Fender Champion 40 Amplifier Review
Welcome to my deep-dive review of the Fender Champion 40 electric guitar amplifier. I first tested this amplifier in 2014 and have tested every model until this year. My review will cover everything you need to learn about the Fender Champion 40 electric guitar amplifier. This review is not sponsored; all thoughts about this product are mine.
About the Fender Champion 40 Amplifier
The Fender Champion 40 is the middle brother in a series of Champion amplifiers. Stuck between the Champion 15 and 100 options, this black panel amplifier is a favorite for great tones at reasonable volumes. The Great news is that unlike the Champion 15, the 40 is loaded with a 12″ speaker giving the amplifier a more professional feel and better overall sound quality.
Fender Champion Dedicated Clean Channel
The Fender Champion 40 is a single-input dual-channel amplifier. The left side of the amplifier operates the dedicated clean channel with a single volume control labeled “Volume 1”. This dedicated clean sound is what has made Fender famous since the 1950s. The clean channel works great on its own or with external effects pedals. This channel volume stays very clean most of the turn on the dial. One of the benefits of solid-state amplifiers over tube or valve amplifiers is their ability to stay clean at louder volumes, and the Champion 40 is no exception.
Drive Channel Overview
The Fender Champion has one of the most versatile drive channels on the market. To turn the distortion channel on, click the CH Select option on the front of the amplifier. The drive channel has a host of additional options over the clean channel. The first is the gain control determining how much overdrive you’ll hear.
Additionally, we get a dedicated distortion channel volume control to set the output volume 0f the amplifier accordingly. Furthermore, the Champion 40 has a Voice control that allows you to select from a host of unique and usable drive sounds. By rotating the potentiometer around, you can select between low-gain tones (left), to high-gain tones on the right.
Each preset on the amplifier (below) has a few gain increments per preset which is great. This allows you to dial in the sound you want with minimal effort.
Drive Channel Sounds and What They Mean
This setting is reminiscent of the lower gain and bright sounds of the Fender Bassman. The Bassman is a classic known for having a bright and articulate high-end.
Renamed “Black Panel” in 2023, the Blackface setting will get you the best clean tones on the amplifier. These are similar to the sounds found in the legendary Fender Deluxe Reverb. A Deluxe Reverb is known for having a scooped mid-tone and more prominent low end, giving you a warm and full sound.
When you think of British amplifiers, you immediately think of VOX and Marshall. The British tones sound much more like a VOX than a Marshall amplifier to my ear. These tones are scooped in the mids and have more high-frequency than the Fender amplifiers would natively.
Do you like Hard Rock and Metal? The Metal setting will give you three options, all usable for higher-gain sounds. While it’s uncertain what these amps are based on, they sound fine. Fender isn’t known for their high-gain tones, except for the Fender Bassbreaker. If you want to play metal, this will get you by, but you’d be better suited with a Marshall or Boss Katana. Think of Fender as the best clean and off-clean sounds you can get, while Marshall and the Boss Katana excel in the higher-gain tones.
Fender Champion 40 Guitar Amplifier Review and Demonstration
Check out my full review video of this amplifier. In this video, I had the amplifier mic’d up with a Shure SM-57 clone and was recording into a Zoom R16 Recorder.
The Fender Champion 40 guitar amplifier is loaded with an array of onboard effects. The effects are DSP (Digital Signal Processing) and do a great job of recreating classic and sought-after effects. These effects include Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay and Reverb, Wah, Vibe, and, Tremolo. You can only select one FX preset at a time on the FX SELECT control. The Great news is that you can also tap-tempo the effects to be on time with the music you are playing.
Does Fender Champion 40 have Reverb?
Yes, the Fender Champion 40 has Reverb. The difference with this Champion over other amplifiers is that Reverb is one of the many effects you can add thanks to the dedicated FX Select dial. Unlike traditional tube amplifiers, the Champion 40s reverb circuit is digital. The reverb circuit was spring on older versions like the Champion 30 from the 90s, but they didn’t have all the built-in DSP (digital) effects like the modern versions.
Why does my Fender Champion 40 pop when I turn it off?
This operation is completely normal. Unlike some amplifiers, the Champion 40 does not have a standby switch, so you hear the power release from the power supply through the speaker. This will not affect the amplifier. You can also turn the volume control down before powering off the amplifier for a much quieter experience. An audible pop can also be heard as you turn the amplifier on. Don’t worry about this, as it’s completely normal.
Is the Fender Champion 40 loud enough for gigs?
The Fender Champion 40 is loud enough for small cafe and club gigs. This is loud enough to keep up with a drummer, either with a smaller kit or someone not playing above 50% maximum volume. If you need more volume, you can easily mic up the amplifier and go through the PA system at a gig.
40-Watts Tube vs. Solid State
Just know that A 40-watt solid state is not loud as a 40-watt tube amplifier for a few reasons. Usually, solid-state amplifiers are loaded with lower-quality speakers than their tube or valve counterparts, which is no exception.
Fender Champion 40 or 100?
If you plan on playing in a larger room, I can recommend the Champion 100. The 100 is a 100-watt amplifier loaded with 2×12″ speakers. This combination allows it to be much louder than the Champion 40 and handle higher volumes. The 40 is a loud amplifier, and you’ll get the loudest output from the amp using the clean channel with an external overdrive, distortion, or fuzz pedal.
What type of amp is Fender Champion 40?
The Champion 40 is a Solid State Amplifier and Digital Modelling Amplifier. This amplifier has a clean solid-state channel and an assortment of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) onboard. Even though it has DSP, the Champion amplifier is still a solid-state amplifier.
Are Fender Champions any good?
The Champion range from Fender is a great entry point into the world of guitar amplifiers. You get a dedicated solid-state clean channel that remains clean at all volumes. Additionally, the amps are loaded with a great set of overdrive and distortion tones, along with excellent Reverb, delay, and modulation effects. For the price, the Champion range is a great choice over more complex modeling amplifiers like the Fender Mustang or GT (see my review) range.
Fender Champion 40 vs. Boss Katana 50
If you need all the effects under the sun, get the Katana 50. If you like to keep it simple, get the Champion amp 40. Usually, when an amplifier has a million options, you can sometimes spend more time fiddling with the sounds instead of practicing.
I’ll cover the major differences if you are undecided between the Boss Katana 50 and the Champion 40. The Katana is a very impressive amplifier considering its price, and it’s loaded with a much better speaker than the Champion 40. The Katana requires USB connectivity to get the most out of it.
You can plug in and play, but the dials and stock sounds might not be what you’re looking for. Overall, the Katana is more versatile than the Fender, but the Fender has a better plug-and-play experience. The Champion is the way to go if you love the Fender clean sound or want to use pedals. While the Katana amps can sound great with pedals, you choose that amp based because it has a lot of built-in pedal effects.
Fender Champion 40 or 50XL?
One of the best alternatives to the Champion 40 is Champion 50XL. I had a chance to review the Fender Champion 50XL recently, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun to use. The major difference is the 50s’ new visual paired with a selection of new effects. These new effects suit players looking for a better overdrive or distortion tone without using pedals. Fender upgraded the speaker in the 50XL to a Celestion Midnight 60 G12N-60, and it’s a welcomed upgrade over the old generic Fender speakers found in other amps.
Fundamentally, the amplifier is the same as the Fender Champion 40, but with modern upgrades and less of the classic Fender style. I gave the Fender Champion 50XL a deep-dive review on my YouTube channel. You can check out the full review below and work out if you prefer it. Weight-wise, both amplifiers are the same, so there’s no advantage regarding portability. The XL is the new version, so if that’s important, get the 50.
- 40 watts
- 12″ Fender Special Design speaker
- Two channels, single input
- Reverb, delay/echo, chorus, tremolo, Vibratone, and other effects
- Different amp voicings and distortion types
- 1/8″ auxiliary input and headphone output jacks
- Weight: 19lbs (8.6kg)
The Fender Champion is a great amplifier considering its sound quality, portability, and effects selection. This will suffice for players just starting or if you need a small, lightweight amplifier for low-volume shows. The Champion is a great plug-and-play amplifier that doesn’t require pedals to get a good mix of sounds. While this amplifier isn’t as versatile as the Katana 50 or as loud as a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, it’s a good quality unit. Check it out using the links below. If you’re looking for a more professional amplifier around the same size and weight, check out my review of the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb amplifier.