THE MINI-AMP IS ALL THE RAGE THESE DAYS, AND THE
format makes perfect sense in this age of sound-level enlightenment
where the less-is-more axiom very often holds true when
it comes to guitar amplification. Thanks to the advanced monitoring
systems used today, pro players can get away with much
smaller amps on even the stages of large concert halls and arenas.
The benefit here is two-fold, as the lower levels coming from
the amp’s speaker are less able to damage hearing, while the
player typically gets a better sound due to being able to run his
or her amp harder to obtain the sonic goods that only overdriven
output tubes can provide.
That said, amps powered by a pair of EL84 or 6V6 output
tubes that are cutting it beautifully on concert and club stages
can easily be too loud for rehearsals and home studio use. Crank
up a 22-watt Fender Deluxe Reverb or a 15-watt Vox AC15 to
its sweet spot in your living room and the neighbors are likely
to complain, or at least grumble and give you bad vibes when
you’re out mowing the lawn. Knock the output level down below
eight watts or so, however, and you just might get away with
keeping your 6-string wails within the walls of your own abode.
This month we’re looking at four amps that range from a
“mighty” 20-watter down to a modest 8-watter that, like a toy
poodle with an Akita attitude, still aspires to give you big-amp
tone and feel at much-reduced volume levels. We tested these
amps with a variety of guitars that included Fender Strats and
Teles, Gibson SGs, and two axes from PRS: a humbucker-fueled
Custom 22 and a single-coil-equipped 305.
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