Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fender Bronco Amp

Finishing up amp week (although I've got many more amp stories to tell), I'll go with one that would be fine for sitting around in the living room with, but not much else. This is a modern era Fender Bronco amp with blonde tolex and ox blood grill. I think I got this around the time they came out with the Blues Junior amps, which I highly recommend, and I thought maybe this was a baby version. I didn't really do my homework. I found it in a pawn shop nearby and talked them into a price that I couldn't refuse. In fact, now that I think about it, I wasn't even all that excited about the amp, but I talked them into such a good price I felt obligated to go ahead and buy it.

I got it home and realized it was really just another cheap Fender practice amp wrapped in a pretty package.

I wonder if there are any cool mods for an amp like this out there...anyone? It's definitely a cool lookin', retro styled amp complete with the leather handle and the chicken head knobs. It's got an 8" speaker and puts out 15 watts RMS. Otherwise, pretty basic. I'll keep this story lookin' amp, not much meat. I would definitely recommend passing on this one for the most part. For not a whole lot more, if you really keep your eye out, you can find a Blues Junior and be much happier. I just looked on the eBay and it looks like recent Bronco auctions sold for anywhere from $85-150. I found a pristine Blues Junior on Craig's List recently for $225, so keep that Bronco money in your pocket and you'll be much happier.

UPDATE: I fixed the incorrect wattage I had listed previously. Sorry for that brain fart. Also, lots of comments about people liking this amp. I think that's great. I still stand by my personal opinion...the one I had sucked. Yes, I realize there is a price point difference between this and a Blues Junior...what I'm saying is, keep the $100 you'd spend on this amp in your pocket and wait until you can afford a Blue Junior or something similar and you'll be happy you did. I see Blues Juniors for sale on Craigslist for as little as $200-250 regularly. A MUCH better use of your money. OR, if your budget is low, find one of the Fender Sidekick Reverb amps used or especially check out the Fender Sidekick Switcher. This is a small solid state amp with fantastic sounds, footswitch, great distortion and nice reverb. I see them on Craigslist and eBay all the time for as little as $40! My buddy Dave gigs with his with me and I plan to find one for myself as well. I would personally recommend these above the Bronco that I had. Now...on to all the comments below telling me what an idiot I am...
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thesteve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Glad I found your site. There is a Bronco amp listed here for $275. Just thought I would check around because I have never seen one before and it does look nice. From your write up thats about all it has going for it. Thanks, Steve

Hurricane said...

I bought one for my nephew who was learning to play guitar. My only caveat to him was, "if you stop playing guitar, I want the amp back." Well, I got it back. I play in clubs about 25 times per year. I've been using this amp only, mic-ing it through the PA and have received a lot of compliments. You may not believe this, but I have a very nice tube amp collection from Dr Z (MAZ 18), Fender (Deluxe reissue and 1967 Pro Reverb), Matchless SC-30, Carr Rambler, Marshall 1987-X, Victoria, etc. I've got to give the Bronco it's props for being a mean little solid state amp with good tone.

Anonymous said...

gone through a ton of amps--for a low maintenance great sounding gig amp--this fills the bill

Anonymous said...

typical dufuss that really hasnt a clue about anything write a review and completely gets it wrong....i have this amp and its a beauty...lovely sparkly fender tones, and gritty overdrive to some fierce sounding distortion....its not 38watts (thats the power consumption) its a 15 watter.

Jaimie Muehlhausen said...

Hi. "Typical dufus" here. I've owned a lot of Fender (and other) amps in my 50+ years. I like to think that I know a little about how a decent amp sounds. Trust me when I say that this is not one of them. I'm glad that yours sounds great, although I find that hard to imagine. I've never been a big solid state fan, though I wouldn't say I'm a tube snob either. But this one is just not a great sounding little amp. There are plenty of small amps out there that DO sound great. I recommend finding one of those instead.

Anonymous said...

What an odd review!?

Have to agree with the majority on here. Just bought one of these off eBay for £75 meaning to put a little 5w tube circuit in there (as I build amps) and I don't think I can bring myself to do it. For a SS amp I think it's cracking, even the overdrive channel isn't too bad. A good little practice amp and sooo purdy ;D I've been playing over 20 years and have some very nice guitars and amps (all valve up until now) and have no hangups about keeping this as is.

Not fair to compare this to a Blues Jr, one is tube and one is SS, one is around the £50-£100 mark and the other goes for +£250 (in the UK).

Also if you thought for a second that this amp was 38W then I'm sorry but I don't value your opinion on amps generally. Don't mean to offend, just calling it how I see it.

Anonymous said...

Please note that I updated this story to fix the incorrect wattage I had listed. My apologies. I do understand amp wattage...just wrote it wrong. You'll note the update at the end of the story. -- Jaimie

Anonymous said...

Hi. Loving reading through your site in the last couple of days.
I have to disagree somewhat with your review of these Bronco amps. I have had one for a few years and it's my main house amp (I have around 7 amps - tube and solid state of different sizes, inc two other Fenders), as you can just plug in and play and don't need any overdrive pedals, so also portable.
Of course, if you use tube amps almost exclusively, you are going to miss the dynamics that solid state amps can't provide. I will also admit that the stock speaker is harsh. I put a 8" Jensen alnico speaker in mine(P8R i think it was)which sweetens the clean tone like you wouldn't believe. It also gives the gain a softer honeytone tweed character that also has a sweet grind with a little gain. I think that the original speaker is more punchy tho and handles higher gain settings better. The only other bad point is that these amps are very trebley and you have to keep it very low at 1 or 2. Its also best to avoid the clean channel for this reason, and use the gain channel with the gain on zero if you want the best clean tone.
The Bronco also has an ext speaker out at the back. I've hooked it up to a 12" cab and compared volume with a couple of 50w solid state amps i have and it was LOUDER! It also has a really powerful cruchy tone and great sustain.
Another great thing is that the tone you hear from the headphone socket is more similar to the jensen replacement speaker i put in than the original!
I think it's also a little unfair to compare it to the Blues Jr, as that amp is way more expensive (£450/$600 in the UK)and has a full 12" speaker. Also, that amp has darker El84 tubes and doesn't really have that classic fender (6v6 or 6l6 tube) chimey tone. So i'd say the Bronco has more of a classic 'fender' tone.
I usually use a little room reverb or echo when playing my other amps, but for some reason the Bronco just sounds great without it. Maybe it's the aesthetic vintage qulaity or something but somehow i feel a more intamate connection with this amp and it's tone. It must be love ...
Of course all this is subjective and relative to what you want to use the amp for. In my opinion, if you want a great little house amp that sounds like a fender and is great for low volume tweed tones and recording, get a Bronco and put a Jensen or other quality alnico speaker in it. (Just as a final note, for the Jensen alnico to fit i needed to file a few mm of the edge of the chasis, but there was no circuits at that spot.
I don't want to clog your blog with a long piece but i just had to stick up for this great little amp!

Jaimie Muehlhausen said...

Hey Gang, Jaimie from The Ones That Got Away here. I love that there is this much commentary on the site and I appreciate and respect everyone's opinion about these things. Just thought I would add a couple of things, especially after the most recent commentary. I'm not comparing the Bronco to a Blues Junior. I'm saying that you should save the money you'd spend on the Bronco and add a little to it and you could get something much a Blues Junior...or something else. There are a ton of great sounding small amps out there. The last guy (Paolo) just wrote a nice review...but I'd like to point out that he says it's a great amp'll miss the dynamics of a tube amp, don't waste your time trying to use the clean channel, you should replace the speaker with something else, oh and it won't'll have to modify the chassis...and the amp is so trebly that you should never turn the treble up past 1 or 2. Okay, so when I love an amp I don't usually have this many caveats. Having said all of this, I have to admit that there sure seems to be a backlash against my opinion anyone out there considering buying an inexpensive little amp for around the house, maybe this is the amp for you. I still think you could do better and get out cheaper with a Fender Sidekick Switcher or Reverb. All right...I'm going to stop defending my unpopular position on this one. Love you guys/gals and thanks for reading the blog!

Anonymous said...

The Bronco Is A Fine Amp! I Dont Listen To Others,If You Or Anyone Knows Fender You Will Get A Good Amp. Bronco Amps Are 40w With A 10 in. Speaker. As You Can Buy Them Used For 150 And Well worth It .New Ones With DSP Is At Sam Ash For 225.00 A Good Deal. The Person Who Claimes You Can Get Blues JR's For 225-250 Is On Crack. Be Luckey To Get A Mint One Under 400, 350 If Your Luckey.

Anonymous said...

I Agree!!!!

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard this amp yet, but I'm always amused by people who can't take criticism of something they own. If you can't be objective about a cheap amp simply because you possess one, please don't bother posting!

Jaimie Muehlhausen said...

Recently someone said that I must be on crack for saying you could find a Blues Jr. for $225-250. Well, there was one on San Diego Craigslist this past week for $225. It can be done. You have to be persistent in watching for this stuff.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a bronco at home with my couch, I love this amp, fender tweed tone and touch in 3 seconds, no spending tubes, I have a Pro Junior and is very good, but you have to hit it with tubes you put, not all tubes sound the same, and suffer with the punches, and the valves become old and you have to buy new, I have a blues junior I use small gigs in clubs, sounds good, is lightweight and does the job, has reverb ... but I love the bronco amp, if I had a 60w transistor bronco with two 12 "that would be the amp that would lead to playing the clubs.

Anonymous said...

I recently bought a guitar on Kijiji and the seller threw in a blonde tolex Fender Bronco to sweeten the deal. I tried it at the point of sale just to verify the guitar actually worked and it seemed OK. I played through it at home and noticed a few of its weaknesses. The most offensive was the blonde tolex. It just looked cheap ... like a toy. I did some research and decided to give it a face lift. I carefully removed all of the blonde tolex and bought a some tweed fabric locally for about 4 Canadian dollars. I traced the pattern of the tolex pieces that I removed onto the tweed and cut it out. I prepped the bare wood cabinet and used spray adhesive to apply it to the cabinet. I cut the back panel in half to give it a open back look. I covered the back panel in a rich dark brown leatherette vinyl. I really like that contrast of the vinyl and the tweed, its classy.
I replaced the speaker with a new American made Riftone C8R Vintage
tone speaker. Now my little Fender Bronco has looks and sounds awesome.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of small amps, ones with 8" speakers to be precise. I also own several SS amps, 2 Pathfinder 15rs, an original Roland Blues Cube, and yes, the diminutive Tweed Bronco. I like good solid state amps because they usually are much less noisy than tube amps, can take transport abuse well, and in most live settings they are sonically indistinguishable.
I cut a large "breathing hole" the back of the Bronco (tastefully done) replaced the stock speaker with a Warehouse 8", keep it clean on the boost channel w/ gain on "1", treble on "2". Juicy sounding clean, plenty loud. Takes pedals very well. Oh, $ 130 with the new speaker.
When it comes to guitar tone, in my 4 decades of playing, and especially having played with a myriad of great session guitarists, once the basic sound requirements are met, it's 90% player-10% gear.

Anonymous said...

He is right . Tube amps hold their resell value. People will not pay much for used guitar trans amps. I remember brand new line 6 spiders for $80.00 at a pawn shop. I think Fender and Marshall
quit trying to make top quality guitar transistor amps. The amps are good they just put them in particle board cases to bring the price down. Most are particle board but not all. This trans
tweed 15watt bronco is well thought of by a lot of guitar players. It gets some good reviews
considering it's a trans amp. Maybe you're not a tweed person. Maybe you're a blackface player.

Anonymous said...

It's actually a decent sounding amp, goes well with a telecaster...take the distorsion channel, put the distorsion to low and you get a good Stones sound. It does not have indeed the reactivity or warmth of a tube amp but overall a good cheap amp which is fun to play...

Anonymous said...

I bought my tweed bronco new in early nineties, it's my main practice amp, also have a B Jr. And hot rod deluxe, but my little tweed gets most my time as I don't gig anymore, anyhow, I like to mod things,and this little SS needed something,, so I replaced back panel with an open back I made, and shoehorned a no name 10" in it,, whoa, what a difference almost hast too much bass, and is louder than you'd think, my wife hates it :) , she thought because it was small, it would be quiet,,hahaha, jokes on her. All said, I really enjoy this little powerhouse, it rocks hard!

michael lynn said...

I have one of these little guys. I have kept it all these years because it just won't quit. Will likely be kicking it after I'm gone. While I agree that alone it is no tone monster but one night when my blues Jr. Left me hanging I had to show to a gig with only this. Fortunately, the venue was small. I plugged the output into an open back Avatar 1-12 can with a Celestine vintage 30 in it a damn if the voice didn't transform this little amp into something impressive! With a couple of choice pedals (Tibe Screamer and a good delay,) I was hanging with the band and never missed my Blues Jr. It truly is not as badass as the Jr but it was nothing to be ashamed of. Been playing since 1963 and I have had many a fine amplifier. Just saying, don't look down on this amp. For the price it delivers. Not my 60s twin or Marshall but I appreciate what it has to give. I paid $75 bucks used for mine and it was a very good investment. 10+ years now!

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Derek Jensen said...

Hi Jaimie,

Thanks for your story about the Fender Bronco. I don't normally comment on things, but I have my own experience with the Fender Bronco. My comment is, in no way meant to debate your opinion. Everyone's preferences are different and that's why there are so many different amps out there. I will say that I think the Fender Bronco is, as straight ahead two channel practice amps go, quite a versatile amplifier. Here's why:

1. It's the only practice amp I've ever seen that comes with a speaker out jack (different from the headphone jack that it also comes with. You can run any external cabinet up to a 4X12 cab without damaging the amp. I have run a 4X12 Marshall cab with it and it sounds very good! Fender must have put a really good transformer in these amps because that was one of the selling features demo'd to me at the music store. I have used the amp at gigs (not all the time) with a 1X12 cab with nice results.

2. This amp really shines in the gain/distortion department (even better though and extension cab... obviously). It has a really good amount of good quality gain. Of course, that depends on what you consider to be nice gain.
Note: I like my Bronco so much that had an amp tech install a relay and turn the headphone jack into a channel switch instead. Much more useful (for me).

All in all I feel it's really difficult to compare a tube combo amp (Blues Junior) to a solid state combo amp (Bronco). They're very different types of amps. I do understand, however, that you (Jaimie) would recommend the Blues Junior over the Bronco when the price difference isn't that much. For anyone looking for a good clean amp that takes pedals well, I completely agree... Blues Junior all the way. I just thought I'd mention all this, about the Bronco, since it has things to offer that the Blues Junior doesn't. I'm not saying that the Bronco is better, just that it has its own merits. For an amp that was $200-ish new, I think it's a great small amp to have kicking around... and no tubes to replace. :)

Thanks for reading!
Derek Jensen