I first reviewed the Bluetone Black Prince Reverb in 2016, and I really liked it. A lot has happened since then, though, and this year Bluetone has bundled all of the most requested custom updates of the Black Prince and put them into a new and improved 2021 version (prices starting from 1,450 €) that supersedes the previous issue.
The first things you’ll notice are the cosmetic features; the old version of the Black Prince Reverb was a very clean looking combo with a very business-like appearance. The new version takes the amp’s look clearly into boutique Blackface territory with its Fender-style cabinet, its Country and Western tolex, its faceplate and control knobs, and with the wheat-coloured speaker grille.
But the improvements go much deeper in the Black Prince than mere cosmetics.
The preamp section’s architecture regarding the combo’s gain structure, spring reverb and tremolo effect are still loosely based on Fender’s classic Blackface Princeton, but Bluetone now adds a footswitch operated Solo-boost circuit to the proceedings.
In terms of the amp’s sound the most important update is the choice of a larger speaker. The older model followed the Princeton by using a 10-inch speaker. The current model has been updated with a choice of two 12-inch speakers – either a Celestion G12 Neo Creamback (as reviewed) or a WGS G-12 C/S. To accommodate the larger speaker the Black Prince Reverb’s cabinet has been enlargened to a size similar to a Fender Blackface Deluxe.
As Bluetone’s Harry Kneckt told me, the Black Prince’s genuine spring reverb’s circuit has been further improved for a fuller sound with even less hiss. The short reverb tank is an Accutronics model.
The Bluetone’s preamp runs three 12AX7 valves, while the power amp is handled by a pair of tubes.
The power amp has been designed with tonal flexibility in mind, by accepting all regular octal power tubes like 6V6GT, 6L6GC, 5881, EL34, KT66 and KT77 models without re-biasing.
With a pair of 6V6GTs the Black Prince Reverb will give you approximately 15 watts of power, while a pair of 6L6GCs (as supplied) or EL34s raises the output to 28-30 watts.
Even though re-biasing isn’t necessary, you have to make sure that the mini-switch between the second power tube and the toroidal transformer is set correctly to ensure the amp works properly, and to avoid possible component failure!
The back panel sports three speaker outputs, as well as the five-pin DIN-connector for the combo’s three-button footswitch unit (supplied with the amp).
In terms of its sound, the first thing you’ll notice about the Bluetone Black Prince Reverb is how quiet it is when it comes to hum and hiss. Unwanted noise in an all-valve amplifier has a lot to do with the physical layout of the components, and Bluetone’s team clearly know what they’re doing.
The Black Prince’s sound offers a wider scope than a straight Princeton-clone (which it isn’t). There’s all of the original Blackface-era goodness without any of the drawbacks, like the sometimes flabby Jensen speakers, and – in the case of old Princetons – the missing mid-range EQ and smaller speaker.
The solo boost is a great new feature, and the Master Volume control makes sure that you can dial in your tone at the volume level you need.
Being able to step outside the typically Fender-ish 6V6GT- and 6L6GC-realm in the power amp section allows you to experiment with hybrid tonalities, like a Blackface with a British accent.
The tremolo sounds great and it offers enough scope in terms of speed and depth. I like the spring reverb very much, because it sounds creamy and full. Some will like even ”wetter” and ”sploshier” reverb types, but you can’t please everyone…
Bluetone’s 2021 version of its Black Prince Reverb is a high-end version of what people love about Blackface-era amps combined with a number of sensible updates and improvements.
The Bluetone Black Prince Reverb is a handwired and handcrafted all-tube combo, made here in Finland. In light of this you can only call the price tag very fair, coming in several hundreds of euros lower than Fender’s current handwired ’64 Princeton Reissue.
No wonder that the Black Prince has been Bluetone’s best selling model for quite some time now. In fact, I liked the combo so much that the review sample has now joined my Bluetone Shadows Jr. as Kitarablogi’s reference amp.
• Prices start at 1,450 euros