Shootout: Our Favorite Mini Amp Heads – Small Heads, Big Tones

Mini amp heads have really come a long way, but because so many of the available options are little more than novelties, learning about the market leading mini amp heads is key to finding a high performing amp that you love, and we don’t think they get much better than the Bogner Ecstasy Mini. This is an ultra compact, 30 watt amplifier that offers classic Bogner high gain tones in an unbelievably small package. It’s travel friendly, extremely easy to carry, and comes with a universal 24v power supply, so you can use it internationally without worries. This is a solid state amp, but Bogner has filled it full of the same massive dirt from their famous “Red Channel” on their full size models, delivering everything from mild overdrive to huge crunch and distortion. It’s incredibly easy to use, and even though it’s so compact, it still features a full 3 band EQ, and even a Variac control for genuine “brown sound”. It’s compatible with both 8 and 16 ohm speakers, and even features an FX loop. It really is loaded with features, and offers pro level performance which is why we’ve given it our Top Pick award.

If you’re looking for a mini amp head that can handle bigger venues and still sound great at full tilt, the best way to go is the Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier 25. This is a compact, 25 watt tube amp head offering pretty much everything you’d find in a full size Rectifier. Despite its small size, it features 2 channels and 4 modes, providing a huge tonal range, from sparkly cleans to punishing distortion. It features built in Dyna-Watt attenuation technology, which allows players to toggle between 10 and 25 watts on each channel, making it a practical choice for everything from at home practice to recording and gigging. It’s powered by EL-84 tubes, delivering the classic Mesa/Boogie tone, and even includes an effects loop to help preserve signal quality when using external FX. The Mesa/Boogie Mini Rectifier 25 packs big amp performance into a tiny package, and because of this, we’ve named it as our Editor’s Choice.

The Orange Micro Dark is a compact, 20 watt hybrid lunchbox style amp head. This particular amp is best known for its metal tones, but it deals with cleans ond softer overdrive quite nicely, too. It combines a tube preamp and a solid state power amp to deliver great tone, while remaining lightweight, compact, and of course, affordable. This is one of the most portable options on the market, weighing in at under 3 lbs and measuring just 5.31” tall. It features a ¼ inch headphone output, and 8 ohm speaker output, and even an effects loop. It has one of the simplest, most user friendly control panels you’ll find on any amp head, making it easy to shape sound and dial in tone just the way you like it, even if you don’t have much experience with amp head separates. The Orange Micro Dark is a great choice no matter whether you’re just experimenting with amp heads for the first time, or you’re looking to build up your collection with something a little more affordable, and for that reason, this is our Best Budget pick for mini amp heads. 

Read more about our review process.

Editor's Choice
Mesa/Boogie Mini Rectifier 2

Mesa/Boogie Mini Rectifier 2

Features: 25 Watts, EL84 Power tubes, On board attenutor

Benefits: Stage/studio ready, Full spectrum of tone, Handsome looks

Best Value
Bogner Ecstasy Mini

Bogner Ecstasy Mini

Features: 30 Watts, Built in variac, 3 Band EQ

Benefits: Great pedal platform, Easy sound shaping, Seriously lightweight

Best Budget
Orange Micro Dark

Orange Micro Dark

Features: 20 Watts, Tube preamp/solid state power amp, Under 3lb

Benefits: Almost picroscopic dimensions, Punishing metal tones, Simple control layout

Individual Reviews

Our Top Pick
Bogner Ecstasy Mini

Bogner Ecstasy Mini

Full size tones in a highly portable package

It may not have the huge tube power of the full size model, but tonally, this amp comes unbelievably close. It does everything from Fender-like cleans to gut punching Marshall style crunch, making it a hugely versatile choice for players who don’t like the idea of niche-ing down.


The Bogner Ecstasy Mini is an almost comically-small amplifier head, but despite its tiny form factor, it was hugely impressive. It handled everything we threw at it and never skipped a beat. It’s a 30-watt class D solid-state amp and it weighed in at just under 4lbs, which is a mere fraction of the 53-pound behemoth that is the full-size Bogner Ecstasy.

It had a full range of EQ controls, including bass, mids, treble, and even presence, so sound-shaping was a breeze. Other controls included the Variac mode, which in essence slashed the headroom and allowed for even more breakup, which is something non-pedal users will appreciate, along with a gain switch that had changed the focus of the gain between brown sound, and plexi.

We started off by checking how it performed with a dry signal, and we were really impressed with the tonal range. Given the form factor and considering it’s a fully solid state, the headroom was surprisingly good. It’s designed for high gain, but the cleans were still sweet and bell-like, and we got good volume before it began breaking up.

With the Variac off, we played through the pedal board and really enjoyed the results. The pedals sounded good and weren’t overly colored by the amp. At the same time, the distinctive tonal characteristics of the amp itself weren’t masked either. Pedal users will really enjoy the Ecstasy Mini.

Verdict: The Bogner Ecstasy Mini is a superb choice for players looking to start using a mini head in their rig. It’s priced just right, and it sounds way bigger than it really is. This isn’t an amp you could play stadiums with, but with 30 watts of power and the ability to hook up to a 4 x 12”, this is still a highly-giggable amp. Even if you’re not planning to gig, the small form factor and ease of control makes it an ideal amp for everyone from bedroom players to those needing a studio setup.

Best Budget
Orange Micro Dark

Orange Micro Dark

A hybrid amp with huge gain and awesome flexibility

With the Micro Dark you’re getting a lot of amp for your money. The hybrid setup which includes a tube preamp and a solid state power amp delivers big, nasty gain, even without overdrive and distortion, and does so while keeping the weight way down, resulting in a rig that comes in at less than 2lb.

Orange has put a lot of focus on developing smaller amp heads that sound as good as their larger models for some time now, and the Dark Terror is one of their best efforts to date. We absolutely loved the form factor. It’s a tiny box that tipped the scales at a little over 1.7lbs, and it looks simply fantastic. It boasts 20 watts, but in reality it sounded more like something with 40-50 watts of all solid-state power.

This amp had the simplest controls of all of the heads we tested, offering only a single input, plus volume, shape, and gain knobs. The shape control is the closest thing to EQ on this amp, but really only controls the mids, with a scooped sound when turned hard left, and a strong mid focus when turned clockwise. Despite the simple control layout, pedal users will enjoy the FX-loop functionality.

We went into the dry signal check knowing this wasn’t going to be a high headroom amp. With a name like Micro Dark, we didn’t anticipate Princeton Reverb cleans, but once again, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the clean tones. Of course, it began breaking up way before we hit even half-volume, but if you were going to close mic, or run into FOH with this, it would still have useable cleans.

With the pedal board setup, we got even more great tones. With an overdrive pedal running in, and especially with a drop-tuned guitar, it gave us enormous metal tones that you’d never believe came from this micro amp if you didn’t see it with your own eyes. Of course, having low headroom did mean that the pedals lost a bit of character at high volume, but we still enjoyed the overall tone.

Verdict: Fans of heavier genres will absolutely love the tones that the Orange Micro Dark somehow puts out, but that doesn’t mean those who play with less gain will be disappointed. It does rock and roll crunch very well and, while it isn’t the cleanest amp, it can still offer a bit of shimmer with the right settings and a good cabinet or PA system. It’s one of the lightest amps on the market and can fit into a backpack with ease, so you can truly take your own rig anywhere you need to.

Editor's Choice
Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier Head

Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier Head

A mini amp head with everything that made the full size Rectifiers legendary

It might be mini, but this amp is an absolute monster. Delivering 25 watts of all tube power and rectifier circuitry in a sub 15lb package that measures just 12” x 6” x 5”, this thing is ready for everything from bedroom practice, to the stage and beyond.

No one would argue the fact that Mesa/Boogie makes some of the best amps on the planet, and few of their products are more famous than their Rectifier series. Now they’ve compressed these behemoths into a mini unit, the Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier Head, which is, in our opinion, the very best mini head that money can buy.

It’s an all-tube amp, which understandably weighed quite a bit more than the others on test, coming in at around 12lbs. But with 25 watts coming from 5 x 12AX7 preamp tubes and 2 x EL84 power amp tubes, it can handle almost any situation you throw at it.

As you might expect, it had a full range of EQ controls, with separate dials for each channel. There’s master volume, gain, bass, mid, and treble controls, as well as a presence knob. We were able to easily shape our sound with this amp, and we were hard-pressed to find tones we didn’t like.  

It features 2 channels, Clean and Pushed, with Pushed being the more high-gain option. In Clean with a dry signal, we got some pristine tones even at high volume. In fact, enough to keep up with a drummer and with barely a hint of crunch.

Of course, with the gain cranked on channel 2, it was go time for massive overdriven tones. The saturation was sublime with the tubes warmed up properly, so there’s almost no need to add distortion or additional OD via a pedal. The amp alone provides all you’ll ever need.

On the clean channel with the pedal board running in, we got great volume, and found that there was plenty of headroom. The chorus sounded particularly good, and we didn’t run into any muddiness with the reverb either.

Verdict: We defy anybody to find a better small amp head than the Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier. Whether for studio use, practice, or even gigging, it has the fine control and the power you need to sound great in any situation, plus it has the build quality to survive all manner of abuse. It’s not quite as lightweight, but you could theoretically still fit it in a large backpack, if necessary.

Also Consider
Vox MSB25 Mini Superbeetle

Vox MSB25 Mini Superbeetle

A full mini stack brimming with classic Vox chime

This is the mini amp head for you if you’re into not just the sounds of the British Invasion, but also the looks. With the Superbeetle, you not only get a very capable 25 watt solid state mini head, but you also get a matching 1x10 speaker cabinet, too.

In the interest of fairness for the test, the bulk of the review of the Vox MSB25 Mini Superbeetle was performed through the same Marshall cabinet as the other amps, but we did, of course, try it paired with the speaker cab it came packaged with.

This is a 25-watt hybrid amp with a Vox Nutube preamp and a solid-state power amp. It’s a flyweight unit that felt no heavier than a Boss FX pedal. This did pose some challenges when we had it sitting on top of the Marshall cab rather than wedged into the frame on its own cabinet, as it was too easy to knock off and onto the floor.

The controls were straight forward and the classic Vox chicken-head dials are a nice touch. On the panel are volume and gain controls, as well as bass and treble, and even reverb and tremolo. The reverb and trem were well-received, and helped to provide a bit of extra shimmer. We were, however, disappointed to find that there was no control for the mids or presence, something that is present on other amps at a similar price point.

Like most Vox amps, there wasn’t a lot of clean headroom. Past 12 o’clock, the tones got pretty grainy and brittle, although at lower volumes we found it to be soft and surprisingly nuanced. If you’re thinking it’s an AC15 on a tighter budget, you might find yourself disappointed, but if you realize that it’s a phenomenal alternative to a Vox tube amp for at-home practice, you’ll find this amp excels.

With pedals running into the Superbeetle, we got great results at low-to-mid volumes, just as expected based on the dry-signal headroom. It handled overdrive well and gave us some really nice, classic British rock tones at bedroom levels. It didn’t really start to get muddy, even with tons of reverb, until we pushed it past about 50% volume and 75% gain.

Verdict: If you’re not looking for something to gig with, and you want an amp that looks nice in a living room or bedroom and can get great tone without rattling the windows, the Vox MSB25 Mini Superbeetle is hard to beat. The included speaker cabinet is a nice touch, making this a turn-key choice if you’re just stepping into the world of amp and cabinet separates.

Also Consider
Blackstar 1 Watt Tube Head

Blackstar 1 Watt Tube Head

An almost microscopic all tube amp that’s dripping with classic tone

If you’re in search of proper vintage tube tones at home but you’re unable to crank a full size tube amp enough to get that screaming overdrive, then you’ve got to check out this 1 Watt Blackstar amp. It’s an absolute blast to hear the genuine saturated tube breakup from this thing at bedroom levels.

One of the big downsides to tube amps for many is that you don’t realize any real benefits by paying the premium that comes with these models until you can push them into overdrive and hear that lovely, organic breakup. For bedroom players, it’s rarely possible to do this. This is one of the reasons we really loved playing the Blackstar 1-Watt Tube Head!

With just 1 watt of power from a single 12AX7 preamp tube and a 12AU7 power amp tube, we were able to get creamy cleans and big British crunch, all without disturbing the neighbors. It’s a 2-channel model, with channel selections made via the OD select button. As for the rest of the controls, it features a volume dial, gain, reverb, and ISF EQ. There are 4 additional voicings that can be accessed by the Voice switches.

On the back of the unit, a far rarer feature is hiding, a USB-out for direct recording. This was highly welcomed and something we’d like to see more manufacturers include. For home-studio hobbyists, this feature really increases the appeal of this little Blackstar.

As we tested the dry signal, we did quickly learn the limitations of such a low-powered amp. There was very little headroom, and we found that the tube breakup came somewhere around 40% volume. Not only that, but the cleans we did get were more creamy than glassy. Not a problem if that’s your preferred sound, but if you need bell-like clarity, this amp might not be for you.

At higher volumes with the gain cranked, we absolutely loved this amp! It’s about as much fun as anybody could have with a mini head.

With the pedal board attached, we did find that we lost a lot of the pedals’ inherent character. The breakup from the amp was great on its own, but we found it difficult to manage together with the FX, resulting in a noticeable loss of clarity, especially with the reverb and chorus pedals.

Verdict: It wasn’t without its flaws, but the Blackstar 1-Watt Tube Head delivered big on tone, and gave us effortless breakup. It isn’t something you could, or that you’d want to even try and gig with, but for bedroom practice or experimenting with recording at home, it’s one of the best.

Also Consider
Hughes & Kettner Spirit of Vintage

Hughes & Kettner Spirit of Vintage

Boutique looks and vintage tones

With this “nano amp” you’re getting something that stands out from the pack in the tiniest of packages. Considering it weighs less than 2.5lb, and fits in a gig bag pocket, it packs up to 50 watts of power, making it a great amp for practice at home, or even for jamming with friends.

Hughes & Kettner isn’t exactly a household name like Marshall, Fender, or even Orange, but with the Hughes & Kettner Spirit of Vintage, you’re getting carefully-crafted tones, beautiful boutique looks and exceptional overall quality. At 4 ohms, it will put out an astonishing 50 watts, or 25 watts at 8 ohms, which is more than enough for casual practice, or even small gigs at the higher output.

Following the pattern set by some of the other lower-cost options in this test, the control layout was a little sparse, including a volume knob, gain, and master volume. EQ is controlled by a single tone knob, and there’s a sagging dial to replicate the power sags that a real tube amp experiences from the voltage drops that occur with a change in attack.

We found that the headroom was a little low with this amp. While there are other versions available, including some with more headroom, in our opinion this model offers the best all-around tone. At low volumes, we did like the cleans, finding them to be soft and responsive, and at no point ever harsh or brittle, even with the tone all the way up.

With the gain pushed hard, we got some amazing Hendrix-esque tones that were gritty and snarling, perfect for that vintage rock/blues sound. We were also amazed at how loud this little Hughes & Kettner was through a 12” speaker.

It handled pedals well, although we found that extra overdrive results in a fairly noticeable drop in clarity. If you’re into psychedelia, pairing this amp with a maxed-out plate reverb works brilliantly.

Verdict: This is one of the few nano-sized amps we think would work for players looking to gig. Even if you’re just looking for a simple practice amp, we’re still sure you’ll love the Hughes & Kettner Spirit of Vintage. It sounds amazing at all volumes, and doesn’t lose any of that tone through good headphones, either.

Also Consider
Friedman BE-Mini Head

Friedman BE-Mini Head

A mini amp head with impressive volume and excellent fine control

If you’re into the British sound, don’t overlook this brilliant little mini amp head. It offers big volume and tone while remaining highly portable, and as far as fine control over sound shaping, this mini amp head is among the best.

Friedman are well known in music circles for their tight, well-controlled tones (as well as their huge price tags). So when we found out that they made the Friedman BE-Mini Head, a compact, solid state amp that was modeled after their fantastic BE-100, we had to give it a go.

This model is a 30-watt solid-state amp that (almost) faithfully recreates the full fat tones of their 100-watt all-tube model. It sits around the middle of the pack in this test lineup when it comes to size and weight, tipping the scales at around 4lbs and measuring just 9.5” x 5.25” x 6.25”, making it easily backpack sized.

Our biggest gripe with this amp was that the power cord was borderline flimsy. Considering how well made the BE-Mini is, we’d have liked to have seen a more substantial choice when it came to the power cord.

Appearance-wise, this was easily one of the nicest on test. We loved the leather-effect black Tolex against the satin gold accents. On the front panel are a full array of EQ controls, including bass, treble and mids, as well as volume, presence, and gain controls. It even features cut and tight switches for even greater tonal control.

We loved how much headroom was offered with this amp. Friedman are also pedal manufacturers, so it would make sense that they design their amps to accommodate pedals with ease. The clean tones were shimmery and glassy and we got good volume before we found them breaking up.

Of course, with the gain set high and the volume cranked, we got room-filling, gut-punching crunch and beautiful overdriven tones.

Playing through the pedal board, we were able to maintain the integrity of the FX without losing clarity. We got some great, ethereal tones with the chorus and reverb, and with the OD pedal cranked, the BE-Mini gave us a big, nasty chugging sound that would be perfect for metal players. 

Verdict: If you like the idea of a Marshall, but you want tighter tones and more clean headroom, the Friedman BE-Mini head is a great choice. It does cleans and crunch well, it’s lightweight and portable, and it has enough power to gig when paired with the right rig.

How to Choose the Right Amp For You

Scaled down amp heads are a growing niche. Because of this, you’ll find that they vary wildly in everything from quality to built-in features. Before shopping for your head, give some consideration to these factors.


The physical size of a mini amp is one of its defining features. There’s no set size at which point an amp becomes “mini,” but be aware that they aren’t all equally small and lightweight. For example, a Mesa/Boogie Mini Rectifier weighs about 5 times more than a Hughes & Kettner Spirit of Vintage.

Size is mostly a factor for those who plan to take their amp out and about with them, so be sure to think about your specific needs when making a decision.


As with size, the power output varies wildly between models. If you like the idea of a head just to practice at home, look for between 1 and 5 watts for an all-tube model, or 10 to 30 watts for solid state. If you plan to try and gig with your mini, you’ll want at least 15 watts if you’re wanting to go with an all-tube model, or 25+ watts on a solid-state amp.


Another thing to consider is onboard effects. If you’re looking to use a pedal board, you might be more interested in finding an amp with a ton of headroom to accommodate your signal chain. If you don’t have external effects, having at least some reverb as a feature on a mini amp head will help you to add texture to your tone.

Final Thoughts

We had a blast trying out these mini amp heads. It was enlightening to see just how much power can be squeezed out of such small gear. To recap what we found, our Top Pick for a solid all-rounder was the Bogner Ecstasy Mini. For players who want a great amp without having to spend too much, our best Budget Option the Orange Micro Dark is a great choice. If you aren’t worried about budget and you’re just looking for the very best on the market, look no further than our Editor’s Choice, the Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier.

  • Simon Morgan

    Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and played the local scene throughout his teen years before running away to work on ships. These days his passion is budget guitars, amps and pedals - though he's not afraid of the finer things.