Fender Princeton Reverb vs Deluxe Reverb – Battle of Tube Amps!

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

With so many different amps out there, it can be hard to know what the difference is between them and which one you should choose. It is especially difficult when amps are from the same line-up, just like Fender Princeton Reverb and Deluxe Reverb, both icons of Fender’s “Blackface” lineup.

In today’s showdown, we will discuss how do these Reverb amps stack up and find out which one will come out on top.

Fender Princeton Reverb

Vs.

Fender Deluxe Reverb

Specifications

The Princeton Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb are fairly similar in terms of specifications. However, there are some key differences between the two that account for their differences in tone.

The Princeton, in its ’65 Lacquered Tweed form, uses an Eminence speaker, while the Deluxe features a more commonly used Jensen speaker. The speaker sizes for both models that I’ve linked to above are now the same at 12″.

The tubes used in these amplifiers are subtly different, too. The Princeton features three 12AX7 tubes and one 12AT7 in the preamp section, while the Deluxe comes with four 12AX7 and two 12AT7 tubes in the preamp.

In the poweramp section, both amplifiers feature two 6V6 tubes and a 5AR4 rectifier.

Both amps also have two-band EQs, Reverb, and Vibrato. They are even about the same size with the Deluxe just being slightly taller and a bit wider.

The two biggest differences between the amps are in their power and features. The Deluxe Reverb is a 22-watt amp while the Princeton Reverb is almost half of that at only 12-watt.

The Deluxe also has two channels – a normal and a vibrato while the Princeton is only a single channel amp. Both amps have two instrument inputs.

Tone

Because both amps use the same valves and speakers, they have a very similar sound.

Both amps have a very crisp and clean tone. The Princeton is a bit brighter and twangier than the Deluxe. The Deluxe has an overall fuller tone and is a bit warmer than the Princeton.

The difference in clean tone is subtle but substantial enough to be noticeable. That difference does become more apparent when you start to drive the amps.

The Princeton Reverb maintains its crisp tone when overdriven. It is a very clean overdrive with only lower notes distorting slightly.

The Deluxe Reverb, on the other hand, has a much more prominent overdrive. It is much dirtier than the overdrive on the Princeton and even a bit chunky.

Adding reverb and vibrato is where the differences in tone go back to being subtle. Both amps have excellent sounding effects, but the Deluxe’s effects do feel a bit more vibrant.

I think that is just because of the dedicated vibrato channel on the Deluxe. The amp is able to process effects a bit better, giving it a more lively sound.

Both amps handle pedals very well, however. This allows you to add whatever effects you want to your sound without losing any of the quality.

The Deluxe still does handle overdrive and distortion better, so I would not try to add too much of it to the Princeton.

Phase Inverter

Arguably the biggest differentiating factor between the Princeton and the Deluxe, apart from the wattage, is phase inversion.

The Princeton Reverb uses a split load phase inverter. This means that phase inversion in the amp occurs with only half of the 12AX7 preamp tube. Only using half of the tube is, as you’d expect, far less efficient than the approach adopted by the Deluxe.

In the Princeton, your guitar signal is less powerful as it heads into the power section of the amp, where the rectifier and 6V6 tubes are housed.

This allows breakup and poweramp “sag,” the beautiful, thick tone of a tube amp, to take place at lower volumes.

This, more than anything else, accounts for the difference in the Princeton’s tone when compared to the Deluxe.

Tremolo and Reverb

The classic Fender Princeton also uses a different tremolo circuit from Fender’s other Blackface amps. In simple terms, the amplifier’s power tubes modulate the bias in the amp, giving the Princeton’s tremolo circuit its characteristically swampy tremolo tone.

The Princeton-style tremolo is far closer to Fender’s “brownface” tremolo, with a richer sound that works great for blues playing.

The Deluxe Reverb gets its tremolo effect from a different circuit entirely. The classic Blackface Deluxe uses an Opto-coupler circuit, modulating the volume to achieve the tremolo effect.

While some Fender Deluxe amps call their built-in effect “vibrato,” it is still a tremolo effect. Strictly speaking, tremolo means volume modulation, while vibrato means pitch modulation.

Fender, and many guitar players, use the two terms interchangeably. This is also true of their Deluxe Reverb: depending on the model you’re playing, it could call the tremolo effect tremolo or vibrato.

Reverb aficionados will be pleased to know that both of these amplifiers use Fender’s famed “drippy” spring reverb effect, perfect for surf rock.

Uses

Both amps are great as either simple practice amps, as a part of your gigging rig, or even for doing some studio work.

Both amps are powerful enough to let you comfortably practice with them without disturbing your neighbors or even housemates. The two instrument inputs also make both amps great for jam sessions with a friend.

For gigging, the Princeton is going to be limited to smaller venues and bars because of its lower output. The Deluxe will have an easier time in larger venues. Both amps have external speaker outputs at the back. So, if you have the budget for it, you can connect them to large cabinets and use them in bigger venues.

I would suggest placing them on angled amp stands no matter what. This is just to ensure that their sound is aimed at your ears and not your ankles since they’re not that high-powered.

Both these amps have been used on countless records over the decades. You can comfortably take either one of them into a studio and know that you’ll be getting an excellent quality recording every time.

Because the Princeton Reverb doesn’t handle overdrive and distortion as well as the Deluxe Reverb, it is a bit more limited in the types of music it can be used for. It is a versatile amp that can do a wide range of styles, but the Deluxe is certainly better suited when it comes to heavier genres like rock and punk.

Final Word

If you’re looking for a classic reverb amp with a clean sound that has been heard on countless records, the Princeton Reverb is the way to go.

But if you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Deluxe Reverb packs a stronger punch and can rock out with the best of them.

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About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

2 thoughts on “Fender Princeton Reverb vs Deluxe Reverb – Battle of Tube Amps!”

  1. We had better tell Mike Campbell (Tom Petty) that his Princeton amps are not good for rock… He may be surprised.

    Reply
  2. Having owned both of these amps, I found that the Princeton Reverb was plenty loud for a quartet even with the other guitar player running a Sovtek 50 watt head into a 2-12 cabinet. The natural compression and overdrive of the Princeton Reverb gave it a great sound without any pedals at all.
    A nice grab and go amp for rehearsals, recordings, or small earsplitting gigs.
    The Deluxe Reverb is more versatile at a small club having more headroom. Bigger sounding, ear splitting for a 22 watt amp.

    Reply

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