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Fender hot rod deluxe


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3/13/2006 4:19 PM
FJC Fender hot rod deluxe
Hi. I am looking for a new amp. So far I am leaning towards a Fender Hot rod deluxe. It seems to have the features that I want.  
Are there certain years that are better than others?  
Is this amp loud enough for band/small club settings?  
Thanks.
 
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3/13/2006 10:53 PM
Don Symes

There are some reliability issues with the HRD - specifically the dropping resistors in the +/-16V supply ... unless Fender fixed that issue.  
 
You might consider one of the BF-reissue amps or maybe a Peavey Classic 50. Maybe a Pignose G40V or G60V?  
 
I'm assuming you want tubes, 40-ish watts, reverb a sweet clean and some kind of overdrive for something like $700.
 
3/14/2006 8:23 AM
anonymous
it's actually a tossup between the fender HRD, or the peavey classic. the fender i have played briefly in a music store at low volume, the peavey i have not played, i am judging on the features it has. does it have that grainy peavey distortion sound?
 
3/14/2006 9:12 AM
Steve Dallman

These amps are pretty similar in features with the biggest difference being the output tubes. The Hot Rods were Fenders "upgrade" to the Blues Deluxe. They took complaints about the Blues amps and incorporated them in the Hot Rods. The complaints were, no bias adjust, thin reverb, no external speaker jack and wimpy distortion. The Hot Rods added an ext. speaker jack, added a previously unused triode to the distortion and added the "more gain" as well. They redesigned the reverb, lessening a treble bypass on the reverb control and changed the layout to lessen hum allowing the elimination of a small coupling cap. This created a fuller reverb, although the use of the treble bypass cap is still unnessary and the reverb sounds better with the bypass cap cut out.  
 
The Hot Rod Deluxe is Fender's best selling amp in their history. That being said, it does seem to be voiced for "the masses" and many feel it needs some tweaking to make it sound better. One problem is that at bedroom or low volume gig levels, the volume controls are touchy. Adding a level controlling device in the preamp in/power amp out loop and lowering the volume there can allow you to get those controls off the touchy lower end and into the "sweet spot" of the preamp setting for both clean a distorted sound.  
 
Many report that subbing a 12AT7 for any or all of the preamp tubes improves the tone and response of the amp.  
 
REPAIR AND MODDING...The Hot Rod uses stiff ribbon cables to jumper between the main board and the tube board. In removing the boards, necessary to mod components or even for repair, the ribbon cables flex at the board and about the third time the boards are removed, they will start to break.  
 
Before removing the boards, put a line of hot glue where the ribbon cables enter the board and this will protect the cable from breaking. Should a ribbon cable break, you'd be better off replacing the ribbon cable with discrete wires.  
 
Another common "upgrade" is to replace the speaker and/or tubes. The speaker used to be a Fender branded Eminence, which actually is the Eminence Legend 125. I like this speaker a lot, but people who run the amp at high levels report the high end gets ratty at speaker clipping volumes. My ears won't take those volumes anymore so the Legend is fine as is. Better tubes can also wake this amp up. Fender used to bias these cold plus they used the rather unremarkable sounding Sovtek 5881WXT. Using almost any other tube will sound better, although even the stock tubes will sound better biased somewhat hotter.  
 
The Classic 30 is Peavey's similarly classed, entry level tube amp. The big difference is the type of tubes used (EL84's) and the choice of speaker.  
 
Maintenance wise, this amp uses three printed circuit boards that have to be squeezed together to get them out. It's a bear, but once you figure out how to do it, it isn't that hard. I just recently modded one for a friend, and while troubleshooting the mods, (fixed/cathode bias switch, and half power switch, plus a standby) I had those boards in and out a dozen times.  
 
The edge of two of the boards is supported by "L" brackets, but the third board is linked with small, stiff wire jumpers. These will break in short order. I replaced them early on with discreet stranded wires to make removal safer and easier.  
 
I prefer the overdrive tone of the Peavey to the Fender. Fender has just never gotten tube amp distortion figured out. They obviously know what decent distortion should sound like, as they have had some nice sounding SS distortion in their SS amps, and there's a wealth of decent distortion in their "modeling" amps.  
 
The Peavey sounds better to my ears, but again, these amps are voiced to please as many people as possible across the board. More discriminating ears will wish to tweak component values or just play around with tube and speaker replacements. The last PV I worked on had a Vintage 30 in it, and if the distortion was grainy, the muted quality of the Celestion smoothed it out.  
 
I would guess that the Hot Rod would resell for a bit more than the PV. In the PV that I recently modded, it sounded and felt great with the tubes cathode biased.  
 
If I had the choice, I'd go with the PV. I'm getting to like the sound of EL84's and the Hot Rods are louder and touchier than I like.  
 
I've modded a dozen or more of the amp that preceded the Hot Rods, the Blues Deluxe/Deville. I've added the unused triode to the distortion channel and prefer the result over the stock tone of the Hot Rod "drive" chanel. Fender recently reissued the Blues Deluxe, but the price is higher than for a Hot Rod Deluxe...go figure. The drive channel of the Blues Deluxe is pretty anemic.  
 
It wouldn't be hard to tweak the Hot Rod Deluxe and revoicing the Drive channel could help a lot. The stock Drive to my ears is flubby and ragged. In "More Drive" it just gets flubbier. The distortion channel in Fender's newer "Pro Tube" line is similar, although the qualities of the distortion that I don't like is even worse because of the use of that strident and harsh Jensen C12N. The C12K is a much smoother sounding speaker. The C12N is hopelessly strident. It's fine for clean, but with distortion, be it amp or pedal, it sounds like a speaker with a piezo tweeter.  
 
One note, in the Blues Deluxe, the volume and drive controls are simply adjustable resistance from signal to ground. This made channel switching easier. In the Hot Rods they switched those controls to conventional voltage dividers.  
 
One could likely tweak the Hot Rod depending on your needs, by just playing with the cathode bypass caps. A smaller one for V1 and for the "more drive" would focus the overdrive more into midrange voicing that would tame the flubbiness.  
 
Distortion is so subjective though. What I like, you might hate and vice versa.
 
3/14/2006 5:37 PM
Rick Erickson

quote:
"Maintenance wise, this amp uses three printed circuit boards that have to be squeezed together to get them out. It's a bear, but once you figure out how to do it, it isn't that hard."
 
 
This is one of my biggest frustrations with Peavey and most other manufacturers lately. You can't replace anything while the boards are in the amp and you can't test anything until you put it all back together. Who designs this crap?  
 
quote:
"I had those boards in and out a dozen times."
 
 
I rest my case...  
 
RE
 
3/14/2006 5:31 PM
Rick Erickson

quote:
"There are some reliability issues with the HRD - specifically the dropping resistors in the +/-16V supply ..."
 
 
I like the Blues and the Hot Rod series of Fender amps. They are very good bang for the buck. The things I commonly do to improve them is:  
a) replace the lousy plastic input jacks with Switchcraft #12A.  
b) raise the low voltage supply 5W resistors and Zener diodes off the PC board by installing Vector T-42 flea-clips and high temperature solder. This improves air flow around them and allows easy replacement in case of failure.  
c) Replace the stock 12AX7WA (Sovtec)preamp tubes with 12AX7EH (Electro-Harmonix) tubes.  
d) Replace the power tubes with 6L6JJ's.  
 
e) add bias adjustment (Blues series)  
 
f) Add "flyback" protection diodes on the power tube sockets.  
 
Once these changes/repairs are done the amp should be very reliable and much better sounding.  
 
RE
 
3/15/2006 9:37 AM
Steve Dallman

Once I replaced the solid wire jumpers along the flexing edge of the Classic 30 boards, I had no problem getting it in and out without any breakage.  
 
It's not the easiest thing to run this amp with the boards out, but I did using alligator jumpers to ground all three boards to the chassis. I HAD to do it because it was the only way to troubleshoot the slight hum that was there in half power mode.  
 
Working on a Hot Rod Deluxe isn't much easier.
 

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