Fender Super Champ XD

I have played through a lot of guitar amplifiers.  When I first started playing in our high school rock band back in about 1968, I had a Gibson flatop acoustic with a DeArmond pickup in it.  I played it through a Standell transistor amp that belonged to a friend.  In those days, most of our amps were borrowed.  Craig borrowed a Bandmaster, John borrowed a Twin, and I played through John’s Standell.  The guys who had money for amps couldn’t play, and the guys who could play had no money.  Later, I switched to bass because Bill the bass player left.  I bought a Magnatone bass amp from Madman Louie, the owner of a big pawnshop in L.A.  We walked out of the store three times before he offered a reasonable price.  That amp sounded good, but was never loud enough to compete with a Twin Reverb in a gym.   I wish I still had the Magnatone, and the Silvertone bass I was playing.

Then I bought a Martin D-18 and we went acoustic for a while.  No need for amps.  I still have the Martin.  I wrote a lot of songs on that guitar, but I don’t remember most of them.

For a while I had a Blackface Fender Bassman head, but it needed work and I never had a proper speaker cabinet for it.  I traded it to Craig for a Rock amp, a little thing with a lovely wooden cabinet.  It sounded good clean, but it was a solid state amp so the distortion settings were nasty.  That ended up being used as a tiny P.A. at poetry readings, and I ended up giving it away for that purpose.

Then I had a no name Japanese Les Paul copy with a 25 watt Gorilla amp.  The Gorilla was also solid state, and it sounded pretty good for a little practice amp with an 8″ speaker.  I gave that away to someone’s son.  That was followed by a Carvin X-60A, a 60 watt tube amp with EL-34 power tubes.  This thing sounds glorious if you crank it up, but the neighbors will complain.  At reasonable volumes, it sounds pretty dull, so it never got played much.  It sits in my study.

I had a Vox Cambridge 15, which is basically a Vox Pathfinder with a tube in the preamp.  It had a nice tremolo.  I traded it to Craig for something, maybe the Fernandes Strat.  I have a Crate VC 508, another little tube amp with an 8″ speaker.  Out of the box you couldn’t get any kind of clean sound.  I replaced the 12AX7 in the preamp with a less aggressive tube, probably a 12AY7.  This cleaned things up a bit.  I have heard that there are other modifications that can be done to make this amp sweet, but they are beyond my expertise.  I still have this amp, but I have never bonded with it.

When I was playing the Wechter at Starbucks, at first I was going straight into Craig’s Mackie P.A., which was powerful enough to play a venue 90 times bigger than the Starbucks.  However, when the conga player was there, I couldn’t hear myself, so I bought an Ultrasound AG-50DS2 to use as a monitor.  This is a really nice solid state amp  for acoustic guitar, and I use it for guitar synth and as a practice bass amp.   The newer ones are set up even nicer.  This was a good purchase.

And finally, the Super Champ XD.  I love this amp, even though it has one serious design flaw.  The SCXD is a modeling amp with a tube power section.  These days, everybody is looking for pure tube tone.  All the classic memorable rock and blues records were made with tube amps, which have a warm sound, distort in a musical way, and respond to the player’s dynamics in a way that solid state amps don’t.  A modeling amp takes the characteristics of a classic tube amp and digitalizes them, so that a signal passed through the computer chip takes on the characteristics of whatever tube amp the model was made from.  Tube amp purists hate this.  However, in the SCXD, it works, maybe because of the tube power section.  I especially love the Fender tweed models on this amp, but I have used the Marshall and Vox models too.  It just sounds good, and it makes you want to play.  It also has a direct out, so you can connect it to your computer to record without a mic.

The design flaw?  The speaker baffle rattles when you hit certain notes.  I have heard that the new Fender Princeton Reissue has the same problem.  The top of the speaker baffle meets up with the amp chassis, so there is no way to fasten it down to anything.  I tried screwing a piece of angle aluminum to the baffle to stiffen it, and this helps quite a bit, but doesn’t eliminate the problem.  My solution at the moment is to run it through a Carvin extension cabinet with a Carvin VL-30 in it.  It sounds great this way.

The amp sounds so much better than any other amps I have owned that I don’t even care much about the rattle.  Eventually, I will find a solution.

I guess nothing is ever perfect.

Update:  I re-tubed the SCXD with JJs, re-biased it, took out the stock speaker and put in a Jensen C10Q.  Now it sounds much more authoritative and grown up, and best of all, the speaker baffle rattle is gone!  I don’t know exactly why. Perhaps the Jensen is stiffer.

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About guitarsophist

I'm a guitar-playing rhetorician professor.
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