Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Amplifier Review | Read Before You Buy

Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Amplifier Review

Welcome to my website, folks.  My name is Shane, and I recently purchased a Fender ’68 Vibro Champ guitar amplifier.  This review is not sponsored, and I paid for this amplifier at a local music shop in Melbourne, Australia.

I recently posted my review of the Fender ’68 Vibro Champ on YouTube about this amplifier (below), and since then, I have had some updates to share.  This review is to give you transparent feedback from a customer review standpoint and not to keep any companies happy.

Fender '68 Vibro Champ Front
Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Amplfiier Review

About this Fender Vibro Champ Review

This review will cover my real-world experience with the amplifier and some of the downsides of quality control.  Firstly, I love the tones, feel, and vibe of the Fender ’68 Vibro Champ.

 About the Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Amplifier

This amplifier is the quintessential 5-watt tube amplifier sporting a 6V6 power amplifier tube and two 12AX7 tubes in the preamp.  This classic tube configuration will help you warm tube tones at any volume.  The 6V6 tube keeps the amplifier cleaner longer when turning up the volume.

The Vibro champ has a great-sounding 10″ Celestion® Ten 30 speaker that is well-balanced and punchy without sounding too bassy.  The 10″ Celestion® Ten 30 in the Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Amplifier is a great option and retains all of the classic Fender clean tones we know and love.  Furthermore, the 10″ speaker is a nice upgrade over the original 8″ speakers in the original Vibro Champ amps.

Fender '68 Vibro Champ Celestion Ten 30 Speaker
Fender ’68 Vibro Champ 10″ Celestion® Ten 30 – Great speaker match for this amplifier

Visual Stylings

The new Fender ’68 Vibro Champ has the look and feel of a classic Fender amplifier.  The champ has the same visual stylings as the ’68 Princeton or Deluxe Reverb from the same series, and if you’re a fan of the silver-face design, you’ll dig it.  I am a big fan of the look of these amplifiers as they have more of an industrial look than the ’65 series.

Controls

Volume Control

The controls on the Fender ’68 Vibro Champ are simple and effective. On the far left, we have the volume control.  The volume control is the only output volume option on the amplifier.  While there’s no gain control, turning the amp up past five starts breaking up.

Front Panel
Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Front Panel
EQ Controls

There’s a two-band EQ on the amplifier, including bass and treble.  Like most Fender amplifiers from the ’65 and ’68 series, there’s no mid-EQ control. The bass is extremely well-controlled, and the amp never feels like it will break up or distort when cranked.

Reverb and Tremolo

We have Reverb, Speed, and Intensity on the right of the EQ controls.  This amplifier, believe it or not, has a digital hall reverb! Before I knew this was a digital reverb, I was shocked at how great the reverb sounded.  It is the nicest onboard reverb I have ever heard, along with the Super-Reverb.  Hall reverb is uncommon in amplifiers, and this sounds musical without ever being distracting or “too deep.”

Tremolo Controls

Another positive for the Fender ’68 Vibro Champ is the built-in tube-driven tremolo circuit.  This circuit gives you the classic Fender Tremolo (or Vibrato) that you’d find in higher-end control, sets the depth of the effect, and the Speed controls the modulation speed.  Overall, it’s very easy to dial in and sounds fantastic.  For an amplifier this size to sound as good as it does is very impressive.

Hall Reverb and Tube-Driven Tremolo
Hall Reverb and Tube-Driven Tremolo

Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Amplifier Review by Me (intheblues)

Below is my initial review of the amplifier.  This was shot about two weeks after buying it, and at the time, it was by far the best-sounding small 5-watt tube amplifier I have ever played.  In terms of straight-up sound quality, it’s fantastic.

Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Sound Quality

As you can hear from the sound samples in my video, the amplifier sounds great.  The clean tone has a rich and full sound without sounding too fat in the low frequencies.  The 10″ speaker is a great match for this amplifier and it gives you the full Fender experience at lower volumes.  The overall tone and how it feels to play is very reminiscent of a Fender Princeton just with a smaller cabinet and less output volume.

Is the Fender Vibro Champ good for Home Use?

Yes! The sole reason I purchased this amplifier is for home use.  I wanted the Tube-driven Fender clean tone at a lower volume for practice, recording, and making videos.  The Fender ’68 Vibro Champ is a great home practice amplifier suited for someone living in a house or townhouse setup.

Those who live in an apartment will still be able to use this at lower volumes, but in those situations you might be better suited with a Fender Tone Master Princeton Amplifier. You can check out my Fender Princeton Tone Master review below.

Is the Fender Vibro Champ good Live Shows and Gigs?

The Fender Vibro Champ has decent output when you start turning it up.  It also handles pedals really well, which means you can hit the front end hard with a boost or drive pedal and get quite loud.  Even with this increased volume, it’s not loud enough to gig with unless you’re using a microphone in front of it to a Mixer or PA System.

This amplifier has a finite limit to its output, and I wouldn’t use it personally for live shows unless there’s a good front-of-house mixer and a foldback in front of me.  Low-volume Cafe gigs would suit this amplifier perfectly; I can recommend it for those players.  The smaller cabinet size of the Vibro Champ makes it less effective in a live situation when compared with a Fender Princeton or Deluxe Reverb.

The Fender Vibro Champ Records Beautifully
The Fender Vibro Champ Records Beautifully

Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Rattle and Issues

While this is mostly a positive review, I must cover why I returned the amplifier for a refund.  I noticed I started having a power-tube rattle. No big deal, right? While it’s not a major issue to fix, it meant having the amp out of action for a few weeks and losing out on using it for my videos and music production. It’s a bit of a bummer when the rattle issues start so soon.  The next day after the rattle, the power tube appeared to go out completely.

I took it back to the shop, and the potential replacement amp had the same problem, so I got my money back instead of risking it again.  This is just two amplifiers out of thousands, but it’s enough to sway me away.  I had almost the same thing happen with a recent Fender Super-Sonic 22 amplifier, and it’s a real shame the valves are so troublesome.

Fender Tube Problems and Reliability

This Tube unreliability must have something to do with most Fender tube amplifiers being made in the USA or Mexico and then being shipped to Australia.  I have a hard time imagining this is the same everywhere around the globe, but maybe it is.  Fender amps I’ve owned for 15+ years have never had problems like this, and I never remember this being such a problem ‘back in the day.’

How to diagnose Rattle or Noise in a Fender ’68 Vibro Champ Amplifier

If you’re experiencing amplifier rattle in your Fender ’68 Vibro Champ, it’s most likely the power tube.  The cage on the back is very well positioned, and I found through my troubleshooting that it was not the cause.

You can check the power tube’s rattle by tapping it lightly with a pencil end to see if it makes any exaggerated noise when the amplifier is turned on.  To do this may require you to remove the cage from the back by removing the two screws off the back panel on either side.

The noise I heard is reminiscent of a scratchy/glass noise coming through the speaker, amplified as you turn up the volume control.  For someone who records, this isn’t ideal.  If you have another 6V6 tube amplifier available, swap out the power tube (safely) and see how you go.  If it fixes the problem, then you have it sorted.

Warning:

If you do not understand how to do this, take it to an authorized amplifier tech or back to the shop if its under warranty.

Final Thoughts

The Fender ’68 Vibro Champs is, without question, the best 5-watt amplifier I have ever played.  It runs rings around the Bugera V5 Infinium and Blackstar HT-5 and sounds nicer than the Joyo JTA05 and Artist TweedTone V.

I highly urge you to play it in person over buying it online unless the store has a good return policy (like Sweetwater/Thomann/Sky Music etc).  If your Fender Vibro Champ is in working condition, you have yourself an awesome amplifier.  I didn’t want to risk returning a second one, so I am saving the cash for something else down the track.

In hindsight, I should have purchased a Princeton or Deluxe Reverb Tone Master (my review) and used that with the power setting down; we’ll see what the future brings.

Thanks for checking out my review of the Fender ’68 Vibro Champ.  If these reviews are helpful consider subscribing to my intheblues channel on YouTube.