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Tiny solid-state amps, for blasting, experimentation, and parts

Try blasting a 3-watt solid-state amp, into a 4x12 cabinet, to get some power-transistor breakup. Try bass-cut before the distortion or power amp stage, to go toward the liquidy breakup, not crusty gravelly breakup. I'm not going to list the solid-state combos, but they are marketed as beginner or practice amps, usually 15 watts. I wonder if you could modify such an amp inexpensively to put in an EL84 or 6V6 tube. Radio Shack carries a guitar amp, but the catalog says "full range speaker", and it sounds like it. The speaker's tonal contribution is important, so start with a decent combo amp. Some of the tiny toy mini-amps are expensive. You could buy a Crate 5-watt tube combo, or a solid-state Fender combo, for the price of buying a couple of these mini-amps. The little toy stack is $70 list! What you pay for a name! Besides, if you wish for a 5-watt Fender or Marshall combo, then of course you should buy the closest thing -- a 15-watt solid-state Fender or Marshall combo, then install a 5 watt tube power amp. You would have to consider the power transformer, power supply circuit, and output transformer, and drive level coming into the power amp. Hey, Torres, you should offer a kit for *this* mod -- solid-state to tube power amp conversion for Fender and Marshall "beginner/practice amps".


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110+15 = $125 list.
x 0.7 = $88 ~= $90 street.

VA5 portable amp

Yamaha VA5 Guitar 5 Watt battery-powered guitar amplifier

Gorilla 9 watt GC-20

6.5" spk. Is this their lowest-powered amp?

Park [Marshall] 10 watt solid state combo

70s micro amps

Smokey Amps


Official product page.  "The Deluxe model Smokey Amp is the world's smallest and at under $30, the least expensive guitar amplifier, made in the USA. Designed by Bruce Zinky (who also designed all of the Fender Custom Shop amps). 3/4 W, loaded with distortion, which you can control with the knobs on your guitar. The box is a real recycled cigarette pack that has been reinforced from the inside or a translucent polycarbonate box (poly box in clear, green blue, black, red, purple, and 5 NEW sparkle colors- red, blue, green, purple, and black, all loaded with silver glitter).  Can power a 4x12 or any speaker cabinet and can be used on the input of another amp as a fuzz box. All Smokey Amps come with an American-made heavy-duty 9 Volt battery that will last 12-20+ hours of playing."


Customers can email Zinky for dealers in their areas.


"We also have a new 120 Watt tube amp, and since you're all about tone I thought you might like to know about it. It's called Superfly, and you can get info on our website or you can look up people's comments on harmony central. There's one review and a bunch of discussion."


-- Annette

Zinky Electronics

PO Box 3973

Flagstaff, AZ 86003

phone: 928.522.0800.

Older info:

1/2 watt cigarette-box amp. Designed by Bruce Zinky (designer of Fender Boutique amps). Use as a practice amp or plug into a cabinet through external jack. Will power a 4x12 cabinet. The Deluxe model (Featured in the April [98 or 99] issues of Guitar World and the Spring issues [98 or 99] Guitar Shop Magazines) will power a 4x12 cab and can even be used on the input of another amps as a fuzzbox. (It is a REALLY hot output- works best with tube amps). The box is a real cigarette pack that has been reinforced from the inside. Battery life- 8-12 hours of hard playing, powered by its Mercury-Free 9-volt battery (included). The output power of the amplifier is 0.5 W into its speaker. The Deluxe has a speaker output jack and will power a 4*, 8*, or 16* speaker enclosure. The amplifier is turned on by plugging the guitar into the input jack. Turning the volume control of the guitar down will yield a clean tone, turning it up will lead a distorted tone. There are no controls on the amp itself. 2" speaker.


Radio Shack project amp

Very small white box with signal In jack and speaker Out jack, built-in speaker, volume control, around $12, battery.

Samick 2 watt amp

Danelectro mini-amp

Cool looking.

VOX AC1 Mini Amp

1W. Looks like an AC30. 9V, or AC adapter. 6 1/2" x 2-5/8" x 4-7/8" high. $55 list, $44 at Mus. Friend.

Epiphone Mini Tweed Amp

8.5"x7"x4". 3" speaker. Two gain settings "let you dial in the tone" [switch, or 2 potentiometers?] 1W. Dynamic "E" drive distortion. Controls for EQ and gain. Closed-back. Headphone jack. 9V, or AC adapter. List $69, $45 at Mus Friend.

Fender Mini Twin

Dual speakers. 3 knobs. Headphone jack. List $50. $37 at Mus. Friend.

FB1 Fender Bassman Mini Amp

Mini replica of 1959 Classic; 9V, belt clip, 4"spkr., 5 X 5"; $50 list, $37 here. Dealer page:

RMS-10 Mini Amp

5" tall. Vol, Tone, Overdrive pots. 1W. 8-ohm spk. Headphone jack. Belt clip. Styled after a Marshall combo. 9V battery or AC adapter. List $34. $28 at Mus Friend.

Marshall MS-2 Micro Amp

Styled like a half-stack. Pots: Vol, Tone, Overdrive. 9V. Belt clip. Headphone jack. 5-3/4" high. List $49. $38 at Mus Friend. From dealer page MS-2 Marshall Mini Amp; 1Watt, 9V, belt clip; $45 list, $37 here.

Marshall MS-4 Micro Stack

Two spk cabs and head. 9 3/4" high. Gain, Vol, Tone pots. 9V. List $70. $55 at Mus. Friend. From dealer page MS-4 Marshall Mini Stack Amp; gain, tone, 9V; $70 list, $55 here.

Legendary Pignose

Volume control, batteries or optional power supply. Case opens (affecting Tone). Preamp out jack. Metal corner protectors. Pigskin-color covering. 6" guitar speaker. List $110. $73 at Mus. Friend. You can place the Pignose 3 watt amp face-down on a couch and blast it for a good overdriven sound. It's so low-powered, it's easy to drive it all-out, quietly. Same with other amps, but you see, a 15-watt solid state combo amp is far too loud for this. But that's the lowest power they make them, usually. I will keep an eye out for solid-state combo amps *less than* 10 watts. Pignose reviewed Fall 1994 Guitar Shop page 79, which I have.

This amp has always been called the Legendary Pignose. It is battery-powered, yet bigger than the toy scale-model amps; it takes 6 AA batteries rather than a single 9V battery and puts out 3 watts rather than 1 watt, and has a 6" speaker rather than a 2" or 3" speaker.

Official product page

Songworks Systems and Products - Little Lanilei Miniature "Tube Amp"

Official product page for the Little Lanilei Miniature Tube Amplifier

This amp looks interesting, but I think they may have fudged the difference between mere preamp tubes and bona fide power tubes. I think this amp is a hybrid, lacking any actual tube power amp (I call this a TS-type hybrid: tube preamp, solid-state power amp). I think this amp uses preamp tubes in the standard way, for gain stages, with a solid-state power amp. It is possible for an amp to contain only 12AX7's yet contain a tube power amp -- if the power amp is a very low-wattage power amp using a 12AX7 as the power tube.

The amp is sometimes called a "tube amp" but once, it is called a "tube-based amplifier". In the back of a guitar magazine I saw an ad that called this a "tube amp" plain and simple, which does not seem like a clear description of the amp. And it's unclear what is meant by "high-frequency output stage" or "differential bi-polar amplifier". The Little Lanilei is a "hybrid amp" in the sense of using preamp tubes and a solid-state power amp.

The amp is described as being "tunable" to sound like almost any amplifier on the market. The Guytron amp, which uses a 3-stage configuration (preamp, saturating tube power amp, linear tube final amp), makes a similar claim. To tune the amp you use its "controls" -- the plural is used there. But the Features list says "Single wide-range passive tone control." Are there any other controls? I see three controls, which could be Gain, Tone, and Volume.

If you play a Strat into the Little Lanilei with the Tone knob up about half way, you will hear a Fender-type tone; back down the Tone knob, and it will sound more like a Marshall 4x12. Power-tube type distortion is a controlled amount of sag, down to the milliamps.

Some of the marketing material claims that "the Little Lanilei tube amp uses a solid state power amp based on a differential circuit design." It's a "tube amp"... using a solid-state power amp. I would like to know if this is a 3-stage design: tube preamp, tube power amp, dummy load, solid-state final amp. The second 12AX7 could be used as a power tube driving a dummy load.

Songworks Systems and Products
31921 Camino Capistrano, #274
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675-3210
Phone/FAX: (949) 582-7720
tris at songworks.com

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