Fender Pro Jr IV SE review: This latest amplifier from Fender punches above its weight
Fender’s most accessible all-tube combo gets a fresh look, some new features and a price cut, but is it still the sultan of simplicity?
Floor modellers that need their own degree course to decipher the manual… pedals with more knobs than your local hardware shop… these days it can often feel like we spend more time tweaking and twiddling than actually playing. With the Pro Jr IV SE, Fender says it wants to help you get back to the basics of making a racket.
- READ MORE: The Big Review: Fender American Acoustasonic Jazzmaster All-Mahogany – the handsome hybrid gets a new top
This limited-edition version of the famously diminutive Pro Jr combo swaps out the Jensen P10R for a Fender-designed Special Edition 10-inch speaker. A modified volume circuit offers a more gradual breakup curve, while a new look does away with the tweed, bringing back the aged silver grille and black wrap of some of Fender’s most popular recent combos. All of this comes £170 cheaper than the standard Pro Jr IV.
The particle-board cabinet makes this amp weighty for its size, but with that you do get an overall feeling of solidity and durability. On top, we have a lovely-looking mirrored plate for the control panel: a simple layout with two chickenhead knobs for volume and tone, plus a quarter-inch input, an on/off toggle switch and the classic Fender jewel light.
Getting into the guts of this 15-Watter we find the tried and tested pairing of two EL84 power valves and two 12AX7 preamp tubes. They’re mounted into shock-absorbing stabilisers to help minimise vibration and microphonics, the idea being to enhance the longevity of the amp. As you’d expect in this price range, the valves are PCB-mounted, but everything feels solid and well made.
Plugging in our favourite Tele and turning the volume to a cautious 3 with tone at 5, we’re straight into classic Fender clean territory. It’s bright and cutting but never harsh, even with the famous Tele twang (and the guitar’s tone control wide open). It’s the kind of sound that instantly demands some percussive chicken-picking, delivering an articulate spank that’s simple yet inspiring. And even at this volume setting the Pro Jr IV SE is loud, letting you know from the off that this is no quiet practice amp.
Dialling up the volume further, we start to get that beloved breakup around the 6-7 mark with our single-coils, the grit coming slightly earlier when we use an HSS-equipped Strat. Fender has revoiced the SE’s overdrive for tighter lows, and it certainly feels very controlled without a hint of any ‘woofiness’, even at full volume. Here we enter the realm of hard rock, and almost certainly cause a few noise complaints along the way. But we wouldn’t know, because despite its size there’s no way you’ll hear anyone banging your front door with this vociferous volume.
There’s only other knob to tweak – and the tone control offers a vast array of sounds within its full sweep. Twist it down to 1 for a tone that’s all woolly jumper, offering up a thick tonality that’s muted but not completely devoid of life; set it to the other extreme and you get an overdose of trebly goodness that will have bandmates checking that their earplugs are still working.
If you’re not in the situation where you can crank your amplifier to the maximum then fear not, because the Pro Jr IV SE takes pedals like a champ. Adding some reverb into the signal path gives us buckets of delightful ambience, encouraging spacious arpeggios and slow-strummed open chords. You can grab the natural overdrive of the amp earlier with the addition of a Klon-type booster, or just whack it straight into the stratosphere with the addition of some fuzz.
You might think such a slim feature set would hold you back, but the reality is far from it. The combinations available from the Pro Jr IV SE’s volume and tone knobs, in cahoots with those on your guitar, mean you can dial in a boundless array of sounds that will hit the spot whether you’re into Brent Mason or Brent Hinds. Add that tonal diversity to the relatively low cost of this amplifier, and you’ve got yourself one high-value-for-money piece of kit.
- PRICE £399
- DESCRIPTION Single-channel all-valve combo, made in Mexico
- POWER RATING 15W
- VALVES 2x 12AX7, 2x EL84
- CONTROL PANEL Guitar input, volume, tone
- SPEAKER 1x 10” Fender Special Design
- DIMENSIONS 387 x 368 x 222mm
- WEIGHT 11.74kg/25.9lb
- CONTACT fender.com