Purchased from: Special Order From GC
Features — 10
Hey guys, here is my full written review of the Fender Machete.
What is it? The Machete is Fender's response to modern high gain, feature laden, boutique amplifiers. It was introduced in 2012 and was priced as one of the most expensive amps that came off the Fender trucks for a long time (especially in Australia, $3000, yikes!) and as such had some very pro spec features and robust construction. Featuring things like an effects loop with individual send and return levels, XLR out with poweramp mute and cabinet simulation and speaker damping control.
50 watts being produced by a pair of 6L6's get pushed through a Celestion Vintage 30, 5 12AX7s, digital reverb, two channels and not a stupid amount of knobs (Hey Mesa) is essentially the plan here. There are also little extra features. Instead of a lower gain input, there's a 6db pad button. This makes swapping between two guitars with different output pickups a breeze, leaves the treble in tact too.
I really do like the speaker damping control. It's a 5 way notch filter that allows fine tuning of the speaker movement. Basically, "tight" is modern "loose" is vintage. One thing I did notice is that there is a pretty huge volume drop over towards the tight side. The loose side almost seems to extend the headroom of the amp and it certainly makes the clean channel much sweeter.
The reverb is digital; at first I couldn't get why Fender would allow one of the key ingredients to their trademark sound be left out of the arrangement but then I suddenly realized. If this amp was any heavier, it would weigh more than my old Vox AC30... The reverb sounds great too, it can get nice and wet and surfy or just add a little movement between chords like I use it for. It also has midi control, but I'm too simple for anything like that.
First thing to say is that it's really solidly built, the cabinet is made of birch ply and the tolex and grill cloth look flawless. All the jacks feel solid and the handle is a turn away from the traditional soft Fender handles. Instead it's a solid piece of plastic and rubber solidly secured to the top of the cabinet. One thing I did notice though; all the pots are solid metal, except the damping control which is really a cheap feeling piece of plastic. Would it really have been that hard to just use a metal pot for that as well? That seems to be the only punch pulled however as the amp is overly very solid and coming in at 32kg (71lbs.) you'd want it to be...
I really don't like the little push in buttons, I would have preferred physical toggles rather than small, fragile, cheesy feeling buttons. But hey, the red lights are pretty... It really doesn't look that bad... The aesthetic design of this amp seemed to be the only thing a lot of people had to complain about when it came to early previews of this amp. I've thought about this pretty long and particularly how I'm going to word this next part of the review.
It doesn't look like a Fender, deal with it. I honestly believe there is way too much stigma going around trying to compare it to vintage Fender's when it isn't a vintage Fender. It's not trying to be a vintage Fender. It has the same badge, the comparisons should stop there. It doesn't really look like anything really. It doesn't look overly Mesa-ish or anything like a Vox. It really does look like it's own thing. Plus, I think the racing stripe and white piping look bada-s.
Sound — 10
Great tone, from shimmery cleans to ultra creamy high gain metal tones...
Okay lets put all that stuff aside and talk about how it sounds. I've had it for just over two weeks now, I've used it at a few rehearsals and got the master volumes going pretty high so the speaker while not fully loose is not as stiff as when I first took it out of the box.
Clean channel? So here is my first limitation of this amp. The clean channel isn't very clean. I have a Princeton Reverb and the Machete just peaks above the Princeton's complete clean volume threshold. It's louder and moves more air due to it's 12" speaker but it's certainly not a mega clean amp. However, moving the damping control fully over too loose gives a boost of pure headroom that puts allows itself beautifully for nice, jangly cleans. This is fine for me as I believe the amps best tones are found when the speaker damping is set fully to loose but if someone wanted a tighter gain channel and still have pure clean on the clean channel, the limiting nature of the damping control makes that a little tricky. The 6db pad helps out and cleans things up with my Stray Dog or 335.
I was wondering where the vintage Fender clean was hiding out. Turns out you just have to keep the bright switch on, there's a slight midrange scoop that lands you right in Blackface county.
The gain on the first channel, if wound up just past half way delivers a beautiful, bluesy, Fender crunch that is so authentic it almost hurts. The gain boost pushes the clean channel up to more recent ZZ Top levels of gain. Perfect for rhythm and big sounding chords. Fender could honestly make a single channel amp with just the first channel for half price, make it look like a Blackface and they'd sell like crazy.
Getting your dirt on:
Swapping to the dirty channel, everything on midday apart from volume, the first thing I realized that there is so much more gain in this amp than I would use. But it's so molten and thick sounding on the neck pickup and so tight and punchy sounding on the bridge pickup. Pulling the gain back to about a quarter is where the amp really hit home for me and this is how I use it in my band and music uses. It's a lovely fat, sustaining, blooming overdrive sound that works equally well for rhythm or lead. Pushing the gain over halfway and cranking the damping control up to tight lands you straight in death metal territory. Feedback and endless sustain are easily found. The gain is very pleasing, it's not harsh, there's no artifacts, it doesn't feel unnatural, it just works.This is the nicest gain on an amplifier I've ever used. It just works for me.
Make sure no one bumps your EQ... One of the things I noticed is how sensitive the EQ is, tiny little touches really make huge changes. If you play with the EQ enough on the clean channel, drop the midrange and bump up the bass, lovely bassman reminiscent tones can be coaxed. On the other hand, if you push up the midrange and treble, the more aggressive sounds of the Deluxe Reverb and Vibrolux can be found.
Same is true for the dirty channel, and dialing it in can really take a while. This can be frustrating at first but once you get the hang of it, it gets pretty good straightforward. I just can't imagine pushing the EQ knobs fully in any way, extreme settings just don't work for this amp.
Notch control? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, let's talk notch. First half, from 0 to 12, is awesome, it's great, everyone's happy. From 12 to maximum (for me anyway) completely useless. It takes all life out of the tone, adds a fat, midrange-less character that really I just can't get to work.
Funnily enough, straight in at midday, the notch control is the standard Fender tone.
On the other hand, the first part of it sounds great, all the way to the "British" side, backing off the gain on the second channel and setting the damping to "loose" delivers a lovely old school Marshall tone that I just love. When it comes to metal, I'm more in the boosted Marshall side of things, so this really sits well with me. On the clean channel, backing the gain off all the way and going full Brit with the notch injects EL84 type, squishy midrange into the classic Fender cleans giving it a kind of Hiwatt kind of feel.
Rip off the second half of the notch control and I'm a happy man.
I've never been bothered with effects loops, but jumping the jacks on the back and cranking the return and send level and using the footswitch allows for a lovely post preamp boost that just kicks the level up a notch. Super clever stuff. The 4-button footswitch is very useful indeed, it can change the amp channel, engage the gain boost on the first channel, turn the reverb on and off and engage the effects loop. It really grants you ultimate control.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I have owned this Machete since December of 2011 and it has performed flawlessly... At one point I did experienced some reverb backlash when shutting the amp down but I soon discovered that turning off the reverb by means of the foot pedal prior to putting the amp on standby or turning it off resolved the problem. I have never had any other issues with this amp. Fender's sleek 1x12 Machete combo has a lot to offer players who need to move between crystal cleans and bristling gain and favor a more modern voice in general. The Tuning and Notch controls make the amplifier a much more sensitive and versatile machine. And while the amp can go completely over the top with its overdrive, it's smooth, harmonically rich, and big at moderate settings. And given that all this comes in a beautifully built and killer-looking combo that you can get in the trunk of your car, this is an amp that is arguably much, much more than the sum of its parts.
Overall Impression — 10
Please note that this review was either written and/or just posted by someone that goes by the name of "MemoeryanDL" that I found on a forum back in January of 2014. I just so happen to agree with everything that was said in the review and felt compelled to post it here. I have owned this amp since Dec. of 2011 and have been using it regularly and for all styles of music. I have owned Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Hiwatt other Fenders and I have played through many other brands and this amp has out performed them all, that's including Matchless, Two Rock, Bogner and so on... Don't get me wrong I am not saying that some of these other amps are not great, its just that the Machete has performed flawlessly for a tube amp with the many styles that I play. This amp is very versatile. I have been very happy with this amp and would recommend it for any style of guitar player except for maybe an amplified acoustic player. Of course the versatility isn't like what you might get from the Line 6 and Fractal Audio's of the world but it does hold its own and can compete well in the tube amp market if it were more available for the average consumer to see. You wont find this amp in any music store. The Fender Machete is one of those boutique type amps that's mostly available by special order through certified Fender retailers. Most music stores wont find it worth it to keep high end dollar items on the sales floor when 89% of their sales come from novice players. This is why most of you may not have even heard of it.