Fender’s Tweed Era amplifiers are considered by many to be the holy grail of amp circuitry. Simple design, clear and versatile tone, classic aesthetics, and portability were all major selling points for these amplifiers.
“Tweed Era,” typically refers to those amps designed and produced by Fender between the years of 1948 and 1960, with the first amp covered in the “tweed” material being the Dual Professional in 1948. The Tweed Era also ushered in the use of the Wide Panel front design as well as finger-jointed cabinets. At this point in time, the amps were being made to facilitate the amplification of sound for any and all instruments. They were being used for harmonicas, public address, guitars, and whatever else people decided to run through them. This is why the Tweed Era amps have such a distinctive sound. They almost appear to be “unfocused” and wide open in regards to the way they resonate and the way the frequency spectrum is represented therein. And being that they were typically used in small clubs and studio settings, they were made with lower power handling capabilities, giving them their now-famed early breakup.
Throughout the fifties, Tweed amps were perpetually evolving, which not only makes them a mystery to many, but also makes them a broad subject for those who wish to become experts. Some of those “evolutionary” qualities included the migration from the original TV front design, to the wide-panel design, and finally through to the most sought-after design, the narrow-panel front. The preamps saw a changeover from grid-leak biasing to a cathode bias system, and some amps featured simple (single-knob) tone controls while others featured two and three band EQ. Some had interactive volume controls wherein the sound of the amp was affected by a volume control potentiometer on an unoccupied channel, etc. We saw the use of single 8” speakers, single 12” speakers, dual 10” speakers and more. From the outside, it almost looked as if Fender were finding itself during this time period, but what was really happening is that Fender was finding it’s place in history; producing and selling some of the most versatile and well-revered amplifiers ever made.
Some things that were staples in Tweed Amp design included speakers, cabinet joinery, and rectification. All Tweed amps used AlNiCo speakers, typically Jensen-made, which offered their own fantastic flavor and gave the Tweed Era amps their unique compression and break-up. The amps also featured finger-jointed cabinets, as mentioned earlier, as well as tube-rectified circuitry to give them a nice sag at slightly higher volumes.
In short, there is a ton of learning to be done when it comes to the history of Fender amps. We hope that this article, as well as our articles on Blackface and Brownface Era amps will serve as good starting points for those who wish to dive deeper. For an even closer look, please visit ampwares.com.