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Two Solid-State Micro Amps

February 16, 2012
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For those who want to get really small, several manufacturers offer solid-state micro amps such as these pedal-sized products from Electro-Harmonix and Traynor. I tested them with a PRS Custom 24, through a cab containing a single 8Ω Celestion G12H 70th Anniversary 30-watt speaker, then confirmed the results with several other guitars and cabs.

Electro-Harmonix 44 Magnum

This 44-watt wonder is housed in E-H’s smallest enclosure (the included 24-volt power supply is actually larger), and its only controls are Volume and a Normal/Bright switch. The 44 packed a considerable wallop while pushing the G12H, producing fat and clear clean tones in the first half of the Volume control’s range, then getting progressively grittier and more compressed, and topping out in a decent distortion just this side of sizzle. Flipping the Bright switch added sparkle and bite. It’s no plexi Marshall (surprise), and the bottom end can get flabby at higher gain settings— but the overall response was surprisingly dynamic and the distortion cleaned up nicely when the guitar volume was rolled back. That said, I recommend using it clean and getting your distortion with a pedal.

This pintsized powerhouse is perfectly suited to the practice hall, studio, and even modest gigs—particularly as a compact and lightweight backup amp.

Traynor DH25H QuarterHorse Microamp

The considerably larger QuarterHorse takes a different tack, offering less power and many more features, including two channels, a Master Volume control, reverb, tremolo, delay, an 1/8" headphone/line output with speaker simulation, and three footswitches for reverb, effects, and channel switching. The QuarterHorse produces 25 watts into 8Ω loads. Like the 44, it comes with a sizeable 24-volt power supply.

The QuarterHorse’s controls aren’t entirely intuitive. For example, the Clean channel has only a Volume control, and to get a truly clean sound it has to be turned nearly all the way down, particularly when used with humbuckers. There’s still a good bit of level with the Master Volume control turned up, and increasing the Clean volume quickly adds some tasty crunch and eventually edgy overdrive. In fact, I prefer the “Clean” channel’s crunchy rhythm sounds to those I got with the Drive channel— and the crunchiness cleans up in a pleasing way when you roll back the guitar volume.

Similarly, the Master Volume control and the Drive channel’s Drive Volume and Drive Gain controls interact in tricky ways—though once you get used to them it is easy to craft serviceable crunch and higher-gain tones, and the Drive Treble control adds a touch of overall brightness. Again, no classic tones here, but the QuarterHorse will definitely get you through the gig if your main amp blows, and it makes an excellent practice amp.

The reverb is a tad metallic for my tastes, but sounds fine at lower levels—and it has its own Reverb Bypass switch. Likewise, you can toggle between Tape delay and Tremolo, and use the Effect Bypass switch to turn the selected effect on and off. A pair of effect controls let you adjust Time/Repeats and Rate/Depth, respectively. The tremolo sounds quite nice, but the delay is a little fuzzy, and being restricted to an equal-parts wet/dry mix limits its usefulness. The headphone audio with speaker simulation was quite good, and being able to simultaneously disconnect the speaker without damaging the amp is a very nice touch.

The QuarterHorse is a unique product that offers a lot of features in a portable package and is definitely worth a look and a listen.

Specifications

Electro-Harmonix 44 Magnum

Contact Electro-Harmonix, (718) 937- 8300; exh.com
Price $199 retail/$149 street
Kudos Loud. Nice clean tone with lots of headroom.
Concerns Crunch and distorted tones uninspiring.

Traynor DH25H QuarterHorse Microamp

Contact Yorkville Sound, (716) 297- 2920; yorkville.com
Price $299 retail/$230 street
Kudos Lots of features. Three footswitches. Headphone jack.
Concerns High-gain tones are uninspiring.

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Three New Mini Tube Amps
Carvin V3M
Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 Head
Mesa/Boogie Mini Rectifier Twenty-Five

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