Anyone who has ever owned and or used a Fender amp will know what we mean…
…there is just something about them!
It isn’t just the super clean sounds or the classic design that has hardly changed over the years. It’s something else that is hard to define precisely. I suppose when you look at this amp it just says Fender and that is often enough.
I remember when we saved our money for what seemed like years and as band members growing up bought a Twin Reverb and a Bassman- an original beige model. We weren’t disappointed. They had a recognizable sound that was better than the other choices we had.
But then along came the ‘King of Loud’ in his little shop in West London. Urged on by Townshend, Page, Beck, and Blackmore – Marshall took the headlines, the business, and the music world by storm.
HiWatt, also in London, and previously known as Sound City, followed. And the music scene for those making a lot of noise became focused on what the Brits were producing.
Nothing much has changed today. Marshall is still the big player, although Dave’s untimely accidental death reduced HiWatt’s influence from what was always going to be a big challenge to Big Jim. A look at the Who Live at Leeds album cover with its wall to wall of HiWatt amps will tell you that.
As for us, one member refused to get rid of his Twin Reverb and as things got louder, he mic’ed it up, and after some US gigs, the bass player went Ampeg for a while. In the end, of course, there was nowhere to go, and as the venues got bigger, the Marshall stacks arrived.
The volume took over but how can you ever forget that sound of the Fender amp. It was special and still is.
Today they are still producing great sounding amps so let’s see what Fender gives the market and the guitar player with this review of the Fender Champion 40.
It is made in China as some of Fender’s products are these days. That should not be negative. We have seen some very poor manufacturing efforts come out of both western and eastern factories and you can only judge the product on the product itself.
The amp itself is quite lightweight weighing just 35 pounds. It is constructed from seven-ply three quarter inch medium density fiberboard with an angled front panel.
The fibreboard surrounding the speaker is strong and stable. The significant thing about this is that the dimensions of the wood surrounding the speaker fitting has not been reduced to save weight as is sometimes the case with some manufacturers.
Start chasing you around the stage…
If this area of the fitting is not secure, then speaker movement inside the cabinet will gradually cause damage. This will either affect the sound, cause internal movement of the speaker or at worst the speaker will become detached from its fitting and start chasing you around the stage. Not the ideal scenario, even if you happen to be in Spinal Tap.
The classic Fender amp look is maintained with its instantly recognizable black and silver grille cloth and black vinyl body shell. Metal corner protectors are included where the cabinet sits on the ground. And, there is a carry handle with nickel plated caps.
Likewise, the control panel is black with the familiar plastic control knobs with silver centers. It looks familiar, and it is supposed to.
It is well made and sturdy, and it is going to survive the rigors of travel.
It has one 12 inch Fender special design speaker rated at 8 ohms. The rating of the amp is only 40w, so a 12-inch speaker is going to handle that output without a problem. In fact, this special design speaker will handle a lot more than its rated 40w.
The amp has two channels and a single input. One channel is a clean amp and the other for an amplifier voice which is selectable.
The basic controls include a volume for channel 1 and Volume, Gain, and Voice controls on channel 2. There are also treble and bass controls and FX level, FX select and TAP. These are the basic controls, but there are more that control the onboard effects.
This model comes equipped with a variety of built-in effects to color the sound. These include Reverb, Delay, Chorus and Tremolo all of which are controllable from the amp itself. The relative quality of these effects is quite surprising.
They are of good quality. And while they may not replicate the sounds of expensive individual pedals, they do a good job and provide some basic options.
Amplifier Modeling Effects
With the manufacture of today’s amplifiers, what is referred to as ‘amp modeling’ has become popular. Essentially this is a digital way of recreating the sounds of certain iconic amplifiers from the past.
These might even be some of the tube amps from the 60s or original Fender models.
The Fender Champion includes this option and even brings the possibilities right up to date allowing the creation of ‘metal’ sound-alikes.
It must be remembered though that these are digital recreations and not exact replicas. They are an interesting inclusion but not the reason you would buy this amplifier.
For your practice at home, there is a headphone output jack socket which will mute the speaker output. And, an auxiliary input for an mp3 player or your smartphone so you can play along with pre-recorded music.
One great design plus going back to the ‘old days’ is that this is an open back design amplifier. This allows storage room for cables, tuners, etc. within the body of the amp.
It comes with a footswitch which allows its functions to be controlled easily.
If you were considering using this amp for bass, then this would be a reason to look elsewhere. Open back amps do not lend themselves to being great sounding bass amps at any volume. A bit more on that later.
As if all this wasn’t enough you are supplied with a guitar lead, plectrum and cleaning cloth.
But, What Does It Sound Like?
So, we have discovered that it is well made from good materials. It has a single powerful speaker and a few onboard effects, and of course, there is the amp modeling to play with. Most of all though it looks like a Fender.
Down To The Nitty-Gritty, What Does It Sound Like?
For a 40w amp, this packs a real punch. There will not be complaints about it not being loud enough. Small halls, even medium size venues it will be easily handled, but it is still small enough to use at home.
The sound is crystal clear before you begin to experiment with the various sound options. And the tone controls on the amp offer a good selection of sounds.
It Is Quite Simply A Very Good Amplifier In All Respects…
We played a Strat through it and with very little adjustment of the sound from the guitar the Fender Champion 40 went through a range of sound possibilities.
You would have to say that the effects like the reverb, the chorus, and the delay are there to assist rather than take center stage, but the amp modeling is a good option and opens up a whole area of sound production.
It Can Bite Back A Bit…
The stunning thing is that this ‘little’ amp will be considered by some just a practice amp. But, it is far more than that. It has drive and color and a decent amount of volume, and as you push it up the scale, it can bite back a bit too.
Yes, you can practice at home with it, but if you never take it out, you will not realize the full potential of this 40w box of dynamite.
And, it’s certainly got the potential to be a front line amp, providing you’re not talking about playing at Woodstock.
Definitely. It is a great amplifier, clean and crisp but with sound options on board that give a whole variety of choices. It excels in so many ways that we were struggling to find anything negative to say about it at all to add a bit of balance.
The only thing we could find is that when it is turned off, there is a loud pop. That won’t do the speaker much good over a period of time. Even that issue though might be unfounded as the volume was still up so turning the volume down before turning it off may well solve that problem as it often does.
A Great Sound…
It is well made, is tough enough but light enough to make transporting it easy, and it has a whole load of onboard functions and effects and has a great sound.
It is, however, essentially a guitar amp. Apart from the low frequencies of a bass playing havoc with a solitary 12-inch speaker, even a very good one, it is not designed to handle bass at any volume. Keyboards might be an option, but it is basically a 100% guitar amp.
Oh, And One Last Thing, It Is A Fender…
They might not be the loudest things out there today but they can still sound very sweet indeed, and this amp does precisely that. The Fender Champion 40. A great buy.
Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials.
He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what is what most producers still want from him.
He is a devout gear hear and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".