The re-designed Fender Blues Junior III is a great choice for someone who wants clean, fat Fender sounds in a small package.
The Fender Hot Rod line of guitar amplifiers has achieved cult-like status in recent years, with no amp being more highly regarded than the beloved Blues Junior. This diminutive beast packs quite a punch into its 30 lb package. The amp has been a favorite for the amp modding community for some time, and Fender has decided to incorporate some of the most popular mods into the amp straight from the factory. Let’s see how Fender decided to improve upon an already great amplifier.
The Fender Blues Junior III is a 15 watt tube amplifier with a 12″ speaker designed by Eminence. The preamp is powered by 3 12AX7 tubes and the power amp by 2 EL84 tubes. The rectifier is solid state. A single channel amplifier, there are controls for volume (gain), treble, bass, middle, master volume, reverb, and FAT boost switch. Weighing in at around 31 lbs, the amp sports blackface style black/silver grille cloth and black vinyl covering in traditional Fender styling.
I tested the Blues Junior with a Gibson Les Paul Standard and Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster. Since it’s a single-channel amplifier, I decided to focus on the clean channel and use a variety of pedals to see what kind of sounds were available. My first impression is that this amp is very loud for a purported 15 watt amplifier. It felt more like 30 watts, to be honest.
In comparing it to previous iterations, I found the III to be a bit brighter (hence the “Sparkle Mod” in its specifications) and worked well with humbuckers. It was somewhat too bright with single coils, but I could play around with the tone and get a sound that worked well with a wide array of overdrive and distortion pedals.
In putting the overdrive sounds through their paces, I engaged the FAT switch and pumped up the Volume (i.e. gain) control and was pleased with the smooth lead sounds in this little beast. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the lead sounds to be as good as they were.
Given its volume and weight, this is an amp that could be used in a wide variety of gigs, even small clubs if properly mic’d. It’s a very pedal-friendly amp that works well with both humbucker and single-coil equipped guitars, though expect to play around with the tone controls if you plan on shifting guitars during a performance.
It’s also nice that Fender took several issues with previous versions and improved upon them with version III, especially the upside-down text. You can actually read the amp controls settings in a real-world setting now!
More than just a “practice” amplifier, the re-designed Fender Blues Junior III is a great choice for someone who wants clean, fat Fender sounds in a small package. The changes Fender introduced only improve upon an already beloved amplifier. For the price, it’s tough to beat the Blues Junior III.
Name of Gear: Fender Blues Junior III
List Price: $699.99
Manufacturer Info: Fender Musical Instruments; fender.com
Pros: Great clean and overdrive sounds; excellent bargain; portable; nice reverb
Cons: Breaks up at larger volumes