I like small-sized guitar amplifiers. These amplifiers are affordable and also easy to use – just plug-in and start playing. Most small-sized amp heads and combos are low power, 100% valve driven units. But there are also some micro amps out there that are transistor based and just incredibly small in size. A non-musician could easily mistake them for toys and not real musical instruments. Modern manufacturing technology has made it possible to have such amazing gear available to us.

In this second post of this list, I have presented a list of the most prominent small amp heads available today. It is is no way an exhaustive list, but I did my best to find amps of all kinds from all over the world. I have included amps that are fully tube driven or hybrid units of 1 or 5 watts RMS. The list includes the model of the amp and its specs and also the pros and cons of each amp, so you can get a complete perspective on what the amp is all about.

Here’s the list (in alphabetical order) :

Traditional Amps

Mooer Little Monster AC and BM

Mooer AC

Most people know Mooer as the manufacturer of tiny pedals which are clones of popular effects. But Mooer also makes a tube amplifier called the Little Monster.

There are two versions available – the AC and the BM. No points for guessing that the AC is a take on the clean sounding Vox style amp. I assumed earlier that maybe the BM stands for something like a British Marshall, but it turns out that it is actually a take on the Fender Bassman circuit. Both have a lone 12AX7 in the preamp section, but differ in the power amp section setup. The AC has an EL84 and the BM has a 6V6GT.

It’s a simple plug-in-and-play kind of an amp. No FX loop, no 3 band EQ, no reverb. Just a gain and volume knob. But both models have various switches to change the voicing. The AC has a thin/mellow, and a top boost/normal switch.

Both these heads are small and portable. They also come with a gig bag to be carried around in. The amp is housed in an enclosed grill casing and seem sturdy enough to sustain Mooer BMsome road travel.

Made in? China
Power – 5watts each
Price $250
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – N/A
Key feature – Simple to use, 2 models to choose from
Cons – Lack of features
Contact – Mooer Audio

Orange Micro Terror / Micro Dark Terror

Orange Micro TerrorOrange changed the amplifier scene with their lunchbox format Tiny Terror head in 2006. The Micro Terror was introduced a few years later. The smaller brother of the bigger Tiny Terror heads also has many fans. Even though the Micro Terror is not a proper tube amp, it is designed to sound like one. It has a lone 12AX7 in the preamp section and a solid state power amp delivering upto 20 watts RMS of Hybrid power.

There are 3 knobs, a volume, gain and tone knob. There’s an 8ohm speaker output at the back. There is also a headphone out in front for practice at night and a 1/8” Auxiliary audio input to practice at night. It comes with its own 1X8” cab, but it can also power a single cab as large as a 4×12 through its lone speaker output. 2 versions are available, a regular Micro Terror (like the Tiny Terror) and the Micro Dark Terror (like the Tiny Dark). The Micro Dark Terror was introduced in late 2015, and has a serial FX loop in the back, something the first version of the Micro Terror lacked.

The Micro Terror can be used as a backup head in case your main one decides to fail. Or it can drive your cabinet when you don’t want to use your main amp for practice at home. You won’t get a pristine clean sound from this and it’s wrong to expect that from it. Where this amp excels at is its ability go to 11 and rock out whilst being small in size. That being said, you can put a lower output tube in the preamp section to further reduce the breakup. There is an excellent video demonstrating the sounds of 8 different 12AX7 tubes in a Micro Terror.

Made in? ChiOrange Micro Dark Terrorna
Power – 20 watts (through a solid state power amp)
Price – $149 / $189
FX Loop – Only on the Micro Dark Terror
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – Ballsy Orange tone in a micro package
Cons – Clean sound
Contact – Orange Amps

Palmer Eins

Palmer EinsPalmer is a German manufacturer of audio equipment. They are best known for their range of speaker simulators and load boxes. The cheapest amp in their range is the Eins. Eins is German for one. It’s a tiny 1 watt all tube amp head. The setup is similar to the Blackstar HT1 head. It has an ECC82 and ECC83 in the power section but the tube layout can be changed. The top cover of the amp can opened up to change around the tube layout. They’ve provided a simple guide how you can go about modding it. The amp is a tube head that can not only be used as a head but also as a tube preamp to drive your effects pedals with the help of the high impedance output at the back.

As the company is known for their speaker simulated recording options, they have also provided a simulated recording output on the back. And it has a dummy load built in, so it can be run without being connected to a speaker load. There is a single tone contour knob, volume knob and a boost switch. This amp looks like the ideal thing to use to plug in a fuzz pedal and play music like old-school rocknroll and garage rock.

Made in? Germany
Power – 1watt
Price – $299
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – Unique appeal
Cons – No gain control
Contact – Palmer Germany

Peavey 6505 Piranha

peavey 6505 piranhaPeavey’s 6505 series of amps have been a mainstay in modern rock and metal for decades. Peavey released a lunchbox format 6505MH to glowing reviews in 2015. But Peavey has now put out an even smaller offering, the 6505 Piranha. The Piranha was launched at NAMM in Jan ’16. It is a valve-hybrid micro head which is inspired by its larger brothers. It has a single 12AX7 and a 20watt solid-state power amp section with 3 controls – gain, EQ and master volume.

The amp can be connected to a speaker cab which is only 16ohms. There is also an aux input headphone out that can be used for practice and silent recording.

Made in? China
Power – 1watt
Price – $200 approx
FX Loop – Yes
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – Crushing 6505 tone in a micro package
Cons – Solid state power amp / only 16ohm speaker output
Contact – Peavey USA

Randall RD-1H

Randall RD 1The Randall RD-1H is the smallest offering from Randall amps in their Diavlo range. This pint sized head is made for metal. It even looks pretty metal with the grill covering the innards of the amp and the graphic of a demon on the front face plate.

It has a single 12AX7 and a single 12AU7 pushing out 1 watt of tube tone. It has a Gain knob, a Tone knob and a master volume knob. There is also a 3-way switch called the ToneStackShift (TSS) which acts as midrange contour.

On the back it has a minimum 8-ohm speaker output, a speaker emulated XLR output and even an FX loop (which is rare in amps of this price range)

There is a dummy load built in, so you can use your amp without a speaker connected if needed. The RD-5H, a 5 watt version is also available.

Made in? – China
Power – 1watt
Price – $250
FX Loop – Yes
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – signature Randall metal tone in a feature packed small format
Cons – No reverb
Contact – Randall Amps

VHT Special 6

VHTSP6H_front_zps59f8d191The VHT Special 6 is a 6 watt all tube amplifier by VHT. It has a single 12AX7 and a single 6V6 in the power amp section. There is a tone and volume knob. The volume knob can be pulled out for a boost. There is a 3 way switch with high/power selection and a standby selection, along with a regular power on off. There are 2 inputs, a hi and low. This amp has a lot of features for the price. It does lack an FX loop though, but I don’t think you’d really need one.

The USP of this amp is that it is hand wired in China. So that basically means that even though it’s priced as a budget amp, it is marketed as a high quality amp. Another USP of this is the ability to apply modifications to the circuit. As the wiring is put together with an eyelet-type board, one can change parts of the circuit and tubes to change the voicing of the amp. There are schematics and accounts of people who have applied mods to their VHT amps, which makes it quite an interested piece of equipment.

It can do cleans and can be used as good pedal platform as well.

Made in? China
Power – 6 watts
Price – $250
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – N/A
Key feature – Great sounding Handwired amp head
Cons – No FX loop
Contact – VHT Amps

Vox AC4TVH

VoxAC4TVHThe Vox AC4 is a small amp head inspired by their larger and more popular AC series. It is Vox’s smallest tube amp and has 4 watts RMS of power. It has a 12AX7 in the pre amp and an EL84 in the power amp it has a Tone, Volume and output level built it, along with an attenuator., it goes from <1w, 1W and 4W modes. It has a Tone, Volume and output level built it, along with an attenuator.

The manual recommends the head to be ran with a 16-ohm load, according to users on forums, it can also be run with an 8-ohm cab but discourage using the Attenuator.

Made in? China
Power – 4watts
Price – $250
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – N/A
Key feature – Well built small amp for those classic Vox sounds.
Cons – Issues relating to speaker output
Contact – Vox Amps

ZVEX Nano Head

zvex-nano-head-114519The ZVEX Nano head is pedal mad scientist Zachary Vex’s take on the small amplifier. It has a only single volume knob but the sound can be modified by using the 3 voicing controls. The bright switch controls the treble, the mellow control removes high end from after the first distortion stage, and a 3-way thickness switch.

The nano head might look like a toy, but Zachary Vex claims it does a very good crunch tone. The Nano head can power any 8 or 16 ohm speaker cabinet and has a small plastic internal speaker built in. The amp even has a fan to keep the amplifier cool under usage.

Also, instead of the ZVEX, I would prefer to get the Biyang HT-1 as it seems like better value for money.

Made in? USA
Power
– 1 watt approx
Price – $500
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – N/A
Key feature – The thing’s got a fan built in!
Cons – Price
Contact – Zvex Amps

Conclusion

I have listed 25 amplifiers. 14 of them are tube, 3 are hybrid, and 5 are non-tube amps. There are also 3 exceptions in this list. So, who and what are these amps for? Many of these amps are great entry points for people looking to experiment when it comes to tube amps. High-end professional gear is usually out of reach for beginners and hobbyists. Hence, going for small amps is a worthwhile option. These amps are not meant to replace your 100 watt stack, or pro-spec amp modelling recording/live rig. They can be used as a method for quick and silent recording or as a practicing tool. They can also be used as backups or even as primary amps in certain situations. The value they offer for the absolute beginner or the weekend warrior is also unmatched.

Some of these amps may have stock tubes of poor quality but it’s easy to swap them out yourself. Many manufacturers are now making smaller versions of their existing amplifiers with added features like silent recording, and reactive loads. For a budding musician looking to record demos at home, it doesn’t make financial sense to book studio time. These amps can also be considered as an investment for musicians and studio owners who want a bit of variety in their sounds. For the cost of one high wattage amp you can get a few different low wattage amps. Not to mention the added convenience of just putting one of these amps into a bag and taking it out for a gig.

Read PART 1 HERE, and PART 3 HERE.

Are there any amps you feel should be included in this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

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