Is blackface more offensive than brownface

Fender Machete Head & 112 Enclosure in the test

by Ebo Wagner,


What comes to the guitarist's mind when he hears the name Fender? Legendary Company, Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jimi Hendrix, Tweed, Brownface, Blackface, Tradition ... Vintage. Innovator, modern technology, such terms rather not. Just why? Because one likes to indulge in the past? In any case, Fender is not sitting lazily on its old laurels at all, but has achieved quite a bit in the amp sector in the recent past. The machete is the prime example of this.



The Supersonic series actually heralded a certain change. Two channels, one based on tradition, the other more modern and hotter, with a lot of gain. The two smaller models Super-Sonic 22 and 60 still behave moderately, but the Super-Sonic Twin 100, which was recently introduced in the series, already gives a lot of edge (see also test in G&B issue 10/2011).

With the machete, Fender went even further. One of its special features is the extreme bandwidth in the sound of the two channels. Of course, Fender's flagship is no longer brand new. The model came onto the market as a 2 × 12 combo around April last year. In G&B edition 07/2012 we subjected it to an extensive test. The top part and the 1 × 12 box are latecomers from the beginning of 2013. It can be exciting: Will the high-energy amp in this combination really get off its feet?



Construction of the Fender Machete Head

The facts are hardly exciting to read at first. Two channels, clean and lead, with separate tone controls, digital reverb, a loop-in path with level controls in send and return, XLR-D.I.-out with frequency response compensation, MIDI interface; normal, you would expect that as a matter of course from a modern high-tech tube top (if not three channels). The five-stage damping rotary switch or a corresponding controller that influences the dynamics of the playback is also common practice in this product segment today. No, you have to take a closer look. In addition to the Low, Mid and High control ranges, the channels each have a controller called Notch. Small cause, big effect, they make the difference because they have a massive effect on the mid-spectrum. Other factors also count in this context. In the background or not visible from the outside, the tube circuit is largely supported by semiconductors / ICs (TLO72CP), e.g. B. also in the FX way.

The heart of the machete are of course the tubes, all supplied by Groove Tubes. At the front of the signal path, five 12AX7s are active, plus one AT7 in the phase driver. For the benefit of maximum power output, the output stage works in Class AB push-pull mode with statically set (adjustable) grid bias voltage. The two 6L6GC (Groove Tubes call them 6L6-CHP) generate a nominal 50 watts.

The extensive equipment still has some useful details ready. With the push / pull switches integrated in the Gain and Volume potentiometers, a Bright treble increase and a Gain Boost can be activated in the Channel One. The small button labeled “+/-”, which is illuminated in the on state, allows a signal attenuation of approx. 6 dB; Fender practically saves itself the additional low input. The function of the balanced line-out (rear) can also be switched: PA Mute is an abbreviation for Power Amp Mute, i.e. H. This can be used to mute the power amplifier, Cab Emul is basically self-explanatory, the speaker simulation can be deactivated. Practically, you can also tap an unaffected line signal.

It's great when an amp can do a lot. However, all three “Fs” are important, in addition to function, production and form, i.e. appearance. Manufacturing is directly related to reliability. The mechanical construction of the chassis is not critical with the machete, since the sheet steel box with its welded edges is extremely stable. The structure of the electronics shows the efforts to save costs. As far as possible, the components are contacted on a large motherboard that takes up the entire interior. By z. B. the potentiometers are additionally fixed with support plates, solidity is more than sufficient. It is also good that the end tube sockets stand for themselves and are freely wired. All in all, it makes a trustworthy impression. The plywood case is also flawlessly processed. The special metal corners and the color-contrasting synthetic leather ensure a high-quality appearance. Unfortunately, the supple Tolex is quite sensitive.



Switching with the Fender Machete Head

In addition to a protective cover and a rather rudimentary than detailed instruction manual, the scope of delivery also includes a suitable gearshift pedal. This can be used to control the channel change, the gain boost in Channel One, as well as the status of the FX path and the reverb. A simple mono jack cable (without shielding) is sufficient for the connection. What Fender is packing here is really a cheap, rigid, flat ribbon strand. And the PVC cable with a length of only approx. 3.7 meters is also quite short. On the other hand, it is absolutely gratifying that the switching processes only cause a consistently subtle crack when changing channels, the others are practically free from background noise. The pedal has four rather bright red LEDs as status indicators. The distance between the buttons is quite large so that they can be operated easily.

As mentioned above, you can optionally switch the machete via MIDI. It has a learn mode with which it remembers (on any MIDI channel) the channel selection and the status of the Channel One Boost for a program change command. However, the FX loop and reverb can only be addressed via CC commands. How impractical, it would be a lot more elegant if the machete learned their status right away, wouldn't it ?!


112 Enclosure

If it is not a Thiele system, 1 × 12 boxes are usually simple boxes. This one especially because it doesn't even have a removable / screwed-on back panel.

The cube has an opening at the back in which the connection plate sits with two parallel jack sockets, at the front the hole for the speaker, a Vintage 30 from Celestion, is countersunk so that it sits flush in the baffle. The front frame is held by Velcro fasteners. Pull loops for removal are not available, so you have to z. B. with a screwdriver o. The further equipment of the plywood case corresponds to the usual practice. The same noble leather-like Tolex cover as on the top, of course, the sleek metal caps on all corners, a large, comfortable, rubberized handle on top, rubber feet. Unexpected luxury: plug-in rollers are included. Given the relatively low weight of just under 18 kilograms, it is not absolutely necessary, but always welcome. Of course, it would be even nicer if at least one of the rollers had a brake; but which manufacturer does it (annoying when the box wanders on stage ...). The scope of delivery also includes a short, high-quality connection cable.

The box looks chic, and in principle it is also perfectly made. Only those meticulous natures like me might be bothered by the fact that the Tolex is cut so rustic in the cutout of the connection plate that the wood can be seen in the corners. Incidentally, it has a clearer effect on the box that the synthetic leather gives way slightly; After a short time, imprints from the feet of the top part "dig" into the top.



Fender Machete Head & 112 Enclosure in practice

In the first test of the machete, two, no three, essential advantages emerged: The amp basically shows very good manners in tone shaping and response, it also has a superior range of sound colors and on top of that it can hardly run with power, i.e. it hits his 50 watts out loud and powerful.

Subject speech. For some years now, the trend in the American boutique scene has been towards particularly sensitive and quick-reacting amps that develop little sag, that is, react rather tightly and "ungraciously". A typical representative for this is z. B. the brand Two Rock. Matchless and Bad Cat took this direction much earlier. The fact is that such robust amps cannot be everyone's holy grail, if only because they are difficult to play, so to speak, and require highly developed skills from the guitarist. For many, a more compliant amplifier is a better choice. If someone like that shines with voluminous sound shaping and detail-enhancing transparency, then it looks great, almost "mass-compatible". Right, of course the point is that the machete hits exactly in this notch.

How elegantly the Channel One shines in the light with this mixture. Without much effort you have a reference-suspect clean sound at hand, with a rich foundation, maximum warmth in the middle and high gloss in the highs; Fender's core competence optimized and exhausted. The brilliance can be extremely emphasized without the canal beginning to stress the ear. Even if you leave out the notch area, the tone control develops a great effect. By z. B. can add plenty of bass. The interplay of all of them offers a sound range like hardly any other amp on the market. Notch “drives” far through the frequency spectrum on its control path, emphasizing the mids in very different ways, while the mid and treble controls interact in particular. It seems like there's nothing about this clean channel it can't. In other words, he basically knows no limits stylistically. And the icing is still waiting in the background. The Channel One glides extremely harmoniously into saturation with Boost-On. Initially so that the sound is really just richer, without showing any distortion. However, its reserves reach into downright overdrive. Sure, then the channel colors perceptibly. Beautifully harmonious and lively because sensitive to the attack.

The question arises: Can the small 1 × 12 box adequately transmit this equally elegant and powerful sound behavior? To everyone's surprise, including the author, she succeeds better than expected. In terms of effective sound pressure, such a closed box always falls a little behind, but purely from the point of view of the sound culture, the reproduction of the Machete 112 appears larger than expected. It goes way down, has healthy bass, dense volume and precision where it is most important for the electric guitar, in the upper mids. And interestingly enough, the Vintage 30, which otherwise likes to act bitingly, is tame and anything but poisonous in this case. The box needs a lot of power to come to life, but then works reactively favorably with the amp, i.e. H. the guitarist experiences the dynamics of his playing in detail.

Under these circumstances, of course, Channel Two has no trouble shining. His credo: Lots of gain and still sound. And how do the distortions sound? Many would probably say "creamy" to it. Because tugging does not come to the fore in many shots. As I said in the first test: “... the machete seemed to me time and time again like a highly bred descendant of the Mesa / Boogie MK-III from the very beginning - no stripe. You just perceive a big fat ray of a note that just doesn't want to die away ”. That is the other point. Channel Two goes to work extremely viable and supports the sustain massively. As powerful as its tone shaping is, it still does not knock the signals out of the speaker excessively brutally, see above. On the other hand, the extreme tone control can put an end to the aesthetic in no time at all. Hard metal sounds come out without further ado, no problem, aggressive in the listening experience, but only cautiously aggressive in the pressure. Of course, it matters how you use the damping switch. In the direction of Loose, the bass area becomes sluggish, more yielding and the presence increases significantly. In the end, however, the sound image is influenced more than the dynamics vary to a large extent.

It's a shame that the FX way works exclusively in series. But it does it extremely well, because in addition to the flawless sound quality, the level control ensures optimum adaptation to a wide variety of situations. Low-level effects pedals can unfold here just as optimally as 0 dB processors. The speaker simulation of the XLR output also scores with no restrictions in the plus. The sound is balanced and can certainly do a good job. If possible, I would still rather pick up the machete's charming tone with a microphone.

In the end, the question arises whether there are really no complaints due. Well, not really. Channel Two generates its excess gain in part at the expense of significant noise. However, to a certain extent this is in the nature of things and is really manageable. One can be divided on the second thing. Since the tone controls have so much and extreme effects, it might have been more clever to allow the front panel to have clearly readable scaling.



Alternatives to Fender Machete Head & 112 Enclosure

It has already become clear above: Due to its tonal variability and the special character, I cannot see which other product on the market could be an alternative to the machete.

The 1 × 12 box is not so lonely. She has serious competition z. B. in the wide-body and Thiele box from Mesa Engineering.



Fender sets standards with the machete. The flagship in the amplifier program is all-round coherent and is characterized by a symbiosis of playback balance and maximum sound variability that is virtually unique on the market. No Fender amp has ever had so much gain, but no Fender amp has so far been so modern and versatile in terms of features. The MIDI control is not optimally designed, apart from that the machete only has one drawback: It is not exactly cheap.

The machete 112 stands out positively with an unusually balanced and voluminous reproduction for this type of speaker. There were no notable weaknesses. The box harmonizes very well with the amp and is also recommended on its own. The price may seem high at first glance, but it is still within a reasonable range.


Overview top part

Make: fender

Model: machete

Device type: Electric guitar amplifier, top, two-channel

Country of origin: USA (manufacturer)

Technology: Full tube construction (ICs in the FX path), semiconductor rectifier, Class A / B push-pull output stage

Tube assembly: Preliminary stage: 5× 12AX7, 1× 12AT7; Output stage: 2× 6L6GC; all tubes from groove tubes

Power: max. 50 watts (5% THD, manufacturer information)

Casing: Approx. 20 mm thick birch plywood, closed at the back with a screwed-on rear wall, ventilation grille at the back, synthetic leather cover, metal caps a. all corners, rubber fuse, handle a. d. Top

Chassis: Made of sheet steel (wall thickness approx. 2.0 mm), edges welded, mounted hanging, pipes secured with sheet metal caps or base clamps

Connections: Front: input; Back: 2 parallel speaker outputs, FX send, return, XLR line out, footswitch, MIDI in (for status control of foot switch functions), power socket

Regulator: Front: per channel: Gain, Volume, Low, Mid, High, Notch; (Master) reverb; Back: (FX-) Send Level, -Return Level; inside hum balance and bias voltage

Counter: Front: Ch.-1: +/- (6 dB Pad), Bright (pull Gain), Boost (pull Volume), CH 2 (channel selection), Damping (Loose Normal, Tight, 5 levels); Back: P.A.-Mute (Speaker-Outs off), Cab Simul (for Line-Out), Speaker-Impedance (4 or 8 or 16 Ohm), Power, Standby

Show: Red jewel light (Power-On / Off), +/- and Ch.-Two button illuminated in the on status

Effects: Reverb / Hall, digital, on / off status selectable via foot switch

Loop-in path: serial, on / off status selectable by foot switch, level controller

Weight: approx. 19.1 kg

Dimensions: approx. 622 × 273 × 292 WHD / mm

Equipment: including 4-way foot switch (channel select, channel one gain boost, effects loop, reverb), sheet steel housing, cable length approx. 3.7 m; Protective cover, multilingual operating instructions

Price: approx. 2212


Overview loudspeakers

Make: fender

Model: Machete 112 enclosure

Device type: Guitar speaker box

Country of origin: USA (manufacturer information)

Speaker: a piece of Celestion G12 Vintage 30 (T3904A), 60 watts / 16 Ω, made in China

Impedance: 16 ohms

Load capacity: max. 60 watts

Casing: closed case made of birch plywood (approx. 19 mm), baffle 18 mm, speaker v. mounted in front

Housing equipment: Vinyl cover, removable (Velcro) protective fabric front; Fittings: metal caps a. all corners, plug-in rollers, rubber feet, case handles a. d. Top

Connections: 2× Latch, parallel

Weight: approx. 17.7 kg

Dimensions: approx. 755 × 467 × 292 WHD / mm

Distribution: Fender Germany

40549 Dusseldorf

Equipment: Quality connection cable, operating instructions, protective cover

Price: approx. 618



  • Sound, extreme variability
  • Dynamics / address
  • very harmonic distortions
  • high energy
  • highest quality hall effect
  • Furnishing
  • mostly low background noise
  • Cabinet: voluminous, balanced reproduction
  • Processing / quality d. Components



  • Conception of the MIDI section
  • Quality and short length of the foot switch cable

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