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If you’re looking for iconic tube amplifier tones, you’ve probably come across the Fender Princeton Reverb and Deluxe Reverb amps. These amplifiers have legendary status amongst guitarists and have been used quite frequently since they were first introduced.
But, what exactly is the difference between these 2 icons? Read on to discover what each amp has to offer, and what scenarios might be the most suitable for each.
A Brief History Of The Princeton Reverb And Deluxe Reverb
Both the Princeton Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb have been around since the 1960s. The Deluxe Reverb actually came a year before the Princeton Reverb, having been introduced in 1963.
As spring reverb became technologically possible to equip in an amplifier, Fender added the unit to the Deluxe. Fender had actually begun to manufacture the Deluxe line of amplifiers in the late 1940s.
Due to the success of the spring reverb tank, Fender began to install units in all of their amplifiers, including the Fender Twin. To add more diversity to guitarists’ varying needs, Fender began to produce other amplifier lines.
One of these new amplifiers was the Princeton Reverb, officially manufactured in 1964. This amp was (and still is) fairly similar to the Deluxe Reverb, but has just a few notable differences.
What exactly are these differences? Let’s look at the modern production models to get a detailed look at the ins and outs of each.
There are several production models of each amplifier that have some slight variance. For the sake of consistency, we’ll be taking a look at the 1965 reproduction models of each.
It should be noted that the comparison between these amps will be based on these particular models. You’ll find that other models should be very comparable, however.
Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb
The Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a 12-watt amplifier with all-tube circuitry. One of the biggest aspects of the Princeton Reverb’s sound is its 10” ceramic speaker designed by Jensen.
For tubes, the ’65 Princeton Reverb features:
- 3 x 12AX7
- 1 x 12AT7
- 2 x 6V6
- 1 x 5AR4 Rectifier
In traditional Fender fashion, this amp comes with 2 input channels. As is standard, the 2nd input has slightly less volume than the 1st channel.
For controls, the ’65 Princeton Reverb has controls for:
- 2-band EQ (treble and bass)
As the name implies, this amp is equipped with built-in reverb and also comes with a vibrato effect. Controls for the reverb amount, as well as the speed and intensity of the vibrato, are also included.
Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb
For tubes, the ’65 Deluxe Reverb has:
- 4 x 12AX7
- 2 x 12AT7
- 2 x 6V6
- 1 x 5AR4 Rectifier
Again, as the name would imply, this amp comes equipped with a built-in reverb effect as well as a vibrato. Controls are provided for each.
There are 4 inputs spread across 2 different channels on the ’65 Deluxe Reverb. One channel is for using the amplifier’s effects, and the other channel is for a standard dry signal.
Like the ’65 Princeton Reverb, there are controls for volume as well as a 2-band EQ for each channel.
What Is The Difference Between The Princeton Reverb And The Deluxe Reverb?
To the untrained ear, it’d be easy to think that the Princeton Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb are similar amplifiers. There are, indeed, some similarities shared between each of these amps.
The familiar Fender interface is featured with both, though the Deluxe Reverb has a bit more utility. This is seen with the expanded input channels as well as the extra set of tubes.
Tonally, both of these amps start off relatively clean. However, both of these amplifiers truly have some magical tone areas with the volume turned up.
Around the 4-5 level on the volume knob, both amplifiers start to swell with a massive presence. The pot taper between each individual amplifier does vary, so this experience may be found at slightly different levels.
When turned up, the Deluxe Reverb has a much thicker sound as the tone seems to become more compressed. The Princeton Reverb seems to be a bit more articulate and immediate in its response, especially when turned up.
If you dime the volume levels at 10, each of these amplifiers possesses a delicious overdrive tone. The Princeton Reverb has a tasteful crunch while the Deluxe Reverb isn’t as overdriven and has a wider mid-range tone.
This is likely due to the fact that the Princeton Reverb has a 10” speaker with a 12-watt rating. The amplifier breaks up more due to these aspects, utilizing a power transformer in line with the Fender Champ.
It should be noted that the overdriven distortion can be controlled on both by turning the bass level down. For having a 10” speaker, the Princeton Reverb does provide quite a bit of bass response.
Because of the build differences, the Deluxe Reverb does have a bit more of a mid-range presence.
How Well Does Each Amp Handle Pedals?
Both of these amplifiers are great for running guitar pedals into the signal chain. Depending on the volume and effect, you’ll be able to tap into some exquisite clarity.
To be fair, though, neither of these amplifiers has a whole lot of headroom before the overdriven break-up. However, it must be said that the Deluxe Reverb has a bit more headroom, again, due to its component construction.
When using overdrive pedals, the Deluxe Reverb takes on a bit more of the pedal’s characteristics. Using the Princeton Reverb in the same fashion seems to accentuate its internal overdrive characteristics rather than the pedal itself.
This is a fairly large distinction between both and may determine which amp you might opt for. Neither is good or bad, as it mostly will come down to your preferences here.
It should be said that too much overdrive can cause the Princeton Reverb to sound a bit messy. The Deluxe Reverb’s extra headroom would be the better fit for that application of guitar tone.
How Good Are The Built-In Effects?
Fender’s amp reverb and vibrato effects have become classic tones that many seek out. These just have a unique sound that guitar effect pedals can have a hard time emulating.
Both the Princeton Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb’s internal effects are truly astounding. The vibrato on each amplifier provides the perfect subtle motion that can make any guitar sound more expressive.
On the whole, the vibrato unit in each of these amplifiers is pretty much equal in terms of sound. The reverb, on the other hand, is a different story altogether.
You’ll find that the Princeton Reverb’s built-in reverb is quite expansive, especially when turned all the way up. This amp’s reverb has an articulate trebly wash that provides a nice subtle layer on a guitar’s tone.
The Deluxe Reverb’s built-in reverb is a bit more subtle. Turning it all the way up is still somewhat subtle, without the sharp treble of the Princeton Reverb.
What Musical Settings Are Appropriate For Each Amp?
Both the Princeton Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb are capable of producing sounds loud enough to annoy your neighbors. It definitely wouldn’t be recommended to play these in apartment complexes, especially if you want to utilize their sweet spot.
Each of these amplifiers has built its legacy as being the go-to choice for club gigs and recording sessions. But which amplifier is exactly suited for each setting?
If you’re looking for a solid amplifier for recording purposes, the Princeton Reverb is a great choice. Its internal effects are ready and asking to be taken advantage of in a studio setting.
Unless it’s mic’d up, it might be difficult to employ the Princeton Reverb during performances if you want clean tones. When a drummer is introduced to the mix, you’ll need to turn the amp up, which will cause some overdrive.
For that reason, the Princeton Reverb might not be the best for gigging purposes. Again, your playing style and tonal preferences might actually suit the Princeton Reverb’s settings during live performance volume necessities.
The Deluxe Reverb has a bit of extra headroom that can keep your tone cleaned up for a bit longer. Plus, at higher levels, it does seem as if this amp becomes more compressed without necessarily getting louder.
For this reason, the Deluxe Reverb is more suited for live performances with a band. You can maintain your tone when having to turn the volume up to be present in the sound mix.
Again, these amps likely aren’t the most ideal for pristine cleans at higher volume levels. Something like the Twin Reverb is more fitting for someone with those needs.
Fender Princeton Reverb Vs Deluxe Reverb Compared, Final Thoughts
It’s safe to say that both the Princeton Reverb and Deluxe Reverb can produce awe-inspiring tones. Either of these amps will elevate your playing to levels you never thought possible.
There’s definitely a reason why these timeless classics are still used today. Plug one in at your local guitar shop and find out for yourself why these amplifiers are so legendary.
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