Looking for real vintage tube gear but not blessed with unlimited funds? There may not be a free tweed Champ or blackface Super Reverb sitting on ever corner, but there are still deals to be had straight from Leo himself.
In the 70s Fender produced a line of budget music gear under the “Musicmaster” name. As is often the case, those low-dollar pieces of past years that got passed over so readily have become items of value to players these days. One particular piece of equipment that illustrates this point well is Fender’s Musicmaster Bass amplifier. Created as a practice amplifier for bedroom work, the amp really doesn’t do much at all for bass, with many bassists feeling that above 4 on the volume knob there really just isn’t much to it. Somewhere along the line, however, a guitarist was hard up for something to power his six string, and a guitar got plugged into one of these things. Gradually the news spread that the Musicmaster Bass, while doing little for bass amplification, could flat scorch with a guitar, a situation which was something of a mirror of Fender’s initial bass amp offering, the Bassman.
The Musicmaster Bass amp is a great way to get good tone from an honest vintage Fender tube amp without needing to take out a bank loan. Laid out simply, the amp produces twelve watts with either 6v6 or 6aq5 preamp tubes. The speaker is a single 12” CTS. There is a simple slider on/off switch, one knob for volume, one for tone. Nothing fancy here, but it delivers in the sound department. Many players prefer to swap out the CTS speaker for something more to their liking, but the stock piece still delivers decent sound and is desired by some. The amp can provide excellent clean tones at lower volumes. If cranked, the clean becomes a fabulous dirty crunch with plenty of room to be heard in a smaller combo situation. It should be noted here that, as is often the case, what is good for a guitar is also good for harp, and the Musicmaster Bass amp really shines with the sounds of a little tin sandwich being pumped into it through a decent microphone.
While tweed Champs and blackface Princetons are commanding prices of over a grand on Ebay, you can grab the little Musicmaster Bass for around $250, and those with the energy and desire to take on a search could very well turn one up in a pawn shop or used music shop for less. Try one out and you may just find yourself in tone heaven – for cheap!