Posts Tagged ‘tweed champ’

I know, not a very good picture, oh well…

In any case, I recently won this amp in an eBay auction. As soon as I got it, I turned it over to Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps for him to inspect it, clean it up, and make it “safe.” The amp was in excellent working condition, considering it’s 52 years old, but to be safe, I wanted to make sure there was nothing amiss.

One of the first things Jeff looked at were the capacitors. Visual inspection didn’t reveal any leaks, but they needed to be measured to ensure that they were still able to keep a charge. Amazingly enough, they were still measuring well within operational tolerances, and none had to be replaced, which Jeff said indicated that the amp was being used. With those old paper capacitors, if they sit for a long time without use, they’ll eventually leak acid. But these were in great shape!

The next thing Jeff checked was the speaker. Interestingly enough, the speaker was a replacement, and not only that, it was a 16 ohm speaker, which actually attenuated the amp a bit, so I had Jeff replace the 8″ speaker with a new ceramic speaker.

Since the amp used a two-prong electrical plug, I asked Jeff to upgrade it to a three-prong medical-grade plug. Unfortunately, the way the amp was designed, doing that would require playing with the heater voltages, and while that wouldn’t necessarily harm the amp, it may have had an effect on the tone – not a good idea. So I just had Jeff replace the cord, which was in decent physical condition, but according to him, wasn’t carrying a full load of current to the amp.

In addition to cleaning it up and making sure it was in good working order, Jeff wired up an A/B switch box to the amp, so I could flip between using the internal speaker and an external cabinet (which is how I’ll normally play this amp). Jeff did this to avoid having to install a 1/4″ jack which would alter the amp from its original condition. Being a vintage gear collector, Jeff thinks about that stuff… This amp is going to be a player, so that wasn’t much a concern to me, but he kind of insisted, just in case I decide to sell it later.

Finally, since the amp didn’t have a back plate (which accounts for the great price I got it for), Jeff cut a nice 1/2″ ply board to protect the chassis. We’ll do a proper back plate with a tweed cover later, but I wanted to start using the amp right away, so we’ll do that as a future project.

Gig Report

With the amp complete, I played it all week to get used to how it responded. Now that I have one of these, it’s no small wonder why these have been long-time residents in studios all around the world. Hooked up to my 2 X 12, loaded with a Celestion Blue and Gold, the amp’s voicing is super rich, if a little on the bright side. But no matter. The cleans are absolutely incredible! They ring with a vintage chime that at least to me, invokes a visceral response in me that’s hard to explain. It’s a classic Fender clean, and through my 2 X 12, the cleans resonate and float through the air! As far as dirty is concerned, the Champ is no high-gain amp. Overdriven, it’s a dirty grind, perfect for blues- or classic-rock tones.

The Champ is also incredibly pedal friendly. I hooked up my super-versatile Doodad Guitars Check-A-Board RED overdrive/booster up to it, and the amp just responded! The overdrive is wonderful on this pedal, adding great sustain without overly compressing the signal, but where the pedal really worked with the Champ was with the booster. Slamming the front-end of the amp, I was rewarded with a gorgeous, smooth overdrive tone. Again, I thought to myself, this is why this little monster has been on so many songs over the years!

Yesterday, I took the amp to my church gig. Being the 4th of July, we had a skeleton crew: Just one other guitar besides myself, but no matter, I wanted to play it live. For this gig, I just used my custom Aracom 1 X 12 with a Jensen P12N, and I played my “hybrid” Fender Stratacoustic Deluxe through it. Despite the fact that I was ostensibly playing an acoustic guitar through the amp, the tone was absolutely natural. I was like, “This really shouldn’t sound that good, but I’m amazed at how it sounds!” Granted, the Stratacoustic is more like a hollow-body electric than an acoustic, but the Champ just took its natural voice and amplified it beautifully.

Once I have my studio set up again (just finished construction on the house, so I lost my recording space temporarily), I’ll make some recordings!

If you live in the Silicon Valley area and need some amp work, though Jeff sells his own line of amps, three of which I own, with a fourth on the way, Jeff is one of the best amp techs I’ve ever worked with and he’ll hook you up! He thinks of things I would’ve never thought of! Check out his site at http://www.aracom-amps.com. Needless to say, he is also the creator of the best attenuator on the market, the Aracom PRX150-Pro.

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