All amps are iconic in their own way, but in many ways collectors of the early ’50’s tweed Fender Champs have elevated them to cult status.
Originally conceived by Leo Fender as a “practice amp,” the circuit is about as simple as it gets ( 12AX7 / 6V6GT / 5Y3 ) and has a bevy of close cousins in the small amp world, but the magic of the champ for many has been its imminent recordability. Despite the small size, Champs can sound huge in a recording studio, not to mention raw, visceral, touch sensitive and harmonically rich.
I’ve built several models of the champ and have found two of them to be particularly to my liking. The ubiquitous 5F1a and its predecessor the 5C1.
The one point of contention among purists is the size of the speaker. Original 5c1 champs came with a 6″ speaker and 5F1 champs came with 8″ AlNiCo speakers, but I’ve seen them built with anything from 6″x9″ speakers to 2×12″ speakers. Vintage folks argue anything other than the 8″ and it loses that “champ sound.” They may be right, but there are a whole lot of other great sounds to be had with this circuit as well!
This is a custom build with a 5F1a circuit in a pine cab extended nearly to 5E3 size to accommodate a vintage 12″ Heppner speaker. The circuit itself has a few mods. .01 Mallory coupling caps and a blocking resistor on the screen of the 6V6 to tighten the bass and make it play nicer with humbuckers. Mojotone (power) and Classic Tone (output) transformers bring this to life
The box is finger joined pine, covered in vox style “fawn” tolex.