Sunday, September 13, 2009


As I mentioned in an earlier post here at Cool and cheap Fender Amps, Fender has several outstanding inexpensive amps for practice and recording called the Vibro Champ XD and the Super Champ XD. They are pretty similar in sound, except the Super Champ XD has some great upgrades from the Vibro Champ XD for just a small bit more cashola. A Bigger speaker, one additional tube, and a second footwitchable channel are the main differences.

The Super Champ XD is retailing for an AMAZING $299 most places. I found one on sale cheaper than that last year, and with a Guitar Center discount coupon and a $15 GC gift card given (for customer loyalty and also as a great marketing ploy) for far less. In fact, I walked out the door with mine for less than the Vibro Champ was going for.

Some places are selling them for $100 more. The smaller inde music stores I've visited are selling theirs for around $400 to $425. But most online places I've seen the Super Champ XD is going for $299 with free shipping.

Mine is still stock. Reading reviews of this amp at Harmony Central and various retailers with review sections, it seems like some owners like speaker and tube replacement. I won't say I won't ever mod the amp but right now I am quite pleased with it.

I'm a drummer who is learning guitar, er, who has been learning guitar since my youth in the early seventies. I still know about 4 of the basic chords, but I can pick better than I can chord, which is very frustrating because I really want to play many of the rhythm parts of songs and not the leads. Such is life.

But although my geetar skills may be subpar for the amount of time (sporadic and with long periods of non-guitar playing) I've invested since the beginning of my six string quest, I have been AROUND great sounding guitarists with great sounding rigs and amps A LOT.

Many of my favorite players, both in terms of folks I've played with in bands and folks I've bought the records of, play lots of Fender tube amps. It's just always been that way. Twin Reverb. The Bassman. Deluxe Classic. Vibro King. Princetons. Super Champs. Those are the names of amps that you see most often if you're playing rock and roll or blues in Texas, and everywhere else in the world, I suspect.

True enough, you'll see some Vox AC's or Mesa Boogie's or Marshall stacks (more likely half-stacks) that folks play looking for the wide variety of brit based rock and blues guitar sounds. One of my former bandmates and great friends, THE VINTAGE GUITAR MAN, owns a world famous vintage guitar business. He's been selling rock and roll and blues electric guitars since the sixties.

Not only does The Vintage Guitar Man sell lots of cool stuff, in the forty years he's been doing it he's kept samples of exemplary condition amps and guitars for his own stash. Sometimes he calls it his retirement plan. Now, he's got everything from the highly desired Marshalls and Fenders to Voxes to Mesas to Traynors to Kendrick (and other custom boutique amps) from all vintages.

Out of all those amps that he has in his personal collection, plus whatever fine stuff he has currently in inventory in new and used amps, what amps does The Vintage Guitar Man play himself. He can play anything he wants to, literally.

He plays three amps. One is a Traynor Combo with a single 12 speaker. The second is a Silver Jubilee anniversary Marshall 12 combo model. Last but not least, his favorite amp in the world is the Rivera-era Fender Super Champ. The real Super Champ.

But the Super Champ XD comes close to the early 80's Rivera Super Champ on the clean Fender channel. I can hear a difference, but it's like hearing the difference in the voices of a father and a son who sound the same, just 30 years apart. For a gigging amp, I know the Rivera Super Champ has far more "real" watts and power than the XD. But again, the XD can crank it louder than most of it's target audience will ever need to it. But the cool thing is, the XD can get "that sound" (whatever the sound you're looking for is) at really low volume levels.

For instance, by messing with the voices and the vibratone effect, the other evening I found an Eric Johnson-ey tone, similar to the sound of his guitar on his killer song Soulful Terrain. Now, I can get that same sound out of my pocket pod, and it would be close to being as good as the Super Champ XD but the XD has than "tube edge" to it.

So far, just seeking some easily found tones on the Super Champ XD amp, I've been able to pull a very believeable Stevie Ray like tone (voice 6), a great clean Fender tone, a Cream (think Badge) type sound, a sort of late 80's Neil Young type tone, a nice Marshall Plexi type sound and a Fender Bassman type of sound. For fun, I hooked up a 12" speaker I had handy, and the tone and volume just increased greatly.

Of course, the light weight of the amp is in part due to the 10" speaker choice, and I'm sure an upgrade to the speaker would yield fantastic results. But again, the speaker that's in there is sounding good to me, so until I really get the bug to put an Eminence Ragin' Cajun speaker in there (the most recommended replacement in all of my readings), it's doing well.

My amp is well constructed. It came well packed and although you have to buy the $25 footswitch (be careful to order the specified one as others won't work with it), it's still a bargain. My amp and Billy Ray's Vibro XD were a "10" in quality control.

I've owned numerous Fender guitars and amps over the past 35 years. They were all good, and I wish I still had the ones that I sold or traded. All of my stuff, except for the Deluxe Reverb Reissue that Billy Ray talked me out of, was originally lower end and cheaper Fender items. They were always excellently made, and except in the case of replacing tubes and speakers in 30+ year old tube amps, I've never had any problems with my Fender purchases. So I suspect this amp will last a long time, probably serving El Fisho Jr. long after I'm gone. El Fisho Jr. has already noticed the difference between this amp and other amps he plays on, including a Mesa combo and an old Fender tube amp, and anytime he and I are playing music, he's trying to beat me to plugging into the Super Champ XD.

He keeps saying: How come these other amps (that he has access to) don't sound like that?

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