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Displacement activities: Modding a Fender Champ 12 Amp

Fender Champ 12 combo front panel

Although the Delta-Trem and Phaseomatic designs are drawing to close, there’s still some head scratching needed to get the tap tempo calibrated on both these pedals. To relax I decided to tweak-up the tone of a Fender ‘Champ 12′ amp we recently purchased for use as a rig for audio testing the subminiature tubes that are fitted in our effects pedals. Read on to discover how a just a handful of inexpensive components can radically improve the tone of this little tube amp!


  1. Richard Gornall says:

    Is it possible to have my ‘old’ Blackbird modified to use reed relays instead of opto-couplers to eliminate the switching delay. I’m in Australia (Melbourne) do you have any authorised techs here or is this something one the local gurus could manage? Or would I need to ship the pedal to you?
    Cheers, Richard.

    • Phil says:

      Hi Richard, I’m afraid it’s not possible as the modification would be so fiddly and time consuming it would be more expensive than a new Blackbird. Sorry, Phil

  2. Troy says:

    Potential alternate solution: If you haven’t already (& if your amp has a serial effects loop) then plug the Blackbird into the amp’s effects return (i.e. straight into the power amp) thus replacing the amp’s preamp & leave it on all the time as a twin-channel pre-amp.

    Use another pedal (overdrive, boost or fuzz) or multiple pedals to kick into higher gain for lead playing – or roll up the gain on the BB & back off the guitar’s volume notch for rhythm & roll it up for lead. Doing the latter while having the Fire Bottle boost on all of the time really opens up the guitar’s volume control over BB’s blue channel. Adjust guitar’s & BB’s tone controls based on rhythm levels if things seem to dark when rolling off guitar volume.

    One of my favourite things about the Effectrode gear is how responsive they are to guitars’ volume & tine controls. They are highly expressiion-sensative, very symbiotic tone tools that are well worth experimenting with in a number of sonically rewarding ways. The Levelling Amplifier after the BB works well too as an always-on pedal if the compression is more subtly set.

    Also having a boost that can be added after compression & after the BB is nice to have as well. Actually, having the Fire Bottle, BB & LA all always on & using the channel foot-switch on the BB & the boost foot-switch on the LA could & controlling the rest from the guitar could be a nice basic setup covering a lot of gain stage options without having to turn any of those units off.

    Just setting up optimal subtle settings that allow for all of the pedals to work at their interactive best with each other.

  3. Troy says:

    Potential alternate solution #2: Get one of those multi-loop switchers such as the Boss ES-8 & leave all pedals on & selectable either separately or as “patches” of multiple pedals in send/return loops.

    Potential alternate solution #3 Might seem like sacrilege but could be worth trying as an alternative to above if you need a lot of foot-swutchable effects, but with something like the Boss GT series. The brand new one is the GT-1000 which has two FX loops (I have the GT-8 which I am familiar with as I’ve had it for over a decade but have never used with Effectrode pedals, only as a “fly rig” when carrying a larger board was out of the question or just too much of a PITA if jumping on a train – although I have dragged about a medium size board – 32″ x 16″ – on a train to get do out-of-town recording). I would definitely like to experiment with such a combination (a couple of Effectrodes with a modern higher end multi-FX just to see how much sonic mileage I could get out of it for a more portable rig). I just haven’t got around to it.

    With that you could put the Blackbird in one of the two loops & could switch the BB’S channels with its amp switch. Put a Tube-Drive or some other pedal (or your amp’s own pre-amp – using the “4-cable method” as it’s commonly called) in the other loop & you’d have a very powerful, flexible, foot-switcgable system for a live rig that’s bit too different from what Johnny Marr has been using for quite a few years (except it would sound way better with both the Effectrode pedals & a much newer & upgraded multi-effects/controller board.

    Just throwing these your way in case one or more of them is helpful.

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