And then there’s channel two. At first glance a Fender Person gets all hung-up on the gain knob. Fender Twins don’t have gain knobs. Fender Twins are about pristine clean tones that chime at the high end and are more like foam rubber than Jell-O at the low end. What’s That doing there?
Well it’s doing the usual thing a gain knob does: adding (or increasing depending on how you look at it) gain. What is gain? There is more than one definition, but on a guitar amplifier “gain” is usually a synonym for “distortion”. By overdriving the input signal through this first amplification stage we get tube clipping – that very pleasant and harmonically rich failure to replicate the input signal that much of modern music is steeped in. It’s just a volume knob that’s too big for the tube it feeds. The thing here is maybe it should have been bigger, because you still have to crank the thing to get the Twin to break up. Sure it’s hitting the dirt a lot sooner than a traditional Twin, but nowhere near as soon as a Marshall.
Next we get the usual three-part tone stack but with push-pull boost all around. And we get a presence knob, which is needed as a sort-of tone control just for the high frequency distortion in an attempt to make it not sound like crap. Or, as the manual says: “This control occurs post preamp distortion and is useful in adjusting the distortion characteristic from brash, to smooth”.
BUT WAIT that’s not all! Because a good push-pull knob shouldn’t go to waste you can pull on the presence knob to turn it into a sweepable notch filter! Now how much would you pay? Well it doesn’t matter because it comes on all of them whether you want it or not. And why not?
And finally there is the channel two volume knob, which doubles as a selector switch in channel switching mode. This is less than ideal because when you adjust volume you can easily accidentally push it in and select channel one. Also I personally have never taken this knob above 2 without using a power attenuator. Somewhere after about 1.6 it just EXPLODES into a deafening thunderous maelstrom of potential tinnitus, and has to be dialed-back for safety reasons.
The bottom line on channel two is this: the distortion is not great. I can see what the people at Fender in 1987 were thinking: they needed to appeal to a broader market segment than the Twins traditionally attract. But they had the DNA of both Fender and Sunn to contend with, two companies known for their clean amplifier designs. But the sound is great! It’s not really a Fender Twin sound – maybe more in the direction of the later Deluxe Reverbs with a bit of 1980s Peavey mixed-in.
And loud. Ungodly inhumanly loud.