Ho ho ho - where did the year go!? All of a sudden, the festive season has snuck up onto us once again, and if you're anything like us here at Mixdown, there's a good chance that you're probably incredibly disorganised. To prevent you from having to endure the agony of Michael Bublé churning out another frostbitten rendition of a Christmas carol down the aisles of your local department store, we've put together a comprehensive guide of all the hottest musical gifts to keep your eyes peeled for this festive season. If you're looking to invest in a new amplifier for gigging, rehearsal or recording, we've got you sorted.
MarkBass Marcus Miller Signature Amplifier Range
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $950
Recommended For: Bass players of any level of skill and profession. Marcus Miller has played with greats such as Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, and his signature range of amplifiers reflect that experience and breadth of tastes.
Sound/Versatility: The sound of the entire range, from the small combos up to louder heads and cabinet combinations offer a huge variety of sound and tone.
Usability: Unlike some other signature products, the Marcus Miller range isn’t designed to nail a specific tone, look or sound, but instead to provide practical tools to amplify the working bassist, such as Miller himself. The range offers small practice amps, such as the Micro 60, but at the opposite end provides the Little Marcus 1000 for gigs of literally any size.
Construction: All the cabinets, including the combos, are incredibly well constructed and thought out. They’re designed to withstand the rumble they create, and maintain a balance between volume and size.
Overall: The Marcus Miller range from MarkBass offers a product for everyone (or a couple of products for someone!). Designed from the ground up as a solution to more complicated bass rigs, the tones are easy to dial and the amplifiers are produced with the working player in mind, so they’re simple.
MarkBass Jeff Berlin Players School Combo
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: $1295
Recommended For: Bass players who need a simple solution to both practice and small gigs. The Jeff Berlin Players School Combo, designed after the Players School of Music founder Jeff Berlin, is designed as a practice that works best when dialed flat, and the EQ need only be used to fix odd room acoustics.
Sound/Versatility: While marketed as a practise amp, and admittedly not need much versatility, the Players School Combo can be pushed or pulled to fit into all styles. While designed to be run fairly clean, this makes the amp perfect for layers pedals.
Usability: The 15” speaker built into the well-constructed cabinet receives signal from a 300W solid state preamp and makes the amp very usable in both a proper rehearsal, small gig and home practice scenario.
Construction: The cabinet is well constructed and designed to withstand the rumble from 300W RMS.
Overall: This is a great practice amp for any bass player, whether amateur or pro. The tones are clean, but can be pushed, but also provide a tidy bed for pedals to leave their mark on, before you drive the performance home with your hands.
Fender Mustang LT25 Amplifier
Distributed by: Fender Music Australia | RRP: $329
Recommended for: Guitarists wanting an almost infinite range of amp tones and effects for practicing, jamming and recording.
Sound/Versatility: The Mustang LT25 is the product of decades of research and refinement at Fender HQ, crafting some of the best sounding guitar amps on the planet. The Mustang is loaded with a collection of over thirty presets covering a wide range of music - from country to metal and everything in between, It’s loaded with just about every effect you’ll ever need , which can all be changed/tested at the touch of a button.
Usability: The programming on the Mustang is intuitive and user friendly. It also comes with a headphone out for silent practicing and an input of MP3 players or other sound sources so you can jam along with your favourite albums or backing tracks. Never has it been so easy or inspiring to practice, the Mustang will take you from average Joe to pro in no time flat. It also has a USB so you can update the software as well as connect it to a DAW for easy recording.
Construction: The Fender durability is second to none. It’s a byword for toughness and reliability.
Overall: Damn I wish there was one of these under the tree when I was a kid. It’s that good.
Vox MV50 Range
Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia | Expect to pay: $359.99
Recommended for: Players looking for a compact amp head that pairs well with pedals.
Sound/Versatility: With three models to accommodate for a range of genres - the gritter MV50 Rock, the spanky MV50 Clean and the classic, chimey MV50 AC – the Vox MV50 range certainly covers a lot of bases. Analogue enthusiasts will be stoked to hear that there’s no modeling used in these amps: somehow, Vox have crammed a NuTube triode valve, an analogue preamp and a solid state preamp to present quite a tantalising offering from such a compact package.
Usability: After you plug the amplifier into a speaker cabinet, the Vox MV50 head gives you three controls to shape your tone with, letting you adjust gain, tone and volume via the unit’s faceplate. The VU meter is a cool little touch, and lets you monitor your signal as you approach closer to glorious overdrive.
Construction: These mini amp heads tend to be referred to as lunchbox amps, so that should give you a good idea of the dimensions of the Vox MV50 range. There’s also convenient carry handle up the top to make things easy for lugging them around.
Overall: If you’re looking for an amp that pairs well with pedals and will fit into a backpack, the Vox MV50 range might just tick the boxes for you.
IK Multimedia iRig Micro Amp
Distributed by: Sound & Music | RRP: $320
Recommended for: Guitarists not only seeking a pint-sized practise companion, but a simple solution for recording demos and ideas into their laptop in their bedrooms or on the go.
Sound/Versatility: Obviously it’s not an amplifier built for live performance, but if you’re just looking for something practical to jam with in your bedroom, IK Multimedia’s iRig Micro Amp is a pretty safe option. There’s three channels to choose from, while controls for gain, bass, mids, treble and volume give you a lot of flexibility in the tone department. Plus, there’s a built-in audio interface; how good is that?!?
Usability: This little fella functions just like any old amp, save for the fact it’s been subjected to the shrink ray treatment. The iRig Micro Amp can also be hooked up to your smartphone to record via GarageBand on iOS or any another mobile DAW via a micro USB cable, letting you capture ideas as soon as they pop into your head.
Construction: Although there’s no handle to lug this thing around, the IK Multimedia iRig Micro Amp is still incredibly portable, weighing in at a featherweight 1.26 kg. When you account for the fact that it doubles as an audio interface, that’s completely astounding. What kind of magic is this?
Overall: A very useful, very portable solution to jamming or recording on the go, the iRig Micro Amp is everything you’ve come to expect from IK Multimedia.
Prodipe Natural 5 Acoustic Instrument Amplifier
Distributed by: Drum Partners/Music Partners | Expect to pay: Enquire for pricing
Recommended for: Solo acts, acoustic duos or even lounge jazz trios looking for a simple, lightweight and reliable solution to rehearsal and performance.
Sound/Versatility: Featuring three channels with a choice of TRS, XLR and RCA inputs and a three-band EQ on each, the Prodipe Natural 5 is suitable for amplifying solo acts or ensembles performing in an acoustic setting. Guitars played through the amp boast a woody tone with an emphasis on the midrange, and there’s also reverb available on each channel to give your playing some extra depth when needed.
Usability: The term plug ‘n play is grossly overused, but it applies perfectly to the Natural 5. The amplifier is very intuitive, and almost functions as a mini PA – there’s even a Line Out to make your job easier in a live setting.
Construction: I love the tilt legs on the Natural 5; they’re great for angling and elevating the amp to avoid noise complaints from pesky neighbours. The dimensions and meager 11 kilogram weight of this Prodipe Acoustic Instrument Amplifier make it super portable, and it’ll easily squeeze onto your front seat next to you.
Overall: A comprehensive solution to both practise and performance, particularly if you’re playing in a folk, blues, soft-pop or jazz setting.