My amp collection - The small stuff


In addition to some “real” amplifiers, I also have these toys. Actually toys might be too denigrating of a term since they all serve a real purpose. The largest is a 7-100, the iconic battery powered portable amp built for more than 5 decades by Pignose. The tweed covering on this Special Edition gives it that classic 40‘s look. But otherwise it is simplicity itself: a pig snout (of course) volume control acts as an on/off and dials in the amount of grind, not loudness. An amazing feature. Tone is still somewhat variable by unlatching the lid on one side and open the amp. Famous musicians have used this amp as a wah by moving the lid between open and close. Nowadays you can get with an AC adapter which can be stored inside the box.

The Fender Mini-Twin, available for a limited amount of time in the mid oughts, is easy to plug into if I do not want to wait for tubes to warm up. Though much smaller than the Pignose, it does have a few more controls: gain, volume, and tone (the right-most rotary is actually the on/off switch). The very dynamic gain control allows you to dial in sweet tones up to a menacing transistor clip, while the volume can act as a master to keep sound levels equal. One piece of advice though if you are contemplating buying a small amp like this. If you do not want it to topple over, you better use a guitar cable with at least one angle ¼” plug on either end!

The Soloist, design by Tom Scholz of Boston fame in the Rockman series built by his now defunct SRD company, is a very versatile headphone-amp. It has many of Tom’s signature tones, with additional chorus and echo effects that can be switched on. And, ahead of its time, it has an input/output that either allows you to pipe in music from an external source, so you can play along, or hook it up to a soundboard to use it as an effect!

Walter Harley is local bass player whose dissatisfaction with available options to practice at volumes that would not disturb the neighborhood inspired him to start Café Walter Audio and design the HA-1A. This diminutive practice amp, with just a volume control for the instrument, a volume control for the optional external source to be mixed in, and an extremely flat response, is simplicity in and by itself. But all my G&L basses sound absolutely great over headphones or through a soundboard while tracking; just the sound of your instrument and your fingers. The emphasis on the latter can be rather discouraging since every mistake is amplified. But it forces you to improve your technique!


Practice amps