If you’re curious about Champster amps, you’ve come to the right post!
Champster Amps: What Are They?
The Champster amp model is made by a small manufacturer called Lil Dawg. Aside from amps, Lil Dawg also makes guitar pickups. But at this point, they’re most famous for the Champster.
So what’s the deal with this amp? Well, the amp in question is a recreation of old legendary Fender Champ amplifiers. What we’re talking about here are the old variants featuring the 5F1 circuitry. But I’ll get to that in a few moments.
The full name of this amp model is actually 5F1 Tweed Champ The Champster. Now, what you need to bear in mind is that Lil Dawg is a custom amp builder. This means that there isn’t one specific Champster. You can choose from a set of features.
Champster is best known as a combo amp. These can come with an output power that goes from 5 to 15 watts. There are also two speaker configurations. You can either get it with a single 8-inch or a single 12-inch speaker.
There are also amp head variants. They can come with aluminum, steel, or chrome chassis. In addition to all this, you can add a few other modifications to these amps. Of course, they’re charged additionally. But they’re mostly for advanced users with more specific tastes.
Of course, the price range here differs. These can go from slightly below $700 and up to over $1200. This doesn’t include additional costs.
The 5F1 Circuit
The 5F1 circuit is one of the classics of the traditional American tone. This particular circuitry was introduced in the late 1950s. It lasted up until 1964.
The circuitry comes with your regular 12AX7 preamp valve. Meanwhile, the power amp tube is 6V6, while there’s also the 5Y3 rectifier tube. Lil Dawg also offers JJ tube sets. They come with GZ34 instead of 5Y3. But, in my opinion, the results are almost identical. Either way, the choice comes down to personal preferences.
It makes the amp really simple. There are two guitar inputs, one high-impedance and the other low-impedance. It’s what you can see on those old Fender Champ models as well.
Not to get you into all the geeky details, these two inputs will give slightly different results. The first input gives a slightly brighter tone. You’ll also be able to achieve slightly louder output. The second input is attenuated and slightly less responsive. But it’s extremely useful for higher-output pickups and those who love to use pedals.
Finally, we have the amp’s extremely simple control layout. There’s just one simple volume control. It still offers some versatility and allows your guitar, or pedals, to control the tone. Pushing the volume knob up higher, you’ll get a more distorted tone.
But overall, this circuitry gives you more headroom, and thus a cleaner tone. This is also due to the negative feedback. It keeps the tone thicker yet very controlled. It may be harder to get distortion compared to some other amps. But you can get it into some smooth warm overdrive by setting the volume up high.
What Are Champster Amps Like?
The idea behind Champsters is to replicate those old late-1950s and early 1960s Fender amps. You might also know them as Fender Tweed amps, an unofficial name they got for their recognizable cloth covering. So the name itself has nothing directly to do with the tone. However, the nickname remains associated with it.
With this in mind, Champsters are here to replicate that tone as well. The main idea is an American-style tube amp with a decent amount of headroom. What this means is that it won’t distort that easily.
Now, I mentioned how these amps have just a volume control. Since they’re low-output tube amps, the volume control will also affect the saturation. Up to about 25%, you’ll get a fairly clean tone. Even though they’re low-wattage amps, you’ll have a relatively strong output.
From about 30%, things get a little sparkly. What I need to note here is that they’re fairly bright amps. So if you want to keep the tone smoother, you’ll have to use your guitar’s tone knob. The amp’s natural distortion is treble-heavy. It adds a lot of harmonic content in the higher ends.
As you push the volume higher, the amp distorts and gets louder. The boomy bottom-end punch also gets more noticeable at around 50% and onwards. However, I’d say that the bottom ends are more noticeable with PAF-style humbuckers and P90s.
Going from 50% and onwards, things get really sizzling. From my experience, the dynamic response for some bluesy riffs and solos is noticeable in the 50 to 60% territory. But going above it, you may notice more compression, especially with humbuckers. At the same time, the amp will sound pretty distorted, but in a vintage kind of way.
Although I don’t do this, some players can push it up to 100%. I usually worry about pushing the tubes over the limit too much. But you shouldn’t experience any serious issues if it’s working at 90%.
The tone in these high settings is really crunchy. With humbuckers, you can get some hard rock tones. You can do some 1970s-style riffage in there. But it also cuts through the mix really well due to high ends.
One thing that I love about the 5F1 circuitry is how the tone is still controlled at higher-gain settings. Sure, you can’t expect some metal tones with it. But if you play a chord that isn’t a power chord, you’ll make out every note.
Champster Tone Character
You may think that an amp with just one volume control isn’t versatile. But you’d be surprised how the tone changes as you change the volume setting. At the same time, I’d say that the amp’s overall character is slightly scooped. There aren’t that many mids, at least not compared to British-style amps like Marshalls.
However, I should also point out that the amp is very responsive to what you feed it. While it retains this character, Champster will let your guitar shine. You can also get some interesting results with different overdrive pedals.
They can get some high-gain tones, but it always remains in a vintage-style character. As I said, the amp sounds very sizzling.
Should you get one?
Since they’re custom-order vintage-style amps, Champsters are kind of specific. Sure, there’s some versatility to them. But they mostly work the best for blues, blues rock, and old-school rock kind of stuff. You can get some hard rock tones here as well, but I’d rather recommend a Marshall for this.
They’re also not exactly the cheapest amps, although they’re pretty great for the price. As far as so-called “boutique” amps go, you can’t go wrong with them. But it’s still something for players who prefer that bright sizzling “ice pick” kind of tone.
A Champster will respond great to pedals as well. It can be a great “platform” for this purpose, so to speak. But in my opinion, it shows its greatest potential completely dry. Plug your Les Paul with P90s into one and you’ll have that natural overdrive that not many amps can reproduce these days.
Champster Amps: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped you think through Champster amps and if this amplifier is for you!
And if you want to read more about amps on this blog, then check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!