Fender Tonemaster ... Whatcha Think?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by magilla, Jun 16, 2011.

  1. magilla

    magilla Chasing those soulful sounds. Gold Supporting Member

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    I had never heard of the Tonemaster until I used one at a gig ... It belonged to the other band's guitarist. I loved the sound. Only issue was that it broke up a tiny bit just a little early, but upon talking to him I realized that was due to a mod that had been done, he said, lowering the power from 80 (think he meant 100) down to 60 watts. So that was just his model. He let me use his Van Amps reverb unit with it. Sounded great.

    I don't care about the OD channel. I just want fat, warm glassy fender tone with plenty of headroom. Style is soul-jazz, soul and funk. I imagine I'd run it through a 2x12, and I'd be using it with 335 types, maybe a tele or jazzmaster down the line.

    What do you all think of the Tonemaster? Is this the perfect amp for me?
     
  2. coldfingaz

    coldfingaz Member

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    It's not really a typical sounding Fender amp, but if you play loud rock music there are few better sounding options in the 100 watt range which were made by any of the major manufacturers during the time in which the Tonemasters were being built (early/mid 90's, I think... until around early 2000's?).

    Along with the Pro Jr., I think these are easily the best amps Fender has made since the Silverface era.
     
  3. Dave_C

    Dave_C Member

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    Had one when they first came out in the mid-late 90s. Clean tones were nice, but unlike any Fender I had played, being much less scooped and warmer/rounder on the top end. The OD channel was horrible though and I wrestled for almost two years to get a decent sound out of it before giving up and selling it. The only way I could make that amp usable (and tolerable for my bandmates) was by turning it into a dirt machine by cranking it through a Power Brake, using the clean channel for a crunch channel and the lead channel for a high gain channel and then adding a second amp for cleans.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  4. sickboy79

    sickboy79 Member

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    I've owned one for 10+ years. It's one of my favorite amps. To my ears, the vintage/clean channel gets wonderful cleans that have a little bit of brownface/blonde era tone as well as blackface - depending on how you set it. It can also be cranked into one of the best overdriven rock tones. Fat switch can add a touch more gain and thicken up the tone. Wonderful channel.

    I really dig the OD channel. To my ears, it reminds me of my Blonde/BF Bassman heads cranked, with a built in OD pedal. I'd call it a medium gain channel that's great for rock to classic hard rock. It can be bright (especially at lower volumes) but, it really thickens up when pushed. Highly recommended amp, in my book.
     
  5. RocksOff

    RocksOff Member

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    I seem to recall that Bruce Zinky designed those and said that the production models wound up not sounding like his prototype or something?
     
  6. Lance

    Lance Member

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    From what I gather, the builds were very inconsistent. They hadn't quite gotten the circuitry just right. They are all over the map quality wise. Basically, this is definitely a try before you buy, type of amp. If you find one that sounds good both clean, and od channel, BUY IT! They are fantastic sounding amps...if you get a good one. Trouble is, most all of the good ones have been snatched up by now. If you can pull the chassis to give it a good eye, and you see sloppy crap running all over the place, DO NOT BUY IT. If you see one that's all neat, and looks good, snag it.
     
  7. Bobby D

    Bobby D Member

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    the Tonemaster, Dual Professional, and Vibroking are my favorite newer Fender amps that have been made in the last 20 years or so.

    all three of those amps are spectacular, in differing ways.

    i wish i had one of each -- they are all killer.

    all hail the mighty BRUCE ZINKY!!!! :YinYang
     
  8. Dave_C

    Dave_C Member

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    Yeah, I forgot to mention this. The one I played in the store sounded better than the one I eventually bought. I'd need them side-by-side to verify, but to my ears and memory, they didn't sound the same. And, the wiring and layout in mine was horrible - just a mess. Overall, it was one of the most disappointing boutique amp purchases I've ever made.
     
  9. studiodunn

    studiodunn Silver Supporting Member

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    You WILL care about the OD channel!!!!!!!!!!!

    Fantastic amp that can be the only child and be it well.
     
  10. movingpictures

    movingpictures Member

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    dont forget the Prosonic....equally cool amp
     
  11. mikecat

    mikecat Senior Member

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    I had one and sold it after about 6 months. It had the best clean tone I've ever heard.
    The gain side, that's another story. I learned that that amp is very speaker picky.
    It likes Celestion Lead 80's and Vintage 30's like it was sold with in 2x12" cabs to go with it. If you try it with other speakers, the tone can become horrific.
    Even playing it with the Lead 80's in a Tonemaster 2x12" cab, I didn't like the too overly aggressive voicing it had. I tried different tubes, speakers, etc... and it just made it worse.
    It's an extremely LOUD and IN YOUR FACE distortion that is not very pleasing for classic rock at all. It sounds more like a Fender that's been modded to have a modern, Fender take on a Marshall JCM800 aggressiveness, but without the sweet, Marshall tone.
    Too in my face, overly aggressive tone, and by the way I don't sit around playing "Old Mcdonald Has His Farm" on guitar all day.
    I play Les Pauls through Marshalls, and I play Sabbath, Zep, Ac/Dc, Rush, Yes, Foreigner, STP, Van Halen, Ozzy - R. Rhoads, Santana, Hendrix, Scorpions, Ratt, Squier, Guns N Roses, etc...., and the Tonemaster was waaaay too aggresively voiced and hurt my ears almost every time I played it.
     
  12. magilla

    magilla Chasing those soulful sounds. Gold Supporting Member

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    Thanks for rhe responses. So ... It seems like this could be something I want.

    Once again, I care only about clean headroom and a good clean tone. For funk, soul and jazz. Of which it has both in excess it seems.
     
  13. studiodunn

    studiodunn Silver Supporting Member

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    Gobs of clean headroom to be had and a 12AT or AY in the PI will remedy allot of the harshness often associated with the gain channel.
    I'll agree that it takes a little tweaking of tubes and the bias adjust, but once you find what you like, the Tonamaster is a fantastic and undervalued amp.

    And V30's or any of the G12K series are the way to go IMO.
     
  14. Baminated

    Baminated Member

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    FORMER OWNER. Did a bunch of mods, research, etc .. . The mod is NOT what decreased the headroom. It's a number of issues.

    No negative feedback loop, low resistor values (1.5k) on the inputs, low grid/screen resistor values. And some very weird transformer based effects loop, which is the main culprit

    Most fenders have 33k/68k resistors on the input stage - 1.5k is retar-culous !

    This amp lacks clean headroom for funk & jazz. Better for in-between rock cleans. I moved on to a Dual Showman and got much more higher headroom cleans for loud stage levels w/an 8 piece horn band. Now I have a magic dust, and have the Dual Showman in the emporium

    You won't get that with the Tonemaster

    Unfortunately, no
     
  15. dju

    dju Member

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    just wondering, if you are only planning to use the clean channal (an assumption on my part) and not the OD channel, couldn't you get a twin reverb for less money. or the equivelant head verison for less than a tone master. the tone master amps i have seen are pretty pricey compared to a twin. just wondering.

    dj
     
  16. Baminated

    Baminated Member

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    Twin reverb in head form = Dual Showman - fir reelz
    add a zendrive for "poor man's two rock" !
     
  17. Bassline

    Bassline Member

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    That guy's Tonemaster didn't have a mod. ALL tonemasters came with a switch in back that would let go from 100 to 60 to 30 watts. After owning one of these for years, I can say I never ran out of clean headroom on the 100 watt setting. The thing that threw people off is that the switch in back is not labled as wattage, it's labeled as impedance: Low, Med and High.

    From the Tonemaster Owners Manual:

    IMPEDANCE SWITCH - This is labeled LO, MED and HI. This switch serves two functions.
    One, to set the output impedance of the amplifier to best match the speaker impedance for maximum power. Second, to enable the amplifier to better achieve the cranked-up sound at a lower volume. On the B CHANNEL, with a single Tone-Master enclosure, this switch should be set according to the setting of the B CHANNEL volume knob: For volume settings of 3.5 and lower, LO would be the appropriate setting. For settings of 3.5 to 7, MED is best. For settings above 7, HI will produce full power and tone. This switch will not damage tubes or reduce tube life at these settings. What it does do is increase the gain in the LO and MED settings and thereby better approximate the Full volume sound at a lower level than by adjusting the VOLUME alone. With a single 16½ enclosure, LO will produce 30 watts, MED will Produce 60 watts, and HI will produce a full 100 watts. With two 16½ enclosures, (an 8½ load), LO will produce 60 watts, and MED will Produce 100 watts. In the A CHANNEL, the switch has the same function, although blues players may like running the switch on LO all the time to get that great crying tone. Conversely, a player looking for a New Wave Strat® tone might like the sound of the A CHANNELon HI.
     
  18. Baminated

    Baminated Member

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    ah - yes - i do remember that switch - still not enough headroom for big cleans required for Jazz & funk at the 100W setting IN BIG ROOMS on BIG STAGES - even with low impedance alnico humbuckers !

    Def enough headroom for rock cleans ,but Kinda harsh & trebly for other styles, though

    After several mods to address this, the only conclusion I could come to was that weird transformer driven effects loop, which most likely was adding distortion
     
  19. Bassline

    Bassline Member

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    ^ Quite likely!
     
  20. magilla

    magilla Chasing those soulful sounds. Gold Supporting Member

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    Thanks, bassline, but I am hip to that. He did an additional mod lowering the max power, I think by changing the power tube section / output transformer.

    I've played a dual showman before, but I think the Tonemaster is more my style.

    And, as to the why not a Twin, thing. Hmm, good question. I had a TRRI and I've played other twin but found the cleans too cold and sterile. I like the thickness and mid-iness of the Tonemaster. Seems to lack such a scooped mid.

    I still think the Tonemaster is the way to go, just looking for the opinions of experienced users.
     

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