Top critical review
Good enough for a beginner, but hard to grow with the amp
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2017
I ordered the Fender Champion 20. Being a beginner, I wasn't ready to splurge on a $600 combo tube amp, so I was looking for something simple to amplify my new Epiphone SG. In its price range, the Fender Champion 20 was one of the highest recommended products on Amazon, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Originally, I was deciding between this and the Mustang I (V.2) for $20 more or the Frontman for $40 less, but I wanted some effects (ruling out the frontman) and a simple interface (ruling out the mustang). I also looked at offerings from Roland, Orange, Marshall et al - models including effects were all more expensive and didn't appear to sound much more refined (based on reviews). If you want a really good sounding amp, depending on your style of choice, you need to spend $500 and up, so, in my opinion, there's no real point trying to get the best ~$100-200 amp for future playability.
This amp is exactly what I need as a beginner:
- Headphones and aux connections. Aux is useful if you've got a few drum tracks that you'd like to play alongside your guitar (some books offer downloadable tracks).
- Can digitally simulate ("model") the sound of multiple different amps including classic Fender amps:
01 Tweed Bassman
02 Tweed Deluxe
03 Tweed Champ
04 '65 Twin-Amp
05 '65 Deluxe
06 ‘65 Princeton
07 60s British
08 70s British
09 80s British
11 90s Metal
12 2000 Metal
- Features onboard effects. They're not great, but what do you expect in an amp that costs less than a single decent effects pedal? As a beginner, it's convenient because it gives me a sampling of the cool things you can do with electric guitar effects. Most of the time I leave these off anyway, they're mostly a gimmick. The effects selections are:
01 No effects
02 Reverb + Chorus
03 Reverb Hall
04 Reverb Spring
05 Chorus Fast Sweep
06 Chorus Deep Sweep
08 Delay Slapback
09 Delay Long
10 Delay + Reverb
11 Touch Wah
- very affordable for a practice 20W amp
- very simple controls
- sounds fine
- only 1 channel; can't quickly switch from clean to tweed + spring reverb effect with a single click. I believe the larger Champion amps have a channel switch.
- the voice and effects knobs are continuous, like analog knobs, but operate digitally. This means that they only switch between a preset number of selections. For example, to select my favorite voice - #6 "'65 Princeton" - I have to turn the voice knob to "Blackface" until the tri-color LED turns yellow. This is the least intuitive way to select a sound. A 12-click knob would have been better. It's possible this was simply done to save money, but it's very confusing.
- Major annoyance: when powering off, the amp let's out a HUGE pop. Every time. It's not too disruptive, but if your objective is to be quiet at night in your bedroom, and you decide it's time to turn it off, you hear a loud pop! This could be a deal-breaker for those who are using this as a practice amp in their bedrooms at night. Other reviewers have mentioned this as well.
Conclusion: I gave this 4 stars because it's not the greatest amp in the world, however, if you're new to electric guitar and want to just get a sampling of voices and effects for a very low price, this is the way to go. Once you become an intermediate player, you can upgrade to a tube amp. A quick search on youtube will help you compare tubes to cheap solid state amps. Again, beware of the pop noise when turning off. Otherwise, highly recommend!
Update after a year:
Downgraded my rating to 3 stars. I liked the amp, but it was just so fiddly to get the sound or effects that I wanted. The amp voices just seemed to be the same as increasing the gain, and the metal sounds were mostly unbearable. Jumping from clean to crunch back to clean takes some effort. Instead I recommend a look at the Boss Katana series of amps. For a bit more money, they're much easier to use for a beginner, plus they sound better.