Mixdown's Christmas Gift Guide: Amps

'Tis The Season For Amplifier Deals

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and we couldn't be happier about it. But between listening to Christmas songs on repeat and trying to perfect our festive decorations, it's not always easy to make time to find a gift for the musicians in our lives. For those who don't want to see their Christmas cheer ruined searching for the perfect present in a crowd of shoppers on Christmas Eve, we've got you covered. Our Christmas Gift Guide is bursting with gear that we're sure your music mates will love, and this page is especially for anyone in need of an amplifier.

Line 6 Spider V 30

DISTRIBUTED BY: Yamaha Music Australia

EXPECT TO PAY: $299

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Practise rooms, schools, teachers, beginners through to pros.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Line 6 have no shortage of modeling technology on hand and the V 30 includes over 100 effect models, 70+ amps and 20+ cabinets alongside a three band EQ. Add the factory presets, onboard tuner, metronome and drum loops and you’ve got a huge tonal palette with plenty of jam and practise options. It offers clean through to full shred and almost everything in between.

USABILITY:

This amp is intuitive and well laid out, with the display and colour coding adding to ease of use.

CONSTRUCTION:

The Spider V 30 is a cool combination of modern and traditional in both build and looks. It has a typical combo appearance with a slanted control panel, while the grille cloth, logo and control layout add some modern flair. Under the hood Line 6 have included a high frequency driver to the 8” speaker for a full bodied sound.

OVERALL:

Line 6’s Spider amps have long been a favourite in the smaller/practice amp world and this latest incarnation looks like it’ll keep the run going. Handy and portable with a truck load of tones and features on tap, the V 30 is a great little unit.

 

DV Mark Silver Gen 15 15W Tube Amplifier

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $1395

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Blues and rockabilly players.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Fire it up and the mid range comes barking at you like a terrier at a picket fence. With everything at 12 o’clock, it’s the kind of spanking, compressed sounding tonality that country pickers and be-quiffed rockabilly kids plaster their walls with posters of.

USABILITY:

Gain-wise there’s not much to talk about here; this amp does not djent. Push the gain and master pots as hard as you can and all you really get is a scornful, bristly woof. But that’s not what it is here for. Somewhere between nine and three o’clock there is a sweet spot that has something of the charm of a much bigger amp being nudged ever so slightly in the direction of, “Honey, can you turn it down?!”, and that is where the little gem shines.

CONSTRUCTION:

The first thing I noticed about the Silver Gen 15 from Mark World’s DV range is just how light it is. On paper, you read things like ‘class A’ and all the usual amp maker buzzwords and expect a little bit of grunt work getting it out of the car, but this is not the case here. The manual proudly boasts portability, and at a compact nine-and-a-bit kilo stature, Mark and Co. are far from wrong, almost to the point of it feeling a wee bit on the light side.

OVERALL:

It’s hardly the kind of amp you’re buying for a family heirloom, more for the kind of thing to crank up just loud enough not to disturb your housemates.

 

Markbass JB Players School Bass Combo

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $1250

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Students and beginners who want a simple plug in and play amp that delivers quality sound.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:  

Without any additional compressors, limiters or tubes, the Players School Combo is very much a 'what you see is what you get' amp. It strikes the perfect balance between transparency and character. When I plugged in my Fernandes Jazz Bass copy - a bass with a lot of personality - the amp emphasised that bass' smooth attack, rich midrange and subdued treble. When I hit it with my Ibanez five-string, the thunderous low end, scooped mids and clear highs were powerfully abundant.

USABILITY:

The heart of the system is a 250 watt analogue power amp and a solid state preamp. There are two inputs - a balanced XLR input and a regular 1/4" jack input. Of course there's a master volume control as well, and since this is a solid state design it doesn't particularly affect the overall tone of the amp; it just lets you tame the volume. There's a dedicated line out knob on the front of the amp and around the back you'll find the line out XLR jack, effect loop send (pre-EQ) and return, and the 1/4" speakon speaker out.

CONSTRUCTION:

Solid, reliable and relatively compact.

OVERALL:

A delight to play, doesn’t miss a bit.

 

Fender Monterey and Newport Bluetooth Speakers

DISTRIBUTED BY: Fender Music Australia

EXPECT TO PAY: Newport - $499 | Monterey - $799

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Those wanting their home listening experience to look and sound classy.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The Monterey is the most powerful of the pair; 120 watts of power sits quietly behind the facade that looks like a scale model of a 2x12 cab. Four drivers power twin tweeters and subs that deliver some surprisingly beefy low end, coupled with all the chiming highs that your favourite tunes deserve. While the Newport may be around half the size of its bigger brother, it certainly doesn’t lose any fidelity in the shrinking process.

USABILITY:

The Newport, being the portable option, is not only compatible with Bluetooth ready devices, but has an 1/8th” aux cord and a USB port for those of you who favour hardwired interactions. The Monterey favours RCA connection over USB, which only serves to increase the fidelity of the experience.

CONSTRUCTION:

Classic design features like witch hat dials, blue jewel indicator LEDs and silverface era grille cloth lend a touch of rock'n'roll charm to your hi-fi cabinet.

OVERALL:

They’re both simple machines with just enough on the list of features to satisfy the more finicky audiophiles amongst us.

 

Fishman Loudbox Mini

DISTRIBUTED BY: Dynamic Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $549

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Pop, rock, country, solo/duo artists and smaller gig situations where it can be utilised as a small PA or a monitor and fed to front of house if needed.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

60 watts of power and two independent channels mean you can run a guitar/instrument and microphone with separate EQ for both. This also makes it handy for keys, mandolin, ukulele and more. The reverb and EQ allow for quite a bit of tone shaping, and with both a 6.5” speaker and a tweeter (1”) the Loudbox can handle quite a range of sound.

USABILITY:

This Fishman is easy to get up and running. With two channels, two lots of EQ, and two inputs, it’s clear and logical with a master volume to balance your overall level and a DI out on the back alongside an aux in if you want to plug in an MP3 player or the like.

CONSTRUCTION:

A combination of earthy brown, cream and darker colours, the Loudbox looks reserved and classic. The slightly angled design also adds to the amp’s spread and throw whilst also making the control panel easily accessible for quick tweaks on the fly.

OVERALL:

Fishman have a long association with everything acoustic guitar and it makes sense that the Loudbox is aimed at that crowd. Home rehearsals through to smaller gigs should all be a breeze and the DI output means you can also run the amp to a mixer/FOH for further sound reinforcement if needed.

 

IK Multimedia iRig Nano Amp

DISTRIBUTED BY: Sound & Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $99

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Guitarists who need a recording interface and micro amp that doesn’t take up a lot of space.

SOUND/VERSATILTIY:

The tones are solid and lifelike, although there are only volume and gain controls and a normal/bright switch so it’s pretty straightforward, at least until you put it into DEVICE mode. 

USABILITY:

In AMP mode, iRig Nano is a compact, battery-powered amp with a British tone stack circuit with gain and volume controls that can be used by itself, with headphones or an external speaker cabinet - even a 4x12 . In DEVICE mode it’s an interface for iOS and can be paired with your iPhone or iPad to access AmpliTube modelling and effects.

CONSTRUCTION:

For a palm-sized amp, iRig Nano is deceptively robust. It has a 3” speaker, normal/bright response switch, integrated kickstand, headphone out and the ability to power a speaker cabinet. Everything is laid out very logically and it seems like top-quality components are used.

OVERALL:

A reverb control might have pushed the AMP mode over the edge into super-awesomeness but as soon as you flip into DEVICE mode and bring AmpliTube into the equation, you’re in a whole new world of tone.

 

Eden Microtour Portable Mini Bass Amp

DISTRIBUTED BY: Electric Factory

EXPECT TO PAY: $119

RECOMMENDED FOR:

The space-poor string slapper who isn’t interested in limiting sound as well as stature.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Like all of David Eden’s heftier low-end delivery services there is an unmitigated clarity in every note that comes out of this little unit. Where some bass amps rely on sheer woof to push the point across, Eden opens up a considerable amount of headroom in the left half of the frequency graph without skimping on raw power.

USABILITY:

Given its diminished physique it’s understandable that there should be but two knobs to rein in this pony. The sweep on the tone knobs is just wide enough for you to find the sweet spot while the volume keeps the floorboards from lifting up. It is compact, lightweight and balanced enough to carry into just about any situation.

CONSTRUCTION:

While they may have slimmed down the walls of the cab, not once while I was in its presence did I feel like I could pop it like a box drink in the playground.

OVERALL:

The bass players’ equivalent of the Marshall mini stack. About the size of an Esky and just as much fun.

 

Marshall Code25 Combo

DISTRIBUTED BY: Electric Factory

EXPECT TO PAY: $429

RECOMMENDED FOR:

The lounge-room Lemmy looking to fine tune just about every aspect of their sound without blowing the neighbours out of bed.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Versatility is definitely the name of the game here. Where other small profile, digital modeling amps of a similar ilk offer set variations on the amps on board, the Code25 presents you with models of the preamp and power stages of said amp models as well as some tasty effects to really get the creative juices flowing.

USABILITY:

Not only is everything from three stage EQ to input/output gain and master volume right there on the top plate, but you also have an achingly simple LED screen and a small set of buttons to flick through the more complicated settings. Save your own presets on board and away you go.

CONSTRUCTION:

Like all Marshall products, this tiny-but-mighty box of rock is built road tough. Classic black tolex encases a 10” speaker that is stinging for a shred.

OVERALL:

All the timeless tone and brazen bombast you expect out of a single Marshall amp, let alone any of the combinations and permutations housed in its digital brain.

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