First a short disclaimer. This is not my first amp. It should have been. But then I am not sure I could appreciate it’s simplicity and beauty. I’ve started with Blackstar HT1R and while it is a very nice and compact piece of gear I am not sure I appreciated it either.
I “knew” tubes were “better”, but then I didn’t really have any comparison and I mostly used headphones for my practice anyway. Finally I found that I kept looking for the sound of the amp they had in the practice room when I bought my first Epi. That was Fender SuperChamp X2 rated at “whopping” 15W. I knew it was way too much for my living space and I didn’t want to “care” about the tubes (warming up, eventual replacement, etc). So I went on looking for something I could occassionally use, that would sound well and won’t cost me a fortune. While I am a software guy myself, I did NOT want to have yet another toy that I can/need configure for hours and loosing practice time. Just plug and… yes, play! The list of “basic requirements” came down to the following:
- Good clean / slight crunchy sound (think bluesy sounds)
- Basic effects (reverb and possibly delay would do) to make it sound “more interesting”
- Not too big or heavy
- Not too expensive (I shouldn’t be afraid of touching it :))
- 10-15W max to keep it to the reasonable living room level
- No tubes to care about or which require high volume to sound “properly”
- Aux input for backing tracks
- Headphones out for those “silent practice” moments
I already have a good enough audio interface, so having e.g. USB connection was really not necessary.
Well, guess what? Little Champion 20 (here and below links to Amazon, see note) ticks all the boxes! I didn’t really care for e.g. several channels, etc. You do NOT need that for a practice session. You may need it for a gig, but… it takes practice first! And if you really want some instant gain – put a pedal in front. Ready any at moment :).
Anyway, when I saw somebody selling a “slightly” (but actually not) used one for half of the price I knew I had to have it. The guy was really nice, except that apparently he smoked (found that later at home), but some easy treatment reduced the smell to a reasonable (retro bar :)) level. And then plugging a Telecaster in… I lost the feeling for the time. It just sounds good!
Champion 20 is the smallest member of the Champion family with the other ones being 40 , 50 and 100W versions with increasing size and number of options correspondingly. It has 12 (!) amp models, althought the difference between them is mainly the amount of gain. Well, for inexperienced ears this is not too bad, although you don’t want this amp if you’re intended to play heavy stuff! It has Reverb (several), Chorus, Flanger, Delay (several), Wah, Vibrato and Tremolo and some combinations of those (fixed). You can even use tap-tempo for setting some parameters like amount of delay. Selection is a bit tricky as the selector has only basic “type” names “Tweed, Blackface, British, Metal”, the actual ones have to be “guessed” from the change of the color of the corresponding led (3x colors).
The amp has an “open back” design, so placing it “strategically” in a room may achieve much bigger sound due to the air coming also from the back side. This is also make it very practical as you can store the power cable IN the amp for transportation or storage (may you need to do so for a day or two :)).
See the following video for a good review:
All in all you won’t need more to practice on your own, using a backing track or plaing for your friends :). I love it and switch it on any time my family is not being too touchy about having some background noise :). Believe me, it is enough to fill in a reasonable room, you definitely do not need more for (neightbours-friendly) home use! If you’re in Fender sounds – do not overthink it, just get this thing and play it! All bells and whistles, editing software and bluetooth are gimmicks that will cost you your (precious) practice time! With a simple amp like this you have enough knobs to get different sounds, but not too much to be “swallowed” by the number of options or dazzled by the complexity of editing software (which eventually stops working, not being updated, etc). And after all you have control over your pick-up settings to change the sound as well. It helps to limit the number of knobs you can turn in the beginning, that is why I do like the “barebones” telecaster for practicing.
- It gives nice Fender’ish sound, assuming this is what you’re looking for!
- Several basic amp modelling and effects onboard
- “Ticks” all the boxes for a practice amp without breaking the bank! See the long list above
- It is small and very lightweight yet looking like a “real Fender”.
- The crunchy (metal) sound is just a gimmick, it is not made for it. Blackstar Core models may be better suitable.
- Too small for a gig? Well, it is a practice amp!
All you need for practice, staying sane and not cutting down your coffee budget! 🙂
Download a user manual for more details.
Note that I would earn a small commission from qualifying purchases from the links to Amazon above to help running this site.