With Fender USA back on its feet in 1987 after a couple of years of little activity, the company’s revamped and rejuvenated offerings were not going to be limited to guitars. The launch of a new USA-made valve/tube amp range, based on older designs but quite drastically updated for the late ‘80s guitarist, would set tongues wagging within the industry, and quickly grab the interest of potential customers. The first of these new USA tube amp models was the Fender Champ 12 – a very small, practice-sized amplifier, which seemed well specified, and on paper, fit for a lot more than just bedroom use.
The Champ 12 was an American made valve amp offering features such as built in reverb, and an overdrive/distortion channel. It was small, but it was obviously well built, and hard to resist as a concept. Initially, the standard black Champ 12 appeared with black knobs, and was indeed depicted in early Fender ads in that guise. But this was soon updated to the more impactive, love-it-or-loathe-it look of red knobs, which would define the range for the rest of the decade and into the next.
Model/Circuit Number: Fender Champ 12
Years of Production: 1987 – 1992
Controls: Black forward facing w/ white labels, controls numbered 1-10
Front: In, In, Treb/Mid Boost, Bass, Vol, Gain, Drive, Reverb, Tape In, 1V Line Out, Headphone Out
Rear: Fuse (1A)
Handle: Black strap handle with Chrome ends
Feet: Chrome Glides
Corners: Corner Protectors
Grill Cloth: Dark Gray Grill Cloth
Logo: Grille mounted, raised, chrome & black, script
Weight: 26 lbs.
Speaker: Size: 1 x 12
Impedance: 8 ohms
Model: Blue Label Fender Special Design
Watts: 10-12 watts
Pre amp: 2 x 7025
Bias: Cathode Bias
Rectifier: Solid State
In clean mode, the Champ 12 performs very well as a practice amp, or in recording situations, by itself or accompanied by effects. A little EQ tweak helps in the bass department, but it doesn’t sound as small as it actually is. And you can fatten the tone by pulling out the treble control to activate the Mid Boost.
The overdrive mode is activated via an included footswitch. Fender’s onboard overdrive from this era of amps is a matter of personal taste. There are probably better overdrive pedals out there now, but it is a useable sound, and it also reasonably variable, allowing good levels of saturation and sustain.
This particular Champ 12 is in fine condition – hardly a mark to be found. No tears, stains or rips in the tolex or grille, and everything works as it should.
It had a full service less than a year ago, including new valves. And it comes in very sexy red livery – quite a looker with punchy sound in a compact package.