In this Fender Champion 40 review we’ll take a look at Fender’s 40 watt solid-state amp. 40 watts is a bit of an odd power output. We’re used to progressing from 10 or 20 watts straight to 50 watts, especially if we want to start playing live. Is the loss of 10 watts a way to pack in features without inflating the price? We’ll take a look at the Champion 40’s features and see if it’s worth buying.
Background Of Fender Amps
The first Fender amplifiers were built in the late 1940’s, so Fender has a lot of experience in this field. It was with the release of the Tweed series that Fender became established as a manufacturer of amps. Their early solid-state amps included the Dual Showman, Twin Reverb and Bassman models. Throughout the decades Fender has manufactured a variety of solid-state and tube amps, each with a variety of styling and features. The Champion series was first released in 2014.
Overview of The Fender Champion 40
The Champion 40 features an open backed wooden cabinet, which houses a 12 inch speaker delivering 40 watts of power. The amp is styled with the classic silver mesh and black control panel. The amp weighs 8.6kg, so it’s easy to take to band practice and gigs.
The amp features two separate channels, each with it’s own volume control knob. Channel 1 is “manual” mode, where no amp types, or voices, are in operation. This channel only has volume control, but it’s the channel to use if you’re plugging in an effects board. The second channel features 4 different amp styles, which are controlled by the “voice” control knob. Each amp style has 3 distinct sounds, so there are 12 preset styles built into the amp. That’s a nod to modelling amps, even though the Champion 40 is very much solid-state.
12 onboard effects allow you to experiment and fine tune your tone. There’s a “Tap” button too, which enables you to customize the intervals of modulation and delay type effects. An AUX input port allows you to plug in an external player so you can jam along to your favorite songs, or just use the amp as a glorified speaker! You can practice in “silent” mode by plugging a set of headphones into the 1/8 inch headphone jack. Sound is outputted in stereo and you can enjoy all of the features of the amp without disturbing your neighbors. When headphones are plugged in the speaker is muted automatically.
There’s a 1/4 inch jack to enable you to use a footswitch. Unfortunately the footswitch isn’t included with the amp. You can buy a two button footswitch separately, which will allow you to switch channels and toggle effects on and off. Here’s a short overview video to showcase some of the sounds the Champion 40 can produce.
How Does The Fender Champion 40 Work?
The Champion 40 is very simple to use, which makes it great for those who want to upgrade to a stage ready amp without having to worry about getting confused. Plug in your guitar via the 1/4 inch jack, switch on and start playing. Channel 1 gives you pure input, without the use of the in-built amp styles or effects. You can control the tone using the Bass and Treble EQ knobs. There’s a volume control knob for channel 1, but no gain control. You can input your effects rig or multi-effects processor to create dynamic tones when using channel 1.
Channel 2 is selected by pressing the channel select button to the right of the “volume 1” knob. Channel 2 has a gain control knob, so you can fine tune your sound. This enables you to use the 4 in-built “voices”. Broadly speaking they range from clean to high gain metal. Each voice has three sub-styles:
- Tweed 01: Bassman – Emulates the tones of the Fender Bassman amp
- Tweed 02: Deluxe – The classic tones of the Fender Deluxe amp
- Tweed 03: Champ – The sound of the original Fender Champion
- Blackface 04: Fender 65 twin amp
- Blackface 05: 1965 Deluxe amp
- Blackface 06: 1965 Princeton amp
- British 07: The sound of 60’s British rock
- British 08: The amps of 70’s British rock bands
- British 09: 80’s British rock, think Def Leopard
- Metal 10: Super-sonic – ramping up the gain!
- Metal 11: 90’s metal – Metallica anyone?
- Metal 12: 2000’s metal – High gain screaming!
Twist the voice knob to select each mode. There’s a LED to the left of the voice knob, which will change between green, orange and red. For example Blackface 04 would be Blackface voice, green LED. Whilst fine for bedroom practice, I just don’t think it’s practical to adjust these settings on the fly when playing live.
There are also 12 in-built effects:
- Reverb + Chorus
- Reverb Hall
- Reverb Spring
- Chorus Fast Sweep
- Chorus Deep Sweep
- Delay Slapback
- Delay Long
- Delay + Reverb
- Touch Wah
That’s not a bad range of effects, but I noticed the absence of the phaser, which is one of my favorite effects. It does have wah-wah though, so you can channel your internal Jimi! You can control the effects level using the knob to the left of the effects select knob. The tap button is a cool feature. It allows you to define the interval between modulation and delay type effects. So if you press the tap button twice 1 second apart, it’ll set the modulation or delay interval at one second. If you press the tap just button once it’ll automatically set to the maximum interval length. Again it feels impractical to adjust these when playing live and a footswitch doesn’t allow you to switch between effects, only toggle effects on and off.
Fender Champion 40 Pros
The Champion 40 is a decent sounding amp. I like that it’s simple to operate, which is key for someone who is upgrading from a 10 or 20 watt practice amp. Here are the best bits:
- Great price versus performance
- Variety of voices
- Decent range of on-board effects
- Great utility – suitable for home practice and playing small venues
Fender Champion 40 Cons
There are, however, some draw backs. Perhaps I expect too much considering the price point of this amp, but I’d expect a few more features from a modern amp, Here are some of the problems:
- No mid range EQ control
- On-board effects aren’t practical when playing live
- Footswitch has to be purchased separately
- No memory to save custom settings
There’s no doubt that overall you get a lot of value against the price of this amp. 40 watts of power, different amp styles and built in effects for around $180 is a bit of a steal. The simplicity of use is really appealing, especially for those who are upgrading from a 10 or 20 watt practice amp. You’ll be able to use this amp for home practice and for gigging in smaller venues. However if you want to use it live you might hit some practical issues. Altering amp styles and effects is a manual job. Even the separately sold footswitch won’t help you here. It’ll allow you to switch channels, so you could have your tone tweaked up on channel 2 and then run separate effects pedals through channel 1 as a workaround. But I find myself thinking, why would I want to do that?
The omission of the mid range control is another thing that irks me. The in-built amp styles will make up for this, but it’s still annoying when you want to craft your sound in channel 1. There’s also no memory to enable you to save custom settings. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the slightly more expensive amps. We must remember the great ratio of features to price with the Champion 40. I think this is a great amp if you’re on a budget, but if you could spend $100 I’d look at buying the Boss Katana 50. The extra 10 watts of power, the sound, quality of effects and the shear number of features of the Katana make it a far better buy for those who can stretch their budget.
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