Fender Champion 20: Great Sound and Built-in Effects for Cheap!
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The Fender Champion series of amps have something to offer every guitarist, regardless of skill level. The Fender Champion 20 is the lowest powered offering in the Champion range, but don't let that fool you. While it may not get as loud as its higher-wattage brothers, this amp is still a worthy choice for young guitarists or bedroom players who don't need earth-shattering volume. With a dozen built-in effects, you can leave your pedalboard at home. Pick from 12 different amp models that instantly change the voice of your guitar from crunchy blues to tight, modern heavy metal. You can even practice in total silence thanks to the built-in headphone and auxiliary jacks. We'll take a deep dive into the Fender Champion 20 below.
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The Fender Champion 20 is the lowest-powered of the Champion series of amplifiers. As such, it's meant mostly for bedroom or practice applications. You won't be playing this amp at a gig unless you can work with the sound guy and get it mic'd up. For beginners or novice guitarists, this amp is basically perfect. It has everything you might need: built-in effects, different voicings, a headphone jack for silent practice, and even an aux input for jamming along to your favorite music. Of course, the Champion 20 won't sound just like a Mesa Boogie or a Vox AC30. However, for the price, it's hard to beat.
Taking inspiration from the Fender Blackface amps of yesteryear, the Champion 20 is quite a beauty. It's finished in an all-black tolex-like material that has a quality, tactile feel. The lampshade style control knobs are classic-inspired, rounding out the old-school vintage look. A silver grille and and Fender logo really make the rest metallic accents on the rest of the amp pop and shine. Sadly, the iconic ruby red 'power jewel' is missing on the Champion series, replaced with a cheaper, less exciting power LED. Not a huge deal, but it's a small reminder that this is still a budget amp.
The Fender Champion is a decently rugged amp. Though you probably won't be lugging it to gigs (due to its low power), it makes for a great practice amp that you can take to your friend's house for jam sessions. You can tote it around with confidence thanks to the reinforced sides and corner protectors.
While this amp may be a Champion, it's certainly no heavyweight. It comes in at just 12 pounds, which is super light for a 20-watt amp. It's also quite compact at only 12.75 inches high, 13.75 inches wide, and 7.5 inches deep. It's not at all bulky or heavy. The Champion comes with a convenient carrying handle that looks quite nice to boot.
The solid-state Fender Champion 20 is a very simple amp to control and understand. You won't find any crazy USB or Bluetooth functionality here. It's about as old-school as a modern amp can get! However, unlike many amps in this price range, the Champion 20 comes with modeling capabilities that allow you to select from many different voices that emulate multiple iconic amplifiers. We'll talk more about these in the sound section.
The Champion's controls are quite straightforward. There's the standard gain and volume knobs, a 2-band EQ, an effects level/select, and a tap tempo button for setting the intervals on some of the onboard effects. Sadly, there is no mids control knob on the amp. If you really want full control over your mid-range frequencies, you won't get it with the Champion 20. You'll be fully dependent the amp's built-in voicings and 2-band EQ to shape the sound you want. However, all is not lost! You can always get an EQ pedal or even do some post-processing on the sound if you're inclined to.
Interestingly, the Voice knob doesn't really 'click' into place. There are 12 settings to choose from, but you have to depend on your eyes or ears to tell you which setting you have selected. Not a huge deal, but it might cause some inconvenience in certain situations.
Along with the standard guitar input, the amp comes with a headphone jack and auxiliary input for practicing in silence while jamming along to your favorite music.
There are 12 onboard effects settings to choose from. Some of the settings activate a single effect, and other settings combine a couple of effects. You can only select one of setting at a time, so there's no way to combine effects yourself. You're stuck with the preset settings on the amp. A full list of the settings are shown above.
So, what does the Fender Champion 20 sound like? It's really quite good! While a few of the amp models are a bit weak, such as the , the majority of the amp models are quite usable. The Fender-designed speaker isn't the greatest speaker ever made, but it's certainly adequate. However, the speaker is only 8 inches in diameter, so it doesn't get loud enough to keep up with a drummer. Combine the small speaker with the open-back cabinet design and you get an amp that can sound really full in smaller spaces. However, in bigger venues, it just doesn't have the oomph you need. Consider the Fender Champion 40, Champion 50XL, or the Fender Champion 100 if you really need to bring the noise.
For some sound samples, check out InTheBlues' thorough test of the Champion 20
The Champion series is one of the most popular guitar amps on the market today. Whether we're talking about the 20-watt version or its 100-watt big brother, you can't really go wrong. In general, the reviews of the Champion 20 are quite positive. Almost 700 guitarists have reviewed the Champion series on Amazon and nearly 75% of them gave it a 5-star rating. That says a lot! Some of the top compliments for the Champion 20 are about its simplicity. There isn't much to get in the way of your sound. No fancy screens or technology - just pure tone.
Some unlucky reviewers received an amp that would generate really loud static. If you get one, be sure to request an exchange because that's not supposed to happen! There are also a few complaints about the knobs. Like we mentioned earlier in our review, the Voice knob doesn't 'click' to let you know you've selected a voice. It rotates freely. That means there's no tactile feedback to let you know you've selected a different voice. This could be a problem if you decide to perform a gig in low light situations.
At the $100 price point, there aren't too many amps that really knock it out of the park. The Fender Champion 20 is one of those gleaming jewels that outshines the competition. It has everything a beginner guitarist needs to find their sound. It's versatile, compact, and a joy to listen to. You'd be hard-pressed to that beats the price-to-performance ratio of the Fender Champion 20.