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Which are the best mini amp heads on the market?
We’ve rounded up 7 of the best mini amp heads for the tone lovers out there.
Mini Amp Heads have become quite popular for obvious reasons.
Most prominently, musicians want to avoid loading heavy and cumbersome gear to their gigs and rehearsals. This is especially true if they can find a more convenient solution that also offers great sound.
Mini amp heads also tend to be less expensive and easier to store. Another major selling point is you can use them at low settings that won’t get you evicted. Guitar players have flocked to convenience, and manufacturers have taken notice.
This guitar amp head from Quilter Labs packs a punch in a very compact form factor. This is a solid-state amp that jams a huge amount of headroom in its small enclosure.
This, in turn, restores the transients and harmonics you’d expect from a high-quality tube amp. The result is a great mini head amp that is responsive to the player’s touch. Because of its quality, sound, size, and price, the Quilter Labs 101 Reverb mini amp head is our pick for this list.
The Quilter 101 Reverb is a fantastic mini amp head that offers great value. At just 2 lbs, this unit offers great portability and is quite easy to store or even place on the desktop.
It features a Full-Q tone with versatile Gain and Limiter controls that can take you from beautiful cleans to percussive crunch. The Full Q base tone is voiced to sound like a 60’s American combo.
Its 3 band EQ section features a hybrid approach that pairs traditional amp tone stacks with an active mid-band that is ideal for dialing in popular tones. This gives the 101 Reverb a wide range of sounds for different styles. As opposed to many mini amp heads, the 101 Reverb offers onboard spring-styled digital reverb.
The master volume on this Quilter Labs guitar amp head works as a wattage controller. This allows you to dial in anything from zero to 50 watts just by turning a knob! The control panel of this amp features Gain, Limiter, and Reverb knobs, and you’ll also find an effects loop located on the front of the amp.
The Quilter 101 Reverb features a headphone output that facilitates private practice and late-night jams, and works with 4-ohm, 8-ohm, and 8+8-ohm options. It also comes with a universal power supply for worldwide operation.
The Quilter 101 Reverb is a good choice for classic rock, blues, metal, and even jazz. This is a fantastic guitar amplifier offering great sound, features, and price, all squeezed into a mini head format.
2. Joyo Jackman-II BanTamp XL Series
If you are severely cash strapped and need a mini guitar amplifier head then the Joyo Jackman-II BanTamp XL Series is a good choice. Each model in this series of mini amp heads emulates a well know brand.
The Jackman offers a Marshall-type sound and is a particularly good choice for beginners or students that have an interest in hard rock or metal. This is our best value option for the best mini amp heads.
The Joyo Jackman features a strong mid-gain drive sound that reacts to your playing and guitar volume. Since it’s modeled on a Marshall, you can push it further to get a modern tone or instead back off a bit to get a classic rock sound.
This mini amp head also features a clean channel that can take pedals really well, making it flexible and practical, especially for gigs where you don’t want to haul a bigger amp.
The Joyo Jackman operates with a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp and uses a solid-state power amp. It also features an FX loop that enables you to better shape your sound. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity so you can play along with tracks.
This will be great if you already have a speaker and need a practice amp head that is truly affordable. Additionally, all BanTamp XL series amps feature a footswitch for changing between clean and distorted tones.
The Mesa Boogie Mini-Rectifier Twenty-Five is a fully-featured sonic beast in a compact package. If you want a truly powerful tube amp that will deliver stellar quality and features in a small form factor, then this is the mini amp head for you.
This is our premium option for a mini guitar amplifier head, for players that demand the best.
This all-tube, EL-84-powered head gives you 2-channel/4-mode operation and total control over your tones. Each channel lets you switch between 10 watts and 25 watts, making the Mini Rectifier Twenty-Five a perfect guitar amp for the studio, the practice room, and the stage.
The Mini-Rectifier Twenty-Five is a two-channel amp that delivers legendary Mesa Boogie tone in a small package. Despite the fact that it is only a 25-watt head, it is still quite loud when cranked.
This is an all-tube head that features two channels with entirely independent controls, for both EQ and volume. With this guitar amp head, you can select between clean and drive channels, and configure both of these separately using one of the four voices included.
The clean channel allows you to select between standard Clean and “Pushed”, which is described as sounding like an amp of the edge of breaking up.
For the drive channel, you can choose between Vintage or Modern. Additionally, each channel is independently selectable between 10 and 25 watts.
This offers guitar players a multitude of on-the-fly headroom and drive options. The speaker output resistance on this amp head is 4 to 8 ohms and it does not feature reverb. It is a bit costly, but you certainly get what you pay for here.
4. Orange Micro Dark
After the success of the amps Orange Micro Terror and Dual Dark, customers asked for a mini valve hybrid head version, and thus the Orange Micro Dark was born.
The result was so impressive that guitarist Nico Santora (Suicidal Tendencies) stated that the Micro Dark is a game-changer. The Dark series of amplifiers make it clear that they’re engineered for high-gain heavy metal, and the Micro Dark is no exception.
The Orange Micro Dark hybrid electric guitar amplifier head puts great high-gain tones in a simple and very portable package. Based around Orange's popular Dark series of amplifiers, the Micro Dark offers the same searing gain and tonal versatility as its big brothers, but boasts the same tiny format as the Micro Terror.
The Micro Dark uses a tube/solid-state hybrid design to make the most of its small size. The preamp uses a single ECC83 (12AX7) valve and produces a wide range of tones with warm cleans, smooth overdrive, and crushing distortion, making it great for modern metal.
Thanks to its solid-state output section, the Micro Dark can be paired with any 8-16 Ohm cabinet. It also features a fully-buffered effects loop, a headphone output, and Orange’s CabSim circuitry that sounds very realistic.
The Micro Dark features a Shape control that alters the midrange response whilst interacting with the bass and treble. The effect of Shape becomes even more pronounced as you push the gain control.
Despite its low wattage, the Orange Micro Dark is a fantastic amp head and a solid choice, especially for heavier styles. It’s really hard to beat at this price range.
5. ENGL Amplification E 309 MetalMaster 20
If your main style is metal or any of its derivates, then the E 309 MetalMaster 20 might be just what the doctor ordered.
This amplifier head is capable of screeching tones for all you metal shredders out there but in a contained and small form factor. It is handbuilt in Germany and has quality written all over it, from its sound to its sturdy construction.
Made in Germany, this guitar amplifier head allows you to experience the punch and dynamics and the jaw-dropping overdrive/distortion you expect. Regardless of string configuration or tuning, this head delivers a range of overdrive from the 70s hard rock, 80s metal, and 2015 ultra-low riffing.
The E 309 MetalMaster 20 is a two-channel, 20-watt amp that oozes pure tube metal tone from the get-go. Both channels share the same three-band EQ and there is a MidScoop switch for enhancing clarity.
The E 309 MetalMaster 20 has a very simple layout with knobs that feel strong and responsive.
This amp head features Clean Gain, Lead Gain, Reverb, Lead Volume, and Master knobs. It features an effects loop located in the back of the unit as well as a balanced line out for front-of-house use.
The speaker outs allow for standard eight or 16-ohm cabinets, dual eight-ohm cabinets, or eight to 16-ohm. This is selected on the back of the amp head with the power soak options. The E 309 Metal Master 20 also offers a very musical reverb that complements your playing nicely.
The clean gain on this amp can also add some saturation, and the character will largely depend on the EQ controls.
This ultra-compact, single-channel head is a superb rock machine for all-valve tone wherever you go. The dual EL84, fixed-bias power section delivers up to 28 watts in full power mode and just 2 watts in low power.
The Victory BD1 features a laid-back design with just three knobs and two switches but still manages to produce a wide range of tones that will cover all styles.
The three control knobs are Gain, Volume, and Contour. This last one is similar to a tone control on most amps but with more focus on the lows and low-mids. This mini amp head features two switches: Bright and Deep. These are employed to respectively change the treble and bass response.
All of these features are more than enough to make the Victory BD1 a great-sounding amp for rock, metal, blues, and anything in between. This unit can be a workhorse for any guitarist that is tired of hauling heavy gear around but still needs a good amp with various speaker outputs.
To dial in a beautiful boosted vintage amp tone, simply turn the gain control halfway up, and for more aggressive sounds, keep going up from there. With the Victory BD1, you can reach great modern tones at a higher gain as well.
This is an all-tube amp with three 12AX7 tubes as well as two EL84s. It includes a padded carry bag to make it even more convenient to transport. And at just 13.2 lbs this is one of the lighter and most powerful amps in the market today.
7. Bugera T5 Infinium
Bugera has come a long way to become a well-respected name in the extremely competitive world of guitar amp manufacturing.
The T5 Infinium is further proof of the quality and value that this company brings to the table. This is an all-tube hand-wired amp that offers solid tones at a relatively low price.
Packed with four 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL34 power tubes, the handbuilt 50-watt Bugera T50 Infinium guitar amplifier head serves up all of the tube-soaked tones that you've heard on countless songs throughout the history of the electric guitar.
Integrated high-definition reverb with dedicated Reverb control
3 band EQ
The Bugera T5 Infinium features five watts and a very simple design in a small package. But don’t be fooled by its low wattage. This unit is capable of delivering clean and powerful distortion as well.
This amp comes with controls for Gain, Treble, Bass, and a Master Volume, all in the front panel. There is also a Phat switch that boosts the circuit and bypasses the EQ settings.
It also features three-way power attenuation at the back of the unit. This further complements its utility as a home amp with options for 0.1, 1, and 5 watts.
The T5 Infinium features one speaker out and a headphone jack, as well as a LED that indicates the tube life. If lit, the tubes are on their way out. It may be nothing your ears can’t readily detect at first, but it’s still a crafty little feature that adds value to this amp.
We live in an age where a gigging guitarist does not need to break their back or the bank with heavy and oversized vintage amps. It is a hard truth, but working with vintage amps is a massive hassle for most gigging musicians. For example, an amp like the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus weighs a hefty 62 lbs.
Sure, if you’re Joe Bonamassa, you have an army of roadies and techs at your disposal. But this is not a reality for 99% of guitar players out there.
Guitarists have taken notice of the great benefits of slimming down their gear. These days, great quality can be found at a lower cost. Plus technological improvements mean you’re no longer stuck with something that is bulky and heavy.
The best mini amp heads will take care of your tone while being gentle on your back and your bank account. The list above has something for every guitarist, from beginners to seasoned pros. As always, if you see something you like, check out some demos on YouTube and do a little further research before buying.