5 best mini guitar amps
I’ll be honest. . .
Many years ago when I first saw a tiny, battery powered, mini guitar amp for the first time, I giggled. I thought it was a fun, little gimmicky product to use as a conversation piece. But when I actually started using one, I realized exactly how wrong I was. A miniature guitar amp can be a powerful tool that can improve your playing and expand your creativity.
Mini guitar amp Buyer's guide
Are miniature guitar amps good for beginning players?
These things are great for all players and aren’t a bad place to start for beginners. Students jumping into music may benefit from a starter guitar and a mini amp early on. Since they are less expensive and more compact, mini amps give the student a solid introduction to having a real guitar rig without the hassle and investment. If it turns out not to be your thing, then you won’t be stuck with an expensive, large amp in the closest.
What are the benefits of having a miniature guitar amp?
Improve Your Practice Sessions
Less time setting up means more time for practice. So the less work we have to put in to get started the better. A mini guitar amp lets you keep your rig hooked up and ready to go at a moments notice, even if you live in a tiny house. Thus, you have more opportunities for spur of the moment jam sessions.
Not being shackled by the need for a direct power source is pretty nice as well. Keep some batteries with your amp and you can practice literally anywhere.
(PRO TIP: Rechargeable batteries are your friend. And keeping 2 sets of rechargeable batteries helps you stay ready for anything. You can have one set powering your amp, while another is charging.)
Portability: Let your music wander
Because of their small size, a battery powered, mini portable guitar amplifier opens a world of possibilities as a musician.
Writing sessions: If you play a rock, metal, blues or anything that needs more than an acoustic guitar, a micro guitar amp can get you the right sound during your writing session. No need for your larger amps or performance rigs. You can even record demos for your projects.
Intimate performances: At family get-togethers, beach outings, camping trips or just hanging out at a friends house. You have the ability to put on smaller live performances or jam sessions. Even if it’s a small coffee house or bar, you could still microphone your mini amp through a PA to get extra sound.
Doubles as a portable speaker: With the AUX jack and the ability to play music, you can also use your portable guitar amp as a portable speaker to entertain during get-togethers.
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How is a mini guitar amplifier powered?
Most Portable guitar amplifiers are powered by either batteries or an optional wall adapter. Both are perfectly viable options, but if you plan on making use of the portability of your micro amp, it’s a great idea to invest in rechargeable batteries. This is the feature that makes these tiny amps so great, you can take them anywhere, even into the wilderness, and still get a great guitar tone.
Things to consider before buying
The great thing about Miniature guitar amps is that they are, well…small. You will find some variety here but for the most part, each of the amps that I will recommend will not take up more space than a loaf of bread.
The power of Guitar amplifiers is is measured in watts, the higher the watts, the louder a guitar amp will be able to go. Most speakers begin to get a little farty at the 8-10 range on the volume dial, so if you are wanting a louder amp find one with a high wattage. For this size of amplifier, the watts will range from 1 – 10 watts but can as high as 20.
Depending on the model, your portable amplifier will come with different input/output jacks. Here are the options you can find. Think through how you would like to use your amp, and which of these features would be important to you.
- Quarter inch input: Your standard guitar input. Where you plug your guitar in. All mini amplifiers will come with one of these.
- Aux Input: Designed to connect your mp3 player, smartphone or media player. Let’s you play music through your mini amp. This allows you to play along with your favorite artist, or simply use your amp as a portable speaker.
- Headphone output: Plug your headphones/earbuds in for silent practice sessions.
- USB: Computer interface that allows you to either save tones to/from a bank on your computer or customize your the tone of your miniature guitar amp.
Amp FX & Amp Modeling
Mini guitar amps come with a variety of tonal effect options and customization channels. Here you will find usual suspects, clean and dirty (gain) channels, but can also include an Amp Modeling feature. This gives you the ability to emulate the tone quality of different amplifier models. This adds a new layer of customization for you and helps expand your creativity.
Built-in effects pedal Options: Tonal coloring options such as delay, distortion, chorus, flanger, overdrive and more.
Mini guitar Amplifier Round-up
Roland Micro Cube GX
The Micro Cube has been one of my favorite amps for quite a while. If it’s built-in options you’re looking for, this is the mini amp you want.
Along with their COSM preamp, which consists of gain, volume, and tone, the Micro Cube comes packed with tremolo, delay, reverb and spring reverb.
If that isn’t enough customization for you, there are also 8 amp models built in. Including models such as JC Clean, which emulates legendary Roland Jazz amp. The Micro Cube GX covers every spectrum of sound you can think of. Acoustic simulation, classic rock grit, extreme metal drive. The Micro Cube even has a microphone model allowing you to eq your voice and use this little guy as a mini PA system.
One downfall to this powerhouse is that it has not been updated and has fallen behind in its technological evolution. The aux jack doubles as what is known as Cube-Link. Letting you plug your Ios device into your amp and jam/record using an app from the iTunes. The main issue is that Apple phones are becoming equipped without that necessary 8th-inch headphone jack. However, if you can live without using Cube-Link this amp is still one of the best and remains my favorite mini guitar amp.
I’d say the Katana-Mini is a good “middle of the road” mini amp.
The 7 watt, 4”speaker combo amp runs on six AA-size batteries or an optional AC adapter. It’s equipped with a full 3 band EQ to help you dial in your tone and has a built in tape delay.
This gives you the ability to create a bit of depth to your tone.
You also have 3 amp model types.
Clean, similar to a Roland Jazz, fulfills any of your acoustic, jazz and any other clean tone needs.
Crunch gives you a tight bluesy sound with some grunge on the back to for a little more push. Brown models Van Halen’s classic “brown sound”.
While it’s not the most basic amp you can buy, it is lacking some of the bells and whistles of the others.
It’s just right. . .
This micro stack is a great little practice and art piece. Marshall’s MS-4 measures around 10” x 4” and is powered by a 9v battery or the optional wall plug. This mini comes with Volume Tone, and Gain knobs to dial in your sound. It also features a headphone output for rocking out in private or even driving an external power amp.
When I got my hands on one I enjoyed the bluesy sounds I pulled from it. I wasn’t disappointed in the gain and grit. But tonally I did want a little more drive to the amp. It’s a little tinny.
This amp is the coolest looking on our list. True to its full stack aesthetic, the MS-4 sports a 2” speaker in each of it’s “cabinets” (it’s a single unit). This would be an excellent gift for the electric guitar player in your life.
Seriously. . .The music nerd in me just wants one to sit on the mantle. They’re so cool looking!
NUX Mighty Lite BT
If portability is your game then this newcomer may be what you’re looking for. The Mighty Lite BT brings 3 watts of power, slime design massive sound, this little beast also comes with some stand-out features.
The tone of the Nux rivals any of the amps in our list. It has clean, overdrive, and distortion channels along with a fader knob for delay and reverb control. It can cover the cleanest acoustic and the filthiest metal practice session. There’s no tone you can’t find on this thing. The Mighty Lite also comes with a metronome and drum machine built in. The drum machine features a few different styles of music like rock, metal and hip hop, great for that full band experience.
Where this amp really shines is in its connectivity. Along with the aux jack, the Lite BT has Bluetooth connectivity. Allowing you to bounce your songs wireless to your amp for jamming.
Even cooler is the app that Nux offers. The app has even more drum machine beats as well as additional FX available. It also grants wireless amp control. With the Nux you can customize your tone, add FX, control your amp settings and play music through your amp…
If that wasn’t convenient enough. The lux is also powered by requisite batteries or optional 9v wall adapter. But in addition, you can power the amp via USB power bank like you use to charge your phone.
I think it’s safe to say that this makes the Nux Mighty Lite BT the most portable guitar amp on our list!
Pignose 7-100 Legendary
This is another cool looking little amp and is a great baseline beginner amp with style.
It’s got a retro speaker case look. The 5” speaker is powered by 6- AA Batteries or an optional 9volt wall adapter. The case opens for battery access and plug storage making it easy to transport with your guitar.
It’s got one volume knob. No tone control, no EQ’s, no FX and no amp models. The louder you turn the volume, the more grit you add to your sound. It’s small, straight to the point and takes zero guesswork with how to use it.
Tonally, this little amp has a rough time keeping up with the others in our list. With no gain or tone options, it lacks in the dirty tone department. This amp definitely shines in clean electric guitar tones.
It is advertised as having a built-in wah effect…Simply have a friend open and close the case while you play. . .Not sure if they were joking or not. But it would work, so I’ll add that to the PROs section
All in all the Pignose 7-100 is a great choice for the beginning guitar player. It gives the user a taste of what it’s like having a rig and dialing in tones without getting too convoluted.
The plug and chug basics!
Do you need a mini guitar amp to be a better player? No. Can it help you develop your skill and creativity? Absolutely! They’re small, lightweight, powerful and so much fun to have around! Give one a chance. You won’t regret it.
Until next time, Jam on!
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