If you are a guitarist who travels about and likes to take your guitar with you then it can be frustrating lugging lots of heavy gear about. Alternatively if you are a new guitarist looking for an affordable practice amp so that you have more money for your first guitar you might wonder what is the best option. Thankfully there are some great looking and affordable portable practice amps that won’t break the bank.
Here we review three of our favourites the Marshall MS-2 Micro Amp, the Orange Micro Crush 3 and for those looking for something a little bit more expensive the Vox Mini 3.
First off what are the advantages of having a small practice amp?
If you are a new guitarist on a tight budget practice amps provide an affordable amplification option. The advantage is they allow you to spend more of your cash on your first electric guitar whilst still being able to afford a reasonable amp. You might not get the full gut trembling power of their bigger cousins but at least you will be able to get started and still produce a decent sound. On the plus side the lack of power can be a god-send for parents or neighbours who won’t have to suffer with excess volume as you take your first tentative steps on the road to rock stardom. Finally the biggest benefit of these portable amplifiers is that the size means you really can take your electric guitar anywhere and be heard. If you plan to busk then you can clip these amps onto your guitar strap and you are free to wander the streets spreading your own brand of musical happiness!
What are the options available?
Most amp manufacturers produce small practice amplifiers but below are some of the ones that we like the most.
The Marshall MS2 is a great little amp which looks the part as well as delivering an excellent sound. Marshall need no introduction, having been at the forefront of amplification since the 1960s they are possibly the most recognised brand in rock music. Designed to look like a Marshall half stack the amp packs quite a punch whether played clean or in overdrive mode. The MS2 comes in red or black, measures 14 cm x 11 cm x 6 cm and has a clip allowing you to wear the amp on your belt or guitar strap for maximum portability. The MS2 has volume and tone controls and the on/off switch has a third overdrive position which delivers a heavy distorted sound. The amp requires a 9V battery, which gives you reasonable play time, or you can connect it up to mains adaptor for when you are playing at home. Sadly this is not supplied with the amp so you will have to purchase the adaptor separately. The sound from the MS2 is extremely good considering the size of the amp and the tone control gives you a full range from bass to treble. At high volume the overdrive mode can be a little bit too much but this is only a minor complaint in what is a great little package. The MS2 can be picked up for under £30 pounds so represents excellent value for money to own a piece of Marshall equipment. Buy it now from Amazon for only £24.99.
Our next practice amp is the Orange Micro crush CR3 from the British firm Orange Music Electric Company. Orange, much like Marshall, have been at the forefront of amplifier design since the 1960s gaining a reputation for excellent sound quality. The Micro crush CR3 is in the Orange compact portable range and in our humble opinion looks great for such a small package. The styling is typically Orange from the bright orange basket weave tolex, woven speaker grille and orange signature it oozes 70s retro-cool and the build quality is fantastic. But where it really delivers is in the excellent sound quality. You often find that looks are not backed up with the sound but this is not the case with the Orange. The amp boasts a massive 3 watts output and comes with a built in tuner, which is an excellent addition for the new guitarist. There are volume and tone controls and a overdrive switch giving room for experimentation in the sound that it delivers. Like the Marshall it is powered by a 9V battery (one supplied) or mains adaptor which is not supplied. The only complaint we have is that there is no clip on the amp to allow you to attach it to your belt or guitar strap. But other than that minor issue this is a great little amp and we would highly recommend it. The Orange is a bit more expensive than the Marshall at a shade under £40 but we think the extra money is worth it for the quality that you get. If you like the look of the Orange Micro crush CR3 then you can get it from Amazon for only £36.
Our final practice amp is the VOX Mini3 micro amp. Once again this is another practice amp from a company with a rich pedigree. Vox have been making guitar amps since the 1950s when it introduced the 15 watt Vox AC15 which was later followed by the AC30. For many of us it was Vox that helped to create the unique British sound that was to launch bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks and The Yardbirds. So what has the Mini3 got to offer? The first thing to note is that it is a lot more expensive than the Marshall or Orange with a RRP of just under £100. So at this price point it has to offer a lot more than the other two. We were not disappointed, Vox have certainly managed to cram a lot into a tiny amp allowing a lot more experimentation than the Marshall or Orange. The Vox Mini3 can best be described as the ultimate portable modelling amp. Vox have managed to give you just about everything that you might want in a micro amp from 11 accurate amp models allowing you to recreate great clean or distorted sounds. There is a built in tuner as well as a number of effects such as reverb/delay, phase, flange and compressor. All this is included in an amp that measures 26.7 cm x 17.9 x 26.7 cm and weighs just 3.5 kgs. In our opinion this is a great little amp, which is extremely versatile and produces a fantastic tonal spectrum from which you can experiment. The Vox Mini3 is well worth the extra money and if your budget can stretch a little further it is well worth the price. The rrp of the Vox Mini3 is £95.99 but you can buy now through Amazon at a great value £79.99.
The three practice amps in this review, we think, demonstrate the excellent quality out there on offer if you are looking for a compact micro amp with great sound quality.