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Fender Pro Junior All Tube Combo Amp Review – Pure Tube Tone

Updated on May 31, 2011

Review of the Fender Pro Junior Combo Amp

The Pro Junior 15W Class A tube amp is part of Fender’s Hot Rod series and delivers sweet tube tone at volumes that will scare the neighbors. More than a great practice amp, the Pro Junior can handle band rehearsal and even small gigs. Coming in at under $500, it ranks as one of the best value all tube amps out there.

Pro Junior Specifications

  • This is an ultra simple beast of an amp with old school circuitry and the only two knobs you will ever need – volume and tone controls with vintage chicken head knobs that together can easily manipulate tone and overdrive to color your sound
  • All Tube Output: 15W into 8 ohm with two EL84 output tubes and two 12 AX7 pre-amp tubes - the output tubes are set to a very hot bias, allowing for that unique, creamy tone with plenty of punch
  • Special Design Eminence 10", 30W speaker
  • Single Channel – Chrome Panel
  • Weight: 20lbs., 9.07kg, Height: 14.5”, 37cm, Width: 15.25”, 39cm, Depth: 8.75”, 22cm
  • Black Tolex covering

The Sound of the Pro Junior

The stock tubes in the Pro Junior are often Sovteks, which are a little harsh and brittle sounding at distorted levels for many players’ tastes. A popular swap are JJ’s, which are easily obtained from Eurotubes, where Bob will set you up with the right grade tube to suit your sound.

The Pro Junior is ideal for studio work producing those beautifully musical, sparkling clean tones for which Fender is famous. It can also deliver menacing overdriven sounds with outrageous sustain, that can if desired, be allowed to slip into warm feedback.

The PJ takes well to most pedals, and with a good overdrive or distortion pedal you can achieve breakup at levels that will be tolerated by other members of the household. With single coil pick ups, breakup will not occur until somewhere between 4 and 5 and this is LOUD. Humbuckers will get you there a little earlier. For live work, some musician’s grab a pair of them to achieve a stereo effect – great with delay.

One of the lovely qualities of tube amps is the responsiveness to your playing – light touch picking at volume 6-7 will keep your sound clean, but with the tension of unleashed power, while breaking into a full powered two string bend will send shivers down your spine and get the dogs barking.

Some people get a shock when they get this little gem home for the first time, set the volume to 6 (half-way), plug-in, and pictures start falling off the walls with the first few chops. The 15W rating does not convey the volume it can produce and if you live in a space where consideration to the neighbors is a priority you may want to consider an attenuator to reduce the signal strength such as a Dr. Z Airbrake or a Weber attenuator. This will allow you to maintain the tone of a cranked amp with saturated tubes at levels that won’t leave your ears ringing.

Why Choose the Pro Junior?

Unfortunately a lot of young players (or their parents) make the mistake of buying a cheap solid state amp, often with spurious modeling, and their playing suffers because of the muddiness of their tone. Some lose interest in playing altogether. A well-built amp like a Fender Pro Junior is an investment because it will last for decades if given even a little respect and it will retain its value very well.

One of the pains of rehearsal is lugging a 50lb amp around and more than a few band members have had to contend with back problems as a result. This is a pick up and run amp that has the balls to handle a drummer at rehearsal, unless he’s pounding like John Bonham.

Pro Junior Noise Problems

There isn’t much negative feedback about the Pro Junior out there, but one gripe that crops up quite a bit is the electrical hum or buzz, audible even without a guitar plugged in. Another complaint that you hear from time to time is a sound similar to shards of glass clinking together while playing. Here are a list of possible causes and remedies:

  1. Sovteks can be problematic - change the stock tubes to JJ’s or NOS
  2. Combo amps are torture chambers for tubes – put tube dampers on them
  3. Replace the top middle screw at the back –it may be touching the vol. pot
  4. Tighten the screws on the body – check the name plate is not rattling
  5. Be aware that electrical interference from mobile phones, hairdryers, radios etc. can cause unwanted noise in your tube amp
  6. Your guitar may need extra shielding using copper sheeting

Pro Junior: Excellent Bang for Your Buck

The Pro Junior isn’t for everyone: some guitar players want modeling or at least built-in reverb, some want a 12” speaker for fatter bass, and others want the dreamed of stack. But if you are into pure tube tone that screams back at you from a little grab and go box for as little as US$400 new, check out the Fender Pro Junior.

Here are some other music related articles you might want to check out:

Fender Pro Junior Combo Tube Amp

Tubes with Tube Dampers from eBay

Pro Junior Controls

Old School Circuitry Pro Junior

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    • shimla profile image
      Author

      shimla 7 years ago

      Thanks Calvin, after tubes, you can never go back. I bought a cheap solid state when I moved to Thailand, not knowing how long I would stay, and the sound was woeful - getting the PJ a couple of years later changed my life. I would love to try a Matchless - I hear they have a ton of personality too. Cheers.

    • profile image

      Calvin Mah 7 years ago

      Hey Shimla,

      Great review. You are so right about getting a proper amp for the beginner. If you buy a cheapie, the beginner will lose interest because it just doesn't sound the way they wanted it to no matter what they do.

      I have a couple of tube Fender amps and I love them. And like you said, there is much to be said about having a smaller practice amp when it comes to lugging it around.

      And I loved your description of the sound quality of the amp. I could envision the sound from what you wrote.

      Good on ya mate.

      Cheers! Calvin Mah