Like many, my journey to find the perfect “budget” guitar amp has been an ongoing thing.  With the Fender Bassbreaker 15 (which I now own) I’d like to say the search is over.  But no.  It will never be over.  However, the Bassbreaker 15 is my favorite amp for under $700.  My second favorite is the Marshall DSL40, which for some reason gets a bad rap.  I don’t know why – I think it covers clean, crunch, and overdrive extremely well.  But this is about the Bassbreaker 15.

I was running my Bassbreaker 007 through a 12 inch cab, which I enjoyed a lot and which sounded great.  But there were four issues – the internal 10 inch speaker didn’t sound good, there was no reverb, there was no effects loop to add a reverb, and it wouldn’t be loud enough if I ever wanted to play with a real drummer or band.  These were rhetorical problems that didn’t currently impact me, but it’s not unreasonable to think I might jam with someone in the future.

I saw a Bassbreaker 15 used at Guitar Center in Clearwater and I traded my 007 in (with some money) and upgraded.  Since the 15 has a higher gain setting than the 007, I wondered if it’d be good enough where I could get rid of my Peavey tube head that I use for higher gain stuff.  Nope.  The Peavey is still a better high gain sound.  So the Peavey stays.  But let’s do the review thing…

The Good

This is a 15 watt tube amp capable of being heard in a band situation, but it sounds great in your bedroom or home studio.  It’s my favorite amp for a reason.  The 15 is one of the few amps I’ve ever played that sounds great clean and sounds great dirty.  Most amps are good at one or the other.  It has an effects loop and a built-in reverb, and it covers the clean Fender sound thing very well, but the crunch sound is very close to exactly what I want.  Rob Chapman called the 15 the best amp Fender has ever made.  It’s probably the best crunch sound Fender’s ever made, and I think they basically did it by copying Marshall (who originally copied Fender.)  And the music goes round and round.

Put a Strat through it and it’s great.  Put a humbucker through it and it’s great.  One super cool feature of the 15 is the speaker outputs.  It has an output which disables the built-in speaker, and another one for an external cab so you can run both.  It has an ohms switch that covers 4/8/16.  Paired with my external 12 cab, it delivers a nice big sound.  The speaker is the Celestion V70 speaker, which is a hundred dollar speaker that is supposed to deliver a warm, articulate sound.

The Bad

I am not crazy about the “warm, articulate” V70.  It could be that I’m just used to the cheaper Seventy 80 speaker in my external cab, but I find the V70 to be a little too present, a little too midrange.  I won’t swap it, though, at least not yet – there’s a chance my ears will get used to it and eventually prefer it.  It’s supposedly a better speaker.  So I need to take some time and let my ears adjust.  With both cabs going at the same time, it sounds great regardless.  Also – the amp weights about 40 pounds.  Yeah, tube amps are heavy.  But I wish they weren’t.  And I do which the cabinet was a little bigger – the smaller cab makes the amp sound a little smaller than I think it should.

The Ugly

The line out is crap-sounding.  Fender needs to keep working on that.

UPDATE – Actually, the line out for a CLEAN sound is pretty decent.  It’s the distortion that doesn’t sound all that hot via line out.  In fact, I think “crap” is too strong – you might like it.  I’ve used the line out for clean sounds and it’s fine for home recording.

It’s my favorite amp for under $700.  Fender nailed the crunch tone while keeping a great clean tone.  It’s sort of a miracle.  It’s just that I’m not 100% sold on the speaker.  I will give it time, but right now I still prefer the cheaper Seventy 80.

UPDATE – Nope, there’s no longer any doubt – I definitely don’t like the speaker.  Swapping it out is going to be not fun, so for now I’m just bypassing it and connecting to my “cheap” 70 Eighty.