The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Fender Hot Rod Guitar Amps
The Hot Rod Deluxe, DeVille, and Blues Junior are part of a legacy dating back decades. Fender amplifiers have been responsible for some of the most legendary guitar tones since the dawn of rock music.
Unlike some amp builders who made their names with 100-watt heads and walls of 4x12 cabinets, Fender is known for classic combos that put out big power and incredible tone. This is a brand name that always means smooth overdrive and pristine clean sounds.
The Hot Rod Series continues that tradition and brings the Fender vibe down to a price the working guitar player can afford. If you play blues, rock, or country, this is all you need to bring to the stage.
There are a few different models of the Hot Rod lineup. There’s the Deluxe, a moderate-wattage 1x12 combo, and the Blues Junior, one of the coolest little tube amps ever made.
Then there’s the DeVille, a monster combo that comes in a 2x12 or 4x10 cabinet. This is an amp capable of hanging with any stack.
In this review, we’ll take a closer look at the series and talk about the pros and cons of these modern classics. Fender is among the top guitar amp brands in the world, and the Hot Rod lineup is a great example of why.
The question is which amp is right for you and your needs. This article can help you figure that out.
First, let’s talk about some numbers. Sixty watts of Fender tube power coming through a pair of Celestion speakers gives the Hot Rod DeVille its voice.
The 4x10 version is known for punchier, brighter sounds, whereas the 2x12 will have a warmer, fuller tone. The choice is one of personal preference.
There are three channels: Normal, Drive, and More Drive. Normal brings near-perfect clean tones, where the drive channels range from slight overdrive to classic hard rock sounds.
Controls include Presence, Bright, Master Volume, 3-band EQ, Drive Select Switch, Drive Volume, and Reverb. While there is some leeway with tone shaping, again this amp excels at that awesome Fender mid-range overdrive and crystal-clear clean sounds.
Other features include an effects loop, an external speaker jack, and a 2-button footswitch. The amp weighs around 54 pounds, so it is within the average range for tube combos. Compared to lugging a half-stack around, this thing is a joy!
Hear the DeVille and Deluxe
The Hot Rod Sound
While you’ll get some very good rock sounds out of this amp, a high-gain beast it is not. That’s okay. Fender amps shine in their own way, and putting a distortion pedal like a Tube Screamer in front of it will thicken up the overdrive if you need it. But that’s not really where it’s at with this amp.
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The clean sounds here are epic, and it doesn’t take much effort to dial in some buttery blues overdrive. The DeVille was made for the kind of player who appreciates a smoky bar, a vintage Stratocaster, and music that comes from the soul.
You can squeeze some hard rock vibes out of it if you put your mind to it, but players who are thinking more about classic rock, blues, and country will love this amp.
If there is one drawback it is this: This is a very loud amp, with tons of headroom. That's good, on the one hand. It means you can push the clean sounds to high volumes without worrying about it breaking up, which is cool. But it also means you really need to crank it up to get the most out of the overdrive tones.
For some players, this may be no problem. If you play in a loud band and need to compete with another guitarist who thinks his Marshall stack has to be set to eleven at all times, you’ll appreciate the power this amp brings to the table. But for many players, it may not be practical to use an amp with this much power.
For those guitarists, the Hot Rod Deluxe may be a better choice.
DeVille vs. Deluxe
The Deluxe is the little brother of the DeVille. In my opinion, it is one of the best tube combos under $1000. With a power rating of 40 watts, it’s still a very loud amp, and capable of holding its own in any gig or rehearsal situation.
But the lower power rating means you don’t have to crank it up quite so loud to send it into that golden overdrive zone of tube amp bliss.
Again, this is a matter of taste. Guitarists who love clean sounds at high volumes may prefer the power and headroom of the DeVille. Guitarists who want thicker overdrive and glowing tubes may prefer the lower-wattage Deluxe.
Guitar players who never come out of their basements can do whatever they want, but the power of the DeVille may be overkill for them.
It’s important to note that the Deluxe only comes in a 1x12 version. However, Fender makes a matching 1x12 cabinet if you feel like you need to move more air.
Really, you can match either amp with an 8-ohm cabinet to expand your rig if needed.
It’s a tough choice. Personally, when I owned a 2x12 DeVille a few years back I ended up switching to the Deluxe for the more controllable power and, in my opinion, better tone at low volumes.
But there’s one more amp to throw into the mix.
The Fender Blues Junior
The Blues Junior
The Blue Junior is another 1x12 tube combo amp in the series. But this is a 15-watt, one-channel amp with far fewer features than the big boys. Still, the Blues Junior is beloved by many blues and rock guitar players for its tone and simplicity.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the same kind of guitarist who is considering one of the amps mentioned above would get anything out of the little Blues Junior. But, depending on your situation, this amp could be just what you’re looking for, and you might not even realize it.
It's a great small tube amp for home use. For players who just want to jam at home the choice might be a no-brainer, but what about if you play in a band?
Depending on what kind of band you’re in, and how loud you need to play, the Blues Junior may do just fine. In most situations, performing bands put microphones in front of their guitar amps and send everything through the PA.
If you know you’re going to have your amp mic'd at every live performance, save your back and your money and think about using this little amp instead of a bigger rig.
The real question then becomes one of tone. Small-wattage tube amps are known for incredible warmth and smooth overdrive. That's because they have to work harder to be loud, and this is where the Blue Junior shines.
On the negative side, while you can add effects pedals as you wish, you’ll be limited to that one good tone for the most part, since the amp only has one channel.
In conclusion: If you know your amp is always going to be mic'd up in live situations, if you play in a band that doesn’t use Marshall stacks or have Animal from the Muppets behind the drums, and if you’re happy with one, sweet overdrive sound, this might be the amp for you.
The Verdict on the Hot Rod Series
The Hot Rod DeVille is loud. It’s got great clean tones and very good overdrive. Country, blues and classic rock players will love this amp, especially those who play in a band. There is no reason to carry a head and cabinet around when a powerful combo like this will do the job.
The DeVille is a great amp, as long as you know exactly what it is. If you don’t need quite so much power you may consider going with the Deluxe instead. At 40 watts, it’s easier to push into that rich tube saturation zone, and it is still plenty loud enough to use in a band situation.
If you just jam at home, or your band situation doesn’t require a powerful amplifier, check out the Blues Junior. Fifteen watts of tube power is plenty for shaking your walls, and this little amp sounds amazing.
If you are looking for a guitar amp for metal you probably want to look elsewhere, but for everyone else, the Fender Hot Rods are great amps.
Good luck and have fun, whatever you choose!
Which Fender Amp?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Ron Pogorilich on February 14, 2019:
I bought a watson volume module and plugged it in the effects loop..now i have the best of both worlds.and I bought a extension cab with closed back so the low end is great....this all should be a option when purchased....this is the best...