Price paid: $ 239
Purchased from: Best Buy
Sound — 7
I really like the sounds that I can coax from this little guy. I mostly play alone and I like to record and this amp is perfect for such applications. It runs quiet, for the most part (you will get some typical hiss at high gain settings on some of the amp models)and it has really good, though not plentiful, effects. The chorus and reverb are great. The tremolo is actually really nice and smooth. The Vibratone setting is really starting to grow on me. It sounds like a phaser and flanger together. On clean settings, I like to bring the mids up just a bit and strum a chord and just let it ring...... beautiful. However, you can only have one effect going at a time. You can choose some settings that have reverb and delay combined, or chorus with delay, or chorus with reverb, but that's it. Also, the only control for the effects is a depth knob, which means you can't change the rate of the tremolo, for example. On the flip side of that, there are 3 tremolo effects, all at different rates. So there is at least some variation to be had. Still, a bit more control over the effects would have been a pleasant addition. Don't let these minor drawback concern you overmuch, however. You can get very pretty and very ugly tones from this box. The distortion can get surprisingly heavy on some of the models. I could be persuaded to use the word "crushing" to describe some of the sounds I have heard from this thing. It should be noted, though, that I am admittedly not a metalhead. What sounds crushing to me might be thin and weak to you. Still, if you find the distortion in this amp to be nothing but weak, I would be really curious to know what, exactly, is the sound that you are looking for? One note on the distortion: I can hear, only sometimes, a bit of fizziness in the high frequencies of certain distorted amp sounds. It is not extremely noticeable or irritating, but some perfectionists out there might freak out about it. Just wanted to give full disclosure. I knocked the rating down to a 7 because of that.
Overall Impression — 9
Despite its flaws, I really enjoy this amp. I don't play live gigs, so I don't need anything bigger or louder than this. It has great clean sounds and some pretty convincing distortion sounds, all in a neat little package. I went and bought a Vox VT40+ first and was really jazzed about all the stuff you could do with that amp. However, there was one deadly flaw that I could not overlook. The Vox has a hiss that trails the end of a sustained note. It can become even more noticeable at certain volume and eq settings, to the point that it sounds like brushes on a snare drum. If not for that, I would still have the Vox. But, I took it back and exchanged it for the Vibro Champ. No regrets. It would be nice to have a pure amp channel, and the option to use two effects together, but even the effects that are there are more than what a similar amp would have had even 15 years ago. Especially for blues and rock players, this little guy is a gem. Metalheads, you can use it, too, but you may want to try it first in order to be sure that you don't need to by a distortion pedal along with it. I'm keeping this amp. If it gets lost or stolen, I will whine in an incredibly annoying fashion until my wife convinces me to stop with a chloroform-soaked rag. Vox almost had me, but a ton of bells and whistles can't make up for broken sound. And sound is what the Vibro Champ does right. For the most part.
Reliability & Durability — 6
If you are gigging with this amp and it breaks down and you are angry about that, I will probably not be very sympathetic toward you. It's a bedroom/recording amp. If it said Fender Vibro Stack on the front, I might be more inclined to see it as a possible road machine, but it doesn't, so I don't. Also, the material used to build it looks to be manufactured wood, or, as I like to call it, pressboard. Yuck. Won't last forever, this one. I am thinking about building my own cabinet for it out of real wood and making it a very durable and artistic piece of machinery and then running for President.
Features — 7
This amp is basically a Fender Champ with digital modeling capabilities. The different voicings are a good variety of sounds. The sounds range from nice Fender cleans to Mesa Recto sounds and even something that sounds like a Krankenstien or Diezel or something like that. I play blues and rock with jazz flavorings in it, so the ultra high gain settings are not for me. However, there is one setting (#8) that sounds a bit like a Marshall Plexi and goes great with a strat. Also, setting #6 is really nice with the gain at 8 or 9 and the volume at 5. Good crunch tones when using a humbucker equipped guitar. Sounds almost like an Ibanez Tube Screamer in front of a Fender Deluxe Reverb if you are playing a Strat. But not exactly. 5 watts of tube power through an 8 inch speaker gets loud enough for any bedroom or even a living room. Could maybe mic it through a PA at a live gig,.... but why? Come on, man, get a bigger amp! One thing about this amp: you can't Switch out of the modeling channel. Everything runs through the processor. There is no way to get the full, unadulterated, true, electron-shedding, assymetrical clipping, even-order harmonic producing, true tube distortion from this amp. On the other hand, you'll probably never know the difference.