Gearing up for some regular stage performances? A combo amp may be your best choice if you’re looking to play in a variety of live situations thanks to their size, convenience and ability to make yourself heard. The Hot Rod Deluxe line from Fender has been around since 1996 and, with the all-tube HRD IV, the iconic brand has introduced several upgrades – keeping it among the best choices for a gig-ready amp. Today we’re taking a closer look.
The HRD IV is clearly intended for stage use, featuring rugged road-worthy construction, enough volume to be heard in just about any club without a PA, and flexibility for almost any genre of music.
It’s an all-tube 40-watt combo with a single 12” Celestion A-Type speaker. Now, 40 watts may not sound like a lot of gas, but trust us – with the HRD IV it’s more than enough horsepower to get your message heard over the roar of a crowd.
Three channels (well… ‘2.5’ to be exact – more on that later) allow for a range of tones, and the included spring reverb has been upgraded to be smoother. There are no other onboard effects, but that’s not a deal breaker for this type of amp. An effects loop also helps for clean introductions of boosts and time-based effects into the signal chain.
This amp also comes with a footswitch for quick channel switching, along with a Fender-branded dust cover. At this price these aren’t unexpected, but welcome additions nonetheless.
The HRD IV provides three channels – Normal, Drive, and More Drive. Channels can be switched either by the included footswitch, or by depressing a button or two on the control panel (in our opinion it’s always easier to use the footswitch – especially at a gig).
While it does have the three channels, there are some limitations – and here’s where the ‘2.5’ comment comes into play. One area that could be improved here is the lack of control over the More Drive channel. The way the HRD IV is configured, the More Drive really is what it says – it’s simply more drive. The overall level of distortion in this mode can’t be adjusted without adjusting the Drive channel as well, and it doesn’t really boost the signal enough that you could use it for solos.
Ultimately, you may have to resort to using a separate boost pedal through the effects loop. Yes, it adds an extra footswitch to mess with, but it gets the job done.
The 3-band EQ (treble, middle, and bass) is global, meaning that it’s the same for all three. You may find it will take some tweaking to get an overall setting that works well for all three channels, but it’s not impossible. To help shape things and add some sparkle, there is also a presence control to complete the lineup.
Fender are well-known for the clean sounds that their amps produce, and the HRD IV is no exception. Even with the onboard EQ you can dial in a rich, lush tone that sounds great all on its own – and even better sweetened up with some subtle effects. Since its initial release, the HRD has been known as an excellent pedal platform (we like to say it’s a BYOP amp – ‘bring your own pedalboard’).
The Drive channel is perfect for classic rock or country styles that requires a little dirt. The More Drive channel will deliver a lead tone that’s smooth and defined – this is part of the tonal upgrades the HRD IV enjoys over previous models. However, if you’re a metal player looking to melt steel with your tone direct from the amp, then the HRD IV may not the best choice.
Finally, any player that has ever gigged will tell you that tube amps can tend to be heavy and difficult to transport. At 45lbs, thanks to a lightweight pine cabinet, the HRD IV is actually pretty easy to lug around from practice space to gig, and back again.
The Hot Rod Deluxe line has been a very successful amp collection for Fender. It has found a home in the backline of countless players over the last 20-plus years, and for good reason! With the Hot Rod Deluxe IV – featuring tonal upgrades along with some minor aesthetic ones – you’ll be ready to hit the stage. Is it perfect? Of course not – but it’s a great general purpose amp for under $1,000 that can fit a wide range of needs.