Amps that prove bigger isn’t always better…
There’s a lot to be said for guitarist’s use of ever more powerful, ever louder amplifiers. Just as a Citroen 2CV would do a perfectly reasonable job of getting you to and from the shops to pick up your paper, the whole process would be much more exciting if you did it in a Lamborghini Aventador.
So the theory stands with amps. Realistically, unless you’re playing the O2 or Wembley Stadium, a 30w valve amp will be more than loud enough, especially if the venue is able to mic up through the PA for you. But there’s an undeniable level of cool to be found by plugging into, for example, a Marshall JCM800 2203 Limited Edition Silver Jubilee Amp or Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212III 60 Watts 2×12 stack which you just don’t get from a smaller amp.
However, what if you only play at home? Full stacks are look and sound great but they’re hardly the most portable, and I’m not sure the neighbours will appreciate you pushing 100 watts of power through four 12” speakers while they’re watching Emmerdale.
Brands are wise to this, and a new breed of compact amps has risen to prominence to fill this gap.
Each of these has the portability which means they can be carted around with no hassle, along with features which you wouldn’t find in stage amps like computer connectivity, headphone outs and inputs for mp3 players. But, best of all, they are designed in such a way that they can quite happily sit in your lounge without dominating the room.
Line 6’s Amplifi takes things one step further by adding in Bluetooth audio, meaning you can stream music from compatible smartphones or tablets, elevating it above standard ‘guitar amp’ territory and into a quality full home audio solution.
Available in 75w or 150w versions, Amplifi also offers full connectivity with its own dedicated iPad/iPhone app, which enables deep editing of tones and effects, from the comfort of your armchair. No need to even touch the amp to get the sound you’re after.
The ace up its sleeve though is the voodoo magic contained within its unique tone-matching algorithms, which mean you can play any song from your music catalogue through it and the amp will generate an identical tone for you to play with. Clearly this is witchcraft, but impressive none the less.
The always awesome Blackstar ID:Core Stereo V2 series on the other hand takes the technology from their wildly successful ID modelling range, and puts it into a box small enough to fit on a bookshelf. The same amp models, effects, power tube modelling and computer connectivity which are such a feature of the ID series are present here, just in a smaller form factor. The added super-wide stereo feature sounds phenomenal in the flesh, really adding something unique to the offer.
Elsewhere, Fender’s Mustang range, Yamaha’s THR amps and the Roland Cube series all come in sizes small enough to sit quite happily next to your DVD collection, yet offer a variety of tones, effects and functionality which will be enough to satisfy guitarists of any genre.
Realistically, you’re not going to turn up to a gig with one of these, but then that’s missing the point. These new compact amps all plug that gap between playing a stage-ready monster, and not amping up at all. And for that, we should celebrate their arrival.
View a complete range of mini and compact amps at the Dawsons website.
Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.