If you are looking for an amp that can give you a warm channel that is ideal for playing jazz, blue or just to set up some nice ambience, I recommend the Fender Blue Junior IV.
The Fender Blue Junior produces sound that is clean and warm. It can be pretty loud and probably can make you ear hurt if you tune it up all the day. Whether for practice or small clubs, the Fender HD can handle all the on stage requirements. It is also pretty portable. Best of all, the pricing can be considered to be entry prices.
Pros and cons of Fender Blue Junior IV
Every amp has its pros and cons. Fender Blue Junior IV is no exception. Below is what I like and dislike about this particular amp.
- Affordable pricing
- Very warm tone with its clean note and buttery sound
- Pretty flexible with a diverse range of tones, although it is not diverse as a versatile amp like Mesa Mark V
- Picks up the natural sound of my guitar
- Smart standby switch that keeps the tube still warm when it is powered down. Avoid the delays some other tube amps might encounter.
- Very slight buzz at max volume. I don’t usually need to use this level of power but when I do, I do hear a very faint buzzing sound. Not sure if it is my unit and it applies to every unit
- Not made in the USA but I guess a lot of other amps are also made outside the US (mainly in China).
What does warm tone for guitar means?
The challenging thing about buying anything to create warm tones is the definition of what warm tone even means.
Thus far, there is no universal definition and differs from individual to individual. However, I used the following as my definition of what is consider warm tones in frequency terms:
- Warm tones: Most frequencies below 800hz and 6-8 khz
- Crisp tones: Most frequencies above 800hz and 7-8 khz
Here are some keywords that I think might be relevant when defining what warm tone for guitar means:
- Non piercing sound
- Sounds easy on the ears
- Deep and rich
- Clean tone
What other amp brands to consider
Beyond the Fender HD, here are other brands options you can consider
- Hiwatt Custom 100 DR103Peavey Delta Blues 115: Many folks think this is an outdated looking amp but this actually has a solid built, and is very long lasting. If you are always traveling and need a rugged amp, this is a good choice. It produces clean and warm sounds, even at high volume. Doesn’t come with too many effects but you don’t those when playing genres like blues or country.
- Vox AC15: Another amp that breaks up nicely and produces warm and clean notes. Some have complaint that there is not enough headroom but I feel it is not a serious problem if you are not into metal and other heavier stuff. This is made in China but the quality is pretty sturdy.
- Roland JC 120: This is purely for a jazz or blues player. There is no versatility in this amp but it produces very beautiful clean notes that sounded warm. I would say relative to the Peavey Delta Blues 115, this clearly is head and shoulders above it in terms of clean notes. However, it comes at a much higher price tag of near $1k. Buy it only for a certain tone you are looking for. If you are unsure, skip this.
- Hiwatt Custom 100 DR103: If you have the budget, this is almost like a custom made amp that produces one of the cleanliest tone I have ever heard. You can’t buy this off the shelf as it is a vintage amp but is well worth the effort to hunt it down. It hits the nail on the head in terms of tone accuracy but delivers it with such a powerful punch.
What to look for in amp that can produce warm tone
- Price: Entry prices for such amp usually start with $600-$700. I have not come across any budget amp that can produce the kind of warm tone that is needed for blues, jazz etc
- Tone: Clean tone with clear breakups.
- Light footprint and portability: If you are intending to use this for playing on the go, makes sure the amp is lightweight and doesn’t take up too much floor space.
- Pedal compatibility: Adding pedals should be easy to give you a wider range of tone and sound possibilities.
- Loudness: Make sure your amp is capable of producing the volume that is needed for your setting be it a local club or church.
Amp settings for warm content
For the warm tone to come through the amp, you must have the right setting. Usually, folks will use the neutral setting to get a more natural sounding projection from an instrument (usually a guitar) so that its warm tone can be heard. Problem is neutral might not be neutral.
Most amp have 3 dials: treble, middle and bass.
It is assumed that to get a neutral tone, one has to set the dials to 5-5-5 i.e. middle of each dial (assuming it is from 1 to 10).
However, that is the right way to get the neutral tone. For example, setting the treblem higher than 1 means telling the amp to turn down the bass input, which affects how warm the tone is.
The right one is to set it to 1 so that it does artificaly suppress the bass tone.
Similarly for bass dial. Tuning it more than 1 means telling the amp to suppress the treble.
Hence, the recommended setting for the treble, middle and bass should be 1-10-1. The middle is set to 10 to maximise the recovery of gains which might otherwise be lost. In order words, the middle acts as a second ‘volume’ control and allows you to hear the tones more loudly and accurately.
There is so much variety in the amp’s market today that it is hard to know which one can produce a warm tone. I have narrowed down to a few of my favorites but my recommendation is the Fender Blue Junior IV for its beautiful warm notes and affordable pricing..