Since the introduction of electric guitars and amplifiers into mainstream consciousness, “Made in USA” Fender amps have become some of the most-coveted options for all sorts of guitar players worldwide. Musicians, including some of the greatest guitarists in history, as well as ordinary budding ax-men who wanted to emulate their idols, all flocked to music shops to get their hands on these great-sounding amps.
When it comes to instrument amplification, nothing screams “American-made” more than Fender amps. After all, the company that guitar luminary Leo Fender founded in 1946, went on to revolutionize sound and heavily impacted the world of music. The unparalleled contributions of Jimi Hendrix to rock and roll and the innovations that came out of the brand’s headquarters in California, showed to the rest of the world the amazing quality of Fender products.
The times are changing however, and the combined result of inflation, rising tax and labor wages, prompted a vast majority of American corporations to move their production offshore for much cheaper production costs. Fender was not an exception and this shift made a lot of musicians skeptical of the quality of products that companies will be producing outside the United States.
Nowadays, only a handful of special Fender amp models are being manufactured in the U.S. with most of their production centered in Mexico, and a few cheaper ones, such as the Fender Champion (not to be mistaken for the classic and reissue Champion/Champ tube amplifiers), being assembled in China and Indonesia. While some would like to believe that the days when Fender was a reflection of American ingenuity and excellence are over, the company has actually never stopped creating high-quality amps and guitars.
When did Fender start manufacturing amps outside the USA?
Although Fender had already ventured outside California when they bought Sunn Amplifiers and their Oregon factory in 1985, it was only in 1996 when they moved most of their amplifier production to their Ensenada facility in Mexico (a factory that has been operating since 1987). During this era, Fender also started to heavily utilize printed circuit boards.
Does Fender still build amplifiers in the United States?
Yes, they do. These new breeds of Fender amps are entirely made in the USA to continue the legacy that they have built, especially in the 60s and 70s. Hand-wired and in their factory in Corona, California, these guitar amps boast the level of craftsmanship that made the Fender name a dominant force in music.
Unfortunately for fanatics of “made in USA” Fender amps, the option is very limited as they only offer five models, not to mention the heftier price tag.
Here are the available hand-wired amps from Fender and their suggested retail prices:
- ’57 Custom Champ ($1,199.99)
- ’57 Custom Deluxe ($2,349.99)
- ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb ($2,749.99)
- ’64 Custom Deluxe Reverb ($2,949.99)
- ’57 Custom Twin-Amp ($3,499.99)
Are “Made in USA” Fender amps still worth buying?
Whether Fender amps made in the USA, vintage or otherwise are worth your money actually depends on your financial capacity, as well as your needs as a musician.
The hand-wired models of today may be a lot more expensive but compared to mass-produced ones in their Mexico facility, these amps are given a similar level of attention that custom instruments will receive. However, in today’s highly-competitive market, there are a lot of brands that can easily compete with some of Fender’s best amps and you might also want to try out other amazing amplifiers out there.
It is important to note that the most crucial parts of offshore-produced Fender amps are still made in the USA, they are only assembled outside the country. So if you have a much smaller budget, opting for Mexican amps shouldn’t be much of a problem, since they are built to meet the standards of Fender.
That being said, Fender amps have become an important part of culture and American heritage. It is not surprising to see guitar and amplifier aficionados like Joe Bonamassa try to get his hands on every kind of used, or vintage Fender amp that he can find, to add to his endlessly burgeoning collection.
For some Americans, it can be a source of national pride, but for the rest of the world, the longing for the sound of the old days is enough to inspire the hunt. If you are very passionate about tracking down older Fender amps, it is very important to have sufficient knowledge about these gears so you can avoid buying ones that might be overpriced, have hidden defects or some with their original parts already replaced. This will allow you to haggle and obtain them at a more reasonable price or decline the offer if you wish to.
Fender amps that were made in the USA are definitely a huge part of the company’s glory days as one of the few companies that pushed guitar amplification to the next level of greatness and having one is like gracing your jamming studio with legendary equipment.