They both recall the classic Fender amps that everybody loves, but there are a few things to consider between them.
When it comes to Fender’s family of ’65 Reissue amplifiers and ’68 Customs, one might think that they are both period-perfect recreations of their legendary predecessors.
But while that might essentially be the case for the ’65 Reissue Deluxe Reverb, Twin Reverb, Princeton Reverb and Super Reverb, the ’68 Custom models have actually been updated to offer even more features that will appeal to players looking to combine traditional “Blackface” sounds with the look of classic “Silverface” amps.
The story dates back to the mid 1960s, when Leo Fender sold the company to CBS. The amps that came out in late 1967 and 1968 ushered in the silver face plate, a departure from the black control panel that had been so popular in previous years.
But those Silverface amps didn’t go over so well with guitarists of that time. Even though their guts weren’t that much different than their predecessors, there were a few internal circuit changes that didn’t hit the mark for players.
Eventually, however, Fender’s Silverface amps were being played more and more people were priced out of the beloved Blackface line.
“There were a lot of guitarists who eventually turned to the Silverface amps,” said Fender Amplifiers Product Product Development Manager Rick Heins. “To this day, you see a lot of people who couldn’t afford the Blackface amps playing Silverface amps.
“It’s similar to how there was a time when if you had a Stratocaster with a big headstock, it was considered bad. But my first guitar was a ’74 Strat with a big headstock, so for me, that will always be an important thing. Some of the old-guard will only swear by Blackface amps. That’s a pretty blanket statement and not entirely true.”
When Heins was working on the ’68 Custom project—which includes a Custom Deluxe Reverb, Custom Vibrolux Reverb, Custom Princeton Reverb and Custom Twin Reverb—he wanted to modernize them with a few improvements on the original models.
This was because of several common modifications that Heins noted people would perform on the classic Silverface amps.
“One of the biggest things that people modified was with Channel 1 (because all the amps of that time had reverb for the most part),” Heins said. “Channel 1 on those amps did not have reverb or tremolo. The second channel does. We thought people would want reverb and tremolo on both channels.
“We also thought that because both channels now had reverb and tremolo, we modified the second channel with what is considered a ‘Bassman tone stack’.”
The Bassman tone stack is an important addition. Installed on the “Custom” channel for the ’68 Customs, it boasts more low midrange and an earlier breakup (although the ’68 Princeton Reverb only has one channel, so it solely features the Bassman tone circuit). Meanwhile, the ’65 Reissues have the same Blackface tone circuit on both channels.
Also separating the ’68 Customs from the ’65 Reissues, specifically the corresponding Deluxe Reverbs, is the bright cap. The ’65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue has the bright cap like the original, while the ’68 Custom Deluxe does not.
“When the volume is low, it had a lot of top-end sparkle. When you turn the amp up, it distorts,” Heins said. “The downside of that is most people use guitar pedals to get distortion nowadays. If you play this amp and don’t want it to distort naturally by turning it up, you’d use a pedal. But an overdrive or distortion with the bright cap sounds horrible.
“A lot of times, when people buy those vintage or reissue models, they’ll cut the bright cap off the volume pot so they can use pedals. So we just didn’t put it on the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb because the benefits outweighed anything else. That’s why they’re pedal friendly.”
Each amp family has their devotees. Generally, players that love the original versions of Fender’s Blackface amps but might not have the ability to afford an original model gravitate to the ’65 Reissues for that Stevie Ray Vaughan vibe. Players that love their amps to break up a little sooner or want to incorporate more pedals into their sig—along with loving the Silverface look—lean towards the ’68 Customs.
But the reality is that you’ll only know if your try them yourself. Plug in and do the research, because there are a lot of tonal options available with each.