The Fender Champ through the Years
The Fender Champ has been a staple of recording musicians, bedroom players and just about anyone who loves great tone. There have been a number different models over the years and some are more desirable than others. Most Champs can easily be modded to sound like the more desirable models. In this article I will briefly outline the different models and potential mods. I service and build Champs so I would be happy to modify one to the specs you desire or restore it to it's full glory.
There have many Champ models produced after the models I will discuss but are not considered classics so we will limit it to the vintage models produced from 1948 to 1982.
The Champion 600, Champion 800, and 5C1 Champs (Produced from 1948-1954):
All three of these models used the same circuit. Cosmetically the Champions differ from the 5C1 and the Champion 600 used a six inch speaker with the Champion 800 and 5C1 used an eight inch speaker. All of these Champs used a 6SJ7 pre amp tube rather than the 12AX7. It's a single pentode instead of dual triode. These amp have a nice grind to them but have very little volume. While the rarity of the amp makes it valuable it is not the most playable amp. I've built many of these over the years and pairing them with ten or twelve inch ceramic magnet speaker really helps out. These amp work really well for harp players.
NOTE: There is a flaw in all of these models. The B+ voltage comes off pin 2 of the rectifier rather than pin 8. Correcting this mistake is a good idea. Increasing the filtering and adding a screen resistor are good things to do to improve tone as well.
5E1 Narrow Panel Champ (Produced from 1955 to 1956)
This rare Champ is the similar to the 5F1 Tweed Champ but has a choke in the power section rather than the Pi filter that the 5F1 has. The screen and plate voltage come off the same filter cap which is a design flaw. The tone is similar to the 5F1 but has less punch and volume due to the flawed power section. These will benefit from adding a 1K ohm 2 watt screen resistor and fixing the flaw in the power section.
5F1 Narrow Panel Champ (Produced from 1956-1964)
This is the quintessential Tweed Champ. Great sounding and exactly what you would expect of a Champ. It will benefit from adding a screen resistor but is an amazing little amp.
Check out my version of the 5F1:
Blackface and Silverface Champs and Vibro-Champs (Produced from 1964 to 1982):
These later Champs sound different from the 5F1 and other Tweeds. They all have the addition of Treble and Bass controls. These controls cause quite a bit of signal loss and scoop out mids. The filtering in these amp models is increased giving the amp a slightly stiffer response. For these reasons these Champs have less overdrive but they do have more cleans. These amp have a different cab with a "fixed baffle" rather than the "floating" kind found in Tweed Champs which sounds different. The Vibro-Champ version add a bias varying tremolo (via a second 12AX7) that's really nice. It's smooth, musical, and has a wide range of sounds.
These amps can be made to sound more like a 5F1 by disabling the tone controls and changing the filtering circuit.
Controls: Bass, Treble, Volume---Also Speed and Depth on Vibro-Champs
NOTE: Some Silverface versions has a snubber cap placed on the power tube. This was meant to stop oscillations but it completely unnecessary in most amps. Removing it greatly improves the tone. Also for some reason the grid wire for the power tube is twisted to a high voltage supply wire which makes these amp noisy. Separating the wires will reduce noise.
Champs need some love to sound their best. Here's some important things to do:
1. Tubes need to be changed on a regular basis. This is particularly true of the 6V6 that gets pushed hard. If you play you Champ regularly replace it every 6 months or so. The other tubes can last many years.
2. All amps need their electrolytic caps changed out every 7-10 years. If yours still has the original caps it's not performing it's best. They are worth more with the vintage caps (even though they do not sound good) so save those caps so if you decide to sell it you can include them.
3. If your Champ still has a 2 prong power cord---get it changed! No need to die!
4. Have you tech check the resistors, clean the sockets and pots. Also check and make sure the speaker is working properly. Old speakers deteriorate. The cones are made of paper and get brittle. The glue used on them was animal hide glue so be sure to have it looked at and re-coned or replaced if necessary.
5. Some people like to tighten up the bass by increasing the first filter cap to 30 to 50 uf.
Be sure to check out my version of the 5F1 Champ: the Classic Tweed Champ! The best version of the 5F1 Tweed Champ anywhere!
If you have vintage champ you want gone over by an expert contact us and we'll get it serviced!