Fender Custom Vibrasonic
Years of Production: 1995 – 1996
Controls: Black, forward facing w/ white labels, controls numbered 1-10
Knobs: Black skirted w/ chrome center, numbered 1 – 10
- Front: Steel: In, In, Sweet Sw, Vol, Treb, Mid, Bass – Guitar: In, In, Fat Sw, Vol, Treb, Mid, Bass, Reverb, Speed, Intensity – Pilot Lamp
- Rear: Fuse (4A), Power Sw, Standby Sw, Speaker Jack, Ex Speaker Jack, Footswitch Jack
- Dimensions: Combo Cabinet: 22” x 26” x 10”
- Hardware: Large Chassis Straps 5 5/8”, 16” Tilt-Back Legs
- Handle: Black Plastic Handle
- Feet: Glides
- Corners: Corner Protectors
- Tolex/Tweed: Black Tolex or Brown Western
- Grill Cloth: Silver Sparkle Grill Cloth
Logo: Grill mounted, flat, chrome & black script
Weight: 71 lbs.
- Size: 1 x 15
- Impedance: 4 ohms
- Model: Eminence(For more info, check out the Jensen Replacement Speakers)
Effects: Reverb, Tremolo
~Watts: 100 watts
- Pre amp: 12AX7
- Power: 4 x 6L6GC
Bias: Fixed with bias adjustment pot.
Rectifier: Solid State
Comments: Repair tech Mike Schway notes:
The Custom VibrAsonic (not vibrOsonic) is one strange amp. It’s very different from the original VibrOsonic Reverb.
Reverb and (lcr-mediated) Tremolo are active on both channels, V1B and V2B have their plates AND cathodes in parallel (but the grids are independent!). I suppose this was a cheap way to get efx from both channels….they could have just kept the basic AB763 design and tied the downstream ends of the V1B and V2B coupling caps together to achieve this and maintain a decent amount of preamp gain to boot. On the other hand, this is supposed to be a relatively low gain amp designed primarily for super-clean pedal steel use and the lower gain from the 2nd audio stage is probably OK for the intended application. Actually, it’s a GREAT amp for pedal steel, but that’s a relatively small niche.
Another really weird thing is they use a 12AX7 for the phase inverter (not a 12AT7). With 100V DC on the cathode, you get loads of inductive hum from that stage. What WERE they thinking!?! (a simple sub to a 12AT7 will help a bunch here). The hum balance control is a MUST for this amp!
35 thoughts on “Fender Custom Vibrasonic”
I own a Fender Custom Vibrasonic Amp and find it to be one of the most articulate amps I have ever played thru. It has been totally reliable and perfect in every way. After reading the above comment and several others on the web, I decided to contact Bruce Zinky, himself, the designer of this great amp and get his take on it, so there won’t be anymore mis-guided information and opinions on this fine amp. Here is the major body of the email I received from Bruce Zinky on September 12, 2011, concerning the 1995-1996 Fender Custom Vibrasonic Amp in his own words:
a modified twin with a 15″. STEEL channel is stock Twin, GUITAR channel is
like a Vibro-King or Tone Master channel.
Fender needed a good sounding, loud amp with a 15″ that could be aimed at
guitarists or vintage style pedal steel players.
It has what I called at the time, the “Nashville” mods, which make
the power amp louder and clearer, compared to a Twin.
It’s heavy, but cool. Fender made a lot of those in a very short time. The
factory figured out that the amp didn’t cost much more than a Twin to make, but
sold for a whole lot more money,
and then built thousands of them to make their “Profit Center” look
good. Head of
Fender freaked out and discontinued the amp….Which, of course, made them
highly sought after as soon as they were no longer available.”
I agree with Telecastoff. I played thru a Custom VibrAsonic a few years ago, that I had borrowed and defintiely feel it sounded much like a Vibro King. I wish I would have bought that Custom Vibrasonic now. Not too many of them around. I never see them up for sale. Players or collectors must be hanging onto them. It’s a great amp….definitely a mis-understood amp and not a real familiar amp. One of Fender’s best in my opinion.
I really like that amp. I played thru one at one of our local recording studios and was really impressed. It’s a very quiet amp when idling, unlike the first review on this page. i thought it was perhaps one of the most versatile clean fender amps I had ever played thru. I remember the stock speaker sounding very much like a cross between an EV 15L and a JBL D130. Very nice speaker. I’ve been on the lookout for one but they just don’t come up for sale. Great old Blackface sound and great old Blackface looks. Gotta get my hands on one. This is a “must have” amplifier!
I have had this amp since it was new and have played perhaps hundreds of gigs with it. It has never let me down. I play a Telecaster mainly thru this amp and it sounds great. The only thing I have changed besides tubes, was the speaker. I found the stock speaker to be less than desireable in that it was too bright on the highs and farty on the lows. I put a Peavey 1501-4 Black Widow in it and that amp really came alive. This is the only amp I have gigged with for all these years, although I do have others. I kept the stock speaker in case I would ever sell the amp, but I honestly can’t see that ever happening. This is truly the nicest sounding Fender amp I have played thru in all my 50+ years of playing. You just don’t see many of these coming up for sale these days. Real, working players are hanging onto these. Theses amps are THAT good, period. I highly recommend this amp to anyone seeking a high quality, reliable Fender amp that can do just bout everything with a Tele plugged into it. By the way, my amp tech at Savage Audio loves this amp! Enough said.
I’m selling on asking 700.
Hey Telecastoff, Way to go contacting Bruce Zinky. It’s always good to get the real low-down when possible from the designers-builders of amps to fully understand the inner-makings of those amps. I’ll definitely have to try to find one to at least play through one for myself. Any idea what the going price is on these now? I’ve always heard only good thing about Bruce Zinky’s amp designs and it sounds like he created solid gold again in the Vibrasonic Custom Amp. Hope to find one.
Telecastoff, I agree with you and good job of investigating that amp further. I just tried one this past weekend I found at my local music store. It was in really nice condition. Sounded huge and crystal clear. They wanted a bit more for it than I was willing to pay and they wouldn’t budge on price. I’m going back tomorrow and check it out again. If it’s still there and it still sounds as good, I’ll most likely just buy it. As scarce as these are where else am I going to find another one anytime soon? I did an A-B with a new Vibro King they had there and I truly felt the Custom Vibrasonic sounded much better. Maybe just my ears, but I like what I like. I’ll let you know if I buy it.
B Neilsen, Did you buy the Vibrasonic Custom you were looking at? Since I hadn’t heard back from you I figured you either missed out on the deal or you changed your mind. Let me know. Curious.
I own a vibrasonic. I have thought about selling it, but I just bought a 12″ swampthing speaker put it in a 2 – 12 closed back cab with a celestion classic 30. Wow. I’m selling my PRS SE50 head instead.
Is this amp wired point to point or does it have a circuit board?
Can anyone help on here – it seems ‘the’ place to get top end info on this amp!!
I am working on a 1996 Reissue and since I’ve had it (2nd hand) the footswitch controlling the Vibrato has never worked. I have changed the stereo jack socket and valves but with no joy 🙂 There is no-one local to me who works on valve amps so any info would be appreciated. One thing I did notice is that with the Reverb footswitch ‘on’ the vibrato switch ‘pops’ but does not give me the effect, adversely with the Reverb switch off the is no ‘popping’ sound from the speaker. Does anyone have a photo of the underside of the footswitch I can view – please?
If the vibrato isn’t working, it’s not necessarily the footswitch. A couple of other possibilities: Try replacing the 2nd 12AX7 to the right of the 6L6s. That’s the 5th tube from the right (counting towards the left) when looking at the back of the amp.
Another possibiity is the Tremolo “roach” on the circuit board. That’s a combination neon lamp and photo-resistor enclosed in one piece of black heat-shrink tubing. Failures in that component aren’t all that uncommon, but 20 years is a pretty short time for it to fail.
You can always check the footswitch with a multimeter. Look at the continuity at the plug between ground (the sleeve) and both the tip and sleeve when the individual buttons are pressed. I forget which one (tip-to-sleeve or ring-to-sleeve) controls the tremolo effect.
After many gigs with my retro country band using my Deluxe Reverb reissue (I play both Tele and Fender Stringmaster steel), I finally realized that I needed more power and clarity, mostly for the steel. I didn’t want to haul two amps, but almost bought a Twin to (reluctantly) do just that. As I searched around, a player on the Steel Guitar Forum told me about these Vibrasonic amps, and that he had one he didn’t need any longer (just bought a boutique Webb for his PSG). After reading the info on this page, and the comments, I started thinking about one in earnest. I bought his, and got it in March, and I have to say, I am SOOOO happy I did. It makes all the difference in my rig’s sound now. I get all the Tele twang I need, and my steel stays full, rich and clean with all the headroom I need for virtually any gig. And I haven’t even put in new power tubes yet! It’s definitely a much heavier schelp, but worth it. I’m hanging on to this one!
I’m both a musician and an amp tech. As a musician, I really like the versatility and reliability this amp offers. After performing a re-tube for a customer several years ago, I began looking for one for myself. These really are very nice amps. One of the best Fender has produced in a very long time. It was truly designed and built for the working musician….must likely why you don’t see these come up for sale very often.
As an amp technician of nearly 45 years, I am very impressed with its design and layout and how easy it is to work on.I don’t understand Mike Schway’s comments about this amp. It’s a very quiet amp, and reading Bruce Zinky’s comments on design, this amp truly makes sense. It incorporates technologies of both modern and vintage eras, giving it reliability and functionality. Great job Mr Zinky and Fender!
I ran across one at a music store in Lousiville KY. Plugged into it and WOW! I knew I wasn’t leaving without it! My only problem is, we play a lot of small clubs in the southern Indiana/Lousiville area, and to get this thing pushing to it’s sweet spot, it gets pretty loud. I am considering selling it if anyone is interested. I have a 4-10 DeVille and a Super Reverb that get the job done and I am a fan of the 4-10 punch. Text anytime 812-595-2160
I just bought this amp from my pedal steel player (he retired from the business last year). I had always loved the richness of his sound thru this amp and got to play my Tele thru this amp on a couple of shows. I fell in love with the amp the first time he let me play thru it and knew I had to have one. Like someones else had said, these amps just don’t come up for sale very often, so I was extremely happy when he offered to sell me this amp. I don’t even touch my other amps anymore since acquiring this one. It’s a definite keeper that brings out the heart and soul of my Tele. Just a wonderful, magnificent amp.
I have a 1963 fender vibrosonic brownface. Any idea what there worth?
I just bought one of these this past weekend at a musician’s estate sale. The amp is a 1996 and is in exceptionally clean condition and sounds great. It has a JBL D130F speaker in it and the tubes appear to be original. I paid $750 for the amp, and feel I got a darn good deal on it. Just a great, wonderful amp. Never gonna part with this one.
I have one of these,( 2015) in all original pristine condition, in a well fitting solid Flightcase.
It sounds absolu’ fantastic for gtr. I have had a great many amps over the last 50yrs or so from 1958 to present, but this Amp is it,!! as far as I am concerned.The original big stratty,wiry, sonorous sound. Yeah !!
I just a Custom Vibrasonic and I’m loving it. It really is like a Twin Reverb and a Vibro King had a baby. I’m finding that I’m getting a little hum at idle when I change out the preamp tubes. Can anyone tell me where exactly is the hum balance adjustment pot? There’s one behind the choke on the underside, but I’m not sure if that’s the it or the bias pot…
Derek, I’m interested in buying your Vibrasonic. How can I contact you?
Sorry just seen your comment! I actually traded it for an american pbass for my step son. Killer amp, i never could get the thing to stop crackling, rigjt after i had it biased and tubed it was quiet for a minute than the noise started up again. Had this on the road for 12 years never let me down. Im playing a 72 twin and in 2 days picking up a 64 bandmaster with a showman 2×15 d130 speaker cab. Cant beat the warmth of a hand wired fender amp!
I purchased the 1996 Custom Vibrasonic a couple years ago and i love it. My
only questioned is how do i get this amp to break up a bit? Being a womping 100 watt amp
i don’t think it’s possible. But i would love some feedback – Thanks.
Alexander, I doubt very much that you will be able to get this amp to break up. You’ll need to get yourself a decent distortion pedal for that. I have this same amp. The only complaint I ever had was the stock speaker would “fart” out on me when I pushed it on low notes thru my Tele. So, I found an EVM 15L and put it in the amp. I couldn’t be happier. It’s one of my favorite amps and I do gig with it, I kept the stock speaker to put back in the amp in case I would ever decide to sell it, but I really can’t see that ever happening, as this is an exceptional Fender amp.
Hey everyone, I have been lucky enough to pick up a 96 custom vibrasonic a couple of months ago. Wow! What an amp! It came with a cheap replacement 15″ speaker (qtx) which was really preventing the true tone of the amp from coming through. I disconnected the 15″ speaker & hooked up a 12″ Eminence Canis Major in a closed back cab for a comparison test and the first thing I noticed was a considerable increase in volume. It sounds like a 100 watt amp now with classic Fender clean tone. I have ordered a 15″ Eminence Big Ben to use in the combo and I’m hoping for similar results to the Canis Major. Obviously the tone will differ a little as the Big Ben is ceramic vs the AlNiCo of the Canis and the closed back vs open back factor will undoubtedly play a big part. I will post an update next week after I have installed the Big Ben and had some play time. Cheers
So, that experiment didn’t’ really work out! Serious lack of bottom end. Presumably due to an impedance mismatch. The Big Ben is 8ohm where the amp wants a 4ohm load. The original speaker is back in for now. I’m considering having a second baffle cut for a 2×12″ configuration. I’ve got a pair of Eminence Canis Major drivers to test out with this set up. I’m guessing this will dish up some fairly standard Twin Reverb type tones. Cheers
A further update. For anyone who cares!
I picked up an Altec 418-8H speaker recently (probably a ’72), 150w, AlNiCo.
A really great speaker and a perfect match for the Custom Vibrasonic.
The quest is over!
A further update. For anyone who cares!
I ended up finding an Altec 418-8H 15″ AlNiCo speaker for the Vibrasonic.
It’s a great match for clean tones.
These are awesome amps!
What changed when you installed the Altec 418 in this amp? I found one in my local pawn shop a couple months ago. It had been well traveled. It works, but the speaker had a big rip in it and have been meaning to replace it with something else. Any recommendations from those of you who own these amps?
I got one of these in a trade several years ago, and to be honest, I never used it much because it always sounded anemic, thin and wimpy to me and would fart out when I pushed it. Finally, at one point where I began selling some of my seldom-used amps and guitars, I decided to give this one another chance before I sold it. So, I took it into my trusty old Amp Tech and asked him to go thru it as I had described to him what my opinion of the amp’s sound was like. Two days later I got a call from him that it was ready to be picked up. I played the snot out of it at his shop and could believe it. It sounded like a brand new amp. He told me that Fender sets the bias on their new tube amps waaaay to cold and they come to the customer working, but not at their full potential. He stepped up the bias a bit, after checking all of my tubes and cleaning all the pots and tube sockets.
It sounds like a brand new amp that had just grown tremendous ballz. This amp is a keeper!
I got one of these in a trade several years ago, and to be honest, I never used it much because it always sounded anemic, thin and wimpy to me and would fart out when I pushed it. Finally, at one point where I began selling some of my seldom-used amps and guitars, I decided to give this one another chance before I sold it. So, I took it into my trusty old Amp Tech and asked him to go thru it as I had described to him what my opinion of the amp’s sound was like. Two days later I got a call from him that it was ready to be picked up. I played the snot out of it at his shop and could not believe it. It sounded like a brand new amp. He told me that Fender sets the bias on their new tube amps waaaay to cold and they come to the customer working, but not at their full potential. He stepped up the bias a bit, after checking all of my tubes and cleaning all the pots and tube sockets.
It sounds like a brand new amp that had just grown tremendous ballz. This amp is a keeper!
I guess the 418 just sounded more open and musical.
For an aluminum capped speaker, it really isn’t very harsh at all when pushed with overdrive or even fuzz pedals.
I’m now using the Vibrasonic with a 1×12 extension cab loaded with an Eminence Swamp Thang and it’s a very good pairing with the Altec.
These amps are incredible.
I just have a question for all you Custom Vibrasonic owners out there: When using a Tele, what is your preferred channel and EQ settings on this amp? I realize the “GUITAR” channel adds some additional midrange, but I’d like to hear what works for you guys in a country band setup, (especially in a recording scenario). I just acquired this amp, and it aleady has a ton of miles already on it in 2022, and I’m already favoring the “STEEL” channel….it’s a little sweeter, no matter what instrument I have plugged-in (whether lapsteel or guitar).
Pete, I love both channels but I personally go into the “Steel” channel more for the sweeter glassier tones. The “Guitar” channel is a bit browner/tweedier sounding to my ears. You can even jumper both channels like you would on a 4-input Marshall or tweed Bassman – both channels are “in-phase” of each other unlike most Fender reverb amps. I occasionally do this and it gets real thick and meaty. But I still prefer going into the “Steel” channel by itself most of the time.
You could have a tech modify the “Guitar” channel for more versatility. For example, I had a tech change the slope resistor on that channel from the stock 100K value to 56K for a darker and warmer Marshally voice. You could even go as low as 33K for more warmth, but the 56K sounded the best to my ears. Another option is changing out the “Middle” control pot from the stock 10K value to a 25K value. You still can get the original range of the original pot, but then you gain more mids/fat if you want it. The possibilities are abundant. It really is like having 2 amps in 1.
I prefer the Steel channel for at home and studio use. Not as much gain on this channel, and very much Fender Twin Reverb-like tone and feel on this one. The guitar channel has LOTS more gain. It’s still Fendery sounding, but more “Tweedish’ to my old ears. I use this channel more for live playing when I need more loud, clean sounds without having to push the amp much. My ’52 AVRI Tele sounds best thru this channel, while my ’92 AM-Std loaded with Texas Specials sounds better to my ears on the Steel channel. It’s definitely like owning two amps in one. Bruce Z was absolutely correct in his equation regarding what this amp is and isn’t. I’m the guy who wrote to him about this amp years ago.