Hot Rod Deluxe III
Hot Rod Deluxe III - front panel and top panel views

I recently bought a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III. This is the latest version of the single-speaker 40-Watt combo from Fender’s Hot Rod Range, which includes the:

  • DeVillle 410 III (60-Watts with 4 x 10″ speakers)
  • DeVille 212 III (60-Watts with 2 x 12″ speakers)
  • Blues Junior III (15-Watt 1 x 12″ speaker)
  • Pro Junior III (15-Watt 1 x 10″ speaker)
  • Blues DeVille reissue (60-Watts with 4 x 10″ speakers)
  • Blues Deluxe reissue (40-Watts with 1 x 12″ speakers).

Fender Hot Rod amplifiers have been, for many years, the most popular semi-pro and pro valve amps on the market, and with version III they just got a whole lot better. Improvements over the previous release include:

  • a new black control panel with white lettering and decals facing forward – the old silver panel was a nightmare to see properly on stage under challenging lighting conditions
  • a tighter overdrive channel which gives more attack on the bass strings/low notes
  • new tapers for the volume and treble controls which give more of a gradual increase in tone and level
  • an 80-Watt Celestian speaker which offers massive headroom.

I tried a lot of amps before deciding on the Hot Rod Deluxe. I tested combos and heads from Blackstar, Egnater, Vox, Marshall and more. I wanted an amp that covered all bases: clean, crunch and overdrive. But I soon realised I was on a fool’s errand – no amp does everything well. But the more I tested, the more I kept being drawn back to the Hot Rod, because of its clean channel. I play a Fender Stratocaster which, when partnered with the Hot Rod Deluxe, delivers notes which bloom and shimmer through the amp’s 6L6 valves.

Although famous for its clean tone, the Hot Rod Deluxe has a drive channel which offers great crunch, which can be boosted by the “More drive” switch to take you into high gain territory. But this amp isn’t designed to deliver heavily saturated gain. Nevertheless, if that’s your bag, the Hot Rod Deluxe might still what you need. My son is into heavy gain and he gets amazing tone by sticking a Suhr Riot pedal in front of the Hot Rod. The clean channel on Fender amps is renowned for giving a great foundation on which to build a signature tone.

Beware, the Hot Rod Deluxe is loud. Very, very loud. If you only play at home, don’t buy this amp unless your neighbours are deaf and you have confidence in the structural integrity of your house. At home I have the clean channel volume set to 1 or 1.5 – it goes all the way to 12. But you are never going to get great tone at such low volume. In rehearsal rooms and gigs I can drive this baby harder, into the sweet spot just below or above mid volume, and get fabulous sound. But I doubt I would ever get the volume above middle values. I’d like to keep my hearing for a few more years.

Here are a few video clips to give you a flavour of the sonic versatility you get from the Hot Rod range. Guitars are played through the either the DeVille x2 speaker or Deluxe x1 speaker combo versions.

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