Purchased from: Unknown
Sound — 7
I generally use my Fender Jaguar HH with the Jam, though I have played through it with my old Fender Telecaster and Yamaha SC-300T. I've heard other amplifiers hiss much more loudly when used with single coils, but the noise this one generates is still bothersome. With humbuckers, it isn't very noisy at all and it manages to hold up even with a pile of effects in front of it. Effect boxes do tend to make the amp a little muddy, even through the effects loop. I play effects-laden ambient rock, so the Fender Jam doesn't really suit my needs as well as it could. Al of the knobs but Volume are essentially useless; Contour does nothing but add mud to an otherwise bright sound. Reverb does the same, but with an additional unbearable hiss that completely drowns out anything being played. The chorus can generate lush sounds but sounds a little too creamy to be effective; on no setting is a bright, sparkling chorus available. The channel switches are fairly useful. I tend to use the Bright and Lead channels exclusively. The Crunch is fine for blues but is useless to me, and the Full sound is too muddy and undefined to be useful. The Bright channel offers a pleasant, sparkling clean sound, whereas the Lead is a fuzy distortion with a gorgeous Vintage tone (in fact, I'm currently searching for a pedal to recreate the closest sound to this amp's). The only problem is that the distortion is pretty out-of-control, and a gain control would be immensely useful.
Overall Impression — 5
I play ambient rock, and the muddiness of this amplifier, particularly with effects, is a tremendous drawback to my playing. I'm currently running a reverb, two delays, a pitch-shifter and a wah-wah pedal, and am expecting to add five more pedals into my rig, so I can't afford to be using an amplifier that completely ruins my sound like this one does. The Bright channel offers nice cleans, but even it seems too muddy when coupled with all my effects. I'm looking to replace this amplifier with something more appropriate for gigging, though this one has discouraged me from checking out any other Fenders. For all of it's knobs and switches, the Jam has very few truly useful options, and though it is versatile in theory, many of the sounds it is able to achieve are too muddy or too noisy. The Fender Jam is fine for bedroom practice, but is incapable of delivering all of the subtelties of a guitar's tone and is ultimately useless for anything else.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This thing is currently sixteen years old. I know for a fact that it has hardly been played at all over those sixteen years and was left to collect dust in a basement. When I first began to use it, the knobs were all very noisy and the speaker often crackled, but both those issues have more or less faded by now. It's a solid, well-built amp - it's USA-made. I don't really have any worries about it breaking down, but the little red channel switches are very easy to break off, leaving you pushing them in with a pen to Switch channels.
Features — 7
The Fender Jam I'll be reviewing is a USA model. According to the serial number at the back, it was made in March of 1993. The amp features dual inputs, four channel switches, an effects loop, tape inputs, a headphone jack, and a couple of effects. The different channels are: Bright, Full, Crunch, and Lead. In addition to the Contour and Volume knobs, the Jam has a Reverb control and a Depth and Rate control for the Chorus. This is a 75 watt amplifier, so it works best as a practice amp at home. I suspect it could manage small gigs but have never tried. The only thing really missing from this amp is a tremolo, which would be a lot more useful than the muddy reverb that is provided. This is a fairly versatile amp that is capable of a number of sounds thanks to it's multible channels, but I can't help but feel that a tone knob is more useful than a handful of channel switches. A gain control for the Lead channel would have been a huge improvement as well. More on this later.