If you want a killer tone with vintage sounds but think that is only available with a $1000+ price tag – then think again – mini guitar amps – pack a real punch in both tone and price and can be the secret weapon you need to deliver a truly legendary guitar tone.
Mini Guitar Amps – vintage tone in your pocket
VOX AC30, Marshall JCM, Fender Twin and more – truly legendary sounds available in your pocket! – too good to be true? You know that there are two things that deliver great tone your guitar and your amp – guitar’s comes down to personal preference (make mine a custom shop Strat!) but when it comes to amps there is some amp “royalty” models like the Vox AC30 and Fender Twin series have a real aura about them with a sound that’s instantly recognizable. Vintage enthusiasts will be pleased to see a range of mini guitar amps that model their bigger cousins at a fraction of the cost while producing some truly authentic tones –
Need convincing? check out this video of a VOX Amplug pocket amp being put through it’s paces on a cover of U2’s “Where the streets have no name” (Talk about daylight robbery – VOX Amplug’s retail for under $50!!!!)
Headphone amps packed with features
The days of practice amps with just a headphone socket and a volume control are gone and these headphone amps pack some serious features from gain and tone through to more advanced controls and for those that want to travel light most of these are battery powered so you’ve got both portability and great sound.
But the best thing about the range of mini guitar amps is the choice available and the price (I can’t believe how cheap these are for what’s on offer) – there’s a wide range available which means that you can put together your own collection at a fraction of the cost of a fully fledged tube amp – check out our list of what’s on offer courtesy of Musicians friend.
<p>For a company such as Line 6 that have been around only for a short time yet had the impact they’ve had on the guitar market has been quite phenomenal – originally best known for the POD effects unit they have continued to leverage their expertise in modeling into effects units such as the POD XT, the guitar market with the Variax series and a range of amplifiers including the Spider series.
</p><p>Line 6 have a number of different amplifier ranges, the Spider III range has the edge in that it features a number of presets based to help the guitarist obtain the tone they crave instantly. The range features a range of combos heads and cabs so there’s quite a choice. The heavier duty amps in the range feature a number of “famous” presets which mimic the guitar tone from famous bands or tracks.
</p><p>The Spider III 15 is the entry level combo in the Spider family – with a list price of $199. Despite the 15 being the baby of the family you get an awful lot crammed under the hood. Clearly at this price it’s aimed at those looking for a decent practice amp on a limited budget – this market is fairly full so Line 6 has looked to provide a broad range of features in order to differentiate it from it’s competitors.
</p><p>Out of the box the amp looks a rugged little fellow , thick plastic corners and the traditional front mesh covering the 15.5L x 14.5H x 8.25D chassis. There’s a thick carrying handle on the top of the amp and it looks like it could take a fare beating. The front of the amp features the Line6 Logo the range of control knobs and input output sockets. All looks well put together and robust.
</p><p>The controls are nice and sturdy and they are comfortably split into two groups one section to manage the EQ and volume a further group of 2 to manage the effects and a final Master volume control. There’s a row of handy buttons and LED’s to show the amp model selected. The EQ is split into Bass, Mid and Treble.
</p><p>The spider III features a 8inch 15 Watt speaker that despite being small – packs enough of a punch to make this a viable amp for jams or band rehearsals. You could imagine that it would make a great amp for anyone looking for home recording.
</p><p>The main benefit of the Spider is it’s ease of use – Line 6 have opted to keep it simple which is refreshing – nothing is overtly complicated –it’s easy enough to dial in the tone your looking for – the 15 ships with four amp models. Clean, Crunch (modeled on a ’68 Marhsall Plexi 100 watt), Metal (modeled on a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier) and Insane (modeled on a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier red channel). It’s a simple enough job to switch between them and the sounds are surprisingly good for an amp at this price.
</p><p>There are 6 onboard effects (of which two can be used simultaneously) included effects are Phaser, Chorus/Flanger, Tremolo, Sweep Echo, Tape Echo and reverb. The effects are easy enough to control, simply dial in the effects intensity from the relevant control and your done. The effects are controlled by two knobs – one which controls the chorus, Flanger and tremolo and second to control the delay and reverb effects – that means that you can’t for example mix the chorus and Tremolo effects or Reverb and echo – but that’s a small price to pay.
</p><p>The Spider III also features a MP3 input so you can plug your iPOD or other MP3 player straight into the amp and jam along (great for bedroom rock stars). There’s also a headphone out that can also double as a DI for recording purposes.
</p><p>It’s hard to quibble with what the spider III delivers – if we were to nitpick a footpedal to switch the effects on/off or change amp models would have been a nice edition – the way the effects are combined into two controls means that although there are 6 effects not all effects can be matched with each other.
</p><p>There’s a fair number of amp/effects units combo’s on the market now and the Spider III 15 will be competing with the likes of Fender’s Frontman combo’s and Marshall’s offerings – Line 6 have developed a strong reputation on the quality of it’s gear and there’s no reason that the Spider series won’t continue to add to that.
UK based Marshall have been making heads and cabs for as long as the guitar has been important in mainstream rock and roll – many of Marshall’s heads have become iconic (for this check out any amp modelling unit/software and you’ll be hard pressed not to
find at least one marshall imitated.)
New for 2007 is the Mashall JVM410H head. On first glance – it’s a plethora of buttons and knobs and just from the visuals, it’s clear from the outset that Marshall wanted to provide an unprecedented range of versatility to the modern guitar player.
First off, and typically Marshall, it’s all Valve – 5 ECC83′s adorn the pre-amp and 2 EL34′s go in the poweramp, featuring 100 watts of output, with four channels there’s enough for everyone here with a clean, crunch and two overdrive channels (all footswitchable) but it doesn’t stop there. Each channel has 3 modes, Green, Orange and Red (selectable via a pushbutton)- what that effectively menas is that there is 12 channels, fully footswitchable each with thier own gain settings – hey that’s 12 amps in one!
With all of this diversity the head does look a trifle complicated with it’s multitude of knobs and switches – the good news is that there sensibly laid out – each channel has a volume, bass, middle and treble controls, there’s a reverb control for each channel and
and four further master volume controls. Another good bonus is that the channels can be controlled by MIDI.
With built in digital reverb (again for each channel and footswitchable) and a dedicated emulated line out, the JVM410H is capable of producing crystal clear sounds to rip snorting overdrive. This makes it the ideal head for those that a broad range of tones which can easily be swapped over (covers band anyone?).
At around $2,500 list price – at first glance this is a bit expensive but when you consider the versatility that’s on offer here it’s a small price to pay. Marshall have a rich heritage producing quality amps, we can’t help feel a little that there trying to appeal to everyone here and I’m sure some will complain that the end result is a little unfocussed but considering the tonal possibilities and potential ease of use – it should be another great seller.