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Author Topic: Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?  (Read 9073 times)

Online sybersitizen

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Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?
« on: January 11, 2010, 01:44:29 PM »
For some reason over the last few days I've had obsessive thoughts regarding small battery operable amps. I've searched reviews and comments across the web and am aware of these major contenders:

Fender Amp Can
Line 6 Micro Spider
Pignose 7-100
Roland Micro Cube, Micro Cube RX, Mobile Cube
Vox AC1, DA5, DA10, DA20

There are some scattered threads here in the Parker forum that mention most of these; but I thought it might be nice to start a thread where they can all be discussed together. Each one has fans and detractors, so maybe it would be helpful to see some detailed reports from folks who actually own at least one of them. And perhaps there are others that I don't know of. Let's hear about yours!

'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard
« Last Edit: January 12, 2010, 11:04:41 AM by sybersitizen »
'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard|'69 EB-3|Pignose Strat|Savannah SGO-16CE|Glen Burton GE47|Dean Vendetta 7-String|Loog 3-String|Fishman Aura Spectrum|Roland Amplifiers

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Online sybersitizen

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Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2010, 01:49:10 PM »
I'll start: I have an original US-made Pignose 7-100 though I can't remember when I bought it or how much I paid. It never saw much use and has spent most of the last few decades resting in a closet; but I have just learned that this amp is now considered highly prized vintage gear compared to the current import version. So I brought it out and hooked it up to my Fly. It sounds okay - maybe even better than I remember - but I'm still puzzled by the prestige it commands. I guess it does one thing well, which is provide some acceptable [warmth/chunk/grundge/distortion, or whatever the word is] that people generally like.

Good: It's compact enough, loud enough, rugged enough, and it takes AA batteries. I prefer rechargeable AAs to C batteries or built-in rechargeables for weight, convenience, and economics.
Bad: Only one volume control and no real tone control, though you can open the hinged cabinet at varying degrees to change the sound. Never really sounds clean to me, so the Fly's piezo output is almost pointless here. No effects or models of any kind. I've tried adding effects between the guitar and amp, but so far am experiencing a too high noise floor that way.
Unknown: There's a direct out jack that doesn't interest me much. I have other gadgets for that.

This amp definitely takes the prize for old school simplicity. But I keep thinking that the others above offer much more tonal variation along with some nice convenience features. My local music store has most of the other amps available for auditioning, but so far I've been too lazy to go compare them.

'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard
'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard|'69 EB-3|Pignose Strat|Savannah SGO-16CE|Glen Burton GE47|Dean Vendetta 7-String|Loog 3-String|Fishman Aura Spectrum|Roland Amplifiers

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Offline Bill

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Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2010, 04:44:40 PM »
As I recently said in another thread, I love my Vox Da5 for this niche. It requires 6 c batteries (they last a long time) or runs on a plug of course. I had mine modded to add a jack (less than 40 bucks) to allow me to unplug the amp from the stock 6" speaker and plug in any 8 ohm speaker. Others have recommended replacing the speaker but the stock speaker is OK for bedroom practice. Goes 1/2 watt, 2 watt, or 5 watt and also has a master and gain. 11 amp models and 11 effects.

This is the only small battery amp I have any experience with so I cant compare. But for the price and features, I think its fantastic.  I mostly use the Vox AC 15 amp model (now labeled "blues". I only occasionally use effects. I mostly use it for quiet bedroom practice or for taking outside for fun. Now that I have the mod, I often plug into my 10" vintage Weber blue dog speaker in a pine cab and it sounds good. If I go to a friends house, I can take this tiny lunchbox and plug into their big speaker and do fine.

The Roland cube equivalent also gets good reviews but the comparisons on the web mostly came down with the Vox having a slight advantage over the Cube.

A few Flys in my soup
A few Flys in my soup

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Offline wkcchampion

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Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2010, 01:48:27 AM »
The problems of such tiny amps are mainly the speakers. Too little means very harsh.
I have a very rare, collectible VOX AC-1 and it incredibly sounds quite close the big brother.

---------
Marco
http://pregnosplatter.altervista.org

Pearl White 2008 Fly Mojo :)
"Eldy" / Majik Blue 1995 Fly Deluxe (Gen1 Di Marzio PUs)
POD X3 Pro
VOX AC30CC2X modded to Fryer specs
(more gear on my website)
---------
Marco

My Fly bridge setup guide:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-bURNmuDq2-a0VPd3lPZldwVmc/view?usp=sharing

Pearl White 2008 Fly Mojo (Fralin PUs)
"Eldy" / Majik Blue 1995 Fly Deluxe (Gen1 PUs)
Various vintage and modern Marshall/Vox/Laney amps
Rockman + other rack stuff
Boss GT-100

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Online sybersitizen

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Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2010, 11:09:22 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by wkcchampion

The problems of such tiny amps are mainly the speakers. Too little means very harsh.

Not so, my friend, at least to my ears. I did manage to drag my butt over to the music store yesterday, and I briefly auditioned the two Micro Cubes, the Micro Spider, and the DA5. All sounded very smooth at reasonable output levels, even with 5-inch speakers like the one in my Pignose. Interesting things are being done with small speakers these days. But I appreciate the reference to the AC1 and have added it to the list.

'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard
'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard|'69 EB-3|Pignose Strat|Savannah SGO-16CE|Glen Burton GE47|Dean Vendetta 7-String|Loog 3-String|Fishman Aura Spectrum|Roland Amplifiers

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Online sybersitizen

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Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2010, 11:35:01 AM »
Here's a thought... Most of the newer products offer an AUX input in addition to the main in. This is designed for a CD/MP3 player or something similar, so it bypasses the internal effects. But I'm wondering if it could serve as a clean input for the piezos while running the magnetics separately through the main in. The specs for the Micro Cubes say that both inputs are -10dBu, so maybe it would work. Has anybody had success with this approach?

'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard
'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard|'69 EB-3|Pignose Strat|Savannah SGO-16CE|Glen Burton GE47|Dean Vendetta 7-String|Loog 3-String|Fishman Aura Spectrum|Roland Amplifiers

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Online sybersitizen

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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2010, 10:23:06 PM »
Well, here's where I am with this, if anyone is interested...

Fender Amp Can:
The Amp Can has two discrete channels for guitar and microphone, each with volume and tone controls, and the guitar channel also has a two-way gain switch. The cylindrical shape looks very cool but the amp weighs way too much (13 pounds) because of its built-in lead-acid rechargeable battery. It reportedly runs from 4 to 6 hours between charges, and the battery will need to be replaced every 3 to 5 years. Output is rated high - maybe too high - at 14.5 watts driving a 6-inch speaker. One of these is sitting on the floor at my local music store under the guitar wall, but I have not bothered to hook it up for an audition. It's just too heavy, too expensive, and reportedly nothing special in terms of tone.

Line 6 Micro Spider:
I won't go into great detail on the Micro Spider since online reviews are plentiful. Let's just say I really wanted to like this amp and gave it a chance to impress me; but my hands-on audition with it was not favorable. The feel of the controls was less than confidence-inspiring and I disliked some of the amp models - especially the ones with extreme distortion. I also hated its tremolo effect, which is more like a square wave on-off pulse than a nice bell curve pulse. And the fact that it uses C batteries didn't help. I could live with the Micro Spider, but definitely didn't want to once I had tried the Roland Micros.

Pignose 7-100:
Described in my earlier post.

Roland Micro Cube:
This is the amp that I ended up buying. Nearly everything about it is just right: size, price, power, tones, etc. It has every feature that's necessary and nothing that's unnecessary. I even prefer its minimalist 'tuning fork' to a chromatic tuner. At first I thought its single tone control would be too limiting, but the well-chosen COSM models combined with the guitar's pickup controls provide enough tonal variation to overcome that. As I had hoped, the clean AUX input does work with the Fly's piezo output so I can run that independently of the magnetic pickups going through the effects chain and switch or mix them at will. More good news: the Brit Combo amp model can get every bit as nasty and as loud as my highly acclaimed vintage Pignose even though the Pignose is rated at 6 watts and the Micro Cube is only 2 watts. Since the Micro Cube is so much more versatile, the choice is easy - the Pignose will be going to eBay soon (and will most likely fetch a price much higher than what I paid for the Roland). A few little refinements would make the Micro Cube absolutely perfect for my purposes: a top-mounted rather than rear-mounted power switch, a place to store the AC adapter internally, a level control for the AUX input and an auto-wah effect instead of the flanger.

Micro Cube RX, Mobile Cube:
The Micro Cube RX is a lot like the Micro Cube, only costlier and bigger and in some ways better. But for me, its enhancements are of no real importance. I still prefer the original model. The new Mobile Cube is also more expensive and similarly geared toward things that aren't important to me.

Vox AC1, DA5, DA10, DA20:
I was able to audition the DA5 briefly with the other amps mentioned above, and the one thing I do envy is its auto-wah effect; beyond that I was not wowed. Although I'm sure it does a great job for its owners, I'm just not a Vox guy. I don't plan on seeking out the other Vox models for testing.

'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard
'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard|'69 EB-3|Pignose Strat|Savannah SGO-16CE|Glen Burton GE47|Dean Vendetta 7-String|Loog 3-String|Fishman Aura Spectrum|Roland Amplifiers

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Offline wkcchampion

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« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2010, 01:56:14 AM »
Did u hear an AC-1? you're lucky they are very rare.
What about Smokey amps?

---------
Marco
http://pregnosplatter.altervista.org

Pearl White 2008 Fly Mojo :)
"Eldy" / Majik Blue 1995 Fly Deluxe (Gen1 Di Marzio PUs)
POD X3 Pro
VOX AC30CC2X modded to TBX specs by D. Petersen (UK Alnico Blues, Drake OT and minor other things)
(more gear on my website)
---------
Marco

My Fly bridge setup guide:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-bURNmuDq2-a0VPd3lPZldwVmc/view?usp=sharing

Pearl White 2008 Fly Mojo (Fralin PUs)
"Eldy" / Majik Blue 1995 Fly Deluxe (Gen1 PUs)
Various vintage and modern Marshall/Vox/Laney amps
Rockman + other rack stuff
Boss GT-100

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Offline Bill

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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2010, 07:06:51 AM »
syb--

That was a great review. When I tested (over 2 yrs ago thru the internet), I preferred the VoxDa5 over the Microcube. But just as any amp comparison, that is a personal preference (and I did not a/b them in person.)

Anyway your summary is a great review for the forum. Thanks for posting.

A few Flys in my soup
« Last Edit: January 25, 2010, 07:09:08 AM by Bill »
A few Flys in my soup

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Online sybersitizen

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Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2010, 10:50:25 AM »
Marco, I have not encountered an AC1 in person, athough I saw this mint condition offering on eBay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=160392337499

I gave it some thought, but it's not a good fit for me since it has no effects and no AUX input. I'm curious, though - how long does it run on the 9V battery?

And I never heard of Smokey amps before. But judging from their website, I think they're too small and limited for my purposes.

Bill, I agree the DA5 is an attractive option and its effects capabilites are impressive. I'll probably go back and play with it some more to better familiarize myself with it. Perhaps I'll be converted. ;)

'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard
'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard|'69 EB-3|Pignose Strat|Savannah SGO-16CE|Glen Burton GE47|Dean Vendetta 7-String|Loog 3-String|Fishman Aura Spectrum|Roland Amplifiers

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Offline wkcchampion

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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2010, 10:58:47 AM »
The AC-1 has no bells and whistles, but has an incredible sound for its size. It's a true collector item. I also made some recordings, miking it with an SM57 and it surprised me.
I don't play it much, mine is in mint condition and it was a gift - so I keep it as a collector's piece.

Check out this video, with Brian May using the AC-1, jamming with Rick Parfitt (Status Quo).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VOQUuwaw_U
Of course, Brian can sound even thru trash... nothing to say there, as he's a legend.

The Vox DA5 is a little tiny punk hahaha! It really kicks butt, beware ;)
Also the little Marshalls have some balls

---------
Marco
http://pregnosplatter.altervista.org

Pearl White 2008 Fly Mojo :)
"Eldy" / Majik Blue 1995 Fly Deluxe (Gen1 Di Marzio PUs)
POD X3 Pro
VOX AC30CC2X modded to TBX specs by D. Petersen (UK Alnico Blues, Drake OT and minor other things)
(more gear on my website)
---------
Marco

My Fly bridge setup guide:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-bURNmuDq2-a0VPd3lPZldwVmc/view?usp=sharing

Pearl White 2008 Fly Mojo (Fralin PUs)
"Eldy" / Majik Blue 1995 Fly Deluxe (Gen1 PUs)
Various vintage and modern Marshall/Vox/Laney amps
Rockman + other rack stuff
Boss GT-100

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Offline Pete Hawkins

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Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2010, 02:12:25 AM »
I've had a Vox DA5 for 3 years and absolutely love it.  I tried the Vox and the Roland MicroCube for a couple hours in a guitar store while nobody else was there making noise.  I preferred the amp models in the Vox; they seemed to have a more natural, less harsh sound. I suspect that is largely due to the larger speaker.  I've had a Boss GT-6 and now have a GT-10, so in general I like Roland's COSM amp models, but I didn't think they came through the micro cube very well.

Generally, at home I play the DA5 in 1/2 watt mode.  I've used it a few times with a drummer in 5 watt mode and it has kept up fine, but probably wouldn't cut it with a drummer that plays really hard.  But a drummer that can play without putting the sticks through the heads shouldn't overwhelm the DA5 in 5 watt mode.

I've found the medium gain (blues 1-3 and crunch 1-2) amp models respond to picking dynamics really nice, so you can strum chord a little lightly and dig it for lead lines to get it to break to break up more (or you can use the volume control on the guitar).

Pete
 

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Online sybersitizen

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« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2010, 09:46:43 PM »
Just a little update to my previous posts. I recently sold my Pignose and the proceeds more than covered the cost of the Micro Cube. I'm happy, the buyer's happy. I also notice that he recently bought this interesting little Mountain battery/AC amp as well:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320500666339

Never heard of that before.

'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard
'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard|'69 EB-3|Pignose Strat|Savannah SGO-16CE|Glen Burton GE47|Dean Vendetta 7-String|Loog 3-String|Fishman Aura Spectrum|Roland Amplifiers

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Online sybersitizen

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« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2012, 10:50:21 AM »
Wow - two years have passed? Another update...

I still own and enjoy the Micro Cube and have made two modifications to it. The speaker is IMO the weakest link in amps like this. The stock speaker is loud, but it has a tendency to 'flub' low frequencies, so I swapped in something different. It's hard to find a good speaker that fits! Mine came from eBay and although the output is lower, the mids and lows are stronger and it sounds a little better than the stock speaker for my purposes. While I was poking around in the amp I also added a 1/4" jack on the side of the cabinet to plug in external speakers and disable the internal one. That's fun to have, and makes further speaker experimentation easier.

I was looking around at Guitar Center a few days back and saw that Fender has a new battery amp called the Mustang Mini that competes directly with the Micro Cube and Vox products. It wasn't a good opportunity for an audition, though, so I don't know how it performs. It has a pretty large 6.5" speaker and a USB port for use with software supplied by Fender, so that could be interesting:

http://www.fender.com/products/mustang/models.php?prodNo=230006

Just for fun, I'll also share the following ridiculous 'demo'. I think there are ...ahem... better ones out there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbWqvYgJLqE

'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard
'01 Fly Deluxe|'69 SG Standard|'69 EB-3|Pignose Strat|Savannah SGO-16CE|Glen Burton GE47|Dean Vendetta 7-String|Loog 3-String|Fishman Aura Spectrum|Roland Amplifiers

Battery/AC amps: Identify? Discuss? Compare?

Offline billy

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« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2012, 11:29:35 AM »
I picked up a micro cube a year or so ago and for what it is, it isn't bad at all. Would've considered the vox too, but there weren't any there at the time.  

Agree on the low end flub but no complaints overall.
Billy

[always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.  e. e. cummings]