5F1 'Champ' variations - a 'better' version..... or not?

Wharfcreek

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So I've been working on amps for decades now, and if there's any one thing I've learned, it's that some times the 'original' is as good as anything else!! Truth be told, some of those old amp designers of yester-year were pretty smart! But, the unfortunate reality of today's world is that a lot of what was easy to accomplish back in the day.....ain't so easy now! One big factor is 'tubes' alone......as we're all experiencing now with the sad things going on in the Ukraine!! But, there's more than just tubes involved in this. In looking at the 'pricing' of the subject amp, to build a 'replica' of a 5F1 Tweed Champ, complete with tubes, speaker, and cabinet, a guy's looking at a price tag of well over $500, if not closer to $600 or even $700, depending on how it's done! Buying the best of everything, including a tweed covered and 'aged' vintage clone cabinet which alone can be upwards of $300..... I don't think a $700 figure is an exaggeration!!

So, I've set out to try to figure out a way to make this a more affordable proposition for someone. In so doing, I think I might have 'strayed' perhaps a bit to far from the 'original' 5F1. That's my dilemma, and the real reason for this posting. The basic question here is: How far away from the 'original' amp design can one go, and still call it a 'Champ'?

Just to clarify, I believe one can build a legitimate 5F1 Champ on just about any kind of platform or 'chassis'. The schematic is out there for the masses to follow, and 'clone' parts are all over the place. So, a guy can grab a box, a couple of transformers, some sockets and passive parts, and within a day or so you can construct a 'clone' 5F1 that is pretty much spot-on as far as all the specs go for a 5F1 amp. BUT....what if you deviate in several areas? For example, in one of my early clone amps I migrated from a 5Y3 rectifier to a 6CA4 rectifier. I did this mostly because the power transformer I was using simply didn't have a 5 volt winding. I also used a 6BQ5 for an output tube, vs the 6V6. Again, it was because the amp chassis I was using already had a 9-pin socket available and I have a bunch of those tubes. But, it didn't stop there. I also had an 'extra' HiFi SE output transformer here that had both 4 and 8 ohm output taps. So, as this was just an 'experiment'.....why not use all this stuff to see what kind of amp I could make? I'd already made a couple of 'replica' amps, one from the complete MoJoTone kit (including their 'slightly larger than the original' cabinet), and one that I sourced all the parts for individually....that would be a 'best of' amp....and yea, it was well over $600 to build that thing!! Anyway, in the end, I had this nice little 'chassis' amp, built pretty much to the specs of a 5F1 Champ circuit, but with the addition of a choke in the power supply. And.....through some of the speaker cabinets I have around here..... it sounded GREAT!!!

So, I got 'hooked' on these little things, and started building another...then another, and another, and another. After about 6 more of the 'chassis' versions, I decided it was time to find some decent cabinets and see just where these amps I was building actually 'stacked up' against an 'original'. I found an amazing guy who built me 3 'test' cabinets......and they're great examples of what can be done with a project like this!! Beautiful workmanship, and great materials being used. The first was a 10" version of the 'stock' cabinet, made to fit a 'stock' chassis'. The second was another 10" version, but with a slightly larger back panel so as to cover the Hammond chassis I used for my 'altered' design build. The 3rd, and thus far 'last' one is a 12" version, again with my build changes, and on a Hammond chassis that's back to the 5" width.

So, this is my question to the masses here: Have I gone too far? Am I now just WAY beyond the 'original' Champ amp and should no longer even consider representing the thing as a 'Champ Clone', or, it that still just what it is?....a 'clone'?

Attached are a few pics which rather show some of my work here. The first shows 5 of the early 'piggy-back' builds, including the original 'clone' at the forefront on the right side. The second pic shows the inside of my build, also the use of the 6BQ5 and 6CA4 rectifier. The 3rd shows this amp 'mounted' in the 10" finger-jointed pine cabinet, and the 4th shows both my early 'replica' amps, including the high-dollar 'original as well as the MoJoTone Kit, larger box on the right. The last is just a pic of the inside of the amp 'mounted' in the pine box!!

So any opinions here are welcome. My gut says that as long as it's represented as a 'clone' and not a 'replica' or 'duplicate' version, then calling it a 'Champ Clone' isn't a misrepresentation. Honestly, I think it might actually be a bit more of a 'guitar player friendly' amp, as the 10" speaker gives it a bit more punch, the improved power supply makes it both quieter and takes some of the 'flab' out of the bottom end, and I think the 'drive' factor of the 6BQ5 is also a bit 'tighter'....which to me makes me feel as if the amp is just more responsive overall. And.....it's 'louder'!! Hey, what guitar player won't like that, eh?........lol And finally, I think it may be that something like this could be offered on the market for just under the $500 mark.....as you see it in the pics, but 'playable' and ready for it's final owner to 'finish' as they so desire. Anyway, thanks for reading this, and constructive comments are welcome and appreciated. Tom
 

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Gunny

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I built a Marsh Champ from a kit. I hate hum so, like you, added a proper PS choke. Bingo! ultimate upgrade.
I don't think you're misrepresenting anything by using various speakers, etc. If a buyer knows anything about Champ amps, they will understand what's going on.
 

Baron13

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Long Beach, CA
So I've been working on amps for decades now, and if there's any one thing I've learned, it's that some times the 'original' is as good as anything else!! Truth be told, some of those old amp designers of yester-year were pretty smart! But, the unfortunate reality of today's world is that a lot of what was easy to accomplish back in the day.....ain't so easy now! One big factor is 'tubes' alone......as we're all experiencing now with the sad things going on in the Ukraine!! But, there's more than just tubes involved in this. In looking at the 'pricing' of the subject amp, to build a 'replica' of a 5F1 Tweed Champ, complete with tubes, speaker, and cabinet, a guy's looking at a price tag of well over $500, if not closer to $600 or even $700, depending on how it's done! Buying the best of everything, including a tweed covered and 'aged' vintage clone cabinet which alone can be upwards of $300..... I don't think a $700 figure is an exaggeration!!

So, I've set out to try to figure out a way to make this a more affordable proposition for someone. In so doing, I think I might have 'strayed' perhaps a bit to far from the 'original' 5F1. That's my dilemma, and the real reason for this posting. The basic question here is: How far away from the 'original' amp design can one go, and still call it a 'Champ'?

Just to clarify, I believe one can build a legitimate 5F1 Champ on just about any kind of platform or 'chassis'. The schematic is out there for the masses to follow, and 'clone' parts are all over the place. So, a guy can grab a box, a couple of transformers, some sockets and passive parts, and within a day or so you can construct a 'clone' 5F1 that is pretty much spot-on as far as all the specs go for a 5F1 amp. BUT....what if you deviate in several areas? For example, in one of my early clone amps I migrated from a 5Y3 rectifier to a 6CA4 rectifier. I did this mostly because the power transformer I was using simply didn't have a 5 volt winding. I also used a 6BQ5 for an output tube, vs the 6V6. Again, it was because the amp chassis I was using already had a 9-pin socket available and I have a bunch of those tubes. But, it didn't stop there. I also had an 'extra' HiFi SE output transformer here that had both 4 and 8 ohm output taps. So, as this was just an 'experiment'.....why not use all this stuff to see what kind of amp I could make? I'd already made a couple of 'replica' amps, one from the complete MoJoTone kit (including their 'slightly larger than the original' cabinet), and one that I sourced all the parts for individually....that would be a 'best of' amp....and yea, it was well over $600 to build that thing!! Anyway, in the end, I had this nice little 'chassis' amp, built pretty much to the specs of a 5F1 Champ circuit, but with the addition of a choke in the power supply. And.....through some of the speaker cabinets I have around here..... it sounded GREAT!!!

So, I got 'hooked' on these little things, and started building another...then another, and another, and another. After about 6 more of the 'chassis' versions, I decided it was time to find some decent cabinets and see just where these amps I was building actually 'stacked up' against an 'original'. I found an amazing guy who built me 3 'test' cabinets......and they're great examples of what can be done with a project like this!! Beautiful workmanship, and great materials being used. The first was a 10" version of the 'stock' cabinet, made to fit a 'stock' chassis'. The second was another 10" version, but with a slightly larger back panel so as to cover the Hammond chassis I used for my 'altered' design build. The 3rd, and thus far 'last' one is a 12" version, again with my build changes, and on a Hammond chassis that's back to the 5" width.

So, this is my question to the masses here: Have I gone too far? Am I now just WAY beyond the 'original' Champ amp and should no longer even consider representing the thing as a 'Champ Clone', or, it that still just what it is?....a 'clone'?

Attached are a few pics which rather show some of my work here. The first shows 5 of the early 'piggy-back' builds, including the original 'clone' at the forefront on the right side. The second pic shows the inside of my build, also the use of the 6BQ5 and 6CA4 rectifier. The 3rd shows this amp 'mounted' in the 10" finger-jointed pine cabinet, and the 4th shows both my early 'replica' amps, including the high-dollar 'original as well as the MoJoTone Kit, larger box on the right. The last is just a pic of the inside of the amp 'mounted' in the pine box!!

So any opinions here are welcome. My gut says that as long as it's represented as a 'clone' and not a 'replica' or 'duplicate' version, then calling it a 'Champ Clone' isn't a misrepresentation. Honestly, I think it might actually be a bit more of a 'guitar player friendly' amp, as the 10" speaker gives it a bit more punch, the improved power supply makes it both quieter and takes some of the 'flab' out of the bottom end, and I think the 'drive' factor of the 6BQ5 is also a bit 'tighter'....which to me makes me feel as if the amp is just more responsive overall. And.....it's 'louder'!! Hey, what guitar player won't like that, eh?........lol And finally, I think it may be that something like this could be offered on the market for just under the $500 mark.....as you see it in the pics, but 'playable' and ready for it's final owner to 'finish' as they so desire. Anyway, thanks for reading this, and constructive comments are welcome and appreciated. Tom
I made a “Champ” with the same tubes! Pulled tubes and transformers from a reel to reel. Sounds great. A bit tighter and less forgiving than my stock Champ. People think it has a more British flavor.
 

wrathfuldeity

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Imo, its a great niche to hang in. Nothing wrong with odd balls...perhaps the "odd fellows' champ or single-ended club. Having not your solder smoke skills, have resorted to finding little inexpensive odd balls that imho will hang with any champ. So why not? You have a quality build that sounds great, except for vintage re-sell value, its a no brainer of grabbing little tube amp that will be reliable and have great tone for decades. And from that aspect, it is a very affordable way to go.

Little odd balls:
Bogen VP12 recordplayer, se6L6...kind of like a princeton on steroids
Newcomb AV1612 recordplayer se el84...Blues pro killer
Silvertone 1301, similar to an early octal 5C1
Muchxs champ clone
 

Wharfcreek

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OK, so far its seeming unanimous in that calling it a 'Champ Clone' is 'OK'. Glad to hear that, and hopefully a few more postings will continue the trend.

The early builds were fun, and made mostly from random parts that just worked well together. The trick is finding 'new' parts that are both suitable and economical such that a new build can be done for my targeted price-point of under $500, and still give me a reasonable margin of profit. I have a feeling that may not be 'do-able', at least at the $500 mark. But, we'll see!
 

rdjones

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Not a Champ, not a clone.
It is its own thing.

You didn't even mention voltages.
A more authentic attempt at a clone with voltages that vary more than, say, 20% would still not be a proper "clone".

There's nothing wrong with doing your own thing, just don't call it by someone else's trademark.
 

Powdog

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Ya think the 5F1 was Leo’s first crack at it? The first amp he made with Doc Kaufman was lifted from a radio schematic. Then he futzed and tweaked. Champ 600, 5C1, 5D1. The parts you have in front of you are the mother of invention. I just built a rat-rod Supro out of a gutted Newcomb AM radio. Different rectifier and voltages, but it’s still a Supro clone. I think the overall philosophy of Champ style amps is “less is more”.
1654634600068.jpeg
 

El Tele Lobo

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I have a Champ clone (called a L'il Punk) in a larger pine cabinet with a 12" ceramic speaker. I think the Champ needs at least a 10" or 12" speaker to really realize it's potential. I'm not sure if I would maybe like a alnico speaker as much or more. I went with ceramic in part due to price and also to tighten up the bottom end and to keep the distortion/breakup strictly from the tubes as opposed to the speaker. I also hoped it would slightly increase the headroom as I primarily wanted to use it clean. And Champs are neither known nor sought for their cleans. Still, it works great for me. I use it for jazz, country, blues, ambient and worship. Really whatever strikes my fancy. It takes pedals well and when I finally get an EQ pedal, I'll have plenty of versatility...though the EQ neighborhood the Champ lives in is pretty friendly to all comers...unless you're looking for say a blackface sound.

Also, I paid $1250 for mine and that was with some gimme's from the builder (including a solid-pine, lacquered-tweed cabinet, a headroom-elevating switch in back and a bright cap switch, which I never use), who cut me a deal as a favor. He was neither the cheapest nor most expensive of the builders I explored. It did come with a very nice Jupiter ceramic speaker and some NOS tubes. I've seen plenty going in the $800-$1300 range on Reverb. If you could build a decent one (esp. in the USA) for $500, you'd find lots of buyers, I'll bet. I'd be interested in trying one with a 10" or 12" alnico.

I'm itching to try a tweed Bandmaster or Super one day. I played a '59 Deluxe at a jam once and it was heavenly. But I really love the simplicity of small amps and in particular, the Champ. Kind of that Esquire, less-in-more mentality. They sound great with either pickup on a tele. And they're perfect for bachelor apartment dwellers/roommates like me. The Champ is my favorite amp I've tried to date, and I've tried and owned some nice ones.
 

Wharfcreek

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So I guess thus far the only 'Na-sayer' would rdjones up there. To his point I'll say I understand that perspective. Yet, I'd counter to some extent by saying that the use of the 'champ clone' designation rather references the 'class' of amp, as well as defines it as 'not' being a Champ duplicate, or 'replica'. I believe there is a distinct difference, where a 'duplicate! or 'replica' amp should match the 'original' in every possible way. But a 'clone' version can have deviations that, like changing tires on a car or pickups in a guitar, they dont change what might be referred to as the basic 'dna' of the amp. A 6V6 and a 6BQ5 are fairly equivalent tubes, as are a 6CA4 and a 5Y3. One could argue the distinctions of 'USA' tubes vs Russian or European if you really wanted to get fussy about it. But I believe the 5F1 circuit grasps the spirit of the Champ, and the changes made just reflect a modern day approach to the same old circuit and design.

Anyway, if you note my early amps you'll see a couple of Princeton clones too. I guess I just didn't find much use for that tone control!
 

Dukex

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Well, we're splitting semantic hairs here, eh? Clone, replica, duplicate, copy? They're all synonyms; all are fine IMO; but none of them are perfectly accurate.

The most accurate IMO would be 5F1 Style.

Note how I included three consecutive instances of alliteration in the first sentence. :p:rolleyes:
 

Wharfcreek

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Dukex, I am not trying to be argumentative..... but in my book simply referencing the 'Champ' amp is a lot more 'general' than the specific 5F1 circuit. There are a 'lot' of Champs......several different Tweeds, a black face or two, a silver face, and even II versions....'Super' versions, solid state versions, etc. I might agree that 'replica' and 'Duplicate' are close in meaning, but 'clone'..... in today's world?, again..... just a bit more 'vague' than calling something a 'duplicate' or 'replica'. Maybe call it something like a 'Champ Deviant', or 'Champ-Type' amp....but even then one could debate the distinctions between those two meanings. How 'bout 'Champ Derivative'....vs 'clone'? Would you agree that this would be 'general' enough to cover the intended meaning, that it's a Champ-like amp, but not 'exactly' the same?

Like you said...... splittin' hairs! I have a feeling that no matter what I call it or how I represent it, someone is gonna *****!!!
 

printer2

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Champ Styled Amp.

Sorry, I would not call it a clone as it is far enough away to be its own amp. The 6BQ5 finishes the deal. If Fender produced a Champ with the 6BQ5 then I can sort of see the lineage. But an amp that deviates far from the different schematics we have of the Champs is blasphemy. (no, really I am kidding)

I built a Champ, repurposed transformer set. But really fairly close in the operation of either a Tweed or Blackface Champ. Actually I should say Princeton. I have three knobs and a switch. I can go to either a Tweed volume and tone control with the switch changing the tone knob into a treble knob and the bass control knob now works. So one day I feel Blackface and the next I may feel like Tweed. I still need to add the reverb. A little tricky to do it with only one 12AX7 but I am pretty sure I can do it without changing the character of the amp. No tremolo yet but maybe one day.
 

Wharfcreek

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Funny! Over on the AudioKarma web site (for HiFi/stereo buffs) there was a big discussion thread about the modifications being done to the various models of Magnavox console stereo amps, with the question being; "When is a Magnavox no longer a Magnavox?" In one person's opinion, when you changed the iron (which was also 'blasphemy' in his opinion), you now had a 'new' NON magnavox amp! So, even though no other part of the amp gets changed and the circuit not only remains identical but 'original' in terms of parts and construction, if you changed output transformers then to him it was no longer a Magnavox.

I think the bottom line here is that unless your amp is built by Fender and sold as a 'Champ', it's not a champ. No matter how 'perfectly' you duplicate every aspect of circuit, construction, and parts there in, the simple fact is that the name 'Champ' is property of Fender, so anything not made by them HAS to be 'Champ-like', Champ-clone, Champ-duplicate, Champ-replica, etc. In any case, still 'not a Champ'.... if you're splittin' hairs and callin' a spade a spade.

So, given the reality of ALL the kits, home-brew projects, replica parts and cabinet types available, there has to be some level of flexibility assumed when one represents an amp 'honestly' as being a clone or replica or duplicate, etc. This probably boils down to being a 'disclosure' issue, where its not so much about the use of the 'Champ' name to represent a 'type' of amp (where the basic circuit is implied), but more about what changes or deviations are being incorporated into the build.

Again, one could argue that replacing a blown output transformer, or even having an 'original' OT rewound, or reconing or replacing a speaker, or adding a choke; any of that could be argued as making an 'original' Champ no longer a Champ! But this is where that 'flexibility' has to come in along with just some plain ole common sense (oh, I forgot, this is the USA! We ain't got no sense in this country ... hahaha) I'd NEVER try to tell a guy with an original champ that just because he put a Jupiter speaker in it that his amp was no longer a Champ. If a guy showed up at a gig today with a modern day clone that looked like a Champ, sounded like a Champ, and was a legit 'tube' amp, I'd let him call it a Champ with no argument from me!
 

TequilaCaster

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IMO, 'Fender Champ' means a single-ended amp with one 12AX7, and one 6V6 tube complement.
It does not need to have tube-rectified power, but can have zero-to-N number of tone controls.

Circuit topology should follow the triode-tone-triode-tetrode scheme.

Chassis size and shape is also an option, as are Negative feedback and additions like Tremolo and Reverb, but added gain stages are right out!

The type, size, and number of driven speakers is also an option. Output transformer speaker taps are not limited to 4 ohms. 2-4-8-16 ohm taps are great. A Champ into a alnico 4x10 cabinet, for example, is glorious and giggable.

If you swap the 6V6 for a EL34 then it becomes a Marshall Champ, while a EL84/6BQ5 makes it a Vox Champ, but those configurations are definitely not a Fender Champ. A 6L6 tube substitution is sort of a gray zone... maybe call it an Ampeg Bass Champ.
 
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Wharfcreek

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Just wondering: What is an 'original' Champ with a yellow jacket and a 6bq5 in it? Did that magically turn it into a Vox, or is it still a Champ, but with an 'adapter' in it so you could use another tube you had cuz you were 'out' of 6V6s?
 

TequilaCaster

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See.....lots of 'variations' of both the amp and opinions about it. I suspect there will be no consensus on this issue!

I disagree! 🤣

Just wondering: What is an 'original' Champ with a yellow jacket and a 6bq5 in it? Did that magically turn it into a Vox, or is it still a Champ, but with an 'adapter' in it so you could use another tube you had cuz you were 'out' of 6V6s?

A Chameleon. 🐸
 

Powdog

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The 1961 Blonde 6G1 Tremolux ran a pair of 6BQ5s and it still sounded like a Fender.
 

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