Mixdown’s 2020 Christmas Gift Guide: Amplifiers

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Mixdown’s 2020 Christmas Gift Guide: Amplifiers

Words by Mixdown Staff

We spotlight all the best guitar and bass amps for buyers this December.

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.

For a present that’s bound to trump the rest, you can’t beat a shiny new amplifier: it’s almost like the musician’s equivalent of unwrapping a new bike on the big day, and is bound to provide any player with hours of unparalleled entertainment. Here, we’ve curated our guide to the best guitar and bass amps you ought to consider while out and about shopping for gifts this festive season – tuck in!

Marshall MG10G 10W MG Gold Combo

Distributed by: Electric Factory | Expect to Pay: $145

Recommended for: Rock dogs, home practitioners, very small guitarists.

Features: Everybody needs a small amp for the home and with 10w of solid state power, the MG10 Gold is just what the doctor ordered. 

Featuring both clean and overdrive channels, a ¼ inch headphone jack and an input for an external playback device (like an iPhone or media player), the MG10G is the perfect companion for those long nights honing your chops in the spare room.

One particularly handy feature on the MG10G is the contour control, which allows you to tweak the ratio of high and lows in relation to the mids, to give you ample tonal options for chord work or other applications that might require a bit of shaping to get right. Regardless of whether you’re learning rock, country, blues or anything else, this one will tick all the boxes.

Overall: Practice amps are worth their weight in gold and rest assured the new MG10G combo is the gift that keeps on giving. With just enough tonal flexibility to get you in the ballpark on a bunch of different styles, and with its diminutive footprint and headphone jack being perfect for silent practice, it’s the little mate that you can depend.

Phil Jones Bass Bighead Pro HA-2

Distributed by: EGM Distribution | Expect to pay: $635 

Recommended for: Professional bassists looking for a premium solution for silent rehearsals, or even an ultra-portable alternative to an audio interface.

Features: A slight step up from the original Bighead Pro, the HA-2 from Phil Jones Bass is a compact and feature-packed utility to benefit the needs of the working bassist. Squeezing both a headphone amplifier and an audio interface into its miniature chrome-brushed finish, the Bighead Pro HA-2 is perfect for practice and impromptu recording alike. 

Despite weighing in at 290 grams and packing dimensions smaller than the average smartphone, it’s amazing to see just how much tech is included in this little pocket rocket. A master volume allows for simple volume adjustments, while a two-band EQ and input gain should allow for barebones tone sculpting while in a pinch, and there’s even a line out and AUX in should you need them.

For recording, the unit boasts a 384 kHz/24-bit USB audio interface that also supports PCM playback, while a micro USB port juices the Bighead Pro HA-2 with up to eight hours of runtime for remote operation. You can even utilise the Phil Jones Bass Bighead Pro HA-2 as a preamp to drive power amps should you please, rounding out what can only be considered a Swiss Army knife for the demanding bassist. 

Overall: Whether you’re rehearsing or recording, the Phil Jones Bass Bighead Pro HA-2 won’t let you down. 

Phil Jones Bass Micro 7 Combo 

Distributed by: EGM Distribution | Expect to pay: $689

Recommended for: Bassists who need a compact, rugged and lightweight amplifier to cart around between gigs and rehearsal rooms.

Features: As the most compact and affordable combo amplifier in the Phil Jones Bass range, the Micro 7 is a killer amp for bassists of all skill levels and sonic leanings, pushing 50 watts of solid-state power into a 7” driver and 3” tweeter to ensure no frequency goes astray. 

Although its diminutive size – the thing measures an astounding 30cm on all sides – may lead you to assume it’s nothing but a mere practice amp, the Micro 7 makes it immediately clear that this isn’t the case. The surprising output and sheer performance of the PJB Micro 7 makes it a tidy option for small-to-medium rooms, with a line output expanding the possibilities of its use with a DI box. Tonally, the amplifier covers everything from mellow jazz to bright bass-in-your-face funk, with a three-band EQ, gain and master volume letting you tweak the sound to your own liking. 

For players running different instruments, the PJB M7 packs a nifty passive/active pad switch to compensate for any volume drop, while creature comforts such as an Aux In (with independent volume), clip level LED and mute switch making the PJB Micro 7 a hot contender for use in any rig. 

Overall: With its versatile feature set, compact dimensions and impressive performance in a range of room sizes, the Phil Jones Bass Micro 7 is a solid piece of kit for any bassist’s rig. 

BluGuitar Amp 1 Mercury Edition

Distributed by: EGM Distribution | Expect to pay: $1799

Recommended for: Guitarists looking to leave their bulky amps at home, but who still crave the tone, feel and dynamics that only tubes can provide.

Features: A state of the art guitar amplifier that’s crammed with great features and connectivity, the BluGuitar Amp 1 Mercury is a nothing short of a Godsend. It’s a pedal-sized guitar amplifier built to suit the needs of tonal purists, offering four uniquely voiced Modern, Classic, Vintage and Clean channels that harness the power of Nanotube technology to output their glorious tones. 

The tone of the Amp 1 Mercury can be extensively shaped via the amp’s three-band EQ, while the overdrive section of the amp also offers Master and Gain knobs. Digital reverb can also be engaged and sorted into three presets via an onboard footswitch, with an additional boost button providing a viable option to cut through the mix when soloing. 

A built-in cabinet speaker simulation output lets you keep your cab at home and plug the Amp 1 Mercury straight into FOH or an audio interface to streamline your workflow while recording or performing. There’s also a headphone output for silent practice if that’s up your alley, while an onboard FX loop helps enshrine the Amp 1 Mercury as a deadly tool for the demanding electric guitarist. 

Overall: The BluGuitar just might be the future of the guitar amp as we know it – 100 watts of tube-coloured tone in a package that’s quaint enough to squeeze onto a pedalboard? Sign us up!

BluGuitar Amp 1 Iridium Edition

Distributed by: EGM Distribution | Expect to pay: $1899

Recommended for: Anyone who really digs the specs of the BluGuitar Amp 1 Mercury, but needs just a tad more gain on tap to dish out their modern metal riffage.

Features: Filling a similar niche to its sightly more utilitarian sibling in the Mercury, the BluGuitar Amp 1 Iridium Edition is the ultimate mini amp for metal guitarists. Offering a sole clean channel with a heap of headroom and three independent Modern, Classic and Vintage overdrive channels to provide high-gain tones with plenty of richness and nuance, the Iridium will keep up with everything you can throw at it, be it Djent, deathcore, sludge or just a dash of classic thrash. 

Like the Mercury, the Iridium also features a boost footswitch and its own digital reverb as well as a nifty noise gate function, with Metal, Soft and Off modes allowing for a range of different applications when paired with each overdrive channel. Perhaps most tantalising, the Iridium can also handle impulse responses to make it all the more versatile while recording – simply turn off the analogue speaker simulator of the Iridium, and you’re good to go.

Elsewhere, the compact dimensions of the BluGuitar Amp 1 Iridium Edition make it perfect to put on your pedalboard or even cart around in a backpack if necessary, while the matte black finish of the amplifier makes for a killer aesthetic. 

Overall: Suitable for all kinds of high-gain stylings and portable as hell, the BluGuitar Amp 1 Iridium Edition is brutal as hell, and all the better for it. 

Vox MV-50

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia | Expect to pay: $319

Recommended for: Gigging or touring folks, practice sessions, studios both bedroom and commercial. 

Features: Since the early days of the AC15 and AC30 back in the 1960’s, Vox have been at the forefront of guitar amplifier design and innovation, and the new MV50 range of compact amp heads is no exception. 

There are five models available, the “AC” – yep, you guessed it, based on the classic Vox AC circuit, “Clean” – luscious clean tones for days. Then there’s the “Rock” – for those in need of some more dirt, “Boutique” – offering gooier, more boutique like tones and lastly the “High Gain” – for all the truly dirt hungry fiends out there. The real excitement and innovation under the hood of the MV-50 series is certainly the Nutube technology, giving the front end of the amp all the benefits and delicious tones a tube does, without taking up masses of space. 

The rest of the circuit is all analogue, with a simple design and intuitive controls for all the amps, being gain, tone and volume, or in the case of the “Clean” model, separate treble and bass controls. Connections on the back panel are easy to navigate with a line/headphone output, an EQ flat/deep switch and variable impedance switch of 4, 8 or 16-ohms, maxing out at 50-watts RMS on a 4-ohm load. 

Overall: It’s hard to believe this much authentic tube tone and volume is achievable from such a humble pie sized amp, but Vox have only gone and done it!

Product Name: Ampeg BA-108 MK2

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia | Expect to Pay: $299

Recommended for: Gigging bass players, practicing players, those chasing the tone of a classic.

Features: From the mammoth SVT Classic to the humbler BA series, Ampeg are THE name in bass and for good reason. The BA-108 MK2 is the latest offering in the BA series, boasting 20-watt of amplifier power being pumped out of a single Custom8 speaker. 

With its legacy Ampeg preamp, flexible 3-band EQ for maximum tone shaping and light weight of 12.7kgs, the BA-108 MK2 makes transport and setup an absolute dream, and having the controls on the front are a welcomed convenience for adjustments on the fly. The 60-degree sound reinforcement monitor angle allows for optimum listening for both player and audience and some convenient connectivity such as the aux input for playback with smartphones (or other devices) and the headphone output allow for more focused practice sessions, making this amp equally comfortable on smaller stages and practicing at home. 

Lastly, the -15dB pad keeps active basses in check or allows for further level control if required, a handy feature. Keeping things free from harm is an all-steel amp chassis and impact resistant metal corners ensure maximum protection for transport, setup and gigging, this amp is rugged as they come!

Overall: With classic Ampeg tone, class and authority, that special someone will be sure to turn heads as they blast through their BA-108 MK2 at the next gig. 

DV Mark Eric Gales Raw Dawg 60 Combo

Distributed by: CMC Music| Expect to pay: $1595

Recommended for: Guitarists looking for a portable combo amplifier with a tube preamp that’ll take pedals without any worries. 

Features: Blues firebrand Eric Gales has returned to DV Mark to create the DV Raw Dawg 60, delivering a classic single channel 1×12” configuration to suit all live and studio applications. By combining a 60 watt Mark Proprietary Technology power amp with a 6205 micro tube in the preamp section, the Raw Dawg 60 promises exceptional volume and performance with that vintage tone that only valves can provide. 

A smattering of knobs on the front panel of the EGC Raw Dawg 60 lets you adjust the Level, Bass, Mid and Treble of the amplifier, with an onboard reverb helping to add a dimension of ambiance to your playing. While this layout may seem simple, it’s designed that way for a reason: this amp is an absolute machine when it comes to handling pedals. The barebones construction of the EGC Raw Dawg makes it a dream for stacking overdrives and experimenting with modulation and time-based effects, with an onboard FX loop allowing for even further flexibility. 

Other nifty features include an Aux In and Headphone Out for silent practice and playing along to backing tracks, while a dual voltage 120/240v switch makes the Raw Dawg a viable partner for international touring – whenever it may return.

Overall: A sublime hybrid amp that’s ultra-portable and pairs wonderfully with pedals, the DV Mark Raw Dawg 60 might just be one of the best kept secrets in the guitar world.

Markbass Marcus Miller Range

Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $1,150

Recommended for: Any bassist seeking a lightweight amp, cab or combo that’ll rock any room, particularly those playing funk, soul or jazz styles.

Features: A collaboration between Markbass and the great Marcus Miller, this bass amplifier range is kitted out with everything a modern bassist could ever wish for in an amp. There’s four different Little Marcus bass heads – available in 250, 500, 800 and 1000 watt variants – each of which feature a five-band EQ as well as two Old School and Millerizer filter knobs, perfect for slicing through the mix with a solo or nailing that classic Motown thump.

For those looking for an all-in-one amplification solution, the Marcus Miller range also features four combo amps – the CMD 101 Micro 60, CMD 102 250, CMD 102 500 and CMD 103 500 – all of which feature all the same features as the Little Marcus series, except for the pocket-rocket CMD 101.

The range is finalised by two speaker cabinets – the 104 and 102 – each of which are specifically voiced to provide an enhanced low end, or as Marcus says, ‘more booty.’ A rear-ported and slanted design makes them perfect for minimising floor rumble, while a 1” voice-coil tweeter ensures the high frequencies won’t go astray while your playing.

Overall: There truly is something for everyone in the Markbass Marcus Miller range. These amps sound incredible live, and their sheer performance, portability and packed feature set makes them a standout pick this silly season.

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