8 Best Portable (Mini & Micro) Guitar Amps in 2019 – Freedom to Play
Mini guitar amps are a great solution for the players on the move and street performers. You can plug in your guitar and mic wherever you are and start playing or recording.
Most of the battery-powered models can also run on AC, making them even more versatile. Some models also offer stereo speakers, extensive amp modeling options, and built-in effects.
8 Mini Guitar Amps for Musicians on the Go
Let’s take a look at the best portable guitar amps on the market and how to choose the right one for you.
1. Marshall MS2
There are few things more rock ‘n’ roll than the classic Marshall stacks. They’ve been used on stage around the world for more than 50 years. If you’re on the go and love the classic Marshall design, you might want to take a look at the Marshall MS2.
Being one of the best micro amps, it runs on 9V batteries for 1W of output which is more than enough for quick practice sessions and warmups. It weighs next to nothing and has a belt clip in the back for enhanced mobility.
The upper section of this pocket amp features a standard ¼” input and controls. The master volume knob and tone knob let you perform basic tone modeling. Switch between clean and overdrive channels with the combined power/channel knob.
Battery-operated amplifiers are a great option for street musicians who can’t use conventional amps for whatever reason. If you’re on the lookout for a compact amp with decent power, you might want to give the Blackstar FLY3 a chance.
The FLY3 runs on six AA batteries to produce 3W of power for driving the single 3” speaker. While not strong enough to get you through a club gig, this little amp has more than enough power for street performances. The sound is tight and clean, even at high volume settings.
There are two channels – clean and overdrive – with shared controls. Gain, volume, and EQ knobs form the controls unit. Digital delay is the only onboard effect. You can also hook up an extension speaker to the FLY3 amp.
The Boss Katana Mini is halfway between a standard-sized room/practice amp and a portable micro amp. It boasts analog gain and tone control circuits which give it a warm and seductive sound. This makes it perfect for street performers who want a serious amp in a lightweight package.
The Katana Mini runs on six AA batteries. When the batteries run out you can switch to the AC adapter that comes with the amp. However, it doesn’t come with a power cord.
The Katana Mini has three channels – clean, crunch, and brown – allowing you to cover everything from mellow ballads to sizzling heavy rock. In the effects section, this sharp little amp can handle tape delay which you can configure with time and level knobs.
Battery life is an important aspect of a portable guitar amp. Generally, the more power and effects an amp has, the shorter the battery life. The Mini Tonemaster by Fender has no problem with battery life.
The Mini Tonemaster is a super-simple amplifier. It is a 1W amp that runs on a single 9V battery. There are no onboard effects and a pair of 2” speakers produce the sound. The amp has only one channel and you can regulate the amount of drive with the gain knob.
The Mini Tonemaster emulates the looks of the legendary Fender Tonemaster two-piece amplifier. Sonically, it is a faithful replica of the classic Fender sound. The amp only has one channel and the manufacturer recommends it for use with electric guitars only.
5. Yamaha THR5
Unlike most battery-powered amplifiers, the Yamaha THR5 is for players who want the functionality of a full-sized amp in a travel-friendly package.
The THR5 is a 10W amp with a pair of speakers. It is a single-channel amp, though it can emulate five different amp models. These include Clean, Brit Hi, Lead, Crunch, and Modern. The basic controls are gain, master, and tone.
The onboard effects include chorus, phaser, flanger, and tremolo. Matching the versatility of full-sized amps, the THR5 also offers four modes of delay/reverb: delay, spring reverb, delay/reverb, and hall reverb.
This amp is easily one of the best mini amps and is great for quick recording sessions away from home, as well as for practice and street performances.
If you’re a solo acoustic performer, your best bet is to get an amp that can accommodate both your guitar and mic.
The Roland Mobile AC is designed with acoustic players/singers in mind. It is a 5W amp with two speakers. It runs on six AA batteries and is rated at 15 hours between battery changes.
With this amp, you get separate guitar and mic inputs, as well as separate volume controls. The master volume and tone knobs are also there. The chorus and wide effects are button-activated, while the reverb has a dedicated level knob. The Mobile AC also has a stereo input option for added versatility.
Battery-powered portable amplifiers are often modeled after already existing models. While they almost always look the part, they can sometimes have a completely different sound. The Orange Micro Crush, however, sounds almost identical to the legendary Orange Crush.
The Orange Micro Crush is a super-simple amp in the company’s legendary orange color. It is a 3W amplifier with analog circuitry.
This is a two-channel amplifier with clean and overdrive channels. The channels share volume and tone controls. There are no built-in effects and you can’t connect an MP3 player to jam along with your favorite tunes. However, the Micro Crush does come with an onboard tuner and a 3.5mm headphone-out.
Up until recently, you need at least a standard room/practice amp to do serious modeling. The Vox Mini-series may have changed that.
The Mini3 G2CL is a 3W amp with a single speaker in a classic Vox design. It offers separate inputs for guitar and microphone, making it a great choice for acoustic player/singers. The master volume and tone control knobs work on both channels.
The guitar channel can emulate 11 different amplifiers, ranging from pristine clean to heavy metal. The Vox “Bassilator” circuit is there to provide a tighter low end on the more aggressive settings. The built-in effects include compression, chorus, flanger, tremolo, acoustic delay, echo, spring reverb, and room reverb. The amp also has a digital tuner.
These are some of the key things that you need to consider before you pick a portable guitar amp.
The first thing you need to consider when buying a portable/battery amplifier is the purpose.
Those that are made for practicing may be better at other things than those made for acoustic street performances. Ditto for a battery amp made for traveling musicians who do a lot of recording on the fly.
The best battery powered guitar amp is the one that suits your own needs.
A battery-powered practice amp may only come with the essentials – clean and distortion (optional) channel, basic volume and tone controls, and possibly a headphone jack. Some might even have a 3.5mm auxiliary input for play-along sessions. These amps tend to be smaller and more affordable.
If you’re in the market for a battery-powered amp for street performances, there’s a wide range of models to choose from. Amps that are made for this purpose typically have dedicated instrument and microphone inputs.
The cheaper models usually have joint controls, but the more expensive variants might offer independent controls. Also, they might find a range of onboard effects, as well as a tuner. These amps tend to have long battery life. Also, they might have a couple more watts than the practice variety.
If you’re recording a lot and traveling frequently, it is a good idea to invest in a high-quality portable amp. High-end battery-powered amplifiers usually have two or more channels and can emulate a range of amps. Multiple onboard effects and tuners are among the common features here.
It is not unusual to see a two-speaker setup and slightly higher power. Some models may go up to 10W. Those that are designed for acoustic guitarists might also have a dedicated mic input.
The number of channels is an important aspect for all guitar amps, including the portable ones. The right number depends on your style and what you need the amp for.
For example, electric guitarists who play styles that don’t utilize distortion or overdrive can benefit from a single-channel amp. On the other hand, players with more varied styles should opt for a two or three-channel amp or an amp with gain control. Those who intend to record might benefit from buying a single-channel modeling amp.
Acoustic guitar players who sing and play should go for an amp that can accommodate both the instrument and the microphone. Otherwise, a single-channel amp might be enough.
When it comes to built-in effects, just choose according to your taste and style. The vast majority of portable amplifiers, except the smallest and simplest, have some onboard effects. Reverb and chorus are the most common, especially for amps that are aimed at acoustic guitarists.
Pricier portable amps tend to have a wider range of effects. The list might include a phaser, flanger, tremolo, and many more. It is not uncommon for an upscale acoustic amp to also have several types of chorus and reverb.
Most battery-powered amplifiers run on six AA batteries (9V total) or one 9V D battery. Many models support the standard 9V AC adaptors as an alternative power source. The better ones may also have a built-in rechargeable battery.
If you intend to buy a battery-powered amplifier for use as a home practice amp, battery life might not be that important to you. However, if you intend to use it for street performances or recording on the fly, having long battery life is a must.
Generally, the more power and onboard effects, the shorter the battery life. Therefore, you should aim for a compromise between the two, especially if you intend to perform on the street.
There are two things to consider here: size and number.
Usually, battery-powered amps are equipped with 2 to 4” speakers. You need a larger woofer to produce lower frequencies but they will require more power (if all else equals). But unlike consumer audio, you don’t have to worry about matching amps and speakers with pro audio guitar amps – most of them are amp and speaker combos.
You’ll need two speakers to produce stereo sound. But that’s not a concern here as most portable guitars amps are mono. Having two smaller woofers rather than one equivalent larger woofer may cut down on the weight (due to the much smaller magnets) and improve the sound dispersion.
The power does play a role in how loud it can play, but the difference is not as big as one might think. For example, if a 1W amp can produce 93 decibels, doubling the power will only get you three more decibels. (That’s because the unit decibel is calibrated on a logarithmic scale.) This 3dB increase continues with every doubling of power.
But there are other things to consider. It’s still better to have more power for the power reserve against clipping, by far the top cause of blown speakers. If you accidentally turn up the amp too loud and it’s underpowered, you can easily blow the speaker(s). This risk becomes significantly lower if you have a powerful amp (harder to clip).
There are countless portable amps on the market. To find the right one for you, you should first consider what you need the amp for. After that, consider the number of channels, built-in effects, battery life, number of speakers, and power. This list should give you a head start in your search for the best mini guitar amps.