A Brief History Of Blackface Era Amplifiers

Published on
January 18, 2021 at 4:22:13 PM PST January 18, 2021 at 4:22:13 PM PSTth, January 18, 2021 at 4:22:13 PM PST

Probably the most commonly seen of the Fender amps (in both original and reproduction form) are those of the Blackface Era.Production of these amps started in 1963 and carried on until around 1967, with a few amps still being produced this way into 1968.The first of the piggyback amps of this era were actually covered in white tolex but still featured the other Blackface staples such as the additional back control panel features, the skirted hat-shaped knobs (with numbers), and even bright switches.It wasn’t until 1964 that the Blackface circuit designs were actually covered in black tolex.

Many people believe that the standard Blackface Era cosmetics imply that the amps were produced in the pre-CBS era (this is the era prior to which the CBS company bought out Fender).The CBS takeover actually happened in 1965 and the Blackface amps were still produced in full until 1967, so it is quite possible that your Blackface amp could be either pre or post-CBS.One way to know is by taking a quick look at your front panel.If it features the words “Fender Electric Instrument Co.,” you should have a pre-CBS model on your hands.Conversely, if your front panel features the words “Fender Musical Instruments,” you have an amp made after the buyout.Luckily, no real changes were made to the circuits after the buyout...until the Silverface line was introduced...but that’s a topic for another time.

Blackface Era amps maintained that faithful quality of build Fender had become famous for over the years, with a more pointed intention of creating high fidelity tone.These created headway for a midrange control in their tone stacks although some circuits still replaced the potential midrange control with a fixed resistor, like the Deluxe Reverb.The bridging of channels on these amps was something that was compromised as the channels were designed to output opposite polarity which essentially causes interference when bridged.While still mostly employing the use of fixed-bias circuits, Fender made great use of Schumacher output transformers during this time, and the presence control disappeared almost entirely.While the Champ during this Era retained its use of an AlNiCo speakers, almost all others featured a ceramic magnet speaker, and Fender’s choice of speaker manufacturers further broadened.The Blackface Era speaker cabinets are said to be some of the least resonant construction types of all Fender amps.Some players consider this a good thing as the cabinet does not color the overall sound of the amps and the user can reliably dial in the sound they are looking for without the external factor of the cabinet sound interfering; this, of course, is for you to decide.

As always, there is a world of knowledge out there regarding the Blackface Era of Fender amps.Some of it will get rather controversial, some of it will just be cold hard facts.  Our goal, again, is to provide you with unbiased knowledge (no pun intended) that will lay the foundation for you and help you understand why certain amps sound the way they do, and how things evolved over time.For a closer look at some of the Fender Blackface Era amps, please visit ampwares.com.