#TweedTone: Is The Tech 21 NYC SansAmp Blonde A Good Alternative To A Real Tweed Deluxe Amp?

I’m lucky enough to own a physical Tweed Deluxe amp. I also think that a Tweed Deluxe amp rig for home use has become so expensive in 2023, it’s difficult to justify. So I’ve started looking at alternatives, to see how they compare to the real thing.

The Tech 21 NYC’s SansAmp Blonde on my pedalboard

This time around, I’m looking at Tech 21 NYC’s SansAmp Blonde pedal.

Table of Contents


The Tech 21 NYC SansAmp Blonde is an all-analogue amp and speaker simulation pedal. It chases blackface and silver Fender amp tones (which I have not looked at in this blog post), as well as 5F6 Bassman tones.

On my unit, I can’t switch off the speaker simulation at all. That means I can’t use it with my choice of impulse responses. So I run it directly into my audio interface. This makes it one of the easiest pedals to wire in for home or recording use (along with the UAFX Woodrow).

This pedal doesn’t try to emulate the controls of any real tweed amp. It chases tones, not amp behaviour.

I couldn’t get any 5e3 tones out of the pedal. If you’re specifically looking for the Tweed Deluxe sound, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

I did get a good tweed tone out of the pedal. I was very impressed with the tone, especially considering that this is an all-analogue pedal. So much so, I’m going to use the SansAmp Blonde as a control when I look at other tweed tone pedals for this series of articles.

Unfortunately, I struggled to get more than one tone that I liked out of the pedal. Perhaps because this is my very first time using one?

What Is The Tech 21 NYC SansAmp Blonde?

The SansAmp Blonde is an all-analogue amp and speaker simulation pedal from Tech 21 NYC. It chases blackface and silverface Fender amp tones, as well as the tweed tones that I’m interested in.

There’s a whole range of these SansAmp pedals. Each one features a Character control and all-analogue speaker emulation that adapts the underlying SansAmp to sound like a different style of amp. On earlier models, the speaker emulation is always on: there is no way to switch it off.

As far as I can tell, the Character series of SansAmp was discontinued back in 2018. It’s certainly not part of Tech 21 NYC’s currently listed series of products on their website at the time of writing.

Which Version Of The SansAmp Blonde Do You Have?

I believe I have the original (v1) version of the SansAmp Blonde. Later versions included a switch to bypass the analogue speaker emulation; my pedal does not have that switch.

What Do I Need To Use It?

One of the great things about the SansAmp Blonde is that you just need the pedal itself and a regular pedal power supply.

The pedal itself is both the amp simulator and the speaker cab simulator. You simply run the pedal into your DAW of choice, and you’re done.

My Rig Today

My signal chain is:

  • Squier 50s Esquire with Seymour Duncan Antiquity bridge pickup (aka The Squirrel)
  • into the input of the SansAmp Blonde
  • into Input 3 of my Apollo x6 interface
  • into the EP-34 tape delay plugin
  • into the Precision Reflection Engine plugin (setup for spring reverb)

and into my DAW.

(This is basically the same setup that I’ve been using for the recent #TweedTone comparison posts.)

Not A Like-For-Like Amp Emulation

The SansAmp Blonde doesn’t attempt to mimic the controls on a tweed amp. There are no separate NORM and INST channels on the pedal, and therefore no emulation of how the two channels interact.

I ended up thinking of the SansAmp Blonde as a pedal that can give me tweed tones, rather than approaching it as a tweed amp.

How Does It Sound?

I’ve dialled in a rhythm tone that suits the bridge pickup on my Squier Esquire:

  • MIDS at around 10:30
  • Character up past 2 o’clock
  • Drive just below 11 o’clock
  • LOWS at around noon
  • HIGHS at around 3 o’clock

And this is how it sounds:

Squier Esquire > Tech 21 NYC SansAmp Blonde > DAW

For comparison, here’s the rhythm tone I’d normally dial in on my real Tweed Deluxe amp:

Telecaster > Tweed Deluxe Amp > PS-100 > Axe-FX 3 > DAW

It’s immediately clear that the Tech 21 NYC SansAmp Blonde doesn’t sound like my Tweed Deluxe amp.

And nor should it. According to the Owner’s Manual, the SansAmp Blonde is chasing a 5F6 Bassman not a 5e3 Tweed Deluxe. That’s not a bad thing at all. Despite all the hype, I do think the 5e3 sound isn’t as mainstream as the sound of a roaring 5F6 Bassman amp.

Setting that aside, I am very impressed with the tweed tone that I got out of my SansAmp Blonde. Remember, it’s providing the whole tone: amp and speaker. How many products today ship with a usable analogue speaker emulation? This pedal was released back in 2008!

I’m very happy with this tweed tone.

Are There Other Tones In The SansAmp Blonde?

I struggled to get any other tweed tones out of the SansAmp Blonde. In fact, I struggled with the SansAmp Blonde the entire time.

On the second-hand unit that I have, the controls seem to be very interactive with each other. Small changes to the controls brought big changes to both the tone and the volume level. In particular:

  • Reducing the Drive also took away both volume and top-end.
  • Turning the MIDS control up to noon and beyond produced a huge mid-boost that overloaded my audio interface.

In the end, I couldn’t tease a cleaner tone that I liked out of the SansAmp Blonde in the time that I set aside for this article. All my attempts sounded very anaemic.

It doesn’t mean that they’re not in there. I just couldn’t find them myself.

Which Do You Prefer?

I’m not sure that’s a fair question. At the end of the day, this is more of an apples-to-oranges comparison, because they’re delivering different types of tweed tone.

For the 5e3 thing, the SansAmp Blonde can’t replace a real Tweed Deluxe amp. And to be fair, it’s not trying to. If you specifically want the 5e3 sound or experience, you need to look elsewhere.

But if you’re after a good sounding tweed tone for home recording (or as a backup to your main amp at a gig, perhaps?) then the SansAmp Blonde clearly delivers.

How Do The Prices Compare?

The Tech 21 NYC SansAmp Blonde is only available on the second-hand market at the time of writing. Not many come up for sale, making pricing quite volatile. I think you should be able to pick one up for around £200 if you’re not patient.

If you are willing to wait, I have seen the odd example get listed for much lower asking prices. That’s how I got mine 🙂

In comparison, I priced up a Fender Tweed Deluxe reissue + attenuator for home use at over £3500. You do get a lot more for the money, for sure, as well as a very different sound.

Final Thoughts

Although I bought the SansAmp Blonde two and a half years ago, this is my very first time trying to use it. I think that’s reflected in how I struggled to find a range of tones in the pedal.

I’m really happy with the tone that I was able to capture in the demo. I can’t believe that’s coming from an all-analogue solution. Many all-analogue speaker emulations disappoint. The one built into the SansAmp Blonde did not.

As I start to explore more conventional tweed-tone drive pedals in this series, I’m going to include the SansAmp Blonde as the control to compare other pedals against.

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