The Fender Amp Field Guide FAQ
Written by: Mark Ware
Revised: v1.12 - 1/29/1999
This document is intended to answer some of the most common questions that people
ask concerning Fender amplifiers. It applies mostly to dating, identification, amp cosmetics
and other (mostly) non-technical stuff. If you have any additional information that you
would like included or if you have any additions/corrections, please contact me at
New/Updated this version:
- New information on serial numbers.
- Added new parts sources.
- Added new EIA codes.
- Why isn't my Fender amp listed in the Field Guide?
- What is meant when an amp is refered to as a "black face" Fender?
- 2.1.   Woodie
- 2.2.   TV Front Tweed
- 2.3.   Wide Panel Tweed
- 2.4.   Narrow Panel Tweed
- 2.5.   Brown
- 2.6.   Blonde
- 2.7.   Black Face
- 2.8.   Silver Face
- What is a "Pre-CBS" Fender?
- How old is my amp?
- 4.1.   Date Code
- 4.2.   EIA Source-Date Codes
- 4.2.   Dating By Serial Number
- 4.3.   Circuit Revisions
- 4.4.   Misc Dating Info
- What does it mean to have an amp "blackfaced"?
- How much is my amp worth?
- Where can I find out more about Fender Amps?
- 7.1.   On the Web
- 7.2.   USENET
- 7.3.   In Print
- Where can I get parts for my Fender Amp?
1. Why isn't my Fender amp listed in the Field Guide
If you're Fender amp isn't listed in the guide it is most likely because it is a solid state amp.
I like to build/restore/repair tube amplifiers as a way of excaping the pressure of daily
existence. The guide is an extention of this fascination with tube technology so I have chosen
to ignore the models that do not make use of thermionic phenomena for amplification. As for the
qustion of tubes vs. solid state, my opinion would obviously be skewed. My advice is to use
your ears and play/buy what you think sounds best.
2. What is meant when an amp is refered to as a "black face" Fender?
Contrary to what you might think this term is not politically incorrect and has nothing to do with
Al Jolsen. The term "black face" refers to the color of the amp's contol panel. Fender typically
chose a cabinet style, covering, and grille cloth and used it across the entire amp line.
Therefore it is a convenient way of refering to an amp of that particular era. (in this case 63-67)
Below is a listing of some other terms you might hear when people refer to Fender amps.
- Woodie: This refers to amps produced between 1946-1948. They
are called woodies because of the uncovered wood cabinets and matching wood handles. These
cabinets came in three finishes: mahogany, maple, and walnut. The baffle was covered in
either a red, yellow, or blue fabric with three (sometimes only two) chrome "slats" running
from top to bottom. The controls were mounted on a rear facing control panel. At this time
Fender only had three models, Princeton, Deluxe, and Professional.
- TV Front: These amps are recognizable by the shape of the speaker
baffle cutout. The cutout is rectangular with rounded corners and looks like an old fasioned
TV screen. These amps were produced between 1948-1953. The cabinets were constructed in a
new way with the corners of the box "finger joined" which gave a much larger gluing surface
and as a result, more strength. Unfortunately the new joinery isn't very nice to look at so
Fender covered the cabinet in a very durable tweed material that was popular for covering
foot lockers and suitcases. The early tweed was light colored and had a vertical pattern.
Later this was changed to a diagonal pattern with more contrast between the light and dark
fibers. Conrol panels on the TV front amps were located on the top rear, facing up. (except
the Champion) and had a chrome finish. The baffle of TV Front amps are covered in brown
- Wide Panel: From 1953-1955 Fender used a new style of cabinet
which had a rectangluar cutout for the baffle with the corners squared. When viewed from the
front, there are two wide panels above and below the baffle while only the ¾" edge of
the side panels shows on the left and right. The chrome, top facing control panel, tweed
covering and brown leather handle are the same as the TV front amps, but a dark brown linen
material replaced the brown mohair grille.
- Narrow Panel: Cosmeically these amps are almost identical to the
Wide panel amps, with the exception of the top and bottom front panels. These were narrowed
considerably so that the front was almost completely grille. These amps were produced
between 1955-1960. (the Champ went to 1964) Early in this era the linen grille was replaced
by genuine brown grille cloth. The narrow panel amps were the last of Fender's tweed amps.
(until the reissues)
- Brown: Big changes were made with the new decade. The amps
produced between 1959-1963 were completly redesigned with an angled, forward facing, brown
control panel and round brown knobs. (replacing the old black pointer control knobs fender
had used since the woodies) The tweed covering was replaced with a new, brown, fabric-backed
vinyl material called Tolex. The brown Tolex was reserved for the smaller fender ams such as
the Deluxe, Princeton, and Super while the larger amps had a differnt color scheme. Most of
these amps retained the leather handle of the tweed amps. Early brown Tolex amps had a
pinkish hue, while the later amps had a truer brown color.
- Blonde: These amps were produced at the same time as the brown
amps, but were covered in a white (more like biege) Tolex and had round white knobs. This
color scheme was reserved for the new "piggyback" amps (Showman, Bassman, Tremolux, Bandmaster)
and the Twin combo. Early blonde Tolex had a rough texture while later amps have a smoother
surface. Grille cloth varied with early amps having the brown grille cloth of the tweed amps.
Later amps had maroon grille cloth, and the last having a wheat or gold sparkle color. The
handle was changed to a brown plastic strap which held up a little bit better than the leather
handles Fender had been using for over a decade.
- Black Face: Amps produced between 1963-1967 retained the cabinet
style of the brown/blonde amps, but were covered in black Tolex. Also new was a new
reinforced black strap handle, and silver sparkle grille cloth. The control panel was
changed to black with white labels and fitted with numbered, black skirted knobs. Many
consider the amps produced durring this era to be the best ever produced by Fender and are
sought after by players and collectors alike.
- Silver Face: In late 1967 the color scheme was changed once again.
The black Tolex remained, but the control panel was changed to a dull chrome with blue labels.
The gille cloth changed to blue sparkle (some late 70s silver face amps have orange sparkle
grilles) and for 1968 and 1969 there was an aluminum frame around it. From 1980-1982 Fender
reverted to the black face era cosmetics, but since these amps share the same circuits as the
silver face amps, many people will refer to them as silver faces. An easy way to tell these
amps from a real black face is the model name on the control panel. The word "Amp" was
dropped. (eg. "Deluxe Reverb Amp" became "Deluxe Reverb")
3. What is a "Pre-CBS" Fender?
In January of 1965, Leo Fender sold Fender Electric Instruments Co. and Fender Sales to
broadcasting giant CBS who renamed it Fender Musical Instruments. So a Pre-CBS fender is
simply an amp produced before the sale. It is a widely-held opinion that most of the changes
to the amp line made by CBS were NOT for the better. Fortunately it wasn't until
the early silver face years that most CBS "improvements" were put into production and some
models were left almost untouched. In 1985 CBS sold off the Fender name and all remaining
product stock to Fender's top executives and distributors. This became the current incarnation
of Fender known as Fender Musical Instruments Corp.
4. How old is my amp?
There are serveral ways to determine when a Fender amp was produced. First use the
cosmetic features to get a range of possible years. Next, (if applicable) look for the date
code on the tube chart. If your amp dosen't have a date code, flip the amp upside-down and
check the transformers, and speakers for their manufacturer codes. If possible, open up the
chassis and check a few of the pots' and capacitors' manufacturer codes. Remember, many
components could have been changed over the years, speakers blow, caps dry out, transformers
melt down, and pots wear out. Be skeptical when buying a piece of "vintage" gear like a Fender
amp, the prices for this equipment has risen high enough that many forgeries are out there.
5. What does it mean to have an amp "blackfaced"?
Thru the 50s, 60s and 70s Fender was in a wattage race with the other amp manufacturers. Fender
sought to increase the output of the amps while lowering the amount of distortion. As a result,
the Silver Face amps tend to be "cleaner" and sometimes sterile sounding even at high volume
than Black Face amps. Most people believe that the black face amps of the 60s are better
sounding when overdriven than the silver face amps. Attempting to improve the sound of their
silver face amps, some owners have opted to have the stock circuit altered so that it's the same
as the black face amps. Generally this simple modification will be an improvement, but it will
probably not sound exactly like a black face. Durring the 70s, the volatges produced by the
power transformers in silver face amps steadily crept upwards, and lowering these volages is not
typically part of the mod. In general, the older your silver face amp is, the more it will
benefit from being "blackfaced". The late 70s high power silver face amps (Twin, Bassman 135,
Showman, etc.) with the ultralinear output transformers are generally not worth the effort to
6. How much is my amp worth?
I cringe when people ask me this question. Vintage amps, like everything else in the world are
worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them. There are many factors that effect the price
of a amp. Age, condition, originality of components, location, demand, buyers/sellers motivation
level, etc. Check your local buy-n-sell papers, newspaper classified, and do a few Web/USENET
searches. This should give you a rough idea of what people are asking for the amp. Keep
in mind that most things don't sell for the asking price.
7. Where can I find out more about Fender Amps?
Fender amps have collected a huge following over the years due to their great sound and
reliability. As a result there are many people who have a great deal of knowledge on
the subject. Here are a few sources for Fender info.
- On the Web:
There aren't many sites out there devoted specifically to Fender, but there are a few
tube amp sites that contain good Fendercentric tidbits. Heres a few:
|GGJaguar's Guitarium & Ampeteria
||Lot's of Fender guitar & amp pics. Other guitar/amp companies too. Great site.
|Fender Musical Instruments Corp.
||Vintage Fender amps are the companies biggest competition. Old amps are ignored
but lots of info on current production models.
|The Fender Amp Field Guide
||Amp model info, pictures, circuit layouts and schematics. Fun for the ampoholic in us all.
If you like a more interactive site for amp info, try the USENET group alt.guitar.amps.
This group is for discussion of musical instrument amps in general, but as you might
guess, Fender amps are often the topic of discussion. Be warned, this is an alt
group so there are no rules. Topics often spin off the subject into such topics as BBQ,
beer, and the proper way to torch a Peavy. If you have a technical repair question, are
looking for replacement tubes, or just want to talk about your favorite amp, stop on by
and join Ned, Duncan, Lord Valve, Ferg and the rest of the loveable misfits on
- In print: Here's a few good print selections for Fender fans.
A Desktop Reference of Hip Guitar Amps
Written by: Gerald Weber
Published: 1994 Kendrick Books
A good book if you can get past all of the Kendrick/Trainwreck hype. Lots of
technical descriptions and definitions. Some Fender models have entire chapters
devoted to them. Suggestions for non-destructive mods and tons of schematics
included. Be careful, some of the information may not be entirely accurate.
Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years
Written by: John Teagle & John Sprung
Published: 1995 Hal Leonard Corp.
This is an excellent book which covers the Fender company's history as well as
descriptions of each of the amp lines. This is the authorized company history
considering that Fender co-published the book. Lots of great pictures.
The Fender Amp Book
Written by: John Morrish
Published: 1995 GPI Books
Excellent Fender history as it relates to Fender amps, both tube and solid state.
The Tube Amp Book
Written by: Aspen Pittman
Written by the Groove Tubes hypemiester himself. Lots of excellent color pictures
to drool over and a good schematic section. Ignore any sentence containing the
words "matching", "selected" or "quality".
8. Where can I get parts for my Fender Amp?
Here is a short list of parts suppliers. There are probably lots more, but these are
the ones I have experience with.
Ampwares - Tube Amp Parts
Linwood, PA 19061
FAX: (610) 497-9408
The best source on the web for all your tube amp needs including tubes, transformers, caps,
Tolex and MUCH more. All your restoration, repair and tube amp building supplies in one site.
10830 Guilford Rd.
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
FAX: (301) 725-8823
A good selection of repro Fender parts, transformers, caps, tube amp kits, tube audio
esoterica, and much more
4209 S. Trail
Sarasota, FL 34231
Repro cabinets, chassis, and baffles, custom amplifiers, drop-in eyelet boards.
Lord Valve (a.k.a. Fat Willie, a.k.a. Willie Whitaker)
230 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80209
NOS & current production tubes, pro audio, custom cables, and more. THE guy to talk
to about Hammond organ repair too.
7634 Southrail Rd. #B-2
Charleston, SC 29420
Repro cabinets, chassis, and baffles, custom amplifiers, drop-in eyelet boards.
171 Springlake Dr.
Spartansburg, SC 29302
Tube amp kits, retube kits, Mojo repro parts, Hammond transformers.
Repro parts, amp restoration and service.
Ned Carlson (a.k.a. Uncle Ned)
2225 W. Roscoe St.
Chicago, IL 60618
FAX: (773) 871-7934
Tubes, tubes, and more tubes. Heck of a nice guy too.
Vintage Amp Restoration
728 Karlsruhe Place
St. Louis, MO 63125
Tolex, tweed, grill cloth, handles, hardware, repro cabs, amp restoration and service.
16246 SE Salmon St.
Portland, OR 97233-4049
Tolex, tweed, grill cloth, logos, handles, hardware, etc.
Field Guide -
Copyright © Ampwares 1999