One of the lower-priced models in our chart on the best amps under $500 is the Fender Champion, which is a legend in the world of solid-state stage-worthy amplifiers. It’s not as swish or complex as some of the newer modelling amps such as Fender’s Mustang Series, but, as we look at in more detail below, this traditional combo amp is one of the most popular for a good reason – it keeps things simple.
On first glance there’s a staggering amount of rotary control knobs, although there’s nothing here that’s not needed. Working from left to right, this amp offers controls for the clean channel (volume, treble and bass, as well as an FX select and FX level control), as well as controls for the drive channel (switchable via a button in the middle of the amp). These drive controls comprise gain, volume, treble, middle and bass, as well as controls for the amp voice and FX selection/volume. It’s also controllable via the included footswitch, which is a good addition at this price.
As we’ve highlighted, this amp has two channels with a range of different effects for both, including chorus, delay, reverb, flanger and wah. The drive channel also offers a couple of amp voicings inspired by classic Fender amps, including Tweed, British and Blackface.
It shows off traditional Champion style, which is nothing extraordinary, but a design that’s familiar and appealing, with a black vinyl case and silver grille cloth. With two 12” Fender Special Design speakers, the Champion 100 delivers a huge 100 watts of power, which is capable of filling most small to medium-size venues, although it also features a headphone jack for quiet practice.
It’s certainly not as experimenter-friendly when compared to other more modern amps, although it’s equally not as overwhelming. Whether playing uncolored or with your own dialed-in voice, the tone is fantastic for a solid-state amp. While it may lack the fluidity of a tube amp in places, the cleans are warm and responsive, while some of the amp voicings on the drive channel are excellent – Blackface is perfect for vintage blues, while Metal is obviously great for modern metal and heavy rock, although perhaps it’s not eye-meltingly heavy enough to please the most dedicated metalhead.
The following video offers a good look at the tones on offer with the Fender Champion 100:
While it may lack the same versatility and tech some others in this price range deliver, many guitarists will appreciate the Champion 100’s no nonsense attitude – just plug it in, turn the dials, and you have yourself an awesome tone whatever your style. Of course, it still offers a great range of voicings and effects, while the power will certainly please regular performers. For well-under $500, it’s a great purchase.