combo, with all the woody midrange
bite that players crave from those classic Fenders. And the Fargen’s dynamic
response is excellent in this configuration.
Digging into the strings or hanging back
on Keith Richards-style rhythm showcases
just how well the Fargen breathes and—
depending on your attack—how it can
move from tight and popping to smooth,
expansive, and airy.
With the same Telecaster used for
exploring the ’ 59 voice, the ’ 65 (JTM45)
position coaxed the Retro Classic’s burlier
nature out of hiding. Here you get a more
pronounced boost from the preamp’s gain
control—great for Leslie West-flavored
frothy midrange, sagging low end, and an
almost-subtle high end. With a Les Paul
Standard, the ’ 65 setting gets even heftier,
taking on a Cream-era, Clapton-like thickness but with a biting responsiveness to
pick attack that again, makes the amp
sound much bigger than 25 watts—
particularly with the gain and master volume
cranked. Fans of Josh Homme’s work with
Kyuss will love this setting too.
Pros: Excellent reproductions of classic Marshall
tones. The voltage switch is a nice touch.
Fargen Retro Classic Amp, $2,250 street, fargenamps.com
Cons: No footswitchable boost. Not much
headroom in ’ 68 mode.
Ease of Use
In ’ 68 mode with the voltage sag switched
on, the smooth, hot-rodded mids and purring highs that are a hallmark of Eddie Van
Halen’s tone started to come into play, and
the amp demonstrated a springy character
that’s perfect for fast leads with fluid legato
runs. The ’ 68 setting will tend to sound
overloaded when you push the volume up
to bigger levels, even when you set the sag
switch for maximum voltage. And if there’s a
trade-off for the Retro Classic’s manageable
25 watts, it becomes most apparent in the
lack of headroom in these settings. You’ll also
lose some attack in the high end—just the
same way you lose a little if you move from a
100-watt Plexi to a 50-watt model.
In terms of quality, versatility, and the
bossy authority that this amp gets out of
just 25 watts, the Retro Classic is nothing
short of impressive. And the authenticity of the amp’s three basic voices can be
stunning. You may not shake down the
walls of the arena with sheer volume, but
the dynamic range is, in general, exceptional. And we’ll assume that if you’re
shopping for a 25-watt Marshall clone,
you’re looking to save what’s left of your
hearing (and your neighbor’s sanity) anyway. For classic Marshall tone at less than
face-melting volumes, the Retro Classic is
hard to beat.