The Fender Hot Rod Pro Junior III Review
The Fender Hot Rod Pro Junior III is a beginner amp in the same way that the Fender Stratocaster is a beginner guitar. It is substantially more expensive than the lower end competitors. Rather than trying to slash costs to the bare minimum, Fender produces a good quality, professional level amp that saves money by not adding any fancy extra features or an overly decorative appearance. The Hot Rod Pro Junior III is a simple tube amp that delivers a good tone. Not surprising considering its name or Fender’s reputation, the Pro Junior III is best suited for producing rock guitar tones. The way the overdrive control works limits the ability to produce a loud, completely clear tone or to produce overly distorted tones.
The initial cost is much, much higher. However, unlike the solid state amps beginners traditionally go for, the Hot Rod Pro Junior III is a professional level amp. It can even, to some extent, be used as a performance amp. Guitarists that have aspirations of playing live are going to save money in the long run by going for an entry-level professional amp rather than going for a cheaper beginner amp and then needing to buy a better amp later. The Hot Rod Pro Junior III requires more thought than most beginner amps, since it is a larger investment, but it is most likely going to last longer for most guitarists, as opposed to a solid state amp that eventually is going to be replaced by most guitarists by a better sounding amp as they get better at playing.
The Fender Hot Rod Pro Junior III is very light on features. It is a 15-watt tube amp with a ten inch speaker. The Pro Junior III has a volume control, which also controls the level of overdrive. The only other control is a single tone control. Unlike most amps, the tone control is not broken down into separate bass, mid, and treble controls. The Hot Rod Pro Junior III is just a straight forward amp designed to produce a good tone.
Tone is the stand out feature of the Fender Hot Rod Pro Junior III. It has a good sound, both clean and overdriven. The tone control does give it a little bit of range, but overall, it does not have a huge impact on the tone. The Pro Junior III delivers the tube overdrive tone that virtually no solid state amps can deliver on. For the most part, the Pro Junior III delivers a good tone that most guitarists should find appealing. There isn’t much room to tinker with it outside using effects, but the Pro Junior III does well just on its own. Due to the volume and overdrive being linked, the Pro Junior III is usually going to have some overdrive at usable volumes. The amount is going to vary, but the tone is usually going to be in line with the ones used by many classic rock artists, which is hardly surprising given Fender’s association with many of these musicians.
Ease of Use
Since the Hot Rod Pro Junior III has little in the way of features, it is a very easy to control amp. The one hang up is the volume control also handles overdrive. Back before overdrive became a feature built into amps, guitarists used to get this tone by turning the volume up on an amp until the signal started to get fuzzy. It is a traditional and easy to use way of controlling overdrive. However, the downside of this setup is that the tone of the amp is heavily tied to the volume. Overall, this should not be a huge or even noticeable issue for most beginners. It is just a slight annoyance for guitarists that want to perform using a cleaner guitar tone.
The build quality of the Hot Rod Pro Junior III is solid. Everything is properly secured and solidly built. It is a tube amp, so it can’t withstand the jostling a solid state amp can, but this is not a build issue. It is unlikely that Pro Junior III issues are going to encounter any issues due to poor build quality.
The Fender Hot Rod Pro Junior III is far more expensive than most conventional beginner amps. However, it is also much cheaper than most professional level amps, but it is a good enough amp to be used in more professional applications. So, the value is somewhat subjective. If a beginner is just looking for an amp so they can hear their guitar, the extra cost of the Pro Junior III. However, the quality, tone, and longevity of the Hot Rod Pro Junior III is going to allow it to be a solid amp for much longer than most other beginner amps. In the long run, the Pro Junior III can end up costing less than buying a cheaper amp and then needing to upgrade to a better one later, but it is noticeably more expensive in the short run.
The Fender Hot Rod Pro Junior III is a more traditional beginner amp for someone that has professional aspirations. It is a good, simple amp that produces a very good tone and it has enough power for smaller venues, practicing with other musicians, and recording. It is much more expensive than most beginner amp options, but the potential longevity compared to most beginner amps can eventually negate the higher upfront costs.
Beginners that are serious about eventually recording and performing should strongly consider leaping to this entry-level professional quality amp rather than starting with less expensive, but lower quality beginner amps. However, since the volume and overdrive controls are linked, limited the overall tone options, the Pro Junior III is best suited for producing more rock style tones. However, this tone is usable in many styles of music, not just rock. Only guitarists playing in styles with very distinct or unusual guitar tones are likely going to shy away from this amp.