The Fender Champion 100 is the flagship product of their recent Champion line of guitar amplifiers. It pumps 100 watts of solid-state power into two 12-inch Fender Special Design speakers. While two selectable channels give you a choice of either a basic clean Fender tube sound or different amp models with a master gain control and more detailed sound sculpting controls.
Both channels provide a variety of excellent digital effects, including reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, and more. Auxiliary and power amp inputs and headphone and preamp outputs make the Champion 100 a versatile amp for the stage, studio or practice room.
Fender Musical Instruments began making guitar amplifiers in 1946 and soon became the standard all other manufacturers tried to match. The Fender Champion 100 has the look and feel of a 1960s classic “blackface” amp but weighs just 40 pounds. It includes Fender’s 5-year transferable warranty. An included 2-button footswitch lets you switch channels and turn the built-in effects on or off.
Fender has also released the Champion 100XL, with some enhanced features.
So, let’s take a closer look at them and find out if they could be the perfect amp for you…
The Fender Champion 100 recalls the iconic Fender blackface amps of the 1960s. It’s constructed from 3/4-inch MDF and covered in the same black Tolex vinyl. With a silver grille cloth and vintage black skirted control knobs, it definitely projects an old-school vibe.
Physically, the Champion 100 is almost exactly the same size as the tube model it most resembles, the venerable Twin Reverb. It’s 19 x 26 x 10.25 inches, but weighs only 40 pounds, compared to the Twin’s 64 pounds. The difference is due primarily to a lighter amplifier without bulky transformers and a heavy chassis to support them. Also, the Champion’s speaker magnets are smaller.
The interface is simple, with just a single row of knobs, buttons, and input and output jacks. There are no LCD screens or confusing menus to dig through.
Channel one gives you a classic clean tone based on Fender Blackface amps like the Twin Reverb. It has Bass and Treble tone controls and an FX Select rotary switch to choose an effect or combination.
Channel two adds several tone-shaping options. First, you can select the amplifier model you want. In addition, a Gain control lets you adjust how much you overdrive the preamp to get just the right amount of tube-style distortion. Finally, the Bass, Mid, and Treble controls let you further sculpt your tone.
To select channel one or two, either press the front-panel Ch Select button or press the left button switch on the included footswitch.
The Champion 100 has a variety of built-in digital effects. Each channel has a rotary switch to select among 16 combinations of various effects. You can press the right footswitch button to turn effects on or off.
Available Champion 100 effects include reverb (room, hall or spring), auto-wah, long or slapback delay, flange, chorus, vibratone, and tremolo. Some switch settings select combinations of two effects: reverb + delay, chorus + delay, and chorus + reverb.
You can sync the delay time or modulation rate to the tempo of your playing by pressing the appropriate Tap Tempo button next to the FX Select knob a few times. The effect speed can be set individually for each channel. Unfortunately, you can’t use the included footswitch to set the tempo. The FX Level control adjusts the mix of the dry and processed signal.
Of course, you can also use your own pedals, either between your guitar and the amp input or in the Champion 100’s effects loop.
The Champion 100 provides accurate models of 16 amplifier types. These include Fender’s tweed Champ, Deluxe and Bassman, and ’65 blackface Princeton, Deluxe and Twin models, plus an acoustically flat “Jazzmaster solid-state clean” sound.
Also included are “British” amps from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, plus some modern metal sounds. They’re all quickly available via the rotary Voice switch on the front panel.
The Fender Champion 100 is equipped with two heavy-duty 12-inch, 16-ohm speakers. They’re marked as “Musical Instrument Loudspeaker specially designed for Fender.” Some claim they’re an Eminence model, but there’s no indication on the speaker. The magnets seem heavy enough, and the sound is good.
Of course, you can always upgrade the speakers if you want. What you can’t do is plug in an external speaker cabinet, because no Speaker output is provided.
In & Out
With the Champion 100, you get several important input and output options. Everything is conveniently located on the front panel.
Of primary importance for most guitarists is the effects loop, labeled Pre Out and Pwr In. You can connect your favorite pedals here, after the preamp gain stages. The Pre Out also doubles as a direct output connection for connecting to your DAW interface or other destination.
The 1/8-inch Aux input lets you play along with your media player or other external audio source. And a 1/8-inch headphone output allows you to play in silence.
Fender has obviously worked hard to capture the essential character of several iconic guitar amplifier designs, especially their own. For the most part, their effort has been very successful.
The clean channel of the Champion 100 really sounds like a 60’s Fender amp, such as a Twin or Deluxe Reverb, with plenty of headroom. The tone controls respond the way they should. With just a touch of reverb, it’s a very convincing emulation of a tube circuit.
The only time the illusion breaks down is if you crank the volume to 9 or 10. It doesn’t break up quite the same way a real tube amp would. So use this channel for a clean sound and switch channels for distortion.
Channel 2 gives you the sounds of many of Fender’s most famous designs: 1957 Deluxe and ’59 Bassman tweeds, and 1965 Princeton, Deluxe and Twin blackface amps. You get both clean and overdriven models, with varying amounts of overdriven crunch. One Twin model includes compression. You can use the Gain control to make these voices even grittier, although they sound pretty amazing even without it.
The Champion 100 also includes several “British” (presumably Marshall and Vox) amp models, most with a good helping of distortion. To this reviewer’s ears, these sound slightly less authentic than the Fenders, although still very good. Your experience could be different.
In addition, the Champion 100 has a few “High-Gain” models for serious metal players. If this is your style, you’ll probably find at least one voice that gives you the tone you want.
Finally, the “Jazzmaster” model yields a very flat and clean sound. This is a great setting if you want a neutral sound to use with your pedals, but also the Gain and Mid controls available on channel 2.
As for the effects: The reverb is outstanding. Fender seems to have put a lot of time into recreating the response and tone of their famous spring reverbs. The other onboard effects all sound very good to excellent. Nothing is unusable. But you’ll might prefer to use your pedals much of the time to get exactly the sound you want, and keep the amp FX control on a reverb or reverb + delay setting.
The Fender Special Design speakers seem well matched to the amp. However, some owners have swapped them out for Celestion or Jensen speakers and reported an overall improvement in the sound, though not dramatically so.
Of course, any listening test is extremely subjective. But on the whole, we are more than satisfied with the sound for the price.
Fender also makes a Champion 100XL model. It’s essentially the same design, but with a few enhancements and a slightly higher price tag.
Probably the most significant difference is the 100XL’s “specially voiced” Celestion Midnight 60 speakers in place of the anonymous Fender Special Design models. This is a special model developed by Celestion for Fender, Marshall, and others.
The 100XL also has slightly different amp models. The Jazzmaster clean model has been replaced by a high-gain ’90s metal amp with an octavizer effect. Also, in place of one of the tweed Deluxe models is a clean ’65 Twin with compression.
Cosmetically, the 100XL has a black grille cloth. The control knobs are also different, resembling black versions of Fender “brownface” knobs from the early ’60s.
Moving away from Fender, you could take a look at our reviews of the Best Guitar Amplifiers under 200 Dollars, the Best Modeling Amps, the Best Portable Guitar Amplifiers, and the Best Mini Amps currently available.
Fender Champion 100 Pros & Cons
- Great amp modeling, especially the Fenders.
- Sweet reverb.
- Excellent price.
- Not much control over effects parameters.
- Speakers could be better.
- No output for external speakers.
The Fender Champion is about as close to the sound of a classic Fender tube amp as you can get, without having to deal with the weight, power consumption, and maintenance issues of an original, let alone the ever-increasing prices they now go for.
As a bonus, you get several British amp and metal sounds with a host of excellent effects. And you’ll save enough money over the cost of a comparable tube amp that you can buy another guitar!