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Introduction and some Princeton Reissue thoughts...
  • Hi all, greetings from the wilds of Wales!
    I'm a 50-year-old guitar player who's been gigging around the UK and Europe for the last 35 years in a variety of rootsy/bluesy bands, and I'm an inveterate gear modder on a purely amateur basis, with that dangerous thing, a (very) little knowledge!

    I was drawn to this forum after trawling YouTube looking for Princeton info primarily, which lead me inevitably to Jim's music. I'm pretty comfortable with my own style of playing, and although my musical curiosity has never waned it's fair to say we all get a little jaded from time to time, but the dynamic, human, personality-filled Campilongo style was like a breath of fresh air to me and has lead me in interesting new directions which were once only peripheral to my tastes. God bless the internet, for all its faults!

    Anyway, to Princetons. Due to where I live, an original Black- or Silverface is out of the question, and I like many others had difficulty deciding between the '65 PRRI or the '68 Custom, given that I'd be ordering online without trying them.

    Having obtained a '68 custom schematic from the ever helpful Jeff Bielke at Fender I decided to take the plunge.

    On the bigger amps there are a few circuit differences between the Customs and Reissues, but with the Princetons I thought there's no real reason you couldn't change the spec from a 68 to a 65 or vice versa if you felt you'd prefer the other one a little further down the line.
    That's one of the reasons I didn't hesitate to grab a 68, I could probably turn it into a 65 for just a few pennies, and this is exactly what I did.

    Comparing my amp to the '65 PRRI, for the '68 Custom Princeton Fender have cut a trace on the PCB which carries the pots and substituted an 18k resistor, which runs in series with the usual 6.8k one. They also changed the cap C23 from .047 to .022uF.

    I basically reversed this factory mod by changing C23 back to the classic Fender .047uF, and ran a link wire instead of R34, the extra 18k resistor. I also halved the value of R10, as per the PRRI.

    Obviously the speakers are different too, but I often run my Princeton through a variety of cabs and have fitted a Ragin' Cajun anyway, so I'm really just comparing the tone circuits.

    Now I love that classic mid-scooped Fender clean sound, but honestly found the PRRI circuit just a tad TOO thin for me and my guitars, it just seemed to lack punch and disappear in a mix. It's beautiful solo or set high in a simple mix, but with other guitars in the band it needed pedal help, and against a piano it really struggled.

    This is not really the amp's fault, but all my guitar tweaking regarding pickups, pot values and treble pass circuits has revolved around the '68 circuit for most of the year, so it's not big surprise that it now suits me better. For most other users with stock guitars it's fine.

    Basically I gave my ears 24hrs to adjust to give the '65 version a chance, but changed it back to stock the next day.

    I'm glad I did it though, it certainly satisfied my curiosity, and Fender's marketing department are not exaggerating about the benefits of the slightly hotrodded vintage-style circuit - it really is easily compatible with a lot more pedals than the original design in my experience.

    The upshot of this longwinded post is that if you're on the fence between the two models just dive in, it's not the end of the world if you'd slightly prefer the other model long-term, it's easily addressed and they're both fine sounding amps anyway!

    All the best,
  • Welcome to the forum Julian and thanks for the post! All the best- Jim
  • Thanks for the welcome Jim, I'm enjoying browsing around the site for interesting tech information, but more importantly some fantastic music!
  • Hi Julian, thanks for this info. I am currently on the fence with these 2 amps, swaying between the two and driving myself nuts with my inability to make a decision. I live in Dublin and finding a place with both these amps in stock is difficult. I only last weekend got the chance to play the PRRI and really liked it, I played it totally clean as I didn't get an option to try some fuzz/od pedals through it

    I really like the classic BF clean tone and my only concern on the 68 CPR was the tone stack changes they made which lose that. Is that the case?

    My concern on the PRRI is what I've heard with how it takes pedals as I do have a pedalboard made up of fuzz/TS, delays etc.

    Do you have any advice here?
  • Hi Paul, due to similar geographical problems I suffered from the same dilemma! I'm afraid the real answer is as usual, "it depends".
    I tend to favour pretty bright or scooped guitars generally - I actually like treble pass caps on Teles for example, or seriously underwound P90s, or a current favourite, Teisco-style Goldfoils, which all retain a good deal of "surfiness" through pretty much any amp. Consequently the 68 Custom works perfectly for me, as I find the already-scooped Blackface sound can be a touch too much of a good thing.
    That said, if I wasn't into modifying guitars and wanted to just grab one off a shop wall I think the PRRI can be a more forgiving amp.

    Much is made of the difference between the two amps and it really is there, but in reality they BOTH have that BF/SF thing going on, and both have that deep, beautiful Princeton signature which belies their output and speaker size. Despite the differences there really isn't that much difference in volume or breakup either, in fact the 68 Custom can seem to have more headroom than the PRRI in a band mix due to having a touch more midrange. Although I haven't had a chance to try it, I'm willing to bet that if you swapped the speakers over between the two amps they wouldn't be too far off meeting in the middle, tone-wise.

    As far as pedals are concerned the PRRI can have a little too much sizzle with some fuzz pedals in my experience - on the other hand a TS-type is usually perfect, but can sound a little boxy with the 68 unless you have something like a Bad Monkey with separate bass and treble controls. All this being very guitar-dependent, obviously.

    In short, for my specific needs the 68 Custom is perfect, but it really is just a gently-tweaked PRRI. If I was genuinely undecided and didn't have the confidence or skills to modify amps I would honestly go with the PRRI. It's already served generations of players and is definitely a safe bet, and if you do what Jim does and put a Celestion in it then you're heading halfway towards 68 Custom territory anyway.

    Good luck (though you can't go wrong with either)
  • The PR/PRRI is notorius for not "handling" overdrive and fuzz pedals very well. I don't know if it's the speaker or the circuit that causes it, but I have several overdrive pedals, 1 fuzz, and 3 different speakers, and I could never get a good overdrive sound using a pedal. I think the Princeton is the kind of amp that simply sounds better turned up.

    I don't know if the 68 Custom version suffers from this as well.
  • The 68 Custom does address this very well, having a warmer midrange due to the Bassman-style midrange circuit, although a little volume never goes amiss in smoothing out pedals in any amp.
    As I said before though, it still sounds unmistakably like a Princeton.

  • Thanks Guys for your insights. I have now played both, albeit in different shops and on different days.

    I liked both, which doesn't help, but I think I am leaning towards the PRRI. Realistically I'm not looking to play Heavy Rock on this and the reverb and cleans on the PRRI sounded better to me. I've seen clips on youtube of the PRRI with pedals and the amp seemed to handle most well, of course this is subject to the sound quality of the clip.

    I can see myself getting a 68 at a later date. I have a 2 amp setup playing in stereo and could really see how these 2 would sound great together

    Though with my GAS I might have to find a new wife too ......
  • I've noticed that original BF amps have come done quite a bit in price over the last year or so not sure why could be attributable to the new reissues. I would try to find an early silver face or a original BF. They sound fantastic and are extremely reliable if properly cared for. They do sound significantly better than the reissues to me. Hand to point wired amps are also much easier to service as well.
  • I'd agree with most of that, but Paul lives in Ireland and I live in the UK - even silverface Princetons are like hen's teeth over here and at least double the price of a PRRI, which is itself pretty much the equivalent of around $1500.

    Good quality vintage Fender amps are rarely an option for us sadly, especially if you need 240v.
  • This is all too true for us folks living in the UK. I can only look with envy at the options open to American buyers when it comes to vintage Fender amps and guitars.
    I've had PRRI for about four or five years now and have been nothing but happy with it. I don't gig I just play at home and this amp is perfect. I had a Vox modelling amp for a while but when I got my PRRI my missus said "that sounds like an electric guitar now".
    I played it completely stock until the power tubes had a sudden electrical storm (thunder and lightning!!!)
    At that point I completely re-tubed it and bought the tools to bias it myself which was well worth it. I couldn't afford a whole set of NOS tubes so I bought some current production tubes and tracked down a 1960's Mullard Ecc83 i61 to put in V1.
    The amp sounded better than ever, I was genuinely knocked out by how articulate the amp had become.

    I've never tried the 68 reissue but I think I'd probably like that too. Princetons are just great little amps.
  • I had a similar discussion on another forum. I was expressing how hard it is to get my hands on old marshalls and talking about how much I like the 18 watt reissue. BF Fenders are plentiful but they are not cheap. I found my first Princeton for 500.00 dollars in a music shop. I just picked up another one and paid much more than I would have liked. We will call it the Campilongo effect. Thanks Jim! just kidding........
  • "We will call it the Campilongo effect. "

    Love it!!!
  • I finally ended up getting the PRRI, l love the thing. Sounds great with all the pedals on my board and the reverb/clean tones are amazing
  • Good stuff, glad you're enjoying the PRRI!

    Funnily enough I changed my '68 Custom back to PRRI spec about a month ago to try it with a different band and it's working very well, so I'll probably leave it as it is now.

    It's probable that the combination of that and a Ragin' Cajun has put my amp tonally about halfway between the PRRI and the 68 Custom, it seems like a happy (and loud!) compromise to me anyway.
  • I might revisit the Princeton, but it would be the new '68. I like the warmer tone stack and speaker. I never really became "married" to my PRRI, even after some extensive mods and different speakers, trying to get it warmer/smoother.... I've also never played a vintage PR, and will always wonder if they sound different than the PRRIs.... I can imagine, with a really old speaker, and some component drift, maybe the vintage ones are already warmer/smoother....and the PRRI sounds like a NEW PR did back in '65....

    Also looking at the new '68 CVR....
  • He all!
    I've not seen the '68 schematic, but I remember hearing that the negative feedback resistor had been changed (R10 on the '65 PRRI schematic). How's that look to you, Julian?
  • With the right speaker and tubes the PRRI can sound fantastic.
    For me - NOS GE, RCA, RTF or Telefunken (ANOS) 12AX7's work well. NOS 5751's increase headroom. I also use NOS rectifier tubes in my amps. The NOS preamp and rectifier tubes will last a long time. JJ preamp tubes are a bit harsh, and their 6V6s are IMHO different sounding from standard 6v6 tubes. I just started using TungSol 6v6 reissues and like the tone they give.

    As for speaker - make sure you allow considerable time for speakers to break in before changing them to improve tone. I have changed out speakers, impatient for my tone to improve. Although the sound is not exactly classic Princeton Reverb, the 10-inch Celestion gold sounds great ONCE it is broken in. I also have gotten good tone out of the Jensen C10Q reissue I tried. But your mileage will certainly vary...
  • Hey ! I replaced the power tubes with NOS brimar 6v6gt and it turned to turd muddy with overdrive. Any idea why?
  • The tubes could be bad? or the bias?
  • I have yet to install a bias pot
  • The amp has a bias pot already! It's just inside the chassis.
  • Yes, the reissues have a bias pot, the BFs and SFs don't. If yours is a vintage, you should install it. It's a pretty easy mod. A 10k register and a 50k trim pot in series.
  • My mistake, I thought from the thread title we were discussing the reissues....

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