Fender introduces three Eric Clapton SIgnatures amps, a first for Fender

(Dave Molter | Posted 2011-10-04)

Fender introduces three Eric Clapton SIgnatures amps, a first for Fender

Probably best known for using Marshall stacks during his heyday with The Cream, Eric Clapton and Fender together are rewriting rock history by combining to introduce the first Fender amplifier to bear a signature name.

The new EC Series Twinolux™, Tremolux™ and Vibro-Champ® tweed tube amps bear not only Clapton’s name but also his distinctive design specifications.

EC Series amps present three specific variations on three classic Fender tweed tube amps of the 1950s: the ’57 Twin™, ’57 Deluxe™ and the ’57 Champ®. Clapton has frequently favored these original amps for specific sounds at various points throughout his amazingly varied career.

Late-’50s Twin amps are a longtime favorite of his, as are their 2000s-era reissues, which he’s often used onstage since then. When Clapton surprised everyone by reconvening Cream in 2005 after more than 35 years, his ’57 tweed Twin reissue was onstage with him for the historic shows; it can also be seen onstage with him in the Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival DVDs from 2007 and 2010. The late-’50s Deluxe is another model put to good use by Clapton, especially when playing traditional blues. And then there’s the venerable Champ, which was Clapton’s main studio amp for 1970 Derek and the Dominos masterpiece Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and for acclaimed 1974 solo album 461 Ocean Boulevard (when you hear “Layla,” “Bell Bottom Blues” and “I Shot the Sheriff,” you’re hearing that small but mighty amp).

These three classics are the basis for the new EC Series amps. The results -- the EC Twinolux (pictured) ($4,199.99 MSRP), EC Tremolux ($2,799.99) and EC Vibro-Champ ($1,399.99), -- represent the finest in Fender guitar amp craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail and reverence for Clapton’s musical legacy and a career now in its sixth decade.

All three amps are handmade in the United States, with some interesting mods going on under the hood in addition to the elegance of their appearance. Most notably, Clapton specified that each model have a ’50s-era output tube bias tremolo circuit, which produces a more throbbing pulse than later Fender tremolo circuits, and a switchable power attenuator, which reduces speaker output (and can disable one speaker in the 2x12” EC Twinolux for even lower output).

The tremolo circuit on the largest of the three EC amps, EC Twinolux, has speed and intensity controls that can be selected with the included footswitch. The tremolo circuit on the 1x12” EC Tremolux and the 1x8” EC Vibro-Champ has a speed control (which can be selected with the included footswitch on the former and an on/off switch on the latter).

Another feature common to all three amps is hand-wired all-tube circuitry on an eyelet board with premium components. The EC Twinolux circuit is based on late-’50s Fender Twin model 5E8-A (about 40 watts); the EC Tremolux circuit is based on late-’50s Fender Deluxe model 5E3 (about 12 watts); and the EC Vibro-Champ is based on late-’50s Fender Champ model 5F1 (about 5 watts). Further, the EC Twinolux and EC Tremolux boast Mercury Magnetics custom transformers, while the EC Vibro-Champs have Schumacher custom transformers. All three are single-channel amps with high-gain and low-gain inputs.

The selection of speakers and tubes was also subject to rigorous attention. The EC Twinolux is loaded with dual Special Design 12” Weber® speakers (by Eminence®) with alnico magnets, two Groove Tubes® 6L6GE output tubes, four 12AX7 preamp tubes and two 5U4 rectifier tubes. The EC Tremolux has a single 12” Celestion® G12-65 speaker, two Groove Tubes 6V6GT output tubes, three 12AX7 preamp tubes and a 5Y3GT rectifier tube. The EC Vibro-Champ has a single 8” Weber® Signature speaker, a Groove Tubes 6V6GT output tube, two 12AX7 preamp tubes and a 5Y3GT rectifier tube.

The two single-speaker EC amps each have a couple of extra features. The EC Tremolux has fixed bias for increased headroom and an internal speaker disconnect that allows use of an external 8-ohm speaker enclosure. The EC Vibro-Champ has an internal speaker disconnect that allows use of an external 4-ohm speaker enclosure, and a footswitch jack for an optional tremolo footswitch.

Finally, EC Series amps come dressed in a cosmetic treatment that elegantly befits an artist of Clapton’s stature. Each is ruggedly built with a finger-joined solid pine enclosure, and each authentically evokes Fender’s original 1950s golden era with lacquered tweed covering, vintage-style brown/gold grille cloth and a leather strap handle. And in the most outwardly visible personal touch, each amp bears an “EC Series” badge at front lower right and Clapton’s signature on the control panel. Each amp also includes a deluxe fitted cover.

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