Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fender Ultra Chorus


Continuing on "amp week," here is an amp that was actually a pretty decent amp despite the fact that it was solid state. These were made from '92-'94 from what I can tell and were replaced by the Fender Ultimate Chorus. It has built in chorus and channel switching with a distortion sound that's okay. It's a 2x65W stereo amp with chorus, reverb, two inputs, and mono and stereo send/return loops. The footswitch switches channels and turns the chorus effect on/off. Plenty of power for small gigs, came with casters and 2x12" Fender Eminence speakers standard.

From a distance you could easily mistake it for a Twin Reverb.

I found this amp in a pawn shop in Redmond, Oregon. I had driven up to visit friends for Christmas who live in Bend and decided to take a drive around the area one afternoon to look around. Redmond is nearby and I came across a pawn shop...the dustiest pawn shop in America. They had a bunch of weird stuff in there including what must have been the very first solo musician's personal PA ever made. I would have bought it too if I'd had enough money. But this amp caught my eye and so I made my way over to the corner of the room to check it out. It was literally covered in dirt and dust and I have no idea why a business would let something get so dirty and think that it doesn't hurt business. Although this amp turned out to be in excellent condition once it was cleaned up, it definitely didn't look like it and made me question whether is was a decent amp or not. The good part was that I was able to bargain the price down from $250 to $150 and we had a deal. I also bought a couple of effects pedals they had for super cheap as well...all of it destined for eBay or Craig's List.

I put it all in the back of my rental van and made my way back to my friend's house. After borrowing some paper towels and some windex I was able to clean it all up fairly well. That night I watched my beloved Oklahoma Sooners beat Oregon in their bowl game, which was especially sweet given that I was actually in Oregon at the time and surrounded by bearded guys in Oregon football jerseys. Once I got home from the holiday trip I was able to test the amp out and discovered that this amp really wasn't too shabby. I'm one of those guys who has got to have tubes, so I wasn't really thinking at any point that this was going to be a keeper. But, after plugging in and playing for awhile, I have to admit...if it was the only amp I could own, it really wouldn't be the end of the world. The clean sound was nice and crisp, the channel switch over to distortion was okay...very rack system, programmed Top 40 band sounding distortion. But it was plenty powerful enough and was...let's see...non-offensive. Not my number one choice, but again, not bad.

I finished up the cleaning job and listed it on Craig's List for $300 and had it sold later that afternoon. A nice little $150 profit just for taking a cruise around town on a cold Oregon day. I'll take that in a heartbeat.

25 comments:

Keith said...

The Fender solid-states from the mid-90s are really nice amps for their price. I had a Princeton 112 that had really nice distortion and reverb.

Jaimie Muehlhausen said...

Hey Keith, I agree. I'm not sure I let myself fully come out in the story with how decent this amp sounded. So much so that I seriously contemplated keeping it rather than putting it up for sale. I would definitely recommend giving one a shot if you have the opportunity.

R said...

I'm one of those guys who bought this amp when they came out in the early 90's. 14 years later it still works for me. I've played in hardrock bands and joined a blues band last november, used together with a floorcomputer it sounds great in both musicstyles. The only reason i would buy a new amp is when this one breaks down...and i sure hope that doesn't happen any time soon!

Anonymous said...

I had my U/C for 12 years and just recently sold it for a whopping 40 bucks. I was sad to see it go, but the reverb went out and they wanted 120 to fix it. By far one of the best amps I've used and traveled with. I only wish Fender would come out with something in that range again, you can't go wrong with a solid sounding rig for under 300. I paid 75 bucks for it in 96, they had a few left over at my local shop and just wanted to get rid of em. So 35 bucks for 12 years and countless shows isn't bad at all.

Alex said...

I think this series of amps was a continuation of the Fenders of the late 80s/early 90s, which they really improved with the silver grille/black knobs, instead of the dark grille and red knobs.

Anonymous said...

I bought this amp around '95 or so. I love the amp like an old friend. Its starting to breakdown though. Really loud background noise that comes out especially if you have the reverb up. And I love the reverb on the clean channel. Anyone know how I can fix it up a little?

Anonymous said...

I bought an Ultra Chorus from Music-Go-Round, a strictly musical pawn shop about a year ago. My Telecaster sounds great through it - esp. on the clean chanel. I actually think the distortion is really nice in its own right, too. I am primarily a keyboard player and have tons of fun playing my 1975 Rhodes through the Ultra Chorus. I also own a twin reverb that I love to death, and you're right... one can achieve almost the same sound as Twin (esp. from a distance) through this guy. I'll never sell it unless I absolutely need the cash. For a solid state amp, I give it a 9 out of 10. I use it to record, gig, whtever. No shame in playing through an SS when it comes to the U.C. - GO FENDER!!

Anonymous said...

I actually have this same amp in gold. It is co-branded with Yamaha. Back in the day they were doing a partnership agreement. My brother works for Yammie, heard I was looking for an amp, and brought me this prototype. Had the 2 button footswitch, but no manual. I have had it over 10 years, and it is all I need.

Jeff G said...

I got mine in 93 and I am still using it. It still looks brand new and is in excellent condition. It is amazing want an amp cover can do. I am getting ready to update it by using a Digitech Multi Effects Pedal. It has that classic Fender Amp look! They all should still look like this great little Amp!

uuddlrlrbaselectstart said...

This amp was in the corner of our practice space. I plugged in and loved the sound, a week later i noticed the chorus button on there... Since then I only play the ultra chorus ... This amp shreds!

M. Stewart said...

Love my ss Fender Ultra Chorus, bought used over eBay in a closed auction for $135 because it needed repair. $85 dollars, 6 CDs, hundreds of shows and 10 years later, it still rocks. The amp can be seen and heard here (lead section) in a little music video I did solo: http://www.vimeo.com/8546758

Anonymous said...

I just sold mine about 20 minutes ago for $150. It was in good shape, but some of the pots were scratchy and that same clean channel hissing with the reverb was getting worse. I bought mine new in 1994 - that's over half of my life ago! And it served me well for gigging and recording, but I'm downsizing, and this amp was second place. Still sad though - it was the first real piece of gear I ever bought... Great amp. I will definitely buy another one someday when I have the space for it, assuming you can still find them whenever that will be.

Anonymous said...

I missed one in a pawn shop years ago and still regret it for some reason. It was only $180 and sounded absolutely beautiful.

It was a damn fine amp built with Fender speakers and Fender tone.

one that got away....

Anonymous said...

For anyone that doesn't have a biased opinion about tube amps, the Ultra Chorus amp doesn't just sound OK, it sounds awesome. I have been playing guitar for forty years, and this is my first choice to use on gigs. 135 watts of power, with the best on board effects around. The two OEM Eminence 12" speakers are clean and crisp, and the overdrive channel is as good as any tube amp I hear when the "tube dudes complain about solid state amps, as they play their guitar through seven stomp boxes connected to their $1200 tube amp! And yes I know what I am talking about as I have several tube amps at home, and even make clones of some of the best Fender tube amps and sell them. The Eminence speakers finally split their surrounds and so I took two Celestions out of an old Stage 160 fender, and couldn't believe the Ultra Chorus could sound any better. These amps can be bought for about $200 now, and I won't hesitate to buy another one if mine goes.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous June 10, 2011 5:38 PM

Many transistor amps and overdrive pedals sounds very good when driven hard, and compared to a tube amp they just sound a little different. One thing transistor amps are unable to do, is to get that soft saturated sound, just before the tube amp breaks up. The reason why some uses pedals in front of tube amps is to get a unique sound. I use an older Mesa with an 80's boss OD-1 pedal. Apart from that i agree. I have also the Fender Stage 112 SE from the same time period as the Ultra Chorus, very nice clean sound. THe Ultra chorus as the best chorus effect i have ever heard for a guitar amp.

Anonymous said...

The day I bought it, the last amp I plugged into before the Ultra Chorus was a Mesa Triple Rectifier combo, and the sound of the Ultra Chorus was SO close to it, I couldn't justify spending an extra $800 for the Mesa. I've used mine in a variety of situations, and it's never failed. I plan on keeping this thing for many more years, and when if it ever dies, I hope I can find another Fender solid state that sounds just as good!

Anonymous said...

I just bought this amp and was wondering how the mono and stereo jacks worked on this amp?

Can anyone help answer this?

Anonymous said...

In answer to anonymous above, the manual for the utlimate chorus amp shows how you'd use the mono and stereo effects jacks.

See:
http://support.fender.com/manuals/guitar_amplifiers/Ultimate_Chorus_manual.pdf

rcollins said...

I bought this amp new in 1993, from Guitar Center. I absolutely love this combo amplifier. The only improvement I made, was changing out the original speakers to Celestion G12K-100's. This amp sounds amazing in both clean and distortion channels, and the lead sound that I get from it can cut through anything. I own other amps, but for the value, you can't beat this amp.

Anonymous said...

In 1998 I bought one for 500 gulden (about 250 dollar at that time) and was completely sold by the sound. I used it for playing with the band and for gigs. Very decent amp. No bad remarks whatsoever. I fooled my friend who thought it had tubes. About 2005 I sold it -not to my friend- for 265 euros (about 260 dollar at that time i think). The Fender has been moved around a lot and played with great volume without a crack.

Anonymous said...

I must have a steal then. My neighbor had a yard sale which I came to find out at 6 this morning when I got the trash bin. I went to his place, a few houses down. Got some $20 cds at 25 cents each and a xbox360 game. On my way out, I saw this amp. Said it was $75. I bargained for $50 and he agreed. It even includes a footswitch. Seeing now it's mre than what Ipaid for makes me want to keep it. I'll just sell my old 10 watt crate amp.

Bart Boge said...

After reading about these, I bought one from MGR for $150 + shipping.

The feature that really makes this amp valuable today is the STEREO FX RETURN. Think about it: if you are into the latest digital modeling (Line 6, Digitech, Fractal, Kemper, Boss, whatever) and you still want your own stage monitor, this thing is nice. 65w stereo cab, mega loud for a SS amp, and it still LOOKS like a guitar amp and not a PA wedge.

All you have to do is run a line from your MFX's headphones out to the stereo return of the Ultra, and you're good. Your MFX's standard DI output can go to the PA, giving your FOH engineer the level he/she needs, and you can use your headphone volume to control the output of the Ultra.

Keep in mind that this bypasses EVERYTHING ELSE on the amp, even the master volume. it's as if the amp is @ 100% max output for anything coming back through the stereo return loop--a direct tap into the power section. That's why you have to be able to adjust the headphones level separately from the main L-R outputs of your MFX unit.

I'm tempted to get a second one and run each in mono--one L and the other R--and really have some stereo thickness for the guitar sound on stage.

For the same price as a cheaply built Rogue or Kustom powered 212 you can get a bullet-proof Fender 212 that's louder, more durable, and looks cooler.

Thanks to MFX, the ULTRA LIVES AGAIN!!

Anonymous said...

>I'm tempted to get a second one and run each in mono--one L and the other R--and really have some stereo thickness for the guitar sound on stage.

I did that. It is really nice :-)
I have two of them and ran them with an intellifex ltd in stero mode.
The stereo chorus rocks and the ping pong echo too.
But i have to admit that i played seriously on stage long time ago and currently the two are just catching dust in my livingroom.

Al Mele said...

I have had this amp for ten years. I bought a Twin Reverb and a Black Star HT-60 so it was retired. Since i have disc problems with my neck, I can't lug the Black Star around, even though it's a great amp. So, on a lark, I fugured, what if I resurrect the Ultra-chorus? WOW!

I put a Tube Screamer in front of it on a low setting. This things screams! The gain channel is wonderful. the sustain I get from my Icon and CE-22 is not not be believed. I'm almost ready to say , who needs the tube amps. It weighs about 1/3 of the tube amps with two 12" speakers. I don't know who made those twelves fro Fender in that Ultra but, they are outstanding!

John said...

John from Washington UK

just read the one that got away, have
to say I feel the same about the
Ultra Chorus. Had mine since the 90s
and just love everything about it, when I plug in and start playing I just don't want to put my guitar down. It is in excellent condition, without any scratchiness on the pots.
And many have said how good it sounds. who needs tube amps?