Finnish boutique amp company Bluetone is yet to become a household word. Nevertheless, Bluetone’s dynamic duo of Harry Kneckt and Matti Vauhkonen have already garnered lots of praise with their all-valve designs, and the word keeps on spreading steadily.
Custom Sounds in Helsinki have recently started to stock Bluetone-amplifiers, and they were kind enough to supply Kitarablogi with a Bluetone Princeton Reverb combo for testing.
The Bluetone Princeton Reverb (current price in Finland approx. 1,600 €) is Bluetone’s handwired – and slightly updated – version of a 1960s Fender Princeton Reverb (in its AA1164 guise). Bluetone’s improvements over the original issue include a post phase-inverter master volume (PPIMV), a larger speaker, as well as an external bias point. The Bluetone Princeton Reverb is rated at 15 Watts.
Bluetone’s Princeton is factory-equipped with a 12-inch WGS Black Hawk Alnico speaker, but you can order yours with a different speaker, if you wish.
Bluetone’s cabinets are made from 15 millimetres thick Finnish birch plywood, resulting in a very sturdy, yet lightweight combo.
The level of workmanship displayed on the Princeton Reverb really doesn’t leave anything to be desired – this combo is the real boutique deal!
True to form the cabinet is open-backed.
Bluetone’s Princeton uses three 12AX7-valves and one 12AT7 in its preamp.
A 5AR4-valve deals with the combo’s tube rectification, while the output section employs two 6V6s.
The amp’s full-length spring reverb comes from MOD Kits.
The 50 W WGS Black Hawk speaker has originally been designed with Vox AC30-type tones in mind, and seems like a strange choice for a small Fender-style combo.
This Bluetone is a single-channel combo equipped with a three-band EQ-section, reverb and tremolo. Thanks to its master volume control you can drive the combo’s preamp hard while keeping the volume levels down.
Our test sample was one of the last pre-production models; the final series has all the front panel lettering placed below the controls for improved visibility.
On the back panel you’ll find two speaker outputs, plus a jack for the footswitch.
This rugged footswitch comes included with the amp.
For a mid-sized valve amp Bluetone’s Princeton Reverb is quite lightweight, yet it feels very sturdy.
Switch the combo on, and you’ll be surprised at the absence of mains hum and noise in general. This beauty is really quiet – great!
Many original Blackface and Silverface Fender Princetons have been modified along the way with a larger speaker. The original 10-inch Jensen sounds OK, but many find the tone to be a little too thin for their taste.
The Bluetone Princeton sounds much bigger and fatter from the get-go, thanks to its larger, 12-inch speaker.
This is what my Fender Telecaster sounds played through the Bluetone with clean amp settings:
Bluetone’s tremolo circuit sounds very tasty:
If you use the Low input there’s plenty of headroom to be had from the Princeton Reverb for clean humbucker tones (played on a Hamer USA Studio Custom):
But this little combo can also bare its fangs if you add some gain. Soundwise you’ll get just the type of distortion you’d expect from a low-powered, Fender-style amp. There’s plenty of bite with a healthy dose of compression and an open-sounding mid-range. Don’t expect oodles of cream from this combo, but if you’re after a gritty Sixties and early Seventies Blues- and Rock-vibe, the Bluetone Princeton Reverb is just the ticket.
Here’s the Telecaster, plugged into the High input, with Gain turned up all the way:
Plugging the double-humbucker Hamer into the combo’s Low input resulted in these sounds:
The Bluetone reacts very nicely to your guitar’s volume control, allowing you to turn down for clean-ish tones and turn up for overdrive:
In my view Bluetone’s Princeton Reverb offers genuine Finnish boutique quality at a very fair price. The workmanship is outstanding and the combo sounds fantastic. The Bluetone Princeton Reverb could be described as the ultimate Blackface-combo.
Bluetone Amps Princeton Reverb
Current price in Finland approximately 1,600 € (Bluetone amp cover: 50 €)
Contact: Custom Sounds Finland
+ genuine custom shop quality
+ Master Volume control
+ high-quality, 12-inch speaker
+ fine reverb and tremolo-effect
+ footswitch included