The Fender Bassman is a prime example of how something intended for one purpose can be utilized by its user base. Though the Fender originally conceived the Bassman as the first commercial bass amp (designed to be used with the Fender Precision Bass), it started being championed by guitarists who were using the amp. In addition to providing guitarists with a fat, driven sound, the amp also has historical significance. The design of the original Marshall amp, the JTM-45, used the same circuit system.
Though old vintage versions of the amp remain in circulation, the most recent version of the amp is the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman combo. However, Fender continues to release different TV combos and amp heads under the Bassman. So does the Fender Bassman still live up to the name it made itself in the golden era of rock? Or has it become a relic amongst newer, more advanced amplifiers? In this review, we find out if the godfather of all bass amps has still got it.
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What is the Fender Bassman and How Does It Work?
Because the Fender Bassman has been around for such a long time, there have been many different version of it released. As such, it would be impossible to review them all. Instead, we will look at the most recent commercial version: the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman. However, if you are interested in the entire range of Bassman models, then here is a list of every model released and the year it was released in:
Since the Fender release the Bassman in the ‘50s, it is noticeably stark regarding tone setting compared to modern amps. In keeping with this barebones tradition effects loops and built-in reverb are not included with the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman combo. On the amp are volume knobs and dials for bass, mid and treble settings and two separate gain levels. While these settings might sound basic, they give a good deal of tonal control. The four total inputs give you a good range of standard and bright tones.
They cover the outside of the amp in tweed which gives it a nostalgic look and feel. You can access the interior of the amp through an exterior back opening for repair and replacement. Make sure to be careful if you mess around behind the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman. The wiring could potentially electrocute you if you do not know what you are doing. The app weighs roughly fifty-three pounds — which is pretty heavy, but not unusual for a bass amp. Regarding technical specs, the Fender Bassman contains the following interior components:
What Makes the Fender Bassman Unique?
What sets the Fender Bassman apart from its competition is a dedication the vintage sound that inspired it all. The settings are bare-boned, simple to understand, but infinitely complex in their potential. The settings on this amp beg for experimentation. This same experimentation is what first allowed users to use two inputs at the same time through a process known as cable jumping. Today it can be used with pedals, other amps and anything else your mind can think of for experimentation.
The compressed, sparkly sound of the amp also set it apart from other amps in its category. More to the point, the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman is a loud amp. With fifty watts, it can easily keep up with the best, professional live performance amps. However, keep in mind that the Bassman provides clean tones. It is tough to get any overdrive out of this amp unless you turn the volume up way too loud. As such, you will need to have a distortion effect pedal if you want any crunch to your sound.
It is also easy to customize the Fender Bassman amp. If you want to replace the speakers, you can vary and already diverse range of sounds. The amp is also an excellent canvas for building a soundscape of pedal effect sounds.
How Much Does the Fender Bassman Cost?
The price of the Fender Bassman depends on what type of model you get. They price the latest version, the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman combo, around $1449.99 at retail value. However, functioning used models dating from the 1960s to the present typically go for about $800-$1000. Anything below that price with a used model and you will want to try it out first before buying. Either the unit sold under market value, or there is something wrong with the sound/interior of the amp.
What Do Other Musicians Think of the Fender Bassman?
For the most part, the Fender Bassman old and new users alike love the amplifier. It is hard to find someone who does not like this amp — so universal is its appeal. The tones produced by the amp are warm, earthy and undeniably beautiful sounding. They are bright without slapping you in the face. You can hear every note when you play this guitar (which may not be a good thing for sloppy players).
It does seem that baby boomers seem to appreciate the amp the most. It is easy to see why the amp attracts such sonic fundamentalists. The amps pairs well with classic rock, country, blues, surf, jazz, rhythm & blues, or screechiest, most-experimental music you can imagine. The versatility of this amp is perhaps what has given such an established reputation.
However, the amp is not for everyone. First, off it is pretty expensive, which may set some people off from the stary. It is also hard to control if you want a particularly thick distortion tone out of it. People in heavy metal or hard rock bands might not be able to get the level of overdrive they want to get out of the Fender Bassman.
The treble knob is also not as responsive as it could be, and it is only helpful if you enjoy chicken picking. With that said, a light distortion still sounds great on the amp — just not the face melting tones of the metal genre.
Another downside is the is the fuses on the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman. Since the amp powers itself with fuses, it is susceptible to damage. If the amp gets bumped around during travel or if you play too loud, the fuse can blow. You should be comfortable with replacing fuses before you buy this amp because some people reported that their models burnt out earlier than others.
How Does the Fender Bassman Compare to Other Guitar Amps?
To see how the Fender Bassman compares to other tube amps on the market right now, we organized a small list of some of the most popular tube amps. If the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman combo is too expensive for some people, then these are some excellent cheaper alternatives for you.
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This British amp company is famous for The Beatles’ great British invasion of the United States. This Fifteen-watt amp carries along the slightly dirty clean tone that made them famous. The Vox AC15C1X features three tubes and a few more knob options than the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman. Overall, there are not many brands that can match the clean, bright tone of the Bassman. The Vox AC15 is one of those amps. They price the product, at $850. If you cannot afford the price of the Bassman but want the next best thing, then this amp is for you.
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The Fender Blues Deluxe looks very similar to the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman thanks to the same yellow tweed color covering the outside. Regarding sound, this guitar is geared more toward the warmer tones of blues music. It also features reverb and channel switch technology. The two eminence output speakers also add a lot of depth to the sound. If you want a Fender amp that is more geared toward the intricacies of overdrive, then this is an excellent model to choose. Currently, the forty watt amp cost $800.
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The Marshall DSL40CR tube amp offers a lot more regarding built-in customization than the Fender Bassman. This amp benefits players at home, or on the stage. In addition to a wide range of EQ distribution levels, the amp also offers players separate master volume, reverb, and resonation for each channel. Thanks to the Softube output, the amp even sounds warm in a pair of headphones. The forty watt amp costs $750.
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If you are looking for the most affordable option, then we recommend the Katana KTN-100. The 100-watt amp only cost $300. While it might not deliver the superb tone as Vox, Fender and Marshall can give, it gets the job done. It also features a staggering amount of customization features. With this type of amp, you almost do not need a pedal board. The Katana amp is an excellent all-in-one package for new live players that are affordable and effective.
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If you are in the market for a practice tube amp, then we recommend the Orange Rocker 15 1x10 Valve Amp. This small amp is still able to practice a punch during live rehearsal but might struggle to keep up in mid-sized venues and bars. With the natural and dirty tone options, you can cover most of your sonic bases with this amp as well. The amp costs around $500.
Closing Thoughts: What We Think of the Fender Bassman
We believe the Fender Bassman is one of the most dependable amps you can buy in the world. If it is not the best, then it is indeed up there in the top five. Regarding upper-end amps, we do not think you can go wrong with it. Its track record is almost unbeatable, and the company has not changed it in any noticeable way. The list of great musicians that used the Fender Bassman is long and winding. Over the years Buddy Guy, Mike Dirnt of Green Day, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Tom Petty, and Paul McCartney
Some people will dislike it though. Doom metal musicians who cannot render a brutal enough tone out of it and contemporary indie rock bands might want more built-in settings for a more diverse sound. The amp is inappropriate small shows or basements if it is turned up too loud. The overwhelming brightness in the amp can block out a lot of the other instruments in a live band set up. Just make sure you experiment with the settings beforehand and sound check before you play.
We hope this review has been helpful during your search for a new guitar amp. The Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman has a little something for everyone. If you are intimidated by the complex sound settings on different amps, then the Bassman is right for you. The environment is easy to control and understand. But, it is a very expensive amp — proper only for the dedicated sonic purist.
The classic amp remains both an established part of the past and future. Like the guitars it makes, Fender amps retain a somewhat iconic status in the music industry world. The Bassman, for better or worse, is a step backward regarding features. But when it comes to tone, customization and playability, the Fender Vintage Reissue ‘59 Bassman remains two steps ahead of the competition.
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