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Archive for the ‘fender’ Category

Some people may scoff at the diminutive Fender Champ 600. After all, it’s only 5 Watts and has a tiny 6″ speaker. But those naysayers may be missing the point about the Champ or any super-low wattage speaker for that matter. It’s not meant to be a performance amp; though you can certainly hook it up to an extension cabinet, and it’ll do just fine in a small venue – hey! I do that A LOT. But the secret behind the beauty of this little $149 wonder isn’t on the stage, it’s in the studio.

I’ve heard feedback from various people that they get frustrated with this amp because it’s missing certain features. Let’s face it folks, with a single volume knob, no tone control, and not much gain on tap, it would be easy to dismiss this amp as nothing more than a toy. But it’s no mistake that its venerable sibling, the Champ, has been a mainstay in professional studios for decades. It’s all in how you make use of what it has to offer.

First off, let’s establish what I think is the most important thing when recording this amp: The Champ is really good at creating your base tone, and that’s all that it should be used for. It’s up to you to shape it. Keep that in mind, and you’ll get more than a lot of mileage out of it. So let’s look at some key factors when recording with the Champ:

  • The Champ is naturally bright because of its small speaker. So microphone placement is absolutely critical. If you want to get a bright, twangy sound with lots of treble content, place your mic head on in the center of the cone, or just off center to avoid getting those treble “pops.” If you want less treble response, move the mic off-center, nearer to the edge of the speaker cone. I’ve found that the richest sound comes from angling the mic at about the same angle as the speaker cone, placed right at the outer ring about an inch off the grille cloth. The EQ response is a lot flatter there, and makes it easy to dial in your EQ in your DAW.
  • Even cranked in the high input, and even with humbuckers, the most breakup you’ll get is about “dirty blues” overdrive. But that’s why we have overdrive and distortion pedals, right? I’ve found that Tube Screamer and TS-type overdrive pedals work great with the Champ, though my Holy Fire distortion can make the Champ serve up some whoop-ass if dialed in just right.
  • Looking for Fender cleans? The Champ does raw Fender cleans – and quite well. Again, it’s all about mic placement when recording cleans with the Champ. My favorite is angled as I described above.
  • Do yourself a favor and replace the stock tubes with NOS tubes. I’ve never been a big fan of Groove Tubes (though I know some people like them). But with a great NOS pre-amp tube (I’ve got a ’59 GE long plate), and a solid NOS 6V6 (mine is a ’53 GE 6V6), you’ll immediately tame the harshness of the amp. In fact, I’ve never seen a need to replace the power transformer or the speaker because of this $50 investment.

So with those points in mind, go and record. What you’ll get after you’ve played around a bit is a great, raw guitar tone. But your work isn’t done yet – or it could be if you’re satisfied with the raw tone. Personally, I like to add filters and effects in production to make the recording sound like it’s coming from a much bigger amp. Yes, boys and girls, you can make it sound MUCH bigger!

A Word on Amp Modeling

One thing that I have also done with the Champ is to record a purely clean rhythm tone, then run it through IK Multimedia’s Amplitube plug-in to essentially “re-amp” my guitar. You can get some amazing guitar tones with the Champ when it’s re-amped through this software.

My Champ 600 Recording Process

A couple of people have asked me how to record the amp, so I thought I’d share the process I employ:

  1. First, it starts with the guitar. Am I looking for a single-coil or humbucker tone. The cool thing about the Champ 600 is that what you hear when you play through it is your raw guitar tone. There’s no EQ so you have to establish that on your guitar. Simple enough.
  2. Then I’ll determine whether or not I want to track with effects. Usually, I’ll only track with overdrive or distortion. I leave all the modulation effects to production.
  3. Next, I place my mic head, dead-center on the speaker, then record a chord progression and perhaps some quick lead licks.
  4. Then I’ll move the mic off-center and repeat the same thing I played with the mic centered.
  5. Finally, I’ll angle the mic as described above and repeat the same progression. More likely than not, I’ll use this position because I like it the best, but different guitars actually sound better with the mic positioned dead-center.
  6. Once I decide what mic position I’ll use, then I’ll record the track.
  7. Once I’m finished, it’s time to apply EQ, filters and modulation effects. I like to use a hi-pass filter on most recordings with Champ to “tame” its natural edginess.

Here are some clips that I put together based upon the process above (I skipped recording head-on, off center):

Clean (Squier Classic Vibe Tele 50’s)

1. Mic head-on, dead-center

2. Mic angled along speaker cone, 1″ off the grille cloth.

Recording #2 with Graphic EQ, Chorus, Parametric EQ, Delay, Reverb, and Hi-pass filter applied

Overdriven with Tube Screamer for Extra Drive (Gibson Nighthawk 2009)

1. Mic head-on, dead-center

2. Mic angled along speaker cone, 1″ off the grille cloth.

Recording #2 with Graphic EQ, Flange, Delay, Reverb, and Hi-pass filter applied

It’s amazing what EQ, filters and effects can do to the recording! And it really didn’t take that much work to dial in the final version of what I wanted to ultimately print!

Finally, here’s a song I wrote and record awhile back (sorry for the over-abundance of bass). If I remember correctly, I used four guitars in six parts in that song (Epiphone Explorer, Gibson ES-335, MIM Strat, PRS SE Soapbar II), all recorded with the Champ – and with the stock speaker no less!

Rock on!!!

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

cb_tele

Squier By Fender Classic Vibe Telecaster 50’s

Summary: Finally! An inexpensive guitar that isn’t just a pretty face like many cheapo guitars. This guitar backs up its great looks with great sound and playability!

Pros: Spectacular, lush cleans from the neck pickup. Nothing twangy about this guitar. The bridge pickup is nicely “trebly,” but not piercing at all! The thin, 50’s-style C-shape neck is to die for!

Cons: This is just a minor nit, and nothing to give points off, but the frets are a little small, and with heavy use, they’ll wear down. But hell! At this price, you can buy two and be way ahead of the game!

Features:

  • Body: Pine (very cool)
  • Neck: 9.5″ Radius, Solid Maple
  • 21 Frets
  • Pickups: 2 Custom-Style Vintage Tele Pickups with Alnico 3 magnets
  • Controls: Volume and Tone
  • Tuners: Vintage-style tuners

Price: ~$349 street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 – Not sure if I’ve ever rated a Fender product my highest rating, but that’s how good this guitar is!

Being the eternal optimist, I’m always looking for ways to turn a negative into a positive. As I’ve gotten older, my back has started to get a bit sensitive, and gigging with heavy guitars can sometimes be – literally – a real pain!  So I’ve been looking for a lighter alternative that would give me a good range of sounds, from great cleans to hot grind when I need it, and something that I could comfortably gig with and not worry about throwing out my back. I’ve found the guitar: It’s the Squier Classic Vibe Tele! If you don’t look at the headstock, you could swear you’re playing a regular Fender Tele! But this one has a great sound all its own. After last year’s price hike, I had lost hope that Fender would be able to produce anything that was inexpensive that had decent quality and sound, but I stand completely corrected, especially after the price drop of the Champ 600 down to $149, and now, this little secret, the Squier Classic Vibe Tele.

Fit and Finish

The guitar I played today was so well-made, I could’ve sworn that it was an American Tele. The blonde, vintage finish was luscious, and the 9.5″ radius vintage C-shape neck, with its gloss finish was perfect. No air bubbles, no uneven finish. The frets were well-dressed, if a little small, and I could detect nary a burr or sharp edge. It was obvious that despite this being a “bargain” brand, great care was put into building this instrument. Of course, only time will tell how well this instrument holds up, but from what I can tell from this brand-new specimen, it appears it’ll be be a long-lived instrument.

I also love that black pick guard that provides a very cool contrast to the blonde body finish! Nice!

How It Sounds

I’ve played a lot of guitars – especially “budget” guitars, but one thing that seems to be a common theme among the bargain guitars is that lots of them look great, but plug them in, and they’re less than – ahem – inspiring. This is where the Classic Vibe Tele stands head and shoulder above the rest. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was an American Tele based upon the quality of tones it produces. But unlike its American cousin, this Classic Vibe Tele has a slightly different tone, and that is not a bad thing at all. A lot of this can probably be attributed to the solid pine body. It’s very resonant, and it is not a bright-sounding wood, which probably accounts for the lack of “Tele” twang. It’s there, but it is definitely not as pronounced as I was expecting. Granted, I was playing through a Fender Hot Rod DeVille 2 X 12, which is known for its ample bottom, so that probably could account for the lack of twang. But hey! That is definitely not a bad thing at all!

The neck pickup, when played clean, has a very Strat-like neck pickup vibe. I love that! It’s smooth, and deep, and when slathered with some gorgeous Fender reverb, has a gorgeous, almost ethereal quality where the notes seem to just hang in the air. The bridge pickup adds top-end sparkle, as expected but surprisingly not so much that it sounds thin and tinny. It’s a slightly brighter version of the neck, which makes sense since the two pickups are the same. But quite frankly, I liked playing in the middle selector position where both pickups are engaged. The tone and gain balance between the two pickups in that position is fantastic.

“Balance” is a great way to describe the tone of the Classic Vibe Tele. It sounds and feels balanced; not bright, not deep. Balanced. And the sustain is absolutely breathtaking! I played a song where I comp chords up and down the fretboard with lots of sliding, bending and vibrato, and the sustain and ring that the guitar produced just made me close my eyes and smile. The guitar guy at the store even chided me with, “Aw Brendan, you play so sweetly!” That got a laugh out of me, but luckily he followed it up with, “That sounds so awesome. That guitar… for guys who are in the know with tone, is the one they’re getting. It’s a great guitar at any price” I’ve known this guy for years, and for him to say something like that is pretty profound.

I didn’t get a chance to really get into high gain, as I was in a store and wanted to be considerate of the other customers, but getting into the Drive channel of the DeVille was a real treat, especially with the bridge pickup engaged. I could tell that this guitar, even though it has that vintage vibe, would produce some singing overdrive. Even with the preponderance of pre-amp overdrive I was using, this guitar was a winner for me!

Overall Impressions

It is absolutely no surprise to me why Guitar Player Magazine gave this guitar an Editor’s Pick in this month’s issue. I first played the guitar at the GP offices a couple of weeks ago, and they told me it had gotten an Editor’s Pick. I didn’t get a chance to really play with it then, but based upon that conversation, I had to try one out. Looks like I’m GAS-ing again, dammit! This is one great guitar! Don’t let the price fool you; instead, let the price guide you. This is truly one of the deals of the century!

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4.75 Tone Bones - Almost perfect but not quite

stratacoustic

Fender Stratacoustic Deluxe

Summary: An extremely pleasant surprise from Fender with both electric and acoustic properties. Shaped like a Strat and a sporting a Strat neck, for any Strat player, it’s immediately familiar!

Pros: Amazing tones. First electric acoustic I’ve played through an amp that didn’t sound like an acoustic guitar plugged into an amp. Very natural acoustic tones, and Strat-like electric tones.

Cons: This guitar was obviously designed to be plugged in. Unplugged, it really doesn’t sound all that good. But that’s okay, because my particular application of this guitar is always plugged in.

Features:

  • Body Style: Stratocaster
  • Top: Spruce
  • Back: Solid Mahogany
  • Sides: Laminated mahogany
  • Neck: Maple
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • No. of frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 25-1/2″ (647.7 mm)
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Inlays:
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Electronics: Fishman Classic IV MT (with tuner and blend controls) and Fender Mexico Telecaster pickup
  • Controls: Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Blend, Tuner on/off
  • Machine Heads: Vintage Fender style

Price: ~$629 street

Tone Bone Score: 4.75 – Talk about versatility! If the Stratacoustic sounded good unplugged, it would get a 5.0.

Sometimes It Takes an Accident…

As I shared in a previous article, my Ovation Celebrity had a bit of an accident that made me look for a new acoustic in a hurry. What I ended up with was a guitar that simply blew me away! The moment I plugged it in, I was completely sold. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It sounded like a miked acoustic! Now granted, I was playing through an acoustic amplifier when I was evaluating the guitar. But nothing would prepare me for the same, natural tone through a regular tube amp! I’ll have a clip in a little bit, but let me tell you, it’s nothing short of amazing. First I’ll talk about the guitar.

Fit and Finish

For Strat players, this guitar will be instantly familiar. The Stratacoustic has a bolt-on maple Strat neck with rosewood fretboard. The body is shaped like a Strat, though of course, with a wider body for the resonance chamber. I’ve got the black model as shown in the picture above. This is a gorgeous guitar! One would think that as it is made in China, the build quality might not be very good. But amazingly enough, this is a really well-made and well-constructed guitar. If I only had one complaint, it would be the 2nd string’s saddle peg, which turned out to be a little loose on my guitar, and required really pressing it in. That could be problematic later on, but I could probably rectify, so it’s just a little nit.

The neck on this guitar is absolutely perfect – at least to me. It’s a classic Strat C-shaped neck in all its maple glory. I love it! And the cool thing is that even though this guitar is technically an acoustic guitar, it takes electric strings, so not only is the neck a Strat neck, with the electric strings, it plays EXACTLY like a Strat, with a nice, low action.

The tuners are totally cool! They’re vintage-style Fender tuners, where you measure and cut the string first, then insert the tip into a hole on the top of the tuner. You bend the string down into the slot then start winding. The result is a nice, smooth finish, with no string stubs that can poke you. They also look cool with their slightly relicked, tarnished chrome finish. It’s a nice retro touch!

Did I mention that this guitar is light? I haven’t weighed the guitar, but it can’t weight much more than seven pounds! I gigged with it twice over the weekend, and it is absolutely comfortable to play! It’s a winner!

How It Sounds

This is the really special part of the guitar. It features a Fishman Classic IV MT acoustic pickup under the saddle and a Fender Mexico Tele single coil at the base of the neck. The Fishman comes with a tuner with individual controls for bass, mids, and treble, and a blend control to blend the Tele and Fishman. In full acoustic, the guitar sounds just like a miked acoustic guitar. With the Tele pickup isolated, the guitar sounds just like a Strat, but with a slightly hollow, acoustic tone. It’s gorgeous! When I play it for acoustic voicing, I’ve actually never gone fully acoustic. In fact, I lean more towards the Tele pickup. The reason is that the Tele pickup adds a nice chime and top-end shimmer to the tone with subtle harmonics and overtones. But don’t take my word for it, here’s a short song that demonstrates what this guitar is capable of:

The song was recorded with three overlayed parts. The base rhythm track is played fingerstyle with the guitar set dead center in the blend, and the tone controls centered as well. The strummed rhythm leans just a bit towards the Tele side, and I bled off a little of the base. The result was that strummed chords sounded like a piano! Very cool! The lead track was recorded with the blend at about 90% Tele, and just a tad bit of the Fishman. For the lead, I also ran it through my wonderful KASHA Overdrive pedal. The result was a gorgeous, dirty Strat tone!

I almost forgot to mention. All the parts were played through my trusty Aracom VRX22! It’s an electric guitar amp, for goodness’ sake! Acoustic amp? We don’t need no stinkin’ acoustic amp.

Overall Impressions

As you can tell, I love this guitar! It is so incredibly versatile, giving me acoustic and electric tones with a touch of a slider. Interestingly enough, I wouldn’t call this a hybrid guitar, though it is technically a hybrid. I’ve played several hybrids, and this guitar really has a voice all its own. It really is an electric acoustic, and for the most part, it sounds like an acoustic. But it’s easy to configure it to sound just like an electric as the song above proves out.

But despite being able to configure it as an electric guitar, the most amazing thing about the Stratacoustic is how natural and organic – acoustic – it sounds when plugged in! Unlike a lot of acoustic guitars I’ve played and heard plugged into an amp, which isn’t at all very pleasing, the Stratacoustic sounds like it’s supposed to; like an acoustic guitar. I have a feeling that the body has a lot to do with this. Yeah, it doesn’t sound all that good unplugged, but it’s evident that the designer had this guitar pegged for being plugged in and was willing to sacrifice its unplugged tone for simply gorgeous plugged in tone.

Before I got it, I had actually never heard of the Stratacoustic. I just saw it on the rack, thought it was cool, and picked it out as one of the guitars I was evaluating. As soon as I plugged it in, I was sold. It’s quite simply a great guitar. It’s funny that the unplugged tone is really uninspiring, and it might turn away lots of players. But once you plug it in, it’s a completely different story. I thought I was done with buying Fender equipment, especially after they upped their prices significantly a few months ago – I just didn’t see the value. But this guitar sells at a great price. I got it for a deal, but at $629, it’s still a great value. I highly recommend this guitar!

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!
fenderstudio
IK Multimedia Amplitube Fender Studio

Summary: Need a quick, portable way to get your guitar ideas down on track, with an incredibly easy-to-use USB interface for performing live through software models? Look no further. Amplitube Fender Studio will get you rocking in minutes!

Pros: The inclusion of Fender Studio SE, RiffWorks T4 and Amplitube X-Gear, provide you with a full-featured experience to develop and track your song ideas, and are well worth the price of admission!

Cons: None.

Amplitube Fender Studio Package:

StealthPlug Features:

  • 9’/2,5m length cable with integrated audio interface
  • 1/4” jack connector MONO IN
  • 1/8” mini-jack Headphone STEREO OUT (suitable also for Amp/Powered Speaker OUT)
  • USB 1.0/2.0 connector
  • Activity LED
  • Volume UP/DOWN buttons
  • USB bus powered
  • 16 bit A/D -D/A converter
  • 44KHz/48KHz Sampling Frequency
  • Ultra-low latency ASIO and Core Audio Drivers
  • Hi-Z direct Guitar and Bass-IN (suitable for any instrument with line out also)

Price: $99.99 (street)

Tone Bone Score: 5.0. Being constantly on the go as I am it can get frustrating having to wait all day to get a riff or song idea down. With the Amplitube Fender Studio, I can quickly hook up my axe, switch on my laptop, and get an idea down before I lose it!

I’ve been getting some pretty cool gear and software from IK Multimedia as of late, and so far, I’ve been nothing short of impressed with what I’ve evaluated. I totally dug AmpliTube Fender, and the StealthPedal blew me away with its high-fidelity signal processing. So it was with great anticipation that I’d do a review of Amplitube Fender Studio with the StealthPlug. I wasn’t disappointed in the least!

Amplitube Fender Studio: Be Anywhere, Record Your Axe Anywhere

I received AmpliTube Fender Studio with the included StealthPlug a few days ago (it’s always nice to come home to find a delivery box), immediately opened the box, plugged the StealthPlug into the USB port of my laptop, plugged my headset into the StealthPlug, fired up AmpliTube X-Gear, chose an amp, and started to play. Just as I expected, the device worked as advertised; and also as I expected, it worked with practically no latency. I immediately thought, “Man, I could gig with this…” But I’m jumping ahead… As fortune would have it, I could only spend a few minutes playing as I had to leave, so I unhooked everything and placed the StealthPlug in the pocket of my gig bag.

This morning, I loaded up my axe into my car, wanting to practice a little at lunchtime, as my work has kept me from playing regularly for the last several days. As I was driving into work, just letting my mind wander as I traveled down the freeway, out of nowhere I got a song idea. I played it over in my head for a few minutes, then anguished a bit because like many song ideas I’ve had in the past, I would have to wait until I got home to get the idea tracked; more often than not, by the time I got home, I’d lose the idea. Then I remembered that I had put the StealthPlug in my gig bag!

I immediately exited at the next exit and found a good place to park. I jumped out of the car, with laptop in hand, opened up my rear hatch, pulled my axe and the StealthPlug out of my gig bag, hooked up to my laptop, opened up GarageBand, created a new track, and hit record. I had the song idea down in less than five minutes. Sorry, I’m still working on the song, so I don’t have a clip. But the point of this is that the StealthPlug enabled me to get my song idea down soon after I got the idea. It meant that the idea didn’t get relegated to another “one that got away.”

Performance

I needn’t go into any diatribe of the StealthPlug’s fit and finish nor how it sounds. How it sounds is based upon what amp and effect models you apply in your software. But here’s one thing I did notice, and it’s a huge thing: I could barely detect any latency at all while I played through the StealthPlug, even when recording in GarageBand, which can be a real resource pig. That kind of instantaneous response is absolutely to die for! I suppose the near-zero latency of the StealthPlug probably has a lot to do with the simplicity of the signal route. It’s a USB cable, for goodness’ sake! But that bodes well for using the StealthPlug in a live situation. I’ve often wanted to use my computer in a live situation using nothing but software models for amps; especially in my church gig where controlling output volume is essential. The only thing that has kept me from doing this is latency. Even tiny amounts of latency can throw you off while you’re playing. But with the StealthPlug’s near-zero latency, I think I’m going to have to give it a go.

Funny thing, I perused the web for other reviews, and all seemed to have a much more tepid response to this wonderful piece of gear; especially with respect to latency. Mind you, I have 4 GB RAM in my Mac, so that probably has a lot to do with my lack of latency, since the computer rarely has to go to the hard drive once things are loaded.

Another thing I tried with the StealthPlug was running it from my pedal board, to see how it would react, and see how the amp models I have on my laptop would react. After tweaking some levels, I was amazed at how well it worked! Admittedly, the tone produced seemed a little thin in the highs, but a little EQ to boost the highs remedied that right quick. But there are other ways to employ the StealthPlug. Here a few ways you can use it.

Amplitube Fender Studio: It Simply KICKS ASS!

So I’ve established that I dig the StealthPlug… On a standalone basis, I’d give it a 5.0 Tone Bone score by itself because of the effect it had on my songwriting, but used within the context of the included Fender Studio software well, the whole package gets a 5.0! And it’s due to a little software package called Riffworks T4 that’s included with Fender Studio. I had heard of Riffworks by following Todd Rundgren who recorded his latest “Arena” album using the full version of this software.

Basically, Riffworks, as the name implies, is a software where you can create layered riff loops. Unlike programs like GarageBand or Ableton or the like, you construct songs in Riffworks by linking together riff loops that you can create. I won’t go into a lot of detail about it here, but I will say that it makes songwriting very very easy. For those of you familiar with digital recording, riffs are built using a “loop recording” methodology; that is, a phrase is played over and over again with a new “layer” added with each iteration of the loop. It’Add to the fact that Fender Studio and X-Gear or whatever amp plug-in you have on your computer is readily available in the software, and creating music is absolute freakin’ breeze. Here’s a clip that I recorded just a few minutes ago using Riffworks with Fender Studio:

For the rhythm part, I used ’59 Bassman model, then applied a Riffworks Filter and Shaper to it to give it that “vibey” sound. For the lead, I used driven ’57 Deluxe model. But for this, I ran my guitar into my pedalboard first, then into the StealthPlug. I only used a single pedal, and that’s my beloved Tone Freak Effects Abunai 2 to add some slightly compressed and sustaining overdrive to the signal. The result was magnificent!

Once I was done with recording in RiffWorks, I outputted the clip to a WAV file, then imported it into GarageBand, so I could add a bassline. If I had a bass handy, I could’ve done everything in RiffWorks, but alas, I can only use MIDI for now. But here’s the cool thing: The StealthPlug was my only audio interface into my computer! How incredible is that? And I just had my headphone attached to the StealthPlug, and it all worked amazingly well. Talk about having a portable studio! All I need is a couple of guitars, the StealthPlug and my laptop! Save the guitars, all I need will fit into my laptop bag. Granted, I wouldn’t have access to my pedalboard if I was on the road, but adding effect plug-ins to Amplitube if I need them is not a problem.

Overall Impressions

Amazingly enough, response to the StealthPlug has been just okay… Not sure what that’s all about. But for me, I have a recording solution wherever I go. I don’t need to bring amps, just my laptop and a couple of guitars when I want to get away for a remote songwriting adventure. And RiffWorks plus Amplitube gives me everything I need!

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Fender Champion 600 Re-issueAs much as I have been ranting about Fender gear pricing as of late, and their latest “supposed” price drop (who knows for how long), my Champ 600 has been a tried and true companion in my studio ever since I got it. I’ve even used it at small venue gigs hooked to a 1 X12 cab, and it has performed wonderfully! This is a great amp!

Anyway, As I was doing a bit of research on the Fender price drop, I happened to go to GuitarCenter.com and couldn’t believe the pricing of the Champ 600 there! At $149, this is even cheaper than what I got it for two years ago!

Folks, this is phenomenal! While diminutive in size, this amp packs tone! You want classic Fender tone at a lower volume for home recording or just futzing around, this is the amp to get! And because it’s a low wattage amp, you can push it and not worry that your eardrums will start to bleed.

For my own purposes, this has been one of most pedal-friendly amps I’ve ever owned, so I retubed it with a NOS JAN-Philips 12AT7 and a JJ 6V6 to get maximum clean headroom out of the amp. Now, I have to open up the amp full to get even mild breakup. But that’s why I have my OD pedals. My thought behind this is that I want to get as pure character out of my OD’s as possible, so playing through a really clean amp will accomplish that.

So what’s the point of all this? As I mentioned above, this is a GREAT amp, and at $149, it’s a steal. Go get one at GC today!

Here’s a sample I recorded with the amp hooked up to my 1 X 12 extension cab:

Disclaimer: I’m not in any affiliate program with GC, so I get nothing out of announcing this. 🙂

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Fender-'57-Champ-Reissue

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Fender over the years. When I’ve loved Fender, I’ve really loved them, and when I’ve hated them, I’ve really hated them. Right now, I’m really hating them. I’m just aghast at the prices they’re charging for their new gear! This Champ ’57 Reissue from the Fender Custom Shop lists at $1295 with a street price of $999! This for a 5 Watt amp with a diminutive 8″ speaker.

Make no mistake: The parts for this cost less than $400! This pricing is absolutely outrageous. Yeah, I’m familiar with its history, blah, blah, blah. And even though I’m no electronics dude, and couldn’t possibly construct an amp myself, I know a few manufacturers who build hand-wired amps with more power and GREAT sound for even less!

Take for instance, the Aracom VRX22. This is a hand-wired, 22 Watt amp that simply kicks freakin’ ass, and the head sells for $895! Then, there’s the upcoming release of the Reason Bambino. This is an 8 Watt amp that will sport that distinctive Reason sound. This head costs $699! It’s my next amp.

I’m sorry folks, this is the same issue that I had with the Fender Roadworn series of guitars. I’m not really in to reliced guitars, but there’s no way I could justify paying $999 for a freakin’ MIM guitar, especially when I paid less than $400 a couple of years back for my MIM Strat.

MAYBE Fender’s production costs are much higher than the smaller run manufacturers (not likely), which is how they justify the price-point for this amp. But this amp is nothing special from my point of view, and as I mentioned above, the parts for this cost less than $400. Lots of people have built 5F1-based amps. Look at the Valve Train Amps Concord. This is a 6 Watt point-to-point, hand-wired combo with a 10″ speaker. It sells for less than $500.

Go ahead, you can argue all you want about the classic sound and history of the Fender ’57 Champ reissue. But to me, Fender’s just again trying to trade on nostalgia. If that’s what floats your boat, more power to you – and mind you – I’m not questioning the quality or the tone of this classic. It has done much to contribute to the sounds of rock and roll. I just want to make it very clear that there are clear alternatives out there that may not have the name but undoubtedly have great tone, and watt-for-watt, and dollar-for-dollar have A LOT more value.

Note that I have the Champ 600 and it is one of my all-time favorite amps. But it has limited usability outside of my home studio. And that’s another thing that bugs me about the ’57 re-issue. It’s a hefty price to pay for an amp that would see limited if any use outside of my studio.

Like I said, if this floats your boat, and the price of this classic reissue, more power to you. For me, I demand a lot more value for the money I pay.

Recent Update

I’m still not sold on this amp, even though I have indeed played it, and it has some real vintage mojo. The sounds it produces are fantastic, but I still can’t justify buying it for the price Fender wants for it. Besides, I’ve seen some late-50’s originals that sell for the same price on EBay! I would buy one of those before I’d buy the re-issue.

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My friend Jeff Aragaki, of Aracom Amps is an incredible inventor. Today he brought over a new unit that among other things, allows me to re-amp my amplified signal into another amp. I’ve heard of this being done before – it’s not new. I just never had the means to do it until today. The clip I recorded – and excuse me for the sometimes sloppy areas – is my Prestige Heritage Elite plugged into my Aracom VRX22 into Jeff’s new invention, then out to my little 1 X 12 cabinet and re-amped through my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Re-amping through the Hot Rod allowed me to take advantage of its reverb, but with two amps going at the same time, it totally fattened up my sound without making it murky. Freakin’ incredible. Anyway, give it a listen!

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