GUITAR AMP £598.80 REVIEW
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simply buy a matched pair and there’ll be no need for a re-bias.
The control layout is relatively simple and self-explanatory. Besides the Volume, Treble, Bass, Middle, Master and Reverb controls there’s a Fat switch for a preamp boost that adds distortion and sustain. Some will appreciate the vintage-style jewel light, but there’s still an LED lurking beneath.
Sounds Despite the master volume, the BJ III isn’t about distortion or heavy overdrive. You can dial in some preamp overdrive at low volumes and the power tubes will join the party at higher volume, but rockers will need drive pedal assistance for crunch or metal.
Fifteen watts through a reasonably efficient 12" speaker can produce enough volume to compete with a drummer, but clean headroom is only retained with the BJ III’s Volume control below level 3. Above this point overdrive creeps in, reaching a peak at around 7. Beyond this things do become more distorted but a fuzzy and ragged quality sets in, with a degree of flabby looseness in the bass. Keep it clean and the tone is quintessential Fender, with shimmery highs, ample clarity and lush three-dimensional reverb.
At this point we should refer back to that ‘sparkle mod’, which came about when Blues Juniors were still made in
The valves – two EL84s and three 12AX7s – are all from the Fenderowned Groove Tubes
The Blues Junior III’s clean tone is quintessential Fender, with shimmery highs, ample clarity and a lush reverb the USA with the old green board PCBs. Some players found them a little too dark so they changed the value of the voicing capacitor (C9) to alter the preset treble bleed. Due to various other circuit changes that coincided with the move to Mexico, the new cream-coloured PCBs were brighter than the earlier versions. Some players still opted to experiment with various values for C9, but for the Blues Junior II Fender opted to do away with C9 completely. Consequently the BJ III passes maximum treble, which allows it to produce very bright sounds. Many players will find this useful because the combination of zingy highs, single coil pickups and a spring reverb pretty much define post-tweed Fender tone. However, at higher settings the top end of the BJ III can get a little fierce.
Rather than using the Treble control to add sparkle and snap, we found it more useful for taming the top end, tweed-style. For most applications we hardly turned it above level 4. When we swapped over to a semi in search of big, warm jazz tones we rolled the Treble control right off and maxed out Bass and Middle. This may appear drastic but the results were very enjoyable.
Verdict This is an eminently useable basic valve amp, but players who rely on valve overdrive and precision EQ may find it falls short of being a plug-in-and-play tone monster. The BJ III is more in the tradition of Fender’s medium-power silverface amps, where you can dial in a juicy but clear basic tone then shape your sound with pedals and effects. It will work with most guitars and cover a wide range of tones, but we think the ‘sparkle mod’ might benefit from a re-think… or a bypass switch.
Limited Edition badge – and we hear rumours of a red and black tolex version on the way
FINAL SCORE FENDER BLUES JUNIOR III Build Quality 16 /20 Versatility 16 /20 Sound 17 /20 Value for money 18 /20 Vibe 17 /20
68 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012