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 the final part of this list, I have listed a few exceptions that were worth mentioning, as they provide usability for a variety of needs. 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) :

Exceptions

I had the idea of including some  They aren’t tube driven or even conventional amps per se, but they have their own unique uses and it’s worth mentioning them for their usability –

Diago Little Smasher

Diago Little SmasherDiago is a British company which primarily makes pedalboards, cables and power supplies. The Little Smasher is Diago’s sole amplifier offering. This tiny little thing is actually a proper guitar amplifier. It’s a 5 watt RMS solid state with a 2 band EQ with bass and treble, a gain control and a master volume. It also has an output for a 4-16 ohm cabinet. There’s a guitar input jack, a speaker out jack and a power on-off switch. The Little Smasher

What more would you need?

Made in? China
Power – 5watts
Price – $299
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – N/A
Key feature – Simplicity, size and shape, crunchy tones
Cons – Lacks features, no mid control
Contact – Diago UK

HotOne Nano Legacy

Hotone Nano Legacy + CabYou wanted small amps, here’s one for ye! Hotone makes the Nano Legacy line of amps. You might be thinking – this is a joke right? It’s a toy, right? But it isn’t! These are actually real amplifiers. Sure, it’s entirely solid state, but they have a full feature set. It’s 5watts RMS of output and has a 3 band EQ, gain, volume and an FX loop. These midget things even drive any 4-16ohm speaker cabinet! There is also an auxiliary input for using your own music and a 1/8” headphone jack output. It runs off of an 18v DC adapter.

There are 5 models available currently. 4 are for guitars and are emulations of existing popular amplifiers: Purple Wind (a take on the Marshall Plexi line), British Invasion (a take on the Vox AC line), Mojo Diamond (a take on the Fender Tweed line), Heart Attack (a take on the Mesa/Boogie rectifier line)

There’s one for bass called the Thunder which is an emulation of the Ampeg SVT type bass amps.

There is also a small matched 4.5” 8ohm cabinet.

The only drawback of these amps they does have reverb. The reverb would’ve made this a complete package. But on the flipside, look at what it actually has! It has everything you want in a practice amp at such a small size and reasonable price.

Made in? China
Power – 5watts
Price – $99 each
FX Loop – Yes
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – Have you seen the size of this thing?!
Cons – Not a tube amp
Contact – HoTone Audio

Line 6 Pocket Pod

Line 6 Pocket PodThe POD is now almost a household name in guitar modelling effects. Almost everyone I know has either owned, or played with someone who owns one. Yes, it gets both love and hate but you cannot deny the legacy and usability of these gadgets.

The Pocket Pod is the smallest model the company offers. It’s a smaller version of the original red ‘bean’ that was available when the company first put out the POD. The Pocket Pod has a simple layout with 4 knobs, a D-pad multi selector, and 2 buttons for Save and Tap tempo which double up as a shift for alternative features and a tuner respectively. For I/O there is a 1/4” guitar in and out, an 1/8” aux input and headphone output, and a 9v adapter input. The unit can also be run using 4 AAA batteries.

On the front panel there are knobs to adjust drive, effect level, delay level and channel volume. There is also a shift knob that allows you adjust the bass, mid, and treble of the amp model you are using, and also the reverb level. There is an inbuilt tuner and a tap tempo switch to adjust the delay and modulation bpm. You can save upto 300 presets, and use a single bank with 4 presets at any given time.

So it’s pretty clear the Pocket Pod is a useful thing and there are many ways in which it can be used. You can use it for practicing by connecting it to a speaker or headphones, or for recording at home silently. It can also be used as digital preamp on your pedalboard, or as a backup head in case of emergencies.

An uncommon method of using it would be to use only the FX modelling and use the pod as a stompbox. You might not be able to adjust the parameters of the unit on the fly, but it can still be used. Another way to use the Pocket POD is to get an EHX .44 Magnum or AMT Tube Cake power amp pedal. By using it in conjunction with a power amp, the Pocket Pod can provide the preamp emulation and the power amp pedal can be used to drive a speaker cabinet (which can then be miced and fed into the PA). There may be some issues with tone quality and volume, but that’s for users to find solutions for.

Made in? China
Power – N/A (Digital modelling preamp)
Price – $129
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – Yes
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – Multitude of legendary POD tones in a minuscule size
Cons – Flimsy make
Contact – Line 6

Tech 21 Sansamp GT2

Sansamp GT2Tech 21’s Sansamp is a famous name in the domain of amps and pedals. The GT2 is one of the most popular all-analog amp emulation pedals around. Sansamp is known for making pedals and rack equipment that model famous amps. The GT2 models 3 classic amp sounds – A Fender Tweed type, A Marshall Drive type and the high gain Mesa/Boogie type.

You have an option to select from these 3 amps, a mod switch and a cab/mic switch to select the position of the mic on the emulated cabinet. The mod switch allows you to select different voicings in the pedal and the mic switch allows you to choose between off axis, in the center and classic. It can be powered by a 9v adapter or battery.

Similar to the POD, the GT2 can be used in a variety of ways. The difference is that the POD is digital and has more features and the GT2 is all-analog and is somewhat limited. Even though the POD has more features, the GT2 is has the advantage of having no digital modelling involved. But the kind of tones you’re after will depends on the kind of requirements you have. The GT2 is versatile enough that is can be used be used as a stomp box in your pedal rig, as an amp modeller at the end of your chain or even as a backup amp head.

It may even be useful as a recording device where you do not want to spend time dialing in tones

Just like the Pocket Pod and EHX 44 Magnum combination, the GT2 can also be used as a preamp running your amp emulation and the .44 Magnum driving your speaker cabinet (which can be miced). The difference here is that you will get a fully analog setup, which may be preferable for some users. Irrespective, the GT2 is incredibly versatile and users have reported some genuine sounding tones from the box.

The GT2 would be almost unbeatable with the addition of an FX loop. In fact, none of the Sansamp amp boxes have an FX loop. The only exception to this is the Sansamp Blonde Private stock version which is the programmable version of the Sansamp Blonde. Maybe something for Tech 21 to work on in the future.

Made in? USA
Power – N/A
Price – $200
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – High quality analog amp modelling
Cons – No mid control
Contact – Tech 21

Palmer Pocket Amp

Palmer Pocket Amp Mk2Palmer makes the Pocket amp. It’s a preamp pedal / effects box which models 3 famous guitar amplifier tones – A Fender, A Marshall, and A Mesa/Boogie. The Pocket amp is similar in size and format to the Sansamp GT2, but with a few extra features. The Pocket amp has 4 controls, an input gain, a 2 band EQ with bass and treble knobs, and a master volume. It also has an XLR out, and a headphone out, which the GT2 does not have. Palmer has also states that both outputs can be used simultaneously. The addition of the XLR out allows it to be used as a passive DI box.

Just like the Sansamp GT2, the Pocket Amp has 3 amp models, the US, the Brit, and the Vintage. Each model has 3 modes – a heavy, crunch and clean. The mic placement in the emulated speaker cab is also similar to the GT2 with an OFF axis, Center and Classic mode. Because it has a DI output, a ground/lift switch is also provided.

The Pocket Amp is cheaper and a more versatile unit when compared with the Sansamp, but some experienced users might think the Sansamp has better tone and sound quality.

Made in? Germany
Power – N/A
Price – $120
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – Versatile amp modelling effects and DI box
Cons – No mid control
Contact – Palmer Germany

Two Notes Audio Le Preamps – Le Clean, Le Crunch, Le Lead, Le Bass

Two notes Le Preamp

Two Notes Audio Engineering is a company based out of France. The company is famous for their line of Torpedo loadboxes, Impulse response software and re-amping studio gear. Two Notes launched the Le Preamp range at NAMM in 2016.

The Le Preamp is a dual channel preamp effect box with a host of features. Each model has a 12AX7 for some valve character. Channel A has 4 knobs, a gain, channel volume and 2 band EQ with bass and treble. Channel B has an expanded EQ section with a 3 band EQ, a sweep control, channel volume and gain. There is an interesting feature in each of the preamps called the Fusion. Fusion can be used to blend both channels together for interesting combinations. The fusion has two modes – hot and cold. Hot fusion is where both channels are blended in series and cold fusion in parallel. All pedals feature an FX loop (which is after the EQ section), XLR DI output with switchable cabinet emulation, along with MIDI in and out for controlling channels with MIDI devices.

The Le Preamp range consists of 4 models, the Le Clean, Le Crunch and Le Lead for electric guitar and a Le Bass for bass guitar. The Le Clean is a Fender style sound that can be used for cleans, bluesy-crunch or even as a pedal platform. The Le Crunch is a Marshall-isque British overdrive/distortion good for classic rock and 80’s tones. The Le Lead is a high-gain good for hard rock and metal sounds. The Le Bass is a pre amp similar to the other models but it is voiced to suit bass frequencies.

The La Preamp range can be used in a variety of ways in live situations. It can be used as a preamp into a clean amplifier, or it can be used as a DI to the mixer console. It can also be used in a way where one output is fed into a power amplifier for a speaker cabinet on stage which can be miced and blended with the DI signal for a complex and reliable gigging sound.

Made in? China
Power – N/A
Price – $299
FX Loop – Yes
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – Yes
Key feature – Feature packed edal sized pre-amplifier
Cons – Lack of a power amp
Contact – Two Notes Audio

Special Mentions

AMT Tube Cake TC-3

AMT Tube CakesAMT Electronics is a company based in Russia. They make the Tube Cake TC-3, a 3 watt power amplifier in a pedal casing. So that means the TC-3 will power any 8ohm 1×10, 1×12, 2×12 or 4×12 speaker cabs. It is powered by a 18v 500mA power supply.

The TC-3 has 3 controls, a depth knob, a presence knob, and a master volume control. The depth can be thought of as a bass or resonance control, and the presence as a treble or clarity control.

The TC-3 might only be 3 watts, but it’s loud enough for a home setting, or small gigs where the speaker cabinet will be miced. AMT claims that the TC-3 model is commonly used by players of heavier styles of music and also a great power amp for any analog preamp or digital FX unit. AMT also makes the Tube Cake TC-1, which is the 1.5 watt version of the TC-3. The TC-1 is best used for situations where a low powered rig is required.

The Tube Cake is a power amplifier which is meant to be plugged into a speaker cabinet only. You can cause severe damage to the pedal and your equipment if it is used incorrectly.

Made in? Russia
Power – 3 watts
Price – $150
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – N/A
Key feature – Pedal sized solid state power amplifier
Cons – Lack of output volume for live situations
Contact – AMT Electronics USA

Electro-Harmonix Magnum 44

EHX Magnum 44The 44 Magnum is a state power amplifier in a pedal casing. It has 44 watts of output and can power speakers of any size. So that means the 44 Magnum will power your 8-16ohm 1×10, 1×12, 2×12 or 4×12 speaker cabs. It has a output level knob and a bright/normal switch for 2 tonal variations. It is powered by a 24v DC 2.0A power supply.

You can use this amp/pedal to power a speaker cabinet for your analog preamp, amp character pedals, or your digital modelling units. It can also be used as a backup to a real amp. The 44 Magnum can be used for emergencies or just as something to plug in your instrument directly in.

To emulate an FX loop type of setup, you can run your guitar direct into your character series pedal or digital amp unit (or think of it as an amp head), then run your modulation and time based FX units, then patch them into the 44 Magnum at the end of your chain (as a power amp section). There may be different results depending on the type of pedals and speaker cab you use.

Just like the AMT Tube Cake, the 44 Magnum is a power amplifier which is meant to be plugged into a speaker cabinet only. You can cause severe damage to the pedal and your equipment if it is used incorrectly.

Made in? USA
Power – 44 watts
Price – $150
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – N/A
Key feature – Pedal sized solid state power amplifier
Cons – Loud
Contact – Electro-Harmonix

Smokey Mini Amp

smokeyThe Smokey amp is a miniature, pocket-sized guitar amplifier created by Bruce Zinky. The concept is simple – take an empty pack of cigarettes, cut out a bit of cardboard, and put a simple solid state amplifier inside it. How cool is that? The amp is damn simple – it has an input jack, an output jack (which can power any 4-16ohm speaker cabinet) and a plastic speaker. No knobs, no switches, and runs only on a 9v battery. Sure it looks like a toy, but go listen to this demo and tell me that it doesn’t sound like a fun toy.

It can also be used as a backup head. The Smokey amp can be plugged into a speaker cabinet of any size. It can also be used as a fuzz pedal or into another pedal as an effects box. You can also try plugging in instrument other than electric guitars/bass like electric violins, mandolins or even vocals.

There are 3 versions available – the original in the cig pack, the new polycarbonate version and the Supro high-gain version. You can also mail your own pack of cigarettes and the guys at Smokey will put an amp in it for you (or if you’re good with your hands you could probably do that yourself).

Made in? USA
Power – 1 watt approx
Price – $40
FX Loop – N/A
Reverb – N/A
Silent Recording – N/A
Key feature – Such a cool toy
Cons – A toy after all
Contact – Smokey 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 2 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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