Vintage Guitar - July 2018 - open - 94

'53 BASSMAN
This '53 Bassman has the wide-panel tweed
cabinet, still with top-mounted control panel.

most aspects. It was also given independent Bass and Treble controls governing a
cathode-follower tone network with its own
12AY7 preamp tube and a Presence control
enabled by tapping the feedback loop around

VINTAGE GUITAR

94

July 2018

the output stage.
A l s o ne w we re
fixed-bias output
stages - a significant development
for the Bassman
(and guitar amps
in genera l) t hat
offered more headroom and tighter/
f i r me r low- e nd
response. As those
were qualities dema nded by bass
amps more than
mere guitar amps,
the Bassman was
also equipped with
two 5U5GA rectifier tubes, where
its guitar-intended
siblings had just
one. W hi le such
was clearly the way
for wa rd for bass
amplification, it was
clear that guitarists
also needed louder,
stouter amps, and
t he Bassman was
hav i ng plent y of
c ros sover succe s s
(hence t he Br ig ht
channel).
Combined, these
elements showed the
road forward for guitar amps, but the narrow-panel Bassman
had yet to reach its
zenith.
For the 5F6
Ba s sma n of 1957,
Fender scrapped the
c at hody ne (a . k . a .
split-load) phase inverter design shared
by its medium and
larger amps at the
time in favor of the
long-tail-pair topology developed by Mullard, a feature that helped define the biggest
and most-powerful amps in the lineup.
Feeding the output tubes with this more
efficient stage encouraged even greater
headroom and a clearer, more-balanced
overall signal reproduction. Notably, only
the Bassman and Twin of 1958-'60 were
given the long-tailed-pair PI. At the time, a
Middle control was added to the Bassman's
cathode-follower tone stack, and the dual
rectifiers were abandoned in favor of a single
83 mercury-vapor rectifier tube. The latter

'53 Bassman: Patrick Healey.

the first gain stages
and a 12AX7 phase
inverter.
As the largest
spea ker commonly in use at
the time, the 15"
Jensen would have
seemed t he obvious choice for
full, deep bass. But,
its large cone was
prone to flubbing
out when hit hard
with a low E at high
volumes, and the
travel required of
the underpowered
voice coil proved
problematic.
Fender surmised
that dividing the
load between four
sma ller spea kers
would be the way
forward; less individual cone surface
- but more overall
when used in multiples - required
less voice-coil excursion, therefore
applying less stress
to each speaker.
This theory played
out in the next inc a r n at i on of t h e
Bassman, which
not only introduced
several upgrades to
t he plat for m, but
launched the journey
toward one of the
most-revered tube
amps ever created...
for guitar.
Arriving in late '54
(more substantially
in '55), the first 4x10"
Bassman appeared in
Fender's new "narrow-panel" combo, so
named for the narrower upper and lower
strips at the front to hold the speaker baffle
in place. The short-lived 5D6 and the 5E6
that followed had circuits much like larger
Pro, Super, Bandmaster, and Twin of the era.
Oddly, the early narrow-panel Bassman
had only one input for each of its two channels, labeled Normal and Bright (the latter
differentiated internally by a capacitor on
its Volume pot), whereas similarly sized
amps had two inputs per channel
(four total). They otherwise shared


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - July 2018 - open

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