Seeing the name Fender on something doesn’t always mean that it is going to be good, but usually, it does. So. let us introduce you to our Fender Rumble 40 review of their Bass Combo. A copy of what has gone before or something new? Let’s first look at a bit of the Fender amplifier history…
The first-ever Fender Rumble was a tube amp. Loud, and Fender’s attempt at competing with the ‘big stuff’ It was only produced from 1995-98. The Rumble series of solid-state amps commenced in 2003.
Back in the days before CBS arrived, Fender guitars were exquisite instruments, still highly sought after today, and the amps were equally exceptional. If you were a bass guitarist and lucky enough to have had access to a Fender Bassman and played it through the ‘piggyback,’ then you will know what we mean. Given to us in 1951, it was designed purely for the Fender Precision.
You could argue that it was the first Bass amp built for a Bass guitar. Have you ever played a Precision through a Bassman?
It was a quality amp and was a cut above everything else. At the time, the guitar amps were good as well. The Fender Twin still sought after, but that arrived a few years later. But it is not the case in today’s world. Times have changed.
Don’t misunderstand what we mean. Fender still produces quality in just about every area they are involved with. But they had an elevated opinion of themselves in the early 60s. An opinion that in the world of the amplifier was rather rudely shattered in West London.
The sounds of the amps were still good and in some cases, great, but there was a harsh reality. They just weren’t loud enough. Marshall was, so were HiWatt and even more so Orange.
Fender fell behind, and in terms of big venues and big bands, it was over for them. Marshall became the King, took over, and never lost the crown.
Fender, though, maintained their position as having superb sounding studio and small venue amps. They are still sought after and still popular and rightly so. Now though, they are content to produce bass amps to cover a range of budgets. And they have one thing that draws customers time and again — that Fender logo.
The Rumble series has been produced for bass guitarists more likely in the early stages of their careers. It has also been given a name that says the Fender marketing team ran out of ideas for names. It is a neat and tidy amp with nothing particularly special. Beginners and Intermediate players will benefit the most from it.
They might be used by pros but maybe only at home for practice or in-home studios. They could also be used as a back-up rehearsal amp.
It is compact and lightweight, which makes it portable. This makes it ideal for the small venue or jazz bar for stage work but nothing much larger. It has nice tones and some interesting extra features though it could not be called a modeling amp.
The design is really just a box with a speaker inside, so it is possibly a little uninspiring. More on this later. It does though carry the Fender badge, but is that enough?
Let’s take a closer look at the Fender Rumble 40…
Going back in time, Fender had some iconic designs for combos and cabinets. They were attractive, even in some cases quite exciting. When a guitar player sitting in for the night got out his ‘Twin,” it looked good.
We mentioned earlier about this design, really being just a box with a speaker. It is a bit like that. Bass amps have got to be well-made and quite rugged. Even if they aren’t being carried around much, the cabinet still needs strength in its construction.
When you look at all bass cabinets, there doesn’t seem much to them. A plywood box, usually, with a speaker and some wires. It is, though, a bit more than that, and what you often pay for is the design which has got to be made to work. Some are sealed enclosures, and some are vented, which is sometimes called ported. This is where air can get in and out. It is going to take a lot of low-frequency vibrations. It has to be built well.
Fender does not have problems with manufacturing enclosures for bass. They have been doing it for a long time. This cabinet is tough and well-built. It is quite compact, being only 12 x 16.5 x 16.5 inches and, therefore, easy to move around if necessary, and it is also lightweight at 18 pounds. The design is a ported enclosure, and it has a removable front grille.
It has been given that traditional Fender look with a silvery mesh grille and the black vinyl covering. To add to its rugged design, it has chrome corner plates. It is made in China, and if you were basing your opinion on the quality of the build, you would never know. It might be a box with a speaker in it. But it is a well-made box with a speaker in it.
Just like the vast majority of amps, the control knobs are plastic. Let’s just stop here for a moment. I wonder if the person who said let’s call it a ‘Rumble’ is the same person who chose the control knobs? What happened to those iconic black knobs with silver centers that helped define the Fender style. These are, well, just cheap and nasty.
This is where we start to get realistic about the usage options of this amp. It has a 10” speaker specially designed for the cabinet by Fender. Good choice. They know what they want, so why not design and build it yourselves. It has a power rating of 40 watts.
It is a small speaker, but that is fine because it is only taking 40 watts of power. The sound we will discuss later. But let’s not pretend it is going to be loud enough for a gigging bass player. It isn’t unless it is a very small venue. In that respect, it is an odd little amp. It isn’t loud enough for any reasonable size live gig but probably a bit loud for playing at home.
We have made our comments about the control knob construction, so we will not be returning to that. There are some interesting features with the controls, though. The basics are all there. Master, Level, and Gain with Treble and Bass. There is also a High-mid and Low-mid and Drive feature. This acts a little bit like a basic EQ.
It also has an overdrive circuit that has a manual control ( there is an optional footswitch, not included). Guitar amps often have separate channels for clean and overdrive sounds. With the Fender Rumble 40, it isn’t a channel; it is something you engage or disengage.
The overdrive controls and those for volume are slightly confusing. There is a Master that handles the overall volume and the level of gain by a Gain control. But then you have this overdrive facility that is controlled by the controls for level and drive. It takes a bit of time to get used to what is doing what to what.
It is also a little hard to appreciate exactly what the overdrive is for. Is it supposed to be an onboard fuzz? If so, it doesn’t really come off, and just adds a little distortion. It doesn’t really perform like an overdriven bass sound as a fuzz effect does.
The Fender Rumble 40 has a sound voicing option with three choices. This is a good idea and elevates the performance of this amp somewhat. The three choices are Contour, and this varies the mid-range sounds, Bright for giving a boost to the top end. Finally our favorite, Vintage. No need for any descriptions as to what that might do. But just to mention, it provides a warmer, valve-like sound. Back we go to the Bassman.
It is fitted with a ⅛” headphone output, and when in use, it mutes the sound from the speakers. There is also a ⅛” Auxillary input for an MP3 player or your other devices. Even maybe a drum machine, which is great practice for a bass guitarist. There is also an XLR line out.
Not a lot to get excited about for some people, but in our opinion, the basics are there.
What Does It Sound Like?
So, the important bit, the sound it produces. As a starter amp, it is very good indeed. At a reasonable volume level, it is great for practice. It also has just enough onboard to give you a few sound shaping options. The depth is good without being overpowering, but it starts to struggle as the volume increases. It is a 10” speaker for a bass, after all.
It has a typical Fender high-end clarity that is sharp and defined — one of the plus points that Fender valve bass amps provided.
Therefore, it has got some real sound potential for studio use, especially if you engage the ‘Vintage’ control option. The other two options within the voicing options, in our opinion, are not so effective. The Contour setting clouds the mids, and the Bright is just adding to a sound that is already quite treble-packed.
Does your bass need an upgrade to go with your new Rumble 40? If so, be sure to check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bass Guitars, the Best 5 String Bass Guitars, and the Best Acoustic Bass Guitars.
It might be worth taking a look at our reviews of the Best Bass Distortion Pedals as well, to give you the fuzzy, distorted tone you’re after, which sadly, the Rumble 40 doesn’t seem to be able to provide.
Fender Rumble 40 Pros & Cons
- Legendary Amplifier manufacturer heritage.
- Good sounds on the whole.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Solid, well-built construction.
- Superb ‘Vintage’ setting.
- Plenty of connectivity.
- The plastic knobs are terrible but are easily and cheaply replaced.
- Not exactly loud at 40 watts, which limits how it can be used.
- Some confusing controls and overdrive circuit that doesn’t add much to the sound.
It has got a few features on board to make it useful and appeal to beginners and improvers. Although, we hardly think that working bass guitarists or pros will be particularly excited about it. It does do well as a practice amp and for use in a studio setup, will provide a good sound. As an amp for small venues, it will also work, and if this was what was on Fender’s mind, then all well and good.
But let’s not talk about punchy sounds and great volume. It won’t and doesn’t, and we are sure it wasn’t designed for that. There are more powerful versions of this amp to handle that situation. At a moderate level, it is a great little amp for practice, for a studio and even for smaller venues, but that is it. But that is enough we feel, and at the price point, it offers a great buy.
Undertaking this Fender Rumble 40 Review has been interesting. It has a quality build with good materials as you would expect from a Fender product. And it has been good to see what they are producing for bass guitarists. When you buy it, though, get a set of original Fender black and silver control knobs to replace these horrible white things.
The Fender Rumble 40 is a good little amp and a great buy as long as it is used in the right way. At the end of the day, it is a Fender. That means it is going to be good.