BOSS Legend Series
Fender FBM-1 and FDR-1 Pedals
By Jim Bybee
Fender tube amps from the 1950s and 1960s are legendary tone machines that helped fuel the electric music revolution of those eras and beyond. They provided the core guitar sounds for so many music styles—including early rock and roll, rhythm and blues, golden age country, and surf music—and their status as tonal benchmarks hasn’t diminished to this day. Though Fender made many different amp models in that time frame, two amps of the period—the 1959 Bassman and 1965 Deluxe Reverb—really define “the Fender sound” for legions of guitarists.
BOSS and its parent company Roland have been in the business of replicating classic amps with their COSM digital technology for many years now, so it’s no surprise that they’d team up with Fender to distill the sweet tones of these classic amps and squeeze them into a pair of BOSS stomp boxes. Officially authorized by Fender, the FBM-1 ’59 Bassman and FDR-1 ’65 Deluxe Reverb pedals are the first offerings in BOSS’s new “Legend Series.” These pedals allow guitarists to recreate the sound of Fender’s vintage tone monsters with any amp, at a mere fraction of the cost of the originals.
The Tweed Bassman Amp: A Brief History
Introduced in 1951, the tweed-covered Fender Bassman amp was a companion to Leo Fender’s Precision Bass, the first solid body electric bass guitar. Amplifying this new instrument was virgin territory, and Fender was continually refining the Bassman to improve its sound; by 1959, it had evolved into a 50-watt amp with four 10-inch speakers. While it was popular with bassists in its day, over time it really caught on with guitarists (most famously Stevie Ray Vaughn and Buddy Guy), who found its dark, woody tone and ballsy overdrive when cranked perfect for rock and blues. While the Bassman model lost its tweed look and evolved through the ensuing years, it was the 1959 model that remained guitarists’ favorite, eventually attaining status as the “Holy Grail” of guitar amps as originals became increasingly scarce and expensive. In 1990, Fender reissued the ’59 Bassman to much critical acclaim, and they’ve continued producing it to this day.
BOSS FBM-1 Fender ’59 Bassman
The BOSS FBM-1 pedal captures the essence of the ’59 Bassman in both looks and sound. Its beige color and shiny metal control plate evokes the tweed covering and chrome faceplate of the real ’59, and even the Fender and Bassman logos are period perfect! Like the original amp, there’s a normal input, along with a second “bright” input for increased treble. The tone section follows the lead of the original as well, with BASS, MIDDLE, TREBLE, and PRESENCE controls, and their sound mimics the response of an actual Bassman.
The ’59 Bassman amp has no master volume control like most modern amps have, so its rich distortion sound can only be achieved by cranking the amp to loud levels. The FBM-1 solves this with two volume controls: the GAIN knob replicates the Bassman’s volume control and allows you to dial in the desired amount of distortion, while the LEVEL knob lets you adjust the overall volume of the pedal. At low GAIN settings, the sound is clean, yet rich and sweet. As you crank it up, the sound gets thicker and more distorted just like the Bassman itself.
The Blackface Era and the 1965 Deluxe Reverb
In the early 1960s, Fender gave its amp line a facelift. Doing away with the top-mounted controls and tweed covering of their 1950s-era amps, they introduced the now-familiar classic Fender amp style, with angled front-mounted controls and heavy-duty vinyl covering. After a few color changes, Fender finally settled on basic black in late 1963. Fender amps of this era are known as “blackface” amps because of their black control panels (in contrast to later silver panels), and are prized for their crisp, clean sound at low volumes and crunchy yet sweet distortion when cranked.
Introduced at the tail end of 1963, the blackface Deluxe Reverb was outfitted with a single 12” speaker and a mere 22 watts of power. It was originally marketed primarily to guitar students, but pro guitarists soon discovered that its low wattage allowed the sweet distortion tone produced by its 6V6 output tubes to be had at moderate volume levels. This made it an extremely popular amp for nightclub and studio work, and led to it being used on countless popular recordings. In particular, the tone of the 1965 model was preferred, and, like the ’59 Bassman, the ’65 Deluxe Reverb turned into a sought after and collectable piece over the years. Fender eventually reissued this classic in 1994, and it remains extremely popular for music styles from jazz and country to rock and blues.
BOSS FDR-1 Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb
With its black color and white script lettering, the BOSS FDR-1 pedal drips vintage Fender blackface vibe. Its case is textured to emulate the vinyl covering of the original Deluxe Reverb, and the Fender logo matches the updated logo of the time period. While the 1965 Deluxe Reverb is a two-channel amp, its second channel—labeled VIBRATO on the amp’s control panel—is the one most players use. In addition to a slightly brighter tone, it provides both reverb and vibrato effects that are unavailable on the first channel. It’s this VIBRATO channel that’s replicated on the FDR-1 pedal.
Like the original amp, the tone controls are simple as can be—just BASS and TREBLE. The GAIN knob emulates the ’65’s channel volume control, while the LEVEL knob regulates the output volume of the pedal. At low GAIN settings, the FDR-1 provides the classic sweet and clean Fender tone. Cranking up the GAIN gently coaxes the pedal into blissful overdrive territory, just like the real deal.
The 1965 Deluxe Reverb is known for its juicy tube-driven spring reverb effect. The FDR-1 models this effect in all its cavernous glory, with a single knob to control the reverb depth. The ’65’s vibrato effect (actually a misnamed tremolo effect) is also faithfully modeled in the FDR-1. The VIBRATO knob controls the depth of the effect, while the speed can be controlled hands-free with an innovative use of the bypass pedal: just press down on the pedal for two seconds or more, and then release the pedal. Now, tap the pedal in time with the music to set the vibrato speed. (Alternately, you can set the speed by pressing the pedal and turning the VIBRATO knob.) When you’re done, just press and hold the pedal for two or more seconds again. When you release the pedal, your speed setting is stored.
For the most authentic Fender amp emulations, it’s best to use the FBM-1 and FDR-1 with a guitar amp that’s set clean, and with its tone controls adjusted to deliver a fairly “flat” sound. This gives the Legend Series pedals a neutral, uncolored tonal slate to impart their vintage Fender mojo upon. A clean amp like the Roland JC-120 works great for this, but any amp set clean and flat should work just as well.
That said, we heartily recommend that you also try out the Legend Series pedals as Fender-flavored tone shapers for your regular guitar amp setup. For example, you could set your amp with just a hint of distortion, and then use a Legend Series pedal to launch it into overdrive-land for crunchy rhythm and searing solos. This method of using a pedal to “kick the front end” of an amp on the edge was popularized by Stevie Ray Vaughn and others, and it can be accomplished with any BOSS overdrive or distortion. However, using a Legend Series pedal in this application adds a huge dose of classic Fender goodness along with the kick.
Real Vintage Tone in a Gig Bag
With the new Legend Series pedals, you can now add classic Fender tone to your guitar rig for a very reasonable price tag. Best of all, these two “amps” easily fit in your gig bag or on your pedalboard, and there are no pesky tubes to worry about maintaining! These pedals deliver the real deal, but don’t take BOSS’s word for it—Fender wouldn’t have put their name on ‘em if they didn’t think so, too. Add some vintage tones to your rig with the FBM-1 and FDR-1 and experience the sounds that made the ’59 Bassman and ’65 Deluxe Reverb legends.