The idea for ‘hot-rodding’ Fender amps – thus giving them more gain and volume – came not originally from Fender but from Mesa Boogie founder Randall Smith, who modified a ‘60’s Fender Princeton for Carlos Santana. Instead of a flat sounding and relatively quiet little 12-watter, Santana was blown away by the now souped-up combo, which was now capable of liquid, searing sustain. You could say an industry was born right there, but it wasn’t until the mid eighties that Fender caught up and although the resulting products – the so-called ‘red-knob’ series – were not that great sounding, there was one amp that became semi-legendary. The Champ 12 was an innocuous looking item, but it had ‘that’ sound; a smooth and rounded sustain at sensible volume levels that many pro players found exactly right for the time. So the Fender Champ – originally Fender’s lowest powered and smallest amp – assumed a new mantle which has continued right through to the twin channel and DSP effects powered Champ XD. The latest version – released as part of the Vintage Modified series – is the Super Champ X2, available as a combo or head.
The Fender Super Champ X2 offers 15-watts of power courtesy of two 6V6 valves in the output stage and one 12AX7 in the pre-amp. Like its predecessor, the X2 has a range of DSP effects including Vibratone, delay, chorus, tremolo and reverb and by utilizing Fender’s free FUSE software, users can customize and deep edit amp voicings and effects and enjoy online access to the Fender community of fellow Super Champ X2 owners. Mexican built, the Super Champ X2 also features an 8 Ohm 10” Fender Special Design speaker, a voicing knob to select 16 different amp types including tweed, Blackface, British, Hot Rod, metal and more, 15 effects with level control, channel switching, a tap tempo control, line output, external speaker capability and USB output for speaker-emulated digital recording. The channel switching footswitch is available separately.
Front panel design is typically Fender, with black and silver knobs and clear labelling of controls which include Volume 1, Channel Select button, Gain, Volume 2, Voice, Treble, Bass, Effect Adjust, Effects Select and Tap Tempo. Silver fret cloth and an old-style flat Fender badge add to the ‘blackface’ look and for a modern amplifier, there are a surprising amount of retro sounds on the voicing switch. Half the 16 selections are given over to old Fender amps which all display that slightly murky, compressed break-up. A couple have added compression which when driven hard with a humbucker equipped guitar, make the speaker ‘bottom-out’ – just like the real thing. All the rest of the voicings display various degrees of overdrive character, according to name. ‘70s and ‘80s British have enough grind to pass for vintage Marshall JCMs while Super Sonic, ‘90s and 2000 Metal – while not having quite enough gain to replicate a Boogie Rectifier, Peavey 6505 or similar rig – at this volume provide the service required. While not quite loud enough to be a gigging amp, the Super Champ X2 would be fine in the studio or as a luxury practice combo. There’s also a surprising amount of clean headroom on Channel 1, which stays clean nearly all the way up the dial.
With five effects, there’s plenty of options for creating all kinds of sounds, especially connected to the software. Usefully, fender has included some combined options; reverb and delay, chorus and delay and chorus and reverb. Single modulation effects are also well represented; three speeds of tremolo, fast and deep chorus, and a rotating speaker with fast and slow options – all adjustable with the Tap Tempo button. Being DSP, the effects are good and clean and don’t muddy up the tone like analogue pedals would. Of particular note is the Classic Fender Spring Reverb, which when added to the ’65 Twin gives a pretty accurate replication of a classic Fender amplifier at its best.
The Super Champ X2 is a big improvement on the previous model as far as the amp voicings go and the FUSE software makes the possibilities for sounds virtually endless. An affordable and well thought out amplifier.