« Ideal for home use and on the go »
What does a musician who performs regularly need? That’s right – colleagues to help with carrying. Especially analog technology like tube amplifiers and their corresponding speaker cabinets can make the entire band break a sweat. But there’s another way! Small guitar amps are the ideal companions for guitarists who regularly need to transport their equipment from the home studio to gigs or the rehearsal room. In this article, we explain why mini-amps have their big strengths.
What does “small” mean here?
Of course, the adjective “small” alone in the context of tube amplifiers is not very informative. Therefore, let’s first explain which performance parameters the adjective can refer to in the context of guitar amps.
Power Output of Small Guitar Amps
While guitar amplifiers with power outputs beyond 50 watts shine on stages and in a loud rehearsal room, these tubes are often too powerful for practicing in the living room. Additionally, transporting these tube amplifiers is not so easy in the long run. Small guitar amplifiers typically offer power outputs between 5 and 15 watts and are ideal for quieter jam sessions or practicing in your own apartment.
Dimensions and Weight
Sure, a “small” amp can also deliver 100 watts. However, in general, the technical function of amps also determines their size: a 100-watt full tube requires a corresponding power supply, cooling, and the preamp and power amp tubes – purely based on construction, these amps are just bigger. Especially for musicians who regularly transport their equipment, compact combos are usually a better choice than hefty full stacks.
Typical Forms of Small Guitar Amplifiers
Since the introduction of the first mass-produced tube amps, the combo design has been popular among guitarists who regularly perform on stage. These combined devices are relatively narrow and consist of a speaker and amplifier in a single enclosure. The shared housing saves space and weight. However, the downside, especially for larger amps, lies in transportability. If, for example, two powerful 12″ speakers are to be used, the effort to carry them becomes enormous.
When is a mini-practice amp useful?
Whether a small guitar amps with low power and compact design is sufficient depends mainly on the intended use of the amp. In addition to their weight and size, small tube amplifiers have another significant advantage: lower volumes when reaching tube-based distortions.
Higher Power = Higher Volume?
The operation of tube amplifiers requires both the preamp and power amp to be driven with a certain amount of energy. The more power an amp can deliver, the longer the tubes can operate cleanly – this power range, where the amp remains clean, is often referred to as “headroom.” However, if power tube saturation is intended, the tubes are heavily stressed, and they transmit a loud signal to the speaker. While the statement “higher wattage = more volume” is only partially true, there is still a certain dependence between the two values of power and volume in guitar amplifiers.
Lower-power guitar amps (in this sense, “small” guitar amplifiers) offer the possibility to drive the power tubes into the overdrive range even at lower volumes – sometimes even at bedroom levels. This allows guitarists to fully exploit the tonal potentials of the amp in quieter environments – without risking neighborhood disputes.
Why a modest-sized practice amp often suffices
A good practice amplifier is an invaluable partner in developing one’s own guitar playing. Those who get to play on a high-quality, great-sounding tube amp in the rehearsal room usually don’t feel like practicing scales and chords on a small transistor amp at home. A fat tube sound at room volume is needed! A modest-sized tube amplifier not only offers high-quality sound but also unfolds a realistic dynamic while playing. The interplay of guitar, pickups, and tube amp needs to be practiced at low volumes too, even at bedroom levels. Tube-based practice amps provide the natural saturation and dynamics that characterize all tube amps – additionally, they often come with headphone outputs and other features to enable silent practice with good sound. And when necessary, even small 5-watt devices can make quite a bit of noise. And let’s be honest: sometimes that’s necessary.
Microphone Placement and Recording – Advantages of Mini-Amps in Recording Situations
Apart from practicing in your own four walls, mini-guitar amplifiers play a crucial role in recording and microphone placement: their easy handling has significant advantages in the studio and makes it much easier to dial in the desired sound. With optimal microphone placement, even the smallest amps can have an enormous impact, with their performance only limited by the power of the connected PA. An example is guitar idol Joe Bonamassa, known for performing with old, rather small amps even in large venues.
Small Sound Giants: The Tweed-One Amps from Tube Amp Doctor
We have now spoken many words about the advantages and options of small tube amplifiers. To avoid being too theoretical, we would like to recommend two well-suited models. Both amps are based on historical amplifiers from the Tweed era and, despite their small size, deliver a fat, wonderfully creamy sound. These amps can be purchased as amplifier kits and assembled by the user. For those who find the DIY approach too complicated, fully assembled tube amplifier kits are also available from Tube Amp Doctor.
Tweed One-5 – Combo
The roots of the Tweed One-5 are quite obviously from the legendary Fender Tweed Champ. This full tube is operated as a single-ended Class A amp and delivers a great, mature tube sound at around 5 watts. The working power of the amp is sufficient to function as a practice amp. However, at quieter gigs, the guitar amp also delivers a convincing performance, even for live performances. Many guitarists rely on the famous “Sweet” tone during recording and let the amp play to its full potential. Combined with an internally mounted Jensen P12R speaker and a beautiful Tweed cabinet, the Tweed One-5 Combo offers a wonderful overall package ready for everyday use in any application.
Tweed One-Twelve-16 – Combo
For those who need a bit more assertiveness, the TAD Tweed One-Twelve-16 Combo amp will surely appeal. The approximately 16 watts of power can be captured and tamed even in the home setting without upsetting the neighbors. Nevertheless, the amp, inspired by the Fender Tweed Deluxe, delivers a fat sound for smaller club gigs and the rehearsal room. With the combination of the integrated Jensen Blackbird speaker and the finely tuned preamp and power amp, the amp provides a wide range of sounds from clean to gritty. The operation with two volume controls and one tone control is simple and ingenious at the same time. Perfect control and high user comfort are guaranteed.
Packaged in a beautiful, aged Tweed enclosure, the One-Twelve 16 is the perfect all-rounder and partner for any guitar.
Main Image (Electric Guitar and Amplifier in front of Wooden Wall): © Pixel-Shot – stock.adobe.com
Young Man Carrying Electric Guitar and Amplifier: © jonnyslav – stock.adobe.com
Black Electric Guitar with Small Amplifier: © New Africa – stock.adobe.com