A funny bit in the promo about the Mini Superbeetle is that it can make good “décor.” While I get it that shrinking the legendary Vox Super Beatle — a 120-watt solid-state behemoth introduced in 1966 by the Thomas Organ Company — down to something suitable for vibing-up a Tokyo apartment is a fine idea, the Mini Superbeetle is more than just cute.
This little rig features the distinctive styling that made the original a hallmark of the ’60s British Invasion, right down to the chrome rails on the 1x10 open-back speaker cabinet. However, instead of being solid-state like its ancestor, the small head incorporates NuTube power, which is described as “vacuum fluorescent display technology developed in a collaboration between Korg and Japan’s Noritake Itron to obtain vacuum tube sound and response, while eliminating the problematic aspects of a vacuum tube.”
The Mini Superbeetle is powered by an included 19-volt inline-style AC adapter that plugs into a jack on the back panel, where you also find such big-amp features as dual 1/4-inch speaker jacks, a 1/4-inch headphone/line-out jack, an impedance selector, a flat/deep switch, and a switch labeled ECO that, when activated, automatically turns the amp off after 15 minutes of non-use. On the top panel are controls for gain, treble, bass, tremolo, reverb and volume. The reverb is a digital type that delivers a good spring simulation, and the tremolo is NuTube-driven to provide a distinctly amp-like pulse over a wide speed range.
Tested with a variety of single-coil and humbucker guitars, the Mini Superbeetle quickly won me over. I’d suspected it would sound like any other micro rendition of a classic amplifier, but crank it into distortion via the gain control and it actually sounds and feels a lot like a Vox tube amp. And it only gets better as you open up the master volume and let the NuTube stage do its thing. The company says its goal was to “faithfully reproduce the tonal character of the legendary AC30,” and while I haven’t a clue as to how NuTube actually works (neither does a friend who’s an engineer on Vox-owner Korg’s keyboard side), this amp throws down badass chimey grind when you lean into it. It also responds in a tube-like way to guitar volume changes, whether cleaning up for rhythm or going for the throat.
It sounded good with several distortion and delay pedals I ran into it, and volume is sufficient too, as the output stage delivers 50 watts into 4Ω, 25 watts into 8Ω (which is the impedance of the speaker cabinet), and 12.5 watts into 16Ω. I had no trouble using it for rehearsals with a four-piece band and running the head into a larger cabinet could make it a gig-worthy rig.
The Mini Super Beetle is a perfect thing to toss in the car when you need big sound from a super-compact setup, and I found a lot more uses for it than I initially thought I would. Beauty is more than skin deep here, and this pint-sized piggyback is a solid deal for the money.
PRICE $329 street
CONTROLS Gain, treble, bass, reverb, tremolo, volume
EXTRAS NuTube-driven reverb and tremolo. EQ flat/deep switch, impedance selector (4/8/16Ω), ECO switch (automatic power-off function), headphone/line out, dual speaker outs. 19-volt DC inline AC adapter included
TUBES NuTube 6P1
POWER 50 watts at 4Ω (25 watts at 8Ω, 12.5 watts at 16Ω)
SPEAKER 10" Celestion G10R with ceramic magnet
WEIGHT Head 4.12 lbs. Speaker cab 13.92 lbs
KUDOS Looks and sounds great. Loud for its size
CONCERNS Power indicator LED is so intensely bright that it can be difficult to see knob settings in low light