck can get you there.) It is after all, a combo amp. And it's a pretty great combo amp in a lot of ways. It is also available as a head only, in black or blonde now. Another similar option is the '68 Deluxe Reverb which is claimed to take pedals better. But I don't find the '65 has any trouble with any of the 30 or so pedals I've tried with it.
******* PROS ********
- It's a good size for gigging...doesn't break your back, plenty loud for the stage, sounds good.
- As usual nothing beats fender cleans, and fenders cut great in the mix.
- Nice reverb, as usual from Fender. In fact...TONS of reverb...I don't run that beyond 2 except in very specialized situations!
- You can add an extension speaker for a little more coverage and air movement. Or you can plug in your favorite 8 Ohm extension speaker and disconnect (or not) the internal speaker if you just want a different sound. It's too bad Fender doesn't make a "matched" extension cabinet.
- Learn to play "Gimme Shelter" and use that tremolo/speed/intensity - sounds amazingly great.
- Did I mention it gets loud? That can be a "pro" if gigging...and a bit of a pain at home for practice if you want overdrive, unless you use a pedal or an attenuator. I highly recommend a high quality attenuator like the "ultimate attenuator" you can find on e-bay, or just adding a tubescreamer or other overdrive.
- It's a two channel amp. (But you need to provide your own A/B switch to really take advantage of that, and be aware no channel is a "drive" channel.)
******* CONS ********
There are a few nits that really bug me at the $1100 sticker price. I deducted one star for value and for these items.
1) No dust cover included, not even the cheapo vinyl Fender cover. C'mon Fender, they only cost you about 2 bucks to make in China. Just about every other cheaper fender I've had comes with one, so why not the $1100 DRRI? They aren't very expensive even retail ($18 on amazon), but really ought to be included. That said, there are better ones available (see D2F on e-bay for a nice padded cover, although more expensive - about $75, or a couple other options in the 25 and 45 range.) Fender really should include the basic dust cover at this price point. But I picked up the D2F, and I like that a lot. Glad I negotiated savings on the amp to help pay for that!
2) The ever present, crappy metal feet that fender puts on their amps. They are cheap and they scratch the hell out of anything you sit the amp on. Take a flat screwdriver and simply pry them out, replace them with 1 1/4" round rubber feet...about $5 retail on the Carvin site or from a variety of speaker building websites or from Mojotone. I normally use an amp stand for combos, but still...who wants to scratch stuff up with metal feet. (Yeah, Yeah...it's a reissue, matching the original, blah blah....the feet are cheesy and destructive. Ditch 'em.)
3) The footswitch for the reverb and vibrato...is the odd duck two button oval footswitch Fender has used for years. I get it that this is a re-issue, but the switch is just el-cheapo. The buttons are too close together, and the plastic base is like a margarine lid. Fender, with their volume purchase power, could easily put a nice 2 button switch in a metal stomp box for this amp for probably $10 cost or less. Not a big deal but...Fender could do better. These switches are odd on a pedal board, require their own run of cable, etc. etc. I replaced mine with an "always on" plug...see below.
4) No "Fender Tilt back legs" included. This is obvious, so I'm not saying I thought they were included...I'm saying at the price point, they should have been included. Tilt back legs work great to get the sound pointed up at you, without having to carry an amp stand to your gig. Good news, if you negotiated a discount, then you can afford to add them as an "upgrade". Available on Amazon, shipped prime for $30. There are no instructions, but search "Fender 14" Tilt back leg kit" and see my review for where I placed them on my DRRI to achieve about 30 degrees of tiltback. My placement works great when gigging in small bars or larger stages. Others have replicated my measurements and said it worked well for them too.
5) When going on standby, this amp POPS kind of loud. None of my other amps do that when I flip the standby switch. It's annoying...
******* DETAILS, UPGRADEs, TONE CHASING, ETC. *******
It is similar to many other Fenders I have had, and most notably similar to a Super Reverb I used to own - at least in terms of the controls. Those are the same with the exception of the DRRI lacking a midrange control on the reverb channel. It sounds Fendery, albeit a bit harsh until the Jensen breaks in. That should mellow out nicely once the Jensen C12K breaks in. I've had other Jensen C12's and they are like an ice pick in the eardrum at first until broken in, then they mellow out, sound great, and cut great in the band mix. Meanwhile, that's what that treble control is for. Or plug into #2 instead of #1 that helps a little too. The first brand new Jensen I had, I HATED, until it got some use...then it became one of my favorite speakers after it mellowed out. I also have hooked this up to a single Jensen 1x10 P10R (of the super reverb variety) and it sounded even more super reverby. I think with a pair of them, you could almost call it a mini-super-reverb. My point -- the 12" C12K has a little different voice than a super with P10R's. Enough said.
It's a great clean amp, and you can still get it for under a grand if you negotiate...at $1099 list, I think it is slightly overpriced for what it is, but nice amps cost money. I bought mine new for $882 plus tax (so $950 out the door) new in a sealed box. (20% off) So before you get excited about prime shipping...talk to your local dealer. I love amazon and I buy tons of stuff prime shipped (in fact almost every day it seems...) but for amps....kinda like to go get 'em in person. Plus you can't really negotiate online. The savings help pay for some of the deficiencies Fender decided not to include. But still, even at $1099, it's a lot of amplifier and certainly not the most expensive one I've bought. So it's a decent value but better on sale or with a negotiated discount, or if you forego paying tax if you buy at the right places online. Anyway on the topic of clean - it's sparkling clean up to about 6 which is pretty darn loud..
Past 6 or 7 she starts to growl, and it is pretty loud when you get there. I've seen FSR versions that use a different alnico Jensen speaker (a P12Q) and I recently picked one up used. I haven't installed it yet to give it a try but once I do I will comment here - or maybe add a video comparison. I'm told it gets a little bit earlier breakup. I may just have a matched extension cabinet built to sit under this and put the P12Q in that...then run this in 2x12 mode. We'll see...
I connected an ULTIMATE Attenuator and cranked her up to 10, and it was good dirty blues tone between 7 and 10. With a T-Rex clean boost pedal in front, the amp on 10, and the attenuator turned way down - nice tubey overdrive, pretty thick, and relatively low volume. Still responsive and so much treble it was no problem to bring back what the attenuator trimmed away. In fact, I don't think I would ever be able to experience this amps overdrive beauty properly without an attenuator...it's so dang loud on 10 otherwise. Not as bad as a super, but pretty darn loud. The attenuator is the bomb with this amp. But now I get my overdrive from pedals in front, set the amp between 4-5 for gigs, and use a T-Rex booster on solos.
Because I am also potentially interested in the "head" model of this amp that is available now as a FSR, I also ran this over to a Mojotone (Markshall-like) 2x12 (looks like a 4x12) that contained two eminence legend GB128's. (these are eminence's take on a greenback celestion). This, with the attenuator, and the amp on 10...is "bluesbreaker" sounding. Pretty awesome. Wow...what a difference in the low end for chunking on your low E-string. This did highlight that the low end of the DRRI isn't "great", although I haven't really ever heard a combo that was...It's still ok and a heck of a lot better than a blues jr, or in my opinion, any of the hot rod fenders. So if you are after a small combo for gigging...this is a pretty good choice, especially if you want great Fender cleans.
One more thing I will try soon is putting an A/B switch between the guitar and amp, sticking an overdrive on the "plain" channel, and setting the reverb channel for clean -- effectively converting this to a two channel amp with a clean and a dirty. (Or possibly a small pedal board of various distortions and overdrives on one channel...and the other direct and clean. That's coming soon...I have all the gear to do it except the A/B.
I already added a set of Fender Tilt back legs...and when this isn't sitting atop my mojotone marshall knockoff cab, its ready to go club in "tilt back" mode. A nice addition...and eliminates the need for an amp stand to get your combo up where you can hear it. They were $35 when I bought them, then Amazon dropped them to $29 right after that (of course). Pretty easy to install...just remember measure twice, cut once. You have to drill a couple holes to mount...be careful and pay attention to where you are drilling and it's very easy. I posted a review on the 14" Fender tilt back legs and included the locations I placed the holes to achieve approx 30-35 degrees of tiltback. See my separate review for that.
Because I don't like the footswitch, and don't really want to switch the reverb and vibrato off anyway, I constructed an "always on" plug. When this plug is inserted in place of the footswitch, reverb and vibrato/speed/intensity are all turned on. Normally, you would need to have the footswitch for the vibrato/speed/intensity to work. The reverb is "normally on" without the switch, and then is turned off by stomping the switch. To make an "always on" plug for your DRRI, buy a TRS (that's TIP-RING-SLEEVE) metal 1/4" plug that looks like the one on the fender pedal. Unscrew the screws, and solder a small piece of wire from the center terminal to the inside of the metal plug, grounding that terminal (like closing the switch.) That's it...screw the cap back in, plug it into the pedal jack, and wala...all the features of the vibrato channel are turned on.
All in all, I love the amp, with the upgrades I've made. It has become my favorite amp for going out to small gigs and local jams, because it sounds good, get's plenty loud, and is "amp & speaker under one handle" for transport. Not too heavy, not too big.
I"d like to try a '68 as well...maybe that's next.
Plug in, turn up....enjoy.