With the Hot Rod Deluxe IV, Fender has shown that it can listen to its fans and even critics and take an already great amp and make it even better.
The Fender Hot Rod series is one of the most popular tube amp lines in the company’s history for a reason – they’re durable, affordable, and are excellent platforms for effects pedal users. Conventional wisdom hold that the Hot Rods have excellent clean tones, decent reverbs, and less-than-desirable overdrive sounds. The newest iteration of this modern classic features updated electronics and aesthetics. Fender maintains that it is the most popular professional amp line in the world (they’re probably right), but how do the updates affect the most cherished features of this amp line, e.g. the loud, usable clean tones? I decided to check out the Hot Rod Deluxe (single 12″) to see how it compared to previous versions of the Hot Rod series (I’ve owned more than a few of them).
The Hot Rod Deluxe IV is a 40W amplifier powered by 3 12AX7 preamp tubes and 2 6L6 power amp tubes into a 12″ Celestion A-Type speaker. There is a shared 3-band EQ, spring reverb, and top-mounted effects loops. While technically a 2-channel amp, there’s also a footswitchable “more drive,” bringing the practical channel count to three. Controls include presence, reverb, master volume, middle, bass, treble, drive select, drive volume, bright switch, standby, and power.
The amp is constructed from solid pine with a weight of around 41 lbs. A welcome addition are ivory-colored knobs against a new black control panel, which greatly improves visibility in low light conditions. A dust cover and 2-button footswitch are included.
Upon unpacking the amp, I immediately noticed that it felt a bit lighter than previous Hot Rod Deluxes I’ve used, always a welcome change. I set up a couple of pedalboards to use with the HRD IV, since most players tend to see these amps as “clean machines” to use various overdrive and distortion pedals, though I was also intrigued by Fender’s claims that the overdrive sounds had been given a complete overhaul.
My first impression is that the best of previous HRD amps are present in the current incarnation. The clean sounds are loud, clear, powerful and very “pedal friendly.” I wouldn’t say that this is “Jazz Chorus” clean, but it’s very usable and has a nice shimmer when used with modulation, delay, and reverb pedals. The onboard reverb was noticeably more clear and “chimy” compared to previous HRD reverbs I’ve played in the past.
The most noticeable improvements were with the drive channel (and the “more drive” option). The best compliment I can pay to the Hod Rod Deluxe IV is that the drive is “usuable.” This essentially 3 channel amp could easily be used without overdrive or distortion pedals on a wide range of gigs, though I’m sure many players will likely relegate the overdrive channel to “backup” status. That would be a shame because the overdriven sounds have a range of tones from classic Fender Bassman-type overdrive to more modern sounding tones. It’s a vast improvement.
With the Hot Rod Deluxe IV, Fender has shown that it can listen to its fans and even critics and take an already great amp and make it even better. I’m sure that the update of the HRD will find its way onto many stages like the Hot Rod amps that have preceded it for years to come.
Name of Gear: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe IV
List Price: $799.99
Manufacturer Info: Fender Musical Instruments; fender.com
Pros: Wide range of tones with both clean and overdrive channels; incredible value.