If you gig often, you’ll find that one of the many prevalent amps that appear on a backline stage has been the trusty Fender Blues Junior. Soundmen love this small wonder because it’s easy to manage volume with its low wattage, and its single speaker can be quickly mic’d. Guitarists love it for its compact portability and single-channel front end that can be dialed in for luscious cleans that work great with pedals, or turned up for spongy overdrive. But the Blues Junior has not been without its shortcomings. Throughout the years, some guitarists have lamented over its icepick highs, boxiness in tone and ill-suited speaker choice in Fender’s revised editions. Well, I can confidently say that Fender is not a company that simply rests upon its laurels, but seeks to continually perfect its products from top to bottom. Here, Fender addresses the aforementioned issues by giving this popular amp a complete overhaul by introducing the Blues Junior IV, which is a markedly improved version of this durable grab-and-go amplifier.
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FEATURES The allure of the Blues Junior has always been its simplicity, and the IV, on the surface, has remained untouched as a single-channel, all-tube 15-watt combo that features a pair of EL84 power tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes. What’s different is that the control panel is no longer mirrored-chrome, but a white-on-black textured panel with ivory pointer control knobs. Also, the control panel orientation now faces you as you stand above it — a sensible change so that the controls no longer appear upside down. Controls include Volume, Treble, Bass, Middle, Master and Reverb, with a single 1/4-inch input jack, a Fat switch (preamp gain boost that can also be activated remotely via footswitch) and power switch. Fender claims they modified the preamp circuit for more body and the spring reverb for a smoother taper, but the most significant swap is the Celestion 12-inch A-type speaker as its newly minted voice. Other cool touches are the lightly aged silver grille cloth and a steel-reinforced strap handle.
PERFORMANCE When I hear something is new and improved, my gut tells me it’s a repackaged version of the same thing. But after spending five minutes with the IV, I can immediately tell it’s an entirely new beast of an amp. Fender’s modification to the IV’s preamp circuit changed the harshness of its former iterations to a more powerful and bolder-sounding amplifier with moxie. There’s more headroom, and cleans have a forceful midrange presence, lows don’t sound flabby, and highs sparkle rather than pierce. It’s wonderfully balanced and full, and adding effect pedals only enhances its tonal nature. Even more impressive is the fact that its overdriven grind is no longer mushy but growls instead, and a lot of that is its Celestion speaker coaxing the amp for a more controlled response. The spring reverb is also remarkable in its ambience and natural decay. For an amp at this size, it’s a powerhouse.
● STREET PRICE: $599.99
MANUFACTURER: Fender, fender.com
● The Celestion A-type speaker gives the IV a far more authoritative bark in its overdriven character and snappier chime for cleaner settings
● The Blues Junior IV spring reverb is beguilingly spacious, with a natural decay that enhances the overall tone
● THE BOTTOM LINE The Fender Blues Junior IV is reborn as a new benchmark for a portable workhorse combo with bolder, full-bodied tones and a natural-sounding reverb.