Mini guitar amps have been all the rage over the past few years. These are little amps that can be taken just about anywhere with you. Today we check out our top choices for the best mini guitar amps, and check out all the features!
The Best Mini Guitar Amps: Everyone Starts Somewhere…
Guitar, for the most part, is a portable instrument. It was invented to be so! The acoustic guitar can go a long way when it comes to portability. It has a sound hole that amplifies it. The acoustic guitar is pretty loud all on its own. But when it comes to electric guitars, you need something to amplify the sound. This makes electric guitars much less portable.
Mini guitar amps have always been a thing, even 40-50 years ago. Most of these were tiny and battery powered, and they could be taken wherever you go. I think the Pignose was one of the first really portable amps of yester-year. The original Pignose was a bare-bones amp that was highly portable. But the catch, was that it lacked most of the features that a larger amp would have. It was operated by a single control.
The original Pignose amplifier was a single channel amp with basic controls. There were no built in effects or anything of the sort. These little single channel amps are powered by 6 AA batteries, and have rubber knobs. Despite the simplicity off these little guys, big artists modded them and even used them on albums. Led Zeppelin being one of the biggest names to use them on albums. It has since gone down in history as one of the best mini guitar amps.
But times have changed, and the best mini guitar amps have loads of features these days! We have come a long way when you look at solid-state technology! Companies have been making tiny versions of the most popular amps for the last 5-7 years, and they have been a huge success for people on the go. Today we take a look at the best mini guitar amps, and check out the features that they have!
The Blackstar FLY Series
Not only is the Blackstar FLY Series one of the best mini amps on the market, they sort of started this trend several years ago. These little amps are not only functional but they are absolutely adorable. Don’t let the small size and compact nature of the Blackstar fool you, though. These are one of the best mini guitar amps for the features.
- 3 Watts of Power
- 3″ Speaker (Can add another speaker)
- ISF Blackstar Control
- 2 Channels
- Built In Delay
- Aux IN For Jamming Along
- Powered by AC Adaptor or Batteries
- Headphone and Recording Out
- Bluetooth Connectivity
There is a lot to unpack with the Blackstar FLY when it comes to the features, but I want to start with the amount of awesome tones you can get with this thing! The ISF Knob works just like all of Blackstar’s products by turning between a British sound and an American one. Or, you can blend the two sounds any way you want. The British sound has a little more mid-range bite to it, but both are very usable sounds.
The only other controls you get are volume and gain, and to be honest…that is pretty generous for an amp that can fit in your gig bag or backpack. You also get some cool delay effects for lead tones. With the controls you can dial in high gain Metal tones or clean-ish tones. I say clean-ish, because I cannot really get a sparkling clean tone with this amp. But your mileage may vary.
The Blackstar FLY might have reinvigorated the trend of tiny amps, but it’s also remained one of the best mini guitar amps on the market. Lot’s of pro guitarists use these backstage, and on the road! But the trend that Blackstar set, has been taken up by many other companies.
BOSS Katana Mini
We have talked about the BOSS Katana more than once, here. The Katana series varies from this tiny little guy, all the way to 100 watt monsters built for the stage. The BOSS katana series really pushes the limits of what a modeling amp can do, with several different customizable amp presets, that range between high gain to pristine clean. The features are similar to most amps this size.
- 3 Basic Amp Models
- Single Channel
- Single 4” Speaker
- 3 Band EQ Section
- Controls: (Mono): Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, Delay Time, Delay Level
- Headphone Jack
- Aux Input Jack
- Powered by Batteries or DC Power
I have this little amp sitting on my desk, and you should not let the small size and price fool you. This is one of the best mini guitar amps you can buy. It’s perfect for quiet headphone practice, or you can use the speakers. The Katana Mini can run on batteries and this makes it completely portable! I found the battery life to be less of it’s Blackstar counterparts. But what about the sound?
The three channels are all excellent. You get a clean, crunch, and “brown” sound. The brown sound of course being a hot-rodded Marshall amp from the 80’s. These all sound amazing for such a tiny amp, especially through a good pair of headphones. The three band EQ lets you dial in the perfect tone. This is a lot of control for such a small little amp!
The extra knobs, do add a little more girth to the amp. While it is definitely portable, it is not as tiny as the Blackstar FLY series. It can still easily fit in your bookbag or suitcase if you’re traveling.
Yamaha THR5 Series
I chose the Yamaha THR as one of the best mini guitar amps, even though it is much larger than most of the other mini amps. This is also the only amp that does not have the option of running on batteries if you really want to get the most out of it. But the trade off is that you get some wonderful tube emulation sounds, that just are not possible with the other options.
The Yamaha THR5 has the best features out of the lot, in my opinion:
- 2×8 Full Range Speaker
- 2×5 Watts
- 5 Amp Emulation Sounds
- Effects: Chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, delay, delay/reverb, spring reverb, hall, reverb
- USB Interface/Headphone
- Built In Tuner
- Full Tone Controls
By far, the Yamaha THR is the best sounding of the mini guitar amps to my ears. You have 5 different sounds that you can tweak that range from Fender-like clean tones all the way to high-gain Rock tones. These sound awfully close to their full size tube amp counterparts, and you can really dial them in with the control set.
The built in effects can be dialed in also in a similar fashion. You have all the mainstays of an actual pedalboard built into the amp, and they all sound great! The reverbs in particular sound really rich considering the small speaker setup. You get an almost 3D sound with the reverb and delay put together.
The Yamaha THR is the perfect option for a person wanting a “desktop” amp more than something portable. Although, I imagine you could easily pack the Yamaha up if you wanted!
The Best Mini Guitar Amps: Wrapping Up
Having one of these mini amps probably will not replace the need for a large stage amp if you record, or play shows. I think larger setups will almost always have their place in the pantheon of guitar, especially on the stage.
But if you have limited space for your practice area, you could do a lot worse than any of these amps! These will not only be a small footprint for your apartment or office, but they can also be used quietly with headphones if that’s what you need. Best of all, these are all very portable! You can take your sound just about anywhere!
Are Mini Guitar Amps Expensive?
Most of these mini guitar amps are under, or right at $100 USD. Which is not a bad price for what you get, features-wise.
Can I use a Mini Guitar Amp to record with?
Most Mini guitar amps have a “usb recording out” feature that you can use to connect your computer with. This allows you to record on your favorite DAW.
How loud are most mini guitar amps?
Most are very quiet compared to the larger amplifiers. The mini guitar amps are usually only using a few watts to push the power. This is perfect for bedroom practice, however.