What is the best Mini guitar amp this Christmas?
What is the best Mini guitar amp this Christmas?
It’s that time of year again. We all hope to be surrounded by our loved ones, mulled wine in hand, singing hymns with guitar accompaniment (through a Marshall JTM45 Plexi and a 1960 4 x 12 cab of course). Unfortunately we don’t all have the space, or the ears to cope with the outrageous amounts of rock exuded by such an overpowering amp.
Fear not though, as the experts at Fair Deal Music have you covered with this roundup of the best mini guitar amps.
Here are some the most important things to consider when choosing the best mini amp for you:
- Size - No matter what they say, ‘size is important’. A mini amp needs to be small enough for portability but big enough to rock out to.
- Headroom - If you want everyone to really get into those Christmas jingles you’re going to need plenty of clean headroom to play about with.
- Effects - Having effects on these little amps is a really nice extra. From distortions to delays this can add a lot to the sound and feel of a mini amp.
- Volume - What good are all these features if you can’t hear them? To loud though and the little speakers can’t handle the rock.
- Connectivity - Having connectivity options only adds to the versatility of these mini rock boxes. Line in and headphone out is a must but having Bluetooth connectivity and an emulated out is a huge bonus. Keep an eye out for these things when looking at your options.
- Versatility - Being able to mix all these sounds together means you can do a lot more with this tiny package. You know what they say, ‘a mini amp isn’t just for Christmas... it's for life!’.
So sit back, and read through our choices for the best mini amps this Christmas, and all year round in 2020.
Blackstar Fly 3 – and Super Fly option
Blackstar offers a few options when it comes to the world of mini amps. The basic electric guitar version, the Fly 3, is a great portable mini amp. There’s a huge amount stuffed into this compact little beast.
Starting with a great clean tone and plenty of headroom is always a good basis to build upon. With extra features such as a great overdrive channel, digital tape delay with variable timing and an EQ sweep (using Blackstar’s user-friendly ISF techology), you’ll see a lot here to play with.
In terms of connectivity the Fly 3 has both a line input and output. The input can be used as a means of playing music through the amp and jamming along, while the output means you can play all night long with headphones on – or record your performance without a DI box. More flexibility is offered with the Fly 3 Bluetooth, adding audio streaming to the mix.
Another option that we think really does give the Blackstar Fly 3 a wider appeal than the rest, is the ability to link another speaker to it, creating a 6 Watt stereo experience. This option not only makes the guitar sound amazing, it also means the Fly 3 Bluetooth can be used for streaming music or as a computer speaker setup. The extension speaker can be bought separately, or as part of a stereo pack.
As we’ve already said, Blackstar have a few options when it comes to mini amps. These include;
- Bass – I’m sure it’s a question many of you have been asking: “Is there a mini amp for bass?”. The answer is yes, and it sounds great. This model also allows for an extension speaker, and includes compression as a built in effect.
- Bluetooth – Bluetooth isn’t included on the standard Fly 3, but it is available on the imaginatively-named Fly 3 Bluetooth. Be sure to check the description when ordering your amp.
- Colour – Blackstar sometimes step away from tradition, and though the standard model is black, this amp is also available in Vintage cream, purple and blue Paisley or pink Paisley. There may be other limited editions, just give us a call if you’d like to know what’s available
- Power – All of these models can be battery powered of you can purchase an adapter if you’re staying put.
Sharing many of the appealing features of the compact Fly 3, including Bluetooth, battery or AC operation adapter, emulated out/headphones and reverb, the Super Fly adds professional features for live performance on the go. An XLR input for a microphone alongside the guitar, 12 Watts of power (24 Watts with the optional Super Fly ACT extension speaker) and an acoustic/electric button, ensuring the perfect sound no matter what your style.
Not only will most guitars sound great through this amp, it’s offered with the Super Fly Pack that’s ideal for gigs on the go – it comes with a padded waterproof carry case and a 9-hour PB-1 Power bank, making it the obvious choice for busking and festivals.
Blackstar’s mini amps offer more for professional musicians, with many options to choose from, so you’re bound to find something that fits your needs.
Next on the list are the Laney MINI series. Scaling down the stadium legends to a backstage size, the Laney mini amps have very similar attributes to the Blackstar Fly 3, but with a choice of styles to suit your aesthetic and an added extra; LSI – or Laney Smartphone Insert. Stereo and a delay effect is provided in a single cabinet model, the MINI-ST, and you can add Bluetooth streaming with the STB.
The innovative LSI feature allows you to connect your amp to your smartphone’s 3.5mm jack, providing easy access to apps and effects that shape your sound. Laney supports Tonebridge, a clever iPhone app that offers a library of tones from popular songs - so your guitar can match the professional’s rig. You’ll be jamming along in no time.
MINI, ST or STB – Watts the difference?
Notable qualities include:
- Clean channel.
- Drive channel.
- Tone knob.
- Delay (only on the ST and STB)
- Aux in.
- LSI (Laney Smartphone input)
- 6 x AA batteries or optional AC adapter.
- Bluetooth stereo option
Ironheart, Lionheart or Supergroup?
If the classic rock feel of the Lionheart doesn’t inspire you, the Laney MINIs are offered in three distinct styles. Opt for the black-grilled darkness of the Ironheart-inspired Iron, and you’ll find a lightweight amp that fits right into heavy rock homes. Or go back to Laney’s roots with the Supergroup – its contrasting black-and-white mesh recalling the ‘60s birth of heavy metal and Laney’s origins in Birmingham’s rock scene.
Laney, like Blackstar, has gone beyond simply providing a speaker for your guitar – with smartphone connectivity and optional Bluetooth, these are very versatile amps that look great too.
Marshall MS2 and MS4
Last, but not least, one of the most popular mini amps reflects real-world stages in a pocketable size. These miniature Marshall stacks pack a surprising punch for their cost and size.
Styled on a half stack (MS2) or full stack (MS4), with different colour options, these amps are amazing stocking fillers. Straightforward controls for gain, volume and tone get you rocking without fuss - and boy, do they rock. With less power than the rest at only 1 Watt, you’ll get a lot of drive from this powerhouse - so it’s probably not the first choice for those wanting sweet jazz tones.
Here are some of the things you can expect from Marshall’s mini amps:
- MS2- half stack (one speaker)
- MS4- full stack (2 speakers)
- 1 Watt of power
- 1 channel
- MS2- Belt Hook
- MS4- Tilt stand
- Colours; black, silver, red
- Check our range of Marshall mini amps >
So which mini amp is best for me?
Serious musicians will appreciate the build quality and pro features of the Blackstar Fly 3 and Super Fly – particularly if they want to put their mini amp to work away from the living room. When not on tour, they’re powerful home audio speakers too.
If you’re just starting out and want to feel at home playing along with your favourite hits, the Laney MINI series can look and sound at home on any desktop stage. It’s perfect for building confidence and learning how to shape sounds – and like the Blackstar, the stereo, Bluetooth option makes it a great speaker for times when you want to stop playing, and just listen.
Low cost and huge attitude makes the Marshall perfect for any guitarist on the go – kids getting their first electric guitar, or grownups looking for a way to practice without firing up a full-size stack, the iconic look of the affordable MS4 is a pocket-sized dream for many rockers.
Mini amps aren’t just for Christmas - but they’re a lot easier to fit into a stocking than a full-size stack. We hope this blog has answered some of the questions you may have had regarding mini amps.
This is just a small selection of our full range – and if you’d like to see what else is available, take a look in the guitars and amps category on our website, or visit the Fair Deal Music flagship store in Birmingham for a demonstration and friendly, helpful advice from our in-store experts.
Article by Charlie