Fender Twin Reverb Amp Tones

I´m sure you all know what we are talking about when you hear the term “classic Fender sound”, right?!? It´s this vintage tone from the old Fender tube amps you can hear on countless records – bright, sparkling, percussive, Fenderish. All Fenders being based on roughly the same electronics, ideas and general schematics so they all have a sweet spot  with generally the same settings. Here’s the actual Fender Twin Amp Owners Manual in case you need that too!

The Fender “Magic Six” amp setup:

In an amplifier with the topology input stage, tone control, volume control, voltage amplifier (tremolo- and reverb amplifier if fitted), phase splitter and output stage it is the first four controls that will set what is going to distort and how much. The first stage runs essentially clean if nothing else but a guitar is connected. The voltage amplifier will hit the ceiling as volume is turned pass 4. The tone controls are placed before the volume control and will control what is being fed into it. The purpose of the setting Treble=6, Middle=3 and Bass=2 is to:
1. Cut a bit of bass to get balance between high E-string and low E-string distortion. The bass-frequencies will have overtones far up in the midrange and may therefore build into disturbing high overtones that can make certain chords (D7) sound out of tune on the top three strings. Some amps will even oscillate when exposed to the combination of high amplification and lots of bass.

2. To control “The Mud Frequency 249,5Hz”. Too much of this frequency and the tone will be muddy and too little and it will sound hollow and thin.

3. Cut some midrange (approx. 340Hz) to gain output power while keeping intermodulation distortion at a minimum. Amplification factor will also be highest in the treble (above 2 kHz) and that is compensating the treble-loss of passive pickups. Open E-strings (high and low) played at the same time should now have approximately the same volume level with little more distortion on the top-string. Both strings should be clearly recognizable. Inter-modulation distortion is a sort of mathematical distortion in that the sum and difference of two incoming frequencies are obtained as harmonics and will therefore build up so called “ghost notes” (these are notes that are not played and that are not in musical relation to the notes played). This can make certain chords sound dissonant as opposed to what we know as harmonic distortion where overtones follow the pattern of 2x, 3x, 4x.. in upper frequency, something that makes the probability of so called ghost notes being produced a lot lower. The risk of inter-modulation distortion is quite high on Fender amps, mostly
because of the working-points of the different stages. Ironically enough some of the modifications that were performed at the factory to reduce the total amount of distortion will, while reducing total distortion, rise the amount of 7th overtone, which is said to be the least pleasing of all.

4. Obtaining the correct treble response on most amplifiers made for guitar the treble-control does not work the same way as on your Hi-Fi, regulating the amount of treble. On guitar-amps the position of Treble-knob will very much affect to bass and midrange and it works more like a balance between bass and treble. In fact the tone stack system as used in most amplifiers is derived from a so called “Baxendall type” Hi-Fi circuit. Treble has been set to full while an isolation resistor often placed between the treble and bass controls is used to control treble (or actually tone balance between treble and bass).
Balance is obtained when the treble pot is in it electrical center – that is between
5 and 7 depending on the taper on the pot. Final regulation of treble is best to be
done with the bright-switch. The bright-switch seems to work best if the volume is set to between 5 and 7.

5. If the volume-control is set to 6, stage #2 will be fed from highest possible impedance and there will be certain current limitation. Stage #2 will also be fed with as much as it can take without getting some rather odd distortion as feedback through B+ tree that is appropriated as the true distortion generator is the stage #3 (reverb-mix amp). Where some peculiarities take place such as rectifier action between grid and cathode and glazing-spikes because of cathode decoupling etc… 6. And so 6, 6, 3, 2 (2×3=6) The Magical number 6.

Here are some other tones that are well known with the Fender Twin:

Tone (channel) Gain Bass Mid Treble Reverb
Classic Clean (clean) 6 2 3 6 2
Classic Tele Twang (vibrato) 7 6 6 5 2
Classic Blues (vibrato) 5 7 4 7 3
Dirty Rhythm (vibrato) 8 7 4 5 1
Heavy Humbucker (vibrato) 10 8 1 8 1
Stevie Blues (both channels) 6 3 6 6 3

2 thoughts on “Fender Twin Reverb Amp Tones

  1. Hi and thanks for the info. i have a question. if i wanted to play at a lower volume using for instance the 6 combination, would i simply control the gain with the guitar volume . and secondly the distortion pedals do not respond well when my guitar volume is down. what is the general rule for that compensation

    1. If you play at volume 6 which is loud and will break up when you hit the strings hard, i find it really too loud if not playing in an enormous outdoor event. If you roll down the guitar volume knob, you lose a lot of the presence. To get around this problem, by using a Tube Screamer TS9 and boost your signal, you can get that bluesy growl.

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