Princeton Reverb II
Frequently Asked Questions

last update Sep 2014
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What does it sound like?
Despite its blackface styling, I'm told it doesn't really sound like a classic blackface-series amp. Since it was designed in the 80s it sounds a bit more 'modern' than the classic, desirable Fender amps of the 50s and 60s. Some folks say it's Fender's answer to the Mesa Boogie, which was new at the time. I don't know what one of those sounds like either. This isn't helping, is it? But it's a very musical amp - lets the guitar sing through with its own character. The 'lead' sound is very 1980s; very 'controlled' or 'contained'. The power-amp distortion comes in gently as the master volume is increased. Some people describe some amp types as having plenty of 'chime' or 'sparkle' in clean mode. The PRII does some of that, and can do more with some simple modifications.

I have reluctantly recorded a few sound clips...

How loud is it?
Put it this way... when I was rehearsing with my old band (which could have up to 2 guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, 2 saxes, trumpet, lead singer) I had the master volume on 4. When we gigged in club-sized venues it went to about 7. We used the line-out for feeding a little of my guitar into the foldback. I have turned it up to 10, just to see what would happen (this is all with the input volume on 10). The breaking-up tone at that point is great but it's much louder than I'm comfortable with. Yes, I have heard the saying "If it's too loud, you're too old". I AM too old.

Where can I get one?
You just have to get lucky! eBay saw 39 sold in 2007, 30 of those in the US.  Craigslist, Reverb.com, and the FDP and Weber Amps Bulletin Board  'for sale' pages are also worth a look.

Why doesn't mine work?
That's not really a FAQ because they're reliable. However, if yours really isn't working  this troubleshooting page might help


How much do they sell for?
June 2015 - the US price seems to have settled at around $650 for a fully working amp in reasonable condition. 'Reasonable condition' would include a few scuff marks on the Tolex and some pitting on the plated parts - these amps are all around 30 years old. In the UK and mainland Europe, so few have changed hands recently that there's no 'market price'. I wouldn't take less than 400 for mine unless I was really in trouble*, but much above that you could buy something like a Blues Junior....

*I'm not, and mine is not for sale...

Is one year more valuable than another?
No. The only difference from 1982 to 1986 is the change of supplier for the Blue Label speaker; the 2 different types of speaker sound pretty much the same and are probably equally reliable. Apart from that, the quality of the components and build was the same. One person asked me if they're all 'Rivera-era'... yes. If it says "Princeton Reverb II" on the front panel, it's Rivera-era by definition. Before the Rivera-era there was no "II", and afterward Princetons were solid-state.

Is "all-original" important when buying or selling?
No. These are solid working amps and not generally regarded as collectible, so this is not an amp where people drool over one in 'museum piece' condition. Changing the original speaker would probably increase the value, as almost any good-brand speaker will be better-regarded than the original. A good appearance will of course fetch a better price than a heavily road-worn amp but if the cab's been professionally recovered in different-colour Tolex and the grille cloth is replaced with a different design, the value still won't go down. Original valves/tubes don't matter. Original caps don't matter - in fact these amps are 30 years old and a well-done cap job will increase the value. The original transformers are excellent - replacements will probably reduce the value, but this is hardly ever seen. Small modifications to the circuitry won't make any difference to the value so long as they are reversible.

Are they a good investment?
Unless you got yours for a steal at what the Americans call a yard sale, these are not amps to buy purely out of profit motive. They play well and are very well built. If you buy one for a sensible market price and look after it, you can have a great playing amp for as many years as you want it, and if you want to sell you're unlikely to lose money.

Is it a point-to-point amp?
It's a hand-wired eyelet-board, like all the classic Fenders in the 50s, 60s, 70s and ending with this range of amps in 1986. True "point-to-point" is something else. Due to the eyelet-board, and the mounting of valves and controls OFF the board, the PRII's construction is the easiest to maintain, modify and repair, compared to any other method. Plus, the quality of the cabinet and the chassis are what you'd expect in a 'boutique' amp today.

 
Which Famous Guitarists use(d) one?

Jeff Beck used one in conjunction with a Twin to record his acclaimed "Guitar Shop" album in 1989.
"Beck chose not to go with his usual Marshalls when recording Guitar Shop, opting instead for a pair of eighties Fender combos - a Princeton Reverb II and a Twin. "The Princeton took care of tonal qualities that the other amp didn't have. It has an overload channel, so you can get midrange distortion. I tried recording using just the Twin, but without the Princeton the sound just vanished. (The engineer) noticed it right away and said "The sound isn't as good. You've got to put the Princeton back on". "

(ed. Jeff Kitts, Guitar World Presents the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, page 178)

Allan Holdsworth - see http://66.77.27.43/archive/artists/holdsworth82.shtml

Joe Perry of Aerosmith, seen here at home in 2005 recording his solo album. Well, he owns a PRII anyway.
joe perry home studio

And Les Paul, according to a UK 1983 magazine review (see the magazine page)

There were two, count'em, two, in Eric Clapton's Crossroads Charity Auction in March 2011 - see here and step through to lot 34 and 35. Did he ever play them? Unlike some of the other items, we're not told. Some kind souls put up three grand for one and six grand for the other....

er, that's it. Unless you know more.


Where can I get a footswitch?
See the footswitch page.

What's the Hum Balance for, on the back panel?
Technical answer - it provides an adjustable ground reference for the valve heater circuit. It has nothing to do with the valve bias.
Practical answer - If your PRII isn't humming, leave the Hum Balance control alone. If your PRII is humming, take a flat-blade screwdriver and turn the control one way and then the other. Leave it at the point of minimum hum. If there's still an irritating level of hum, something else is wrong.


What's the reverb tank part number?
Accutronics 8AB3C1B.

The reverb vanishes when I select the 'lead' sound. What's wrong?
This is normal for this amp and I know of no cure. Even if the reverb level could be kept up (maybe with some component value changes?), it would be a reverb of the clean sound only. Ideally the reverb would come after the distortion stage, so you could simulate "an overdriven amp in a big room", but without a redesign this amp will not do that.  There's more about this on the valves page.

If I turn the reverb up above 3 or 4, it doesn't get more reverby, it just gets mushy. What's wrong?
This too is most PRII owners' experience. Again, see the valves  page, and/or try this.

Where can I get a soft cover?
"Caper" on the Fender Discussion Page assures us that the Fender cover for the Hot Rod Deluxe / Prosonic fits the PRII perfectly. (Oct 03). Aug 04 ... I 've got one myself and Caper is right. It's just a little bigger than necessary but it still looks correct. Even the handle lines up with the hole OK. The Fender part number is 005 - 0696 - 000.
According to Theskyiscrying on the Super Champ site, Fender's cover for the Champ 25SE is a better fit than the Hot Rod cover. He/she emphasises it has to be the Champ 25SE and not the plain Champ 25. 
Or you could try Tuki - (S.Carolina, USA).  Mike Wyatt says the fit is perfect and the delivery (in the US) is within 5 days.
http://www.tukicovers.com/

Or

http://store.amplifiercovers.com/ ($39 US in April 05)

or Susan's Slips, or D2F on eBay.

How many PRIIs did they make?
Fender never release this kind of information on principle. Greg Gagliano guesses "in the low thousands". Paul Rivera says this range of amps lifted Fender's amp sales from 10,000 to 125,000 a year  (Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years, John Teagle/John Sprung (Hal Leonard Books, 1995), p.51). That includes a load of small Asian-made solid state practice amps, however. From my own research, I'm confident the figure is around 5500 PRIIs total for the 5 years they were in production. I now have serial number information for more than one-eleventh of all PRIIs made, which makes a lot of deduction possible. Here's my page about dates and quantities for all 14 Rivera-era amps.

What are the good features?


What are the bad / missing features?
10 Lies About the Princeton Reverb II
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