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This article was originally published in issue #48
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There’s very little, if anything to dislike about the ’68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb. It does everything the original got so right and offers some great updates to make this a modern level product.
Cool 60’s good looks
Original Vintage Vibrolux sound plus 2nd ‘Custom’ voiced, pedal friendly channel
Very hard to extract a bad tone from
Lovely Spring Reverb and Vibrato on both channels
Surprisingly affordable for a Professional product
More manageable than the bigger ‘Twin Reverb’
Built like a tank
Still heavy, even though it’s lighter than a Twin
Fender ’68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb Amplifier
It's a while since GI reviewed a 'traditional' Fender amp, so where better than the highly regarded Vibrolux? Tom Quayle gets nostalgic....
1968 was something of a transitional year from a design perspective for Fender, with its new ‘Silverface’ amps taking on a new and futuristic (for the time) look with a silver and turquoise front panel and an aluminium grille cloth front. This classic design period has been revived for the new ’68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb amplifier, a 2x10 combo reissue of sorts based on the 1968 model with some cool new features and the beautiful aesthetic appeal of the original and sits between ’68 custom versions of the 1x12 ‘68 Custom Deluxe Reverb and 2x12 ’68 Custom Twin Reverb amps.
The Custom Vibrolux Reverb is a 35 Watt, twin channel, all-tube combo featuring 4x12AX7 preamp tubes, 2x12AT7 tubes and a pair of 6L6 output tubes, housed in a beautifully built Pine/Birch cabinet with a pair of 10” Celestion TEN 30 speakers. Like most high-end Fender amps it is built like a tank and weighs a fair amount, although is significantly more portable than a Twin Reverb. You may well wish that Fender had built some wheels into this thing however, since it certainly isn’t light weight, but on the other hand it does feel incredibly solidly put together.
The amp has a Vintage channel, designed to reproduce the original ’68 Vibrolux sound, plus a ‘Custom’ channel with a Bassman tone stack that is better suited to more modern sounds and takes pedals extremely well. Both channels share the onboard, excellent sounding spring reverb and vibrato effects with each having its own Treble and Bass controls and a bright switch for the classic Fender jangle as required. The rear panel houses your Power and Standby switches, an extension speaker out and the Footswitch (included - well done, Fender!) connection for turning the Reverb and Vibrato effects on and off.
Fender has chosen to slightly modify the circuit in the newer Vibrolux, with reduced negative feedback for a more touch sensitive response and an earlier onset of gain from the pre-amp tubes. You still get that classic Fender chime and jangle, but with more of a handwired amp feel and touch response that will be greatly appreciated by more dynamic players. The amp is extremely easy to dial in due to the simple, two-band EQ, producing a design that makes it hard to dial a bad tone once you understand the role of each channel.
Considering the price, the amp is very well put together and really looks the part with its turquoise lettering and pilot light that will look very cool on any stage. The Blackface versions of these amps may be more regularly seen on gigs all over the world, but the Silverfaces look great and really appeal with their '60s vibe. 35 Watts is extremely loud and will serve most people very well for the majority of gigging needs, especially in this 2x10 speaker format. The amp projects very well and should work very nicely for those looking for the 2x12 sound of a Twin but just can’t live with the size and weight of that massive amp.
Plugging into the Vintage channel you are immediately greeted with fantastic clean, all-Fender tones from a single coil guitar. We tried ours with a Fender Elite Strat and found it produced beautifully chimey cleans with tons of detail and crispness that suit everything from Hendrix style clean rhythm parts, to single note Funk riffs and clean Blues playing with ease. This channel sounds equally great with humbuckers where it is again almost impossible to draw out a bad tone.
The Custom channel is definitely more modern sounding, with a suitable shift in the midrange that is much more friendly to pedals than the mid-scooped sound of classic Fender amps. Drive pedals have a much more natural sound here with the bright switch disengaged and you can successfully get some nice overdriven tones with a boost pedal – if your ears/venue can handle the volume!
The low end never gets overpowering with these 2x10 combos with an open back design and the Vibrolux gives just enough low end thump to make itself known and sound full, without ever being overpowering in the way that a Twin can in the wrong environment. The spring reverb sounds superb, with a long and smooth tail that never gets in the way of your playing, no matter how complex. At higher settings it can be used for some lovely textural effects, but more subtle settings are just as useful. The Vibrato has all the warmth you expect from a Fender amp and being able to share it across both channels is a lovely touch that many users will appreciate, especially if they plan to use pedals in the front end.
There’s very little, if anything to dislike about the ’68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb. It does everything the original got so right and offers some great updates to make this a modern level product. The price is surprisingly affordable for a professional Fender amp too, and with late '60s good looks and a more manageable size and weight than its bigger sibling, this is an amp that should be high on your list if you want classic Fender tones in a professional and portable package.