The 10 Best Mini Guitar Amplifiers
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in October of 2017. One of the best things about an electric guitar is its portability. Most times, however, you can't say that about the amps you need to go along with them. Fortunately, these mini amplifiers have been developed by the top names in full-size models, and offer incredible sound quality in an exceedingly portable package. We've ranked these micro machines by tonal character, power, and versatility. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
February 27, 2019:
With a significant amount of power to offer, the Yamaha THR5 readily climbed to the top of our list, as it's also one of the most well-built options out there. The Orange Crush got a nice little update, as well, with a new knob added to give users more control over its level of distortion. The Roland Micro Cube also climbed a bit thanks to its very convenient memory setting and lush effects. Elsewhere, the Eden Microtour slipped some due to a lack of flexibility.
Why Use A Miniature Guitar Amp?
In suburbia, in the middle of the day, I didn’t receive a lot of complaints.
Guitarists love to get loud. I remember when I got my first electric guitar, I took it and my amp out onto my grandmother’s back porch and did my best rendition of The Man Who Sold The World, over and over again — at full blast — for several hours. In suburbia, in the middle of the day, I didn’t receive a lot of complaints. If I tried that today, in my Los Angeles apartment surrounded by grumpy neighbors, I might not be so lucky.
This is the first, and quite possibly the best reason to invest in a good miniature guitar amp. It will allow you to play with a tone that’s enjoyable at a volume that won’t get you kicked out by your condo board. Even if you live out in the middle of nowhere, and can blast your Dual Rectifier full stack as loudly as you’d like, you still have to take the feelings of those you live with into account. Few marriages remain happy when a loud instrument is in the mix. That’s also why a mini amp is a great gift for a young student guitarist. You won’t have to hear them butcher the relatively simple line from a David Bowie tune for days on end.
Taming loud guitar playing isn’t the only reason to grab a mini amp, though. These also come in handy when traveling. Sure, you could bring along your acoustic guitar, but that will still make a fair amount of noise in your hotel room, and playing more quietly is less fun. With a mini amp, you can strum as hard as you want to and still control the volume. Many are also small enough to fit inside carry-ons without reducing the space you need for food, a travel pillow, and a good book.
Of course, there’s one other reason you might want to grab a mini amp for yourself, and that, perhaps surprisingly, is the sound. Many of the mini amps on the market today are designed and manufactured by the most iconic brands in the industry. That means you can get your hands on some pretty serious tone that may not fill an auditorium, but could be an interesting addition to a recorded guitar track.
What To Look For In A Mini Guitar Amp
Knowing what you want to achieve with your mini amp will go a long way towards narrowing down the wide variety of options we’ve included on our list. There are some specific features to look out for, as well, that can significantly improve the sound of these little furies.
This can take the form of a single knob dedicated to presence or even a three-band EQ capable of managing bass, mid, and treble.
If you know that you want to use your mini amp to reduce the audio footprint of your jam sessions as much as possible, you’ll pretty much have your pick of the litter among miniature models. That’s because even the most powerful of these amps can produce viable tone at a very low volume, as manufacturers know that this demographic needs the ability to play quietly. If you want to maintain a certain degree of audio fidelity and flexibility, you might need to aim for one of the slightly larger mini amps out there. Models with at least five, and preferably 10 watts will be the best for generating a realistic and presentable guitar tone. Some of these are even nice enough that you could use them to perform at any venue capable of miking the amp itself.
Players who want to emphasize low volume and portability — especially the ability to discreetly pack their amp — will want to look for as small a unit as possible. Some of these can still create a decent sound, but you’ll find that their natural overdrive is going to sound considerably compressed, and there won’t be much dynamism in response to your picking or strumming pattern.
Despite their small stature, some of the smaller amps on the market still boast features you’d expect to see on much larger models. For example, many include some degree of tone shaping and equalization. This can take the form of a single knob dedicated to presence or even a three-band EQ capable of managing bass, mid, and treble. If you know you want to route your little amp through a larger speaker, or your sound restrictions are so great that your sessions are limited to headphones, you’ll want an amp that boasts a headphone output. These are sometimes standard 3.5mm headphone jacks, though some larger models boast ¼-inch outs.
Other Low-Key Guitar Tricks
Keeping your guitar playing from disturbing anyone else around you is an art form in and of itself. Unlike playing an instrument, though, which can take a lifetime to master, there are some great tools and techniques out there that will let you quickly gain control over the intensity of your sound.
This style of playing is incredibly diverse, and consists of various techniques that you can employ to gently pluck the strings of your instrument.
For starters (and this is especially true if, as discussed above, you get a mini amp with a headphone jack) you’ll want a good pair of studio-quality headphones. These should have a relatively flat frequency response, so you’ll hear your guitar exactly as its signal would sound when tracking in the studio.
If you’re used to using a pick to play your guitar, it might be time to get a handle on fingerpicking. This style of playing is incredibly diverse, and consists of various techniques that you can employ to gently pluck the strings of your instrument. It also has the potential to eliminate the plasticky strumming sound that can drive your unintended audience batty. It isn’t a good fit for every genre, but it’s important for all you metalheads to remember that two-hand tapping is technically a form of fingerpicking.
Some people just need to play loud. It’s all they know and it’s all they want to know. If that’s the case, you might want to invest in some acoustic foam, and begin to soundproof your practice space. This will not only keep the sound level to a minimum for people in the other rooms, it will also represent the first step in transforming your space into a legitimate in-home studio.