works as a phase splitter to keep the preamp’s
signal tight and focused.
The Machete’s two channels each have
dedicated three-band EQ, preamp gain,
master volume, and Notch controls. The
notch control is designed to sweep through
a wide spectrum of midrange settings,
enabling you to more precisely tune the
amp to the guitar that you’re using. For
example, if you’d like to add a little more
raunch and midrange presence to your
single-coil equipped guitar, moving the
notch knob up will get you there. Guitars
with heavy natural mids like a humbucker-equipped Les Paul can be made sharper and
crisper with a less aggressive notch setting.
The clean channel’s preamp gain and
volume controls double as pull bright and
pull gain boost features respectively. And
players who use active pickups can breathe
a sigh of relief with the amp’s 6db input
attenuation switch, which helps keep the
signal clearer for low impedance signals.
The digital reverb is controlled by a single
control for both channels. Finally, a control
for setting the level of speaker damping sits
near the end of the panel, and it’s one of the
real keys to the Machete’s performance—
making the amp feel and sound tighter and
punchier, or more loose and harmonically
driven depending on how you set it up.
The Machete’s features don’t end on the
front panel. There’s an effects loop with
individual send and return level controls on
the back panel, which can also be set as a
switchable lead boost by connecting both the
jacks together with a patch cable—adding
up to 12db of gain when engaged. Pressing
the PA mute switch disables the tube power
amp output completely, giving the player the
option of using their favorite power amp if
they choose to. There’s also an XLR line out
jack, which enables you to run the Machete
directly into a mixing console, along with
cabinet emulation via a small switch next to
the jack. The amp can also be controlled via
MIDI, and there’s a four-button footswitch
for channel switching and engaging the boost
on channel one, effects loop, and reverb.
To put it succinctly, the Machete isn’t the
type of Fender amp most Fender-philes will
expect. It has a great clean channel, no surprise given its family heritage. But the overdrive capabilities are about as far from the
sparkly, low gain, super-clear snap that put
the Bassman and Twin Reverb on the map.
The Machete really enjoys living on the edge
of thick, molten gain and meaty, defined grit.
Clean things first, though. The clean
channel’s tone is clear, even and not a bit
over-compressed. At its essence the voice is
akin to a Twin Reverb with more midrange
presence and a softer attack. But you can
get a lot of range out of the super-sensitive
controls, and even the slightest movements
of each of the EQ knobs had a rather
substantial effect on the tone. A Gibson
SG’s neck pickup initially sounded way
too bassy, but one slight adjustment of the
bass control was all it took to tame it. Most
amps in my experience would have taken a
much more dramatic adjustment.
When I felt like the tone wasn’t as cutting
as I liked, careful adjustment of the channel’s notch control let me set the midrange
curve with ease. The amp’s damping control,
also came in handy when I wanted to add or
subtract presence in the high end. Moving it
towards loose gave the highs more bite and
lent some sag in the mids, and further adjustments towards tight dulled the high end and
tightened up the lows.
Lest you have any doubts about the amp’s
onboard digital reverb ( or questions about
why Fender would forgo one of their most
famous trademarks—deep and rich spring
reverberation—for a digital replication) the
reverb is spectacular, with a very wide, expan-
sive and all-encompassing if you need it that
way. It will fill the room for atmospheric tunes
like Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick
Alien” with the control set at just 10 o’clock
and beyond that you can get into deep space
realms that are great for Adrian Belew’s volume
swells on King Crimson’s “Matte Kudasai.”
The Machete’s second channel is what
really sets it apart from the rest of Fender’s
amp line. The near-fire-breathing, muscular
gain is a real surprise, and there’s more than
enough gain on this amp to satisfy the most
demanding metalheads. I never really need-
ed to move the gain control past 11 o’clock
for stuff as heavy as Alice in Chains riffs.
Gain settings higher than 3 o’clock give the
distortion an almost a square-wave, fuzzy
quality that’s perfect for smooth and aggres-
sive Santana-style lines. The tightest and
most focused high-gain sounds come from
keeping the control below the 12 o’clock
setting. This is most definitely not an amp
for a kid that expects bone-crushing metal
rhythms from diming the gain.
REVIEW > FendeR
Channel two also is much more sensitive than channel one to adjustments of the
amp’s damping control—an indispensable
tool for getting different tones without
having to touch any of the other controls.
After setting all of the EQ controls and
notch control at noon, the gain at 10: 30
and dropping the mid knob slightly, I had a
killer hard rock rhythm tone to build upon.
But moving the damping knob closer to
loose added much more bite and snarl to
the high end while loosening up the lows
and mids—effectively browning the sound.
Turning the control the other direction
tightened up the tone, though I needed to
add a little high end via the EQ section in
this instance. The sound and feel are not the
same as the high-end bump you get from a
looser speaker setting. But finding the right
balance between speaker tuning and EQ will
really help open up your guitar’s voice.
Fender’s sleek 1x12 Machete combo has a lot
to offer players who need to move between
crystal cleans and bristling gain and favor a
more modern voice in general. The damping and notch controls make the amplifier a
much more sensitive and versatile machine.
And while the amp can go completely over
the top with its overdrive, it’s smooth, harmonically rich, and big at moderate settings.
And given that all this comes in a beautifully
built and killer-looking combo that you can
get in the trunk of your car, this is an amp
that is arguably much, much more than the
sum of its parts.
Fender Musical Instruments
Ease of Use
Super-smooth voicing. Sensitive controls.