Top 10 Best Mini Guitar Amp Heads 2017

In this modern age, there’s just no need to drag around an Earth-destroying vintage amp. We discussed this a bit in our best gigging amps post, but basically, improvements of all kinds in venues and recording situations means that you can let ease-of-use and convenience win out over anything heavy or cumbersome. Save that for when you have well-paid roadies who can work as a team to lug things from bus to stage.

Not to be confused with mini combo amps (which we covered over here) that are by and large for fun or novelty, mini amp heads are real-deal, mostly-giggable amps in small form factors. While those mini combos tend to be solid state only, these heads are often all-tube affairs, or at the very least hybrids with tube preamps. Additionally, you aren’t married to any specific speaker. By choosing your own cab, you can customize the experience even further, developing an incredibly rich tone of your own. In a later post, we’ll profile cabinet options you could pair with any of these.

Most of these come in the so-called lunchbox form factor, which is a metal box with a handle on top. Some are conventional head designs shrunk down, and still others are micro heads that fit in the palm of your hand. Prices vary widely from under $100 to just under $1,000, and extra features vary almost as much. You have your choice here between downright rustic amps with a pair of knobs to Bluetooth-enabled modern marvels. These super-small amps make wet/dry stereo setups very feasible, especially because many of them have effects loops.

Celebrate the golden age of amplifier design by considering the top ten best mini guitar amp heads.


1. Orange Micro Terror 20-Watt Head

mini amp, mini amplifier, micro amp, mini guitar amp, cheap guitar amps, marshall mini stack, portable amplifier

Orange

Taking after its big brother the Tiny Terror, this amp helped define the lunchbox style, bringing crushing tones to easy-to-move units. For much less than the more famous version, Orange will deliver for you 20 watts of actual tube tone using a 12AX7 valve preamp. These amps are consistently surprising doubters and in many ways set the benchmark for what the genre is all about.

Controls on this very simple unit includes controls for Volume, Tone, and Gain. The matching cabinet is available for $99. If you need a little more bass response, you might opt for the PC112C 1×12 cab instead. This little package can also be had in Dark Terror flavor, if you prefer.

Realistically, the Tiny Terror wouldn’t be out of place on this list, but we included it on our best gigging amps post, since it felt more at home there.

Price: $149

Buy the Orange Micro Terror 20-Watt Head here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Hybrid
  • Wattage: 20 watts
  • I/O options: Headphone jack, aux in, and speaker out
  • Speaker output resistance: 8 ohm minimum
  • Number of channels: One
  • Reverb?: No
  • Other features: None
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more Orange Micro Terror 20-Watt Head information and reviews here.



2. Vox Night Train NT15H-G2 15-Watt Tube Head

Mini guitar amp, guitar amp head, peavey 6505 mini, mini amp head

Vox

If I recall correctly, the Vox Night Train was the very first compact guitar amp head I can recall seeing in person. Somewhat like the Orange, it’s become a staple — or at the very least, a point of comparison for the amps that came after it. This is the second version and uses the ubiquitous 12AX7 tubes in the preamp and a pair of EL84s for output. As all the literature states and experience with it reinforces, classic chiming Vox territory is covered in here alongside higher-gain applications in their respective Bright and Girth channels.

Controls include Bright Gain, Girth Gain, three-band EQ, Reverb and master Volume. A Thick switch on the Bright channel bypasses the tone stack for a gain boost, while the Dark switch by the master Volume knob rolls off the high frequencies for a different overall characteristic. Speaker outs are available for one at eight ohms, two at 16 ohms, or one at 16 ohms. If using the matching Night Train V212NT cab, you’ll want the 16 ohm out.

If you want to go even smaller, Vox recently released the MV50 that comes in AC, Clean, and Rock voicings and utilizing a class D power amp to get to 50 watts.

Price: $499.99

Buy the Vox Night Train NT15H-G2 15-Watt Tube Head here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Tube
  • Wattage: 15 watts
  • I/O options: Speaker outs
  • Speaker output resistance: 8 or 16 ohms
  • Number of channels: Two
  • Reverb?: Yes
  • Other features: Effects loop
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more Vox Night Train NT15H-G2 15-Watt Tube Head information and reviews here.



3. Quilter 101 Reverb 50W Guitar Amplifier Head

Mini guitar amp, guitar amp head, peavey 6505 mini, mini amp head

Quilter

Another relatively new amp I’ve become fond of is this super-small Quilter. Yes, it is solid state, but the technology packed into this little gem more than makes up for it. They’ve found a way to jam a huge amount of headroom into this amp, which restores the transients and harmonics you expect from a high-quality tube amp.

The master volume on this works as a wattage controller, allowing you to dial in anything from zero to 50 watts. This is the second version, which replaces the two-knob EQ with a more traditional three-band section. There’s even an effects loop, conveniently located in the front of the amp. Gain, Limiter, and Reverb knobs round out the control panel.

It’s a whole lot of power in a very small package, but for $200 more, you can also get the ProBlock 200, which boosts the power to 200 watts. Another option is the Overdrive 200. Alternatively, you could save $100 by foregoing reverb and the expanded EQ control in the standard 101. No matter what you choose, all of them are made right here in the U.S.

Price: $399

Buy the Quilter 101 Reverb 50W Guitar Amplifier Head here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Solid state
  • Wattage: 50 watts
  • I/O options: Headphone jack and two speaker outs
  • Speaker output resistance: 4, 8, or 8+8 ohms
  • Number of channels: One
  • Reverb?: Yes
  • Other features: Effects loop and limiter
  • Country of manufacture: United States

Find more Quilter 101 Reverb 50W Guitar Amplifier Head information and reviews here.



4. Peavey 6505 MH

Mini guitar amp, guitar amp head, peavey 6505 mini, mini amp head

Peavey

Boiling a fully-featured amp head into a miniature package, this Peavy offering has a full slate of options to rival any larger unit. Unlike most of the options on this list, this is a two-channel amp with Rhythm and Lead channels that each have their own Pre-Gain and Post-Gain volume knobs. They share a three-band EQ, but the Rhythm channel also has a Bright switch and a Crunch switch that boosts the channel into overdrive. Finally, the Power Amp section offers Resonance and Presence knobs to fine tune the low and high end response, respectively. Like the Bugera later on this list, there are two tube status monitoring LEDs perched over the power switches.

The back panel offers a plethora of modern amenities. First is the power attenuator that is selectable between one, five, and 20 watts alongside the 8/16 ohm resistance selector. The Mic Simulated Direct Interface section offers XLR and headphone out with a speaker mute and ground lift. There’s an effects loop that can be controlled with a footswitch, as can the channel selection. Finally, a USB output acts like the XLR out for directly connecting to a computer.

The 6505 is, of course, very similar to the EVH 5150, which is available in a 15 watt mini head version. Another tiny head offering from Peavy is the hybrid 6505 Piranha which is small enough to fit in a gig bag.

Price: $499.99

Buy the Peavey 6505 MH here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Tube
  • Wattage: 20 watts
  • I/O options: XLR out, USB out, headphone jack, and speaker out
  • Speaker output resistance: 8 or 16 ohms
  • Number of channels: Two
  • Reverb?: Yes
  • Other features: Power attenuator, ground lift, speaker mute, effects loop, channel and loop footswitch inputs
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more Peavey 6505 MH information and reviews here.



5. Diamond Amplification Positron 18W Guitar Amplifier

Mini guitar amp, guitar amp head, peavey 6505 mini, mini amp head

Diamond Amplification

Just about everything else on this list is loaded with gadgets. But what if you just want a straightforward make-louder device? This might be the option for you. This is an all-tube Class A amp in a tiny package. Anything that could get in the way is stripped out, leaving you an essential tone machine with — you guessed it — three 12AX87 preamp tubes and two EL84 output tubes.

Controls are as basic as it gets with a Tone knob and a Volume knob. Turn it up, toss a boost pedal in front of it, and get to work.

If you need more options (and really, I can’t blame you), you could try the bigger brother Assassin, which has a four-band EQ and a diode clipping gain stage mode.

Price: $799

Buy the Diamond Amplification Positron 18W Guitar Amplifier here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Tube
  • Wattage: 18 watts
  • I/O options: Speaker outs
  • Speaker output resistance: 8 or 16 ohm
  • Number of channels: One
  • Reverb?: No
  • Other features: None
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more Diamond Amplification Positron 18W Guitar Amplifier information and reviews here.



6. ENGL Amplification E 309 MetalMaster 20 Head

Mini guitar amp, guitar amp head, peavey 6505 mini, mini amp head

ENGL

For those metal-inclined, ENGL has this handbuilt offering for you. This is a two-channel 20 watt amp driven by two ECC83 tubes in the preamp and two EL84s in the power amp section. The two channels share the three-band EQ, and there’s a Mid Scoop switch. Speaking of switching, you can use an external footswitch to switch between the effects loop or the on-board digital reverb, and another with a stereo ¼ inch in to access both the channel switching and the Mid Scoop state.

The rest of the controls are Clean Gain, Lead Gain, Reverb, Lead Volume, and Master volume. The effects loop is in the back, as is 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 power soak options — see the manual here for more on that.

ENGL also offer the Gig Master 30 for a more all-around tone.

Price: $999.99

Buy the ENGL Amplification E 309 MetalMaster 20 Head here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Tube
  • Wattage: 20 watt
  • I/O options: Balanced line output and three speaker outs
  • Speaker output resistance: 8 or 16 ohms
  • Number of channels: Two
  • Reverb?: Yes
  • Other features: Effects loop and power attenuator
  • Country of manufacture: Germany

Find more ENGL Amplification E 309 MetalMaster 20 Head information and reviews here.



7. Victory BD1

Mini guitar amp, guitar amp head, peavey 6505 mini, mini amp head

Victory

If I were shopping for a new amp right at the moment, offerings from the Victory Compact Series would be at the top of my list. I’ve loved their sound in all the various guitar gear videos I watch, and for being handbuilt in the U.K., the price really isn’t altogether that steep. The one that most fits the theme of this list is the BD1, which is the black version of Rob Chapman’s signature amp. (Do with that what you will; I’m neutral in the debate over whether we as a guitar collective should disdain him or not.)

The BD1 is the smallest of their small offerings, with three 12AX7s and two EL84s working together to make 28 watts. Gain, Contour, and Master knobs dial in your sound with help from Bright and Deep switches. You can run this in full power or two watt mode depending on context using any combination of the 16 ohm or dual 8 ohm outputs. The finishing touch is that the effects loop has a mix knob on the back for setting the exact level of your pedals relative to the preamp level.

Price: $829

Buy the Victory BD1 here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Tube
  • Wattage: 28 watts
  • I/O options: Two 8 ohm speaker outs and one 16 ohm speaker outs
  • Speaker output resistance: 8 to 16 ohms
  • Number of channels: One
  • Reverb?: No
  • Other features: Effects loop with blend level, low power mode
  • Country of manufacture: United Kingdom

Find more Victory BD1 information and reviews here.



8. Bugera T5 Infinium

Mini guitar amp, guitar amp head, peavey 6505 mini, mini amp head

Bugera

We included the V5 combo version of this amp on our small combo amps post for a few reasons. They’re excellent value for money, given that both are all-tube, hand-wired amps. Second, Bugera as a brand have come into their own after emerging from an early history of sub-par craftsmanship. They have a fairly dedicated following thanks to their solid tones at relatively low prices.

This handsome little unit puts out a max of five watts, which is enough to be mic’d in small clubs and great for recording. Controls for Gain, Treble, Bass, and a master Volume make up the front panel. A Phat switch is basically a boost circuit and bypasses the EQ settings. On the back, a three-way power attenuator further complements at-home use with options for 0.1, one, and five watts. In addition to the speaker out and headphone jack, there’s an 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, but it’s still a nifty little feature.

Price: $149.99

Buy the Bugera T5 Infinium here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Tube
  • Wattage: 5 watts
  • I/O options: Headphone jack and speaker out
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 ohm minimum
  • Number of channels: One
  • Reverb?: Yes
  • Other features: Tube life monitor and power attenuator
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more Bugera T5 Infinium information and reviews here.



9. Joyo Bantamp Series

Mini guitar amp, guitar amp head, peavey 6505 mini, mini amp head

Joyo

If you’ve read our cheap guitar effects post, you know the deal with these Chinese makers. They started out by (very) cheaply emulating more-famous pedals and other gear and are now branching out into innovating in their own way, combining different approaches from other makers. True, both this Joyo and the Hotone option that follow are probably not the very best sounding amps on the planet, but the combination of features make them compelling options to consider especially given that convenience is the very nature of these tiny form factors.

Each of the Bantamps uses a single 12AX7 preamp tube, much like the Orange at the top of this list. That’s paired with a class D solid state output section which generates the relatively high wattage. They also all share in common a Bluetooth radio as their solution to aux in capabilities, so you can play along with any Bluetooth-enabled source. This could come in handy when your amp and, say, your computer are installed at opposite ends of the studio. Each amp has Gain, Tone, and Volume knobs, and each has a “channel” switch that either controls a Bright circuit or an Overdrive circuit, depending on the model.

How they differ is in which amp style they emulate:

These aren’t even the only small amp heads available from Joyo. They also offer the Mjolnir, which is an all-tube, dual-channel, 15 watt amp, and the Blues-focused Beale Street at 12 watts.

Price: $149.70 to $169.84

Buy the Joyo Bantamp Jackman here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Hybrid
  • Wattage: 20 watts
  • I/O options: Headphone jack, Bluetooth audio, and speaker out
  • Speaker output resistance: 8 ohm minimum
  • Number of channels: Two
  • Reverb?: No
  • Other features: Bluetooth connectivity and effects loop
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more Joyo Bantamp Jackman information and reviews here.



10. Hotone Nano Legacy Purple Wind 5-Watt Compact Guitar Amp Head

mini amp, mini amplifier, micro amp, mini guitar amp, cheap guitar amps, marshall mini stack, portable amplifier

Hotone

Competing with their Chinese-bred counterparts above, these Hotone amps are truly tiny, about the size of your hand. They’re equipped with a three-band EQ and an effects loop in the back of the unit. It also includes a headphone jack/line output and an auxiliary in.

I tested this one for a month or so and was pretty impressed with it. The Purple Wind is based on a ’59 Plexi, so headroom is virtually nonexistent. Just turn the gain all the way up and it works very well as a miniature fire-breather. I really quite liked the sound of this little beast. For use in the studio, these are almost cheap enough to buy one of each, just to have access to a decent guitar preamp inspired by vintage tones.

The Nano Legacy line also includes the following models, each of which are designed to sound like a classic amp:

Hotone has their own Nano Legacy cabinet that is specifically designed to deliver full-spectrum sound, including improved bass response. To my ears, it sounds a bit like a decent portable Bluetooth speaker and less like a guitar amp. It’ll still sing through a 4×12, though, so you have your pick of any cab. That said, five watts is probably not going to cut it in a live setting, but for the price it could be worth a shot.

Price: $79.99

Buy the Hotone Nano Legacy Purple Wind 5-Watt Compact Guitar Amp Head here.



Specs:

  • Amp type: Solid state
  • Wattage: 5 watts
  • I/O options: Headphone jack, aux in, and speaker out
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 to 16 ohms
  • Number of channels: One
  • Reverb?: No
  • Other features: Effects loop
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more Hotone Nano Legacy Purple Wind 5-Watt Compact Guitar Amp Head information and reviews here.



Other strong contenders in this category include the Egnater Tweaker 15 ($299) despite some history of faulty units, the Blackstar HT Studio 20H, and the Randall Divalo Series.

For more ideas on gear of all kinds, check out our Guitar category with posts on pedals, amps, guitars, and more.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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