Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Fender 'Red Knob' Champ 12 - Opinions?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Vanguard448, Jun 30, 2011.

  1. Vanguard448

    Vanguard448 Tele-Meister

    Feb 14, 2010
    United Kingdom
    Seen a few of these in pretty good condition going cheap on eBay with no reserve. I've looked around and from what I can gather they weren't exactly Fender's finest moment but I haven't really seen any explanation as to why they aren't considered to be that great. I was wondering if anyone here has any experience with them and if I could get some opinions on how good or bad they really are and, importantly, why.

    The main reason for this is because, while I'm not exactly actively looking for a new amp, I do want to get a replacement for my venerable little Kustom practice amp at some point and, well, these are genuine Fender valve amps and they're certainly going cheap.


  2. bdgregory

    bdgregory Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 7, 2008
    I just bought one of these myself. Stock they're ok. A new speaker is necessary (but I've had very few amps where the stock speaker did it for me). What I did though was to add a few of the Torres Mods and it made it really nice. The important ones are the input jacks, the pot change on the gain channel, and the rebias kit on V1. It sounds much more like a Fender amp than before, and is quite nice. The other thing you can do is crank the Reverb sensitivity up (there's a trim pot inside for this) to improve on the reverb.

    It's a nice compact footprint, but the 12" speaker gives it more muscle than other amps in its class.

  3. DOGMA Dunn

    DOGMA Dunn Friend of Leo's

    Mar 2, 2011
    I like them. They were cool amps back in the 80s, and there just as cool today.

  4. fjblair

    fjblair Tele-Meister

    Dec 29, 2010
    Boone, NC
    I think the biggest knock is that the overdrive channel is worthless.

  5. stantheman

    stantheman Doctor of Teleocity

    Jun 10, 2003
    White Mountains
    I wish Amplifier Builders would get outta the "Overdrive Channel Business" for the simple reason that nuthin' sounds as good as steppin' out on a pedal it that's Your Thing. :cool:

  6. bdgregory

    bdgregory Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 7, 2008
    . . . actually, I was very surprised by how good the OD channel is when you install the OD channel pot kit. It's basically swapping 100K pot in place of 1M pots. The OD works very nicely now. You can go from a little chunky to thrash with lots of variation in between.

  7. red57strat

    red57strat Friend of Leo's

    Oct 4, 2003
    I had a new one back in the '80s and didn't like it at all. I didn't know anything about trying different speakers and tweaking amps back then, though!

  8. muchxs

    muchxs Doctor of Teleocity

    Aug 14, 2004
    New England
    Yuck. Red knobs were the harbinger of The End of the World (as we know it). :twisted: The world really ended in 1980 or so. That's why things have been so weird since... :lol:

    Big clue: "Fender", "Tube" and "Amp" usually = $$ (Don't have a pound symbol on my keyboard. Not a real British pound, anyway.) :lol:

    I could build an amp out of castoff parts that would kill that thing. I hear Bill M. has a big pile of cutout stock Blues Junior transformers... :lol:
    ce24 likes this.

  9. bdgregory

    bdgregory Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 7, 2008
    I have no doubt that you, or others with reasonable skill can build an amp from "castoff" parts that may best the Champ 12, but when you account for the value of those parts (ie sold used on ebay for example), plus your time, you can't do it for less $$.

  10. Fearnot

    Fearnot Friend of Leo's

    Jan 17, 2010
    Decatur, GA
    I had a pair on stage with me for a time and liked them okay... wish I'd thought to try some better speakers - and maybe some of those mods. Always liked the size of it and the snakeskin version was particularly sharp-looking. I'd probably snap one up cheap, but the only one I've seen lately was $299! It wasn't that cool...

  11. eggman

    eggman Friend of Leo's

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bossier City,La.

    Best clean tones I've ever heard eminated from those notorious (and underrated) red knob Fender tubes amps: "The Twin" and "Super 112". Never tried the little Champ 12.
    Rant alert: Never has such a fantastic sounding amp (for clean tones, anyway) been so universally scorned as those red knob amps from Fender. Mine have been reasonably reliable*, sound great..and are heavier than Rosie o'Donnell!

    PS: My '91 Super 112 is now in need of only it's second repair in it's 20 year lifespan. Is that "reasonably reliable" to you? I say it is; YMMV.

  12. bdgregory

    bdgregory Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 7, 2008
    eggman - can't agree more about the Super 112. I love mine! . . . and no mods required.

  13. telex76

    telex76 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jun 24, 2006
    Fort Worth,Tx.
    Eh. I don't diggem.

  14. Hoodster

    Hoodster Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 3, 2007
    Had one, liked the lower volume 6L6 cleans, but as noted the reverb and od are limiting. It's a decent bedroom amp for Fender cleans and has a unique vibe.

  15. Bill Ashton

    Bill Ashton Tele-Afflicted

    Have muchxs build you that amp. Really.

  16. Oakville Dave

    Oakville Dave Friend of Leo's

    I had one, really liked it! My guitar teacher who was into jazz, couldn't believe the richness of the tone when you cranked it up and the tubes warmed up! If you can get one for a good price, it's a fun amp.

  17. spacerock777

    spacerock777 TDPRI Member

    Well I have had my one owner Champ 12 now since I bought it new in 1987! Was amazing for tone back then stock tubes/ still is amazing amp for the money simple no nonsense amp. The reverb is useless and the distortion is hard to deal with if you like copy cat tone get a Line 6 if you want an amp you got to switch out tubes for tone at low level recording it cannot be beat. Mine has had two repairs since i bought it and still going strong!

  18. WilburBufferson

    WilburBufferson Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 11, 2009
    As others have suggested, squealing tires sound better than the overdrive in that amp. I also remember it being a very anemic 12 watts. It was only a practice amp for me. I think you have better options out there for the money, personally speaking.

  19. Flakey

    Flakey Friend of Leo's


  20. spacerock777

    spacerock777 TDPRI Member

    Personally I feel the squealing tire part is from folks who expect a Marshall/Boogie tone from a dedicated bedroom amp. That's really what it was designed around, Most folks put in 12AX7WA tubes and they suck! Have had poor quality in almost any amp from Laney AOR,Blue Voodoo. Champ 12 and Carvin X100 still any amp has a cruddy tire squeal with this tube. My amp yes I have most of original tubes it came with sound best with GE pre amps and Philips STR. If your cheep like me stick to Shino STR's for pre anything but Sovtek WA's a great tube I have recently found was the EH along with 12ax7B shino but your ears may be different in this.

IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.