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Hands-On Review: Fender Bronco 40 Bass Combo Amp

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Aside from cool modeling and tone tweaking tools, the little Bronco is an ideal bass box for studio or practice.

By Russ Kent

Fender has a long history of crafting bass amps that improve upon the amp’s main function. So it’s not surprising that the company continues to expand the boundaries of the ideal bass amp with the best modern conveniences and sonic tools. A prime example is the Bronco 40, which not only offers every convenience a 21st century bassist could wish for in a small club or practice amp, but also boasts a full set of digital interface capabilities that let you add sounds at will and makes the Bronco perfect for the recording studio.

Bronco 40 Bass Amp

Beyond basic

The Bronco 40 is a compact bass amp with a closed-back, solid state design and one input. It drives one 10" speaker with 40 watts and provides basic Master Volume, Bass, Mid, and Treble controls. But the similarities to traditional bass amps end there, because the Bronco 40 is a full-featured modeling amp that offers 24 onboard presets, multiple effects, and Fender FUSE software for editing and storing unlimited presets in your computer by way of the amp’s built-in USB port.

You also get versions of Ableton Live Lite and Amplitube (Fender SE) that interface with the Bronco for multitrack recording and increased effects options, respectively. The amp features an Aux In jack, designed for connecting a music player and playing along, and a headphone jack for practicing in private. There’s also an XLR output on the rear panel for connecting to a mixing console, plus an input for a footswitch (sold separately) that lets you choose one of two “quick access” presets.

Bronco 40 Bass Amp Controls

The amp’s controls are laid out to allow quick access to the multiple effects and models. The main preset knob cycles through 24 combinations of amp model, compression and digital effects as you rotate it clockwise. Using the Save button above the Preset knob, you can modify and store any of the presets at its current location. The tone and gain controls are programmable too, and are inactive until you rotate one to modify a preset. The Master Volume control is not programmable, and its setting is always visually accurate.

The built-in digital compressor—a vital effect for many percussive styles like pop ’n’ slap is conveniently accessible with its own knob and also is programmable. The Compressor has settings labeled Off, Low, Medium, High, and Ultra with three levels of compression at each position. The FX knob also accesses three effects at each position (A through D). These include a nice mix of Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Envelope Filter, Octaver, Reverb and Delay. (These can also be tweaked when you connect to the FUSE software.) A Tap button above the FX knob handles delay repeats, and a trio of colored LEDs above the Compression knob indicates both compression level and the specific effect chosen. The variety of effects and tones make this amp appealing to guitarists who like to play through bass amps (like jazz players).

Bottom to top

Besides its obvious functionality as an advanced amp and studio tool, the Bronco 40 has the essentials right, making its bells and whistles even more attractive. I plugged in a ’90s Precision-style bass with no effects active, and played through the amp’s basic models, like the ’59 Bassman and Bassman TV, playing finger-style and jazz, classic rock bass with a pick, and thumb-slap and finger-pop funk. I loved how well the models captured the great, mellow vibe of Fender’s classic tube amps. The tone was round but clear, without the harshness you sometimes get from solid-state amps.

As good as the Bronco sounds for traditional bass, its effects and interfacing capabilities knock it out of the park. I switched to a Jazz-style bass and was dialing up a chorus for early G&R and Nirvana-style patterns, mixing in distortion for Rage riffs, and popping in the Octaver for deep-growl solos that shook my room. Being able to import new Fender presets directly from my computer to the Bronco really bumped up the “cool” quotient. This is a super fun and functional bass amp for jamming or recording.

Bucking tradition

The Bronco 40 bass amp is an amazingly cool and full-featured bass amp. It can be the cornerstone of your rig, handling all styles of bass as well as interfacing with your computer for new sounds and recording. It’s a fine (and silent) practice amp, and it’s a more-than-capable performer for small club gigs. With the XLR output, it can serve larger venues as well. Most of all, it gives you the versatility and modern tools to take your bass off the ranch and into the studio. Saddle up and give this Bronco a ride.

Features & Specs

  • Software modeling amp
  • 40W
  • 1/8" stereo input jack
  • 1/8" stereo headphone output jack
  • Line out: USB, XLR
  • One channel (24 Presets)
  • 40W power handling
  • Models: Rumble™, ’59 Bassman®, Bassman® TV™, Bassman® 300, Redhead™, Rockin’ Peg, KGB800, Monster
  • Onboard Effects: Bass Overdrive, Overdrive, Fuzz, Greenbox, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Vibratone, Envelope Control Filter, Octave, Step Filter, Delay, and Reverb
  • 10" Fender® Special Design speaker
  • 18"W x 15.25"H x 11.25"D
  • 30 lb.

Tags: Amplifiers Electric Bass Fender Speakers Harmony Central

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