Fender Bronco: The Guitar Tone I’ve Been Looking For

Brandon Drury —  November 30, 2007

They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I hate cliches like this, but there is no doubt that in recording what we expect to sound great isn’t always what sounds great. Sometimes what we think sounds like 6 cranked full stacks of guitar amps is just a tiny little Pignose practice amp. Sometimes the most powerful bass tone is not an Ampeg VST through an 8×10 cabinet, but simply a DI.

When Fists of Phoenix brought in a couple of amps to record with last night, I didn’t know what to think of this Fender Bronco. It’s a strange looking amplifier in it’s shape. I’m not even sure what speaker it has in it, but it’s not a 12” and it’s not a 15”. I’m guessing it’s a 14” speaker or something. It’s not looking good for the Bronco! This is an amp that I’ve never heard of. It looks like it may be from the late 60s and it has 6V6 tubes.

The band had brought it down because they knew it would be great for this one part on just one song. I say “okie dokie, we’ll give it a try”. The guitar players I’m working with work at the local music store and had brought in this $2250 Orange amp that was definitely a high class guitar amp and worth the money to anyone who had the money to waste on a $2250. However, even after using such a high end amplifier, my eyes lit up the second we fired up the Fender Bronco. I KNEW it had this big sound with “bark” to it that would sound big but not step on a bass guitar.

I had used my Sennheiser MD 421 on recording the Orange 2×12 guitar cabinet and just for fun I slapped up a Shure SM7b on the Fender Bronco. It was absolutely perfect for sound we were going for. This was kind of a weird section of the song. The Fender Bronco has a great sounding tremolo (which I’ve never really used before) and the band took advantage of it.

When the session was over, I asked the band if I could play around with the amp. Because the Fender Bronco didn’t have any real gain to speak off, I wanted to hear it with my yellow Boss OD-1 overdrive pedal in front of it. (I’ve always liked the Boss OD-1 overdrive pedal in front of great sounding guitar amps). I had grabbed one of the band member’s Gibson SG’s (with a bridge pickup from an Agile guitar, by the way). I set it for a fair aggressive amount of gain and hit a big A power chord. HOLY HELL!!!! It was THE tone. It was the sound I’ve been looking for years. It was a sound with all the excitement of the first Van Halen album, but also a tone that unique enough to be mine.

I tried a Fender Strat with single coils through the Fender Bronco. It was cleaner sounding, even with the gain and volume on the pedal cranked up, but it was a VERY pleasant tone. I grabbed my Agile Telecaster, which has strings older than god. While the tone was a little dead because of the old strings, this would PERFECT for any Melloncamp type of tone. Backing off the volume cleaned it up really nicely. I grabbed my Jackson Kelly Marty Friedman Signature Series guitar (which unfortunately still has the EMG 81 pickup in it). The EMG 81 is simply not capable of getting that upper midrange excitement that I’m looking for in this particular tone. As I expected, the EMG 81 had a certain balls to it’s character, but it did not have the upper midrange harmonics that I needed for the tone. With that said, the EMG 81 equipped guitar did have a tremendous modern “new metal” type of tone. I could use that tone on any modern rock recording without thinking twice. So while I wasn’t thrilled with the EMG 81 equipped Jackson Kelly with this amp, I could tell it was VERY useful.

I then plugged in my Fender Strat Plus Delux which I had put Seymour Duncan JB Jr in the bridge. AH HA!!! The strings were rusty and old, but I could hear exactly what I was looking for. The bolt on Strat with the humbucker in the bridge is, once again, a great match for me. There was too much low end at first, but I adjust the tone knob on the Boss Overdrive pedal and that took care of that. I could just hear heaps and heaps of upper midrange harmonics without sounding the least bit fizzy.

You know you have a great amp when it sounds great for clean stuff, dirty stuff, and high gain stuff all on the same channel. This is something the kids usually don’t understand and something I didn’t understand until I got a big lesson just a few years ago from a 1968 50 watt Marshall Plexi! The things that make an amp sound great, make it sound great on just about everything. Okay, the Fender Bronco isn’t of much use for Pantera or Ministry type of guitar tones. Well, maybe some Ministry. However, the Fender Bronco has something about it in the clean, dirty, and high gain departments that may just make it my favorite amp.

Granted, I played on it 10 minutes last night. However it was love at first hear. I KNOW I have something damn good here. In fact, I may be selling my 1971 Marshall Superlead because I’ve found what I’m looking for. The best part: I cost me a whopping $175!


Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.

11 responses to Fender Bronco: The Guitar Tone I’ve Been Looking For

  1. I agree! the fender bronco amps are amazing. however my dad had to sell mine to help pay the mortgage lol, I still miss it :(. However nowadays I use a Fender Princeton AMP, higly powerful and makes my bronco guitar sound awesome, the only issue I hate is the distortion, its too bassey even if I apply quite a fair bit of treble…lol the guitar does it itself.
    Overall love the AMP and guitar series (esp all shortscales) hope to have one again :D:D:D:D:D

  2. TheSilentDrummer December 3, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    The way you talk about this sounds like its exciting!! I’d like to hear a sample of what you end up doing with these guys.

  3. I’ll post a clip of the amp when I get around to making a song that fully utilizes what it does. I am VERY pumped about this amp! I’ve got a feeling I won’t be missing any of my amps that I sell.


  4. My guitarist in a band I had a few years back used that amp and I always thought it was great. I also remember seeing this awesome guitarist in a band called “Atomic Rock Band” in a bar in Puerto Rico. The tone was amazing. He was using the tiny Fender Bronco (although it might have been the similar “Blues Junior” mic’d up. I was turned into a believer of small amps even for live shows that very day.

  5. After talking to my guitar tone super buddy, he said that the Fender Bronco and Fender Princeton are the same exact amp. I hear that the $175 I paid for it is a total steal!

    I’m excited about using this amp for everything from clean to metal. So far I LOVE the thing. It even sounds good with distortion pedals, which I’m usually very much against.

  6. By the way, I hear the newer transistor-equipped Broncos are not bad either. I doubt they’ll sound better than the vintage tube equipped one though.

  7. my bronco i got new 115 dollars in 1993 i used it for practic only and jam whit friends in small aparment after that i did stopd using it for 12 years. i onw a old fender reberd delux but it was to loud for small stege soo i trid the bronco one night and wow the bronco whit the delux speaker and that was the solusion i love it !!!! it was a big discover for me. iam glad that i did not sold it .

  8. “After talking to my guitar tone super buddy, he said that the Fender Bronco and Fender Princeton are the same exact amp. I hear that the $175 I paid for it is a total steal!”

    The Bronco is the same amp as a Vibro-Champ, not a Princeton. But, you are right about the primce, Broncos are selling in the mid-300s for originals in good to mint condition.

    Try it with a Tube Screamer. Tone all day and friggin night!

  9. The Bronco amps of the late 60′s / early 70′s are the bomb. Mine is a 68 with the drip edge. It is the single most pedal friendly amp i have ever played. For gain, i throw a TS-9 with 808 mod in front, and even Jimmy Page would be jealous. Balls to the wall!

  10. the average price of an 1960 to 1970 bronco amp is around 600$

  11. I bought mine 30 years ago its a great little amp which I use daily but I like it clean I have a twin from the early seventies as well with celestions in it, I won’t sell either both great amps whether clean or using pedals the bronco sounds great. I just got a frontman 15 to play with some as the twin is to heavy and the bronc at five watts I thought might not have enough oomph but althouhg the sound is the same there is something missing, only a guitarist would understand this.