Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fender Princeton Reverb Silverface

I'm pretty sure everyone should own a Princeton Reverb. I've owned at least two and maybe three...I've lost count. There is a good and a bad side to these amps though...they're really not loud enough to gig with, but they sound absolutely fantastic. I'd love to have one again just for recording purposes and I'll probably keep hoping that one day I'll come across one at the Swap Meet or at a Pawn Shop somewhere and the owner won't know how much it's worth. "What? That old '70s amp in the corner? Heck, I'd take $30 for it I guess." We can all dream can't we?

And what's the deal with pawn shops these days?

Do they all think that they can charge more for a guitar than it's worth? What happened? Pawn shops used to be places that you could find a good deal on a guitar for the simple reason that when you go pawn a guitar in the first place they give you about four nickels and a couple of dimes for it and act like they've done you a favor. So, they could sell them for a good price and still come out way ahead. At some point in about the late '80s all pawn shops decided that they were retail shops and started jacking up prices on crappy Squiers and Johnsons and other weird brands from Pakistan or somewhere. They've all got those little Gorilla practice amps too, don't they? I digress.

The last Princeton Reverb that I had, I traded away exactly because it just wasn't loud enough. I was in a band that was rehearsing in a small little rehearsal spot and I could just never hear myself over the Carvin half stack our other guitarist cranked through. And by the way, while I'm digressing, why won't people admit that Carvin makes some pretty darn good sounding gear for the money? Their amps have always sounded really good...they make a tweed called (I think) the Bel Air that sounds nice and their stacks always sound very crunchy...I'd rather have a Carvin half stack than a lot of those other non-Marshall brands that try to pull it off. And I will go on the record that their PA gear is unbeatable for gigging folks like you and I and extremely cost effective. This sounds like one of those sneaky blog ads or something but it's not. I just believe that Carvin should get some credit and I don't think you're going to find many folks willing to say it. Especially when they're supposed to be writing about Fender Princetons.

Okay, no more digressing. Fender made the Princeton way back in the '40s, but the Silverface version I have owned were made from '68 to '82 when Paul Rivera released the Princeton Reverb II. From what I remember and have barely researched just now, these put out about 12 watts, which is perfect for recording and fine if you don't mind micing the amp and not being able to hear yourself, but not really practical for most guitarists on stage. Over the years of this model they had lots of different specs and small variations on features. The last one I owned had a pull pot, amazing clean tone and beautiful reverb. Man, I'm talking myself into wanting another one even more as I write this.

The best part of this story though is how I eventually ended up trading it. There is a fairly well known guy in vintage circles named J.R. who owns Sunset Music in Idaho. However, before he moved to Idaho he ran a small guitar store in Encinitas, CA called Blue Ridge Guitars. He was always fair with me, so one day I decided I really wanted a Gibson ES-125 Cutaway he had that had suffered the classic neck/headstock repair, which dropped it's value but didn't change the way it sounded...amazing. He had been sitting on this guitar for awhile and it was worth approximately the same as my Princeton Reverb. I walked in with my amp and just said, "Hey, no one is buying that 125 and I don't have any extra cash to sweeten the deal...why don't we just trade straight up fair and square and you'll have an amp you can more easily sell and I'll have a guitar I want." This kind of bargaining never works. But for some reason J.R. saw the logic in my deal and shook his head and said, "Okay, let's do it." He asked if the amp worked fine and I said it did. We didn't even write up a receipt...the whole thing took less than 5 minutes and I was out the door with a pretty cool guitar.

So, thanks J.R. for a cool deal. Wish I had that amp back though.


Alex said...

Good call on the pawn shops. I remember going to them and always seeing junk that was overpriced to boot. I specifically remember a highlighter-colored Charvette hanging in one.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm from Switzerland, I'm a Pecussionist. My son Simon loves playing guitar and he's very good in it. Now, for business reasons I met a customer in his office, and there, in the corner, I saw this cute Amp with blue writing "Princeton Reverb". Later I found out it's a Fender 1977. I asked the owner if he's still playing. He said "No, and I have also an Electric Guitar". He showed it, it was a Fender Mustang 1978. I told him that I would like to buy it for my son and asked him how much it would cost. "400 $" he said "both.....;--)))!" Well, guess what I did...They look brandnew and sound awesome!

Anonymous said...

I have a silverface princeton reverb amp in very good condition. How do I find out what year it is and how much it's worth?

Daniel said...

Digging through my junk pile, I found a Prince Reverb silverface chassis. Building a cabinet and fixing a broken wire to the preamp plates, I am well on my way to having a sweet amp. As for pawn shops, If you not ashamed of the offer you made them on a piece of equipment THEN you are paying way too much. I always offer at least half of their asking price.

Daniel said...

When I was playing in a rock band in college back in the mid 70's, our lead singer had a 1965 Princeton Reverb that didn't work. I gave him $25 for it. Took it home, took it apart and found the main ground wire had come lose. I soldered it to the chassis and it has worked like a charm in the 35 years since. I see my $25 investment is worth over a grand now.

Paul said...

Great article. As for pawn shops, the worst thing to happen for us bargain hunters (and the best for Pawn Shop owners ) was the internet.
Now they can really see what somethings worth, and darn it all, it's taken the fun out of hunting.. almost.
Now, for my PR story. Back in 92, I had set up one Sunday at our local flea market to get rid of the extra "stuff" I had accumulated, when right next to me was a lady doing the same. I noticed the amp, but didn't ask any questions, deciding that if she still had it at the end of the day, I would inquire about it.
Well, the time for packing up came, and I went around to check it out. It was a Silverface Princeton Reverb in really good shape.(around 72 to 75) She said it was her husbands practice amp, and had spent most of it's life in the closet, waiting for him to play when he came off the road.
Asking price ... 30.00. No argument here.. org. speaker, no footswitch. It has been a wonderful amp, has seen a few gigs over the years,but Today.. it may get traded for a 02 Bluesbird. It depends on alot, but it might by time to say goodbye as I'm
not playing her anymore,( last year I bought a 65 Deluxe Reverb RI) and could use the Guild.. if it plays/sounds as I hope it will.
Anyway, that's my story.. I hope my resolve holds up, because, I just may bring her back home.

Franck said...

Hi, I'm from France and I play guitar mostly blues. It tooks me years to find my amp... and it's a Fender '67 Princeton. It has a vibrato. It sounds awesome. It's perfect for single coil guitars ike strat or tele and for Gibson with P90 like '59 ES 125T. But with humbuckers' guitars like ES 335 or Les Paul, it does not pay justice to the instrument - do not know if its due to the 10" speaker or to the 18 watt amp. This why I'm about to buy a Bandmaster silverface. But if I had to own only one amp, I will keep my Princeton !

kevin said...

Long story short I recently found a '69 princeton reverb amp all original, tubes and all.definite closet amp.Very clean. I'm willing (reluctantly) to part with it. pawn shops are the worse place to find bargains. i freqent junk shops and estates sales, where the sellers dont really have a knowledge of what theyre selling.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is a new post on a years-old blog, but it got indexed by the search spiders so here I am...

Frankly, I don't understand the acoustic calculus but speakers and their efficiency percentages matter quite a bit. I have a 1964 Princeton, no reverb, which sounded killer at low volumes with the ceramic 10" Jensen. My amp guy (Paul Sanchez, "Red Iron Amps") and I discussed improvements, he talked with The Guy at Mercury Magnetics about upgrading transformers and I got an even better-performing amp handling 6V6GTAs and 6L6s with an adjustable negative feedback circuit and pot he added. Most important here, besides the sizable jump in transformer power, the amp had a speaker jack for the ceramic and another for an extension cab.

My advice: Even with the original, small-ish Fender transformers, the amp will sound a whale of a lot bigger and arguably better with an outboard 212 or 412, with high efficiency speakers. I've unplugged the original ceramic and just used that jack for 9X% and 100% (or is it dB?) efficiency, including a Celestion Gold, genuine Shotz SugarCone, EVM12L, even high-efficiency but much lower-cost Celestions like V30s and even proprietary THD, 3 Monkeys and Splawn 212 and 412 cabs.

Try an EVM12L in your Princetons; Mojo and others should offer a 12" baffle replacing Fender's original 10". If possible, get a dB meter! It will give more solid clean and overdriven volume even if you don't upgrade the transformers.