Released onto an unsuspecting public in 2007 I believe and discontinued sometime in 2010. A short-lived affair that never quite caught on, which in some ways is a shame and in some ways is a relief to be honest.
It’s basically modern, Frankenstein version of an old classic amp with some modern features added, which explains why it looks a bit odd – like an old amp with an extra, modern control panel added. Not that pretty, but it grows on you.
The extra features are: Overdrive, compressor and a power attenuator, which is a proprietary design by Fender. I enquired with Fender in the UK about how it worked when my amp went in for repair (quite common with these amps it seems) and my hunch as to how this thing works was pretty much correct.
The TIPA: Trans Impedance Power Attenuator works, in very simplified terms like this: (by the way I jokingly refer to it as the PITA!)
It sends the signal from the tube power amp into some kind of solid-state power amplifier, the level of which is then controlled by what Fender call the data wheel (not very rock and roll), a stepped control knob, which goes from Silent (speaker off) to Full Volume (attenuator out of circuit) in 15 clicks of the dial. The stomp-box type effects are true bypass when switched off and switchable via the included foot switch as is the FX loop and spring reverb. The reverb sounds sweet enough, but it pretty overpowering above about 2 on the dial.
The Princeton Recording Amp was designed to capture all the vibe and tone of a classic Princeton Reverb (although it lacks the tremolo/vibrato circuit) and it is pretty true sounding to the original Princeton Reverb; pretty much the same cabinet dimensions, except deeper and significantly heavier due to all the extra stuff it has crammed inside it.
I relate it to a hot-hatch car, like a VW golf. The standard car is fairly compact and modest with the GTI version being the same, but with about twice as much engine under the hood and fatter tyres etc.
It’s a loud amp, for 15 watts and the sound of the amp is still impressive at fairly low settings on the power attenuator.
The one big, bad thing about this amp is that if you take it to amp tech for a service, you may receive quite a blunt response like “Sorry I service amplifiers, not computers!”. If you look inside the chassis, it looks like a PC! It may be a tube amp with a 50-year heritage, but it’s definitely a 21st Century design! Maybe this is why it has been discontinued.
If you can find one for a good price on Ebay, you may be onto a good thing. One word of warning though: Many people report of a fault where the amp cuts out in the middle of some overzealous playing at higher gain levels. I can vouch for this as I had this fault myself. It was repaired under warranty, but it still lingers in the back of my mind. I haven’t used my amp live yet, so it hasn’t been enough of a worry to think too much about it though.
Just be warned and make sure you can return your amp to the seller if you experience the fault yourself. Just to clarify though, it sounds excellent, especially with a Tonetubby in it.
After using this amp live for about 2 years I found the Princeton Recording Amp to be a little strained with the duties of regular live use. I went through power tubes pretty quickly as the amp was pushed to the edge all the time and it weighs a ton. I have since been converted to a solid state amp – The Quilter Tone Block, which weighs 4 lbs and has infinitely more headroom. The PRA is in need of a service (it hums and I think needs new capacitors in the power supply). Once I find someone to fix it I will sell it and never look back. The Quilter is the real deal and now all I think I will ever need.