Amp buying guide: best small gig amps

14th Dec 2012 | 15:00

Amp buying guide: best small gig amps
The best small gig amps
If you're playing the pubs and clubs, these five amps could be for you

It's a sad fact that most of us will never get to walk on stage at Wembley Stadium to the sound of thousands of people chanting our name. Not while we're awake, anyway.

However, pretty much every guitarist will at least make it as far as playing a few pubs with his mates. Some will even get to tour the glorious smaller venues that crisscross the nation, kicking out the jams on stages that have formed a vital staging post for every invasion into the annals of rock legend.

But before any of that, you'll need an amp that can do the business. The difference between a piece of equipment that sounds beautiful and looks pretty in the confines of your bedroom, and one that will withstand all the knocks, drops and spillages that accompany even the smallest of pub gigs is enormous.

But fear not, young warrior of the road. We've scoured our extensive reviews archive and picked the amps best suited for smaller venues, the amps that will sound good and keep working no matter how many times it's thrown into the back of the van.

Amp buying guide: best small gig amps
Fender Excelsior
£298/$480 (approx.)

Loads of fun, not much money and it looks great to boot. The Excelsior is the go-to amp for credible old-school Americana valve sounds on a budget. And it’s got built-in tremolo!

TYPE: Valve combo

OUTPUT: 13 watts

SPEAKERS: 1x15” Fender Special Design

WEIGHT: 15kg/33lbs

Full Render Excelsior review

Amp buying guide: best small gig amps
Egnater Rebel 30
£749/$1207 (approx.)

If your bag includes rock, blues and fusion, then this amp probably has your name on it. One of the best small combos in its class – add the 1x12 extension cab and you’ve got a killer rig that’s portable and versatile.

TYPE: Valve combo

OUTPUT: 30 watts

SPEAKERS: 1x12” Celestion Elite 80

WEIGHT: 31.75 kg/70lbs

Full review Egnater Rebel 30 review

Amp buying guide: best small gig amps
Orange Thunder 30C combo
£749/$1207 (approx.)

Despite the stage-filling projection of its ported cabinet, the TH30 combo is compact and easily portable. Throw the variable power switching in and you’re looking at a dangerously tempting, versatile package.

TYPE: Valve combo

OUTPUT: 30/15/7 watts

SPEAKERS: 1x12” Celestion G12H30

WEIGHT: 24kg/52.9lbs

Full Orange Thunder 30C combo review

Amp buying guide: best small gig amps
Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36
£799/$1270 (approx.)

It has MIDI switching and a multi-step power attenuator that can be remotely controlled. It also sounds great for any number of styles and is compact and light, too. Plenty loud enough for small and medium gigs.

TYPE: 3-channel valve head

OUTPUT: 36/18/5/1 watts


WEIGHT: 7.6kg/16.7lbs

Full Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36 review

Amp buying guide: best small gig amps
Mesa/Boogie Express 5:25
£1,689/$2721 (approx.)

Supremely versatile amp that covers clean, crunch and Mesa’s renowned high-gain sounds. It’s 5:50 bigger brother is fabulous, too. They’ve just been upgraded to Express Plus status (not yet reviewed).

TYPE: Valve combo

OUTPUT: 25 watts

SPEAKERS: 1x10” (some have a 12”) Mesa/Celestion Black Shadow

WEIGHT: 16kg/34lbs

Full Mesa/Boogie Express 5:25 review

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