Fender Really Wants Us to Give the CBS Era Another Chance

Last month I wrote about Fender’s reissue of the Coronado and Starcaster, idiosyncratic guitars that were originally released during Fender’s controversial CBS period and have since enjoyed a cult following. Another week, another CBS-era resurrection. FMIC has brought back — in “vintage modified” form — the “silverface” amplifiers of 1968, including the Twin Reverb, Deluxe Reverb, and Princeton Reverb. This marketing decision is a little more perplexing.

Fender’s silverface (a reference to the silver control panel) amplifiers represented more than just a cosmetic departure from the “blackface” era of 1964-1967. While sharing model names, the silverfaces featured circuit tweaks that arguably affected the tone of the amps, in ways that have made them less sought-after than their predecessors (though the 1968 changes were more subtle than variations later introduced in the 70s). Granted, original silverface Fender amps have enjoyed new-found popularity in the past decade, in large part because they can be had for cheaper prices on the vintage market (while still sporting hand wired point-to-point construction). Nonetheless, the internet abounds with discussions of how to internally modify these amps to pre-CBS specs.

Fender already offers popular reissues of the ’65 Twin Reverb, Deluxe Reverb, and Princeton Reverb. These amps use modern (though less durable) printed circuit boards to keep costs down, which appears to also be the case with the new silverfaces. By contrast, the silverfaces are not strict reissues, offering tweaks not seen in the originals. For example, the ’68 Deluxe Reverb features a “modified Bassman tone stack” in one channel, which is supposed to be better suited to effects pedals. So maybe there’s something new here. Still, it seems that buyers (who may already be confused by Fender’s myriad product lines) basically have the option to purchase a cosmetically different amp, of comparable construction quality and price to the ’65 reissues, with an historically less popular (albeit functionally modified) tone profile. Am I missing something here?

Cosmetic comparison — 1966 Princeton (left) and 1974 Princeton (right).                     Image credits: Drmies and Bubba73 of the Wikimedia Commons.