Price paid: £ 270
Purchased from: eBay
Sound — 7
Ultimately, tone is what you make it and what you make of it! As far as putting my review of the sound this amp; my preferred weapon of choice is a Fender Japan '62 reissue Jazzmaster with Seymour Duncan pickups and simplified circuitry = lovely single coil tones and a bit more sparkle than a stock model. Fender amps are regarded for providing clear, clean tones and this amp is no exception. Volume is controlled by a combination of Master control and a Volume control so you can push the gain and roll back the volume for natural tube overdrive or do the opposite to retain clean tone at volume. EQ is shaped by individual bass, mid and treble controls. The built-in spring Reverb is also on a similar knob and you only need a touch - it can get a bit too 'wet' otherwise. At practice volumes the clean sound is pure and warm, at louder volumes it will start to break up naturally, but isn't this the point of a smaller tube amp? It means it works! This is a single channel amp so it does not have a switchable Drive channel. While you can crank up the gain to get natural overdrive from pushing the tubes, you will not be able to flick a Switch for full on distortion. The good news is that having a great pure tone as a base means pedals sound great through this amp. I use a Proco RAT and a Boss SD-1 for more distorted sounds. The last thing to mention is the FAT switch. This is a little toggle switch that will boost the mids and bass to 'fatten' up the sound. I use this all the time as it beefs up the sound, which can sound a little thin and boxy without. Don't get me wrong, this amp sounds great as it is, but if you're really into seeking the best possible tone from it you may want to consider one or more of the various modifications that exist. There is a highly regarded guy on the web who sells upgrade kits and knows these amps inside out - it is possible to make this amp compete with more boutique equivalents without spending that much. So, I rate this amp on the stock sound...
Overall Impression — 8
I've ranted on enough so I'll try to keep this it brief. I've been playing for 7 years now and have owned a couple of amps already, a Peavey Transtube, and the aforementioned DeVille (which I'd love to bring back from limbo). I got this amp to replace the DeVille in situations where lugging a very heavy 60W combo around outweighs the reward of that amp's Empire State Building-sized headroom. The trade off? Well it is a 15W amp so it will require a mic-into-PA for mid sized venues with a full band or you could get lost in the mix. Tone wise it is really good, a little boxy but that is probably due to it being fairly small and open-backed. there's a couple of quality issues but nothing that puts me off or affects the sound. I would definately consider buying another if this was lost or stolen because it is a very affordable, capable and convenient amp. It is due to get a mod kit from the aforementioned 'guy' which improves the overall sound of the amp even further. I'm doing this not because it sounds bad in the first place, but because it is a good amp that is popular enough to have developed a following dedicated to unleashing it's true potential. I highly recommend this amp!
Reliability & Durability — 7
It is sturdy, weighty enough to feel solid and strong but also not too heavy that you can't carry it in one hand and your guitar in the other. I am confident in this amp enough for small/medium gigs (mic it up and let the PA handle the volume, the amp is for the tone!) and have not had any reliablity issues. My only critisicms are that I had to open the back (careful of the 400V folks DO NOT OPEN IT UP unless you know what you're doing) and separate a wire that was causing a rather annoying hum. Also, the the on/off switch feels a bit flimsy and the the control knobs wobble a bit - this is because of the PCB mounted pots. There is potential here for someone to drop something on the controls or accidentaly push them down which could break them off the PCB and cause wallet-ache. Fender are doing this to keep the price down and make these amps affordable to us, but it is nevertheless a design weakness. On a similar topic, my Hot Rod DeVille 212 broke down a month ago and the repair is still eluding my techie friend. Lets hope the Blues Junoir is not destined for a similar fate. To conclude; treat it with care and it you shouldn't have any unexpected problems.
Features — 8
The Fender Blues Junior is a single channel, 15W all-tube combo with a single 8ohm 12" speaker and is presented in the style of Fender's popular Hot Rod series of tube amps. My particular example is a second-generation 2006 model as was made in Mexico. I bought this amp second-hand, but barely used, so it has the original tubes and no other modifications. The amp uses 3x 12AX7 preamp and 2x EL-84 output 'Groove Tubes' producing 15W @ 8ohms. While it is a conveniently sized, compact and portable amp, it has more than enough volume and headroom to handle live performances and full band practices. I say this with experience! What features do I wish it had? Maybe a footswitch for the reverb and a standby Switch instead of just an on/off toggle, but apart from that it does what it does - a simple, no frills tube combo.