Looking for a compact amp with a range of amp styles and effects? Maybe you’re looking to do some busking and want portable amp with a dedicated mic input. Perhaps you’re after an affordable amp that has built in rhythm banks. In this VOX Mini 5 review we’ll take a look at this versatile little amp and discuss who might be suited to it’s features. Let’s get started.
Overview of VOX Mini 5
The Vox Mini 5 is a compact practice amp, which also lends itself to busking. It’s compact and lightweight, so doesn’t take up a lot of room. In fact it’s the size of the bottom end practice amps that you can find anywhere. One key difference is that the VOX Mini 5 is a modelling amp and rhythm box all in one.
The maximum output of the amp is 5 watts, however you can switch the output using an onboard switch to either 1.5 watts or 0.1 watts. The output is handled by a 6.5″ speaker, which is enclosed within the cabinet. The amp can be powered by 6 AA batteries (not included) or the power adapter (which is included!) It’s good to see a power adapter included. You frequently have to buy the power adapter on top of the amp, so it’s refreshing to see it included.
If you are powering by batteries, you can expect around 12 hours of life if playing at 5 watts, and up to 20 hours playing at 0.1 watts. I mentioned it’s ultra portable, weighing just 7.72lbs (3.5kg):
You’ll see the two strap anchor points sticking out of each side. That’s so you can attach the included strap to allow you to wear the amp. Busking on the go!
The top panel is pretty packed full of controls for various features, but it’s pretty simple to operate.
You plug your guitar in via a 1/4″ jack, which is on the top left of the front panel (not pictured). From there you can begin to explore the 11 amp models and 8 effects types. There isn’t a proper EQ control, instead there’s a single control for tone. You can still fashion some custom tones using the master tone control in tandem with the gain and volume controls.
Under the volume control knob sits the power selector switch, which allows you to reduce the output without losing the punch of your selected amp type. The in-built amp styles provide a wide range of styles, easily accessible at the turn of the chicken foot style knob. Here’s what’s included:
- BTQ clean – great for single coil pickups. A bit of an all rounder with a bit of drive
- Black 2×12 – Models the Fender black face. Good for blues and warmer styles with single coil pickups
- Tweed 4×12 – Models the 1959 tweed amp. Picks up dynamics of play style such as picking
- AC15 – Models the VOX AC15 of the 1960’s. Popular with bands like the Beatles
- AC30TB – Models the VOX AC30 with top boost. Another popular amp with rock bands of the 1960’s
- UK70’s – Higher treble sound but with a distinctive crunch at higher gain / volume levels
- UK 80’s – Turn the gain up to get the thick metal sound of 1980’s British metal bands
- UK 90’s – lots of gain but picks up the dynamics of playing style. Think Radiohead type sound
- Cali Metal – Great for guitars that are drop tuned. A very deep low end
- US Higain – Ultra high gain for heavier and rockier styles
- Line – pure channel with no effect or preamp settings
The on-board effects are governed by two control knobs. Rather than selecting effects from a bank, the control knob is split into zones. When turned all the way to the left no effect will be present. Begin to turn the knob clockwise and you’ll start to introduce effects. The control knob label shows you which effect is in which zone, and defines the level of the effect.
The compression effect is one that I usually have active because it tightens everything up. However that means I can’t then use the other effects at the same time. You could connect a multi-effects unit or a pedal board, but most people considering this amp won’t have a bunch of compact pedals hanging around.
However you can use delay/reverb at the same time because it’s controlled by a separate control knob. There’s a choice of two delay types and two reverb types, again defined in zones. Additionally there’s a tap button, which allows you to define the pattern of the delay / reverb. The LED above the button will blink in time with the tempo set. It’s quite common to find effects controlled in zones on other amps in this range, such as the Yamaha THR 5.
Built in Rhythm
The Mini 5 comes 99 in-built rhythm patterns. A control knob lets you select the style. Each style has 9 variations, which you access using the button under the three variation LEDs. The LEDs change between green, orange and red. You access each by pressing the variations button once. On the far right of the rhythm control knob is a metronome, which is good for practicing scales.
You can also change the tempo, using the tempo control knob. That allows you to select the a tempo between 40 and 240 beats per minute. The LED indicating which rhythm pattern is selected will blink in time with the selected tempo when the rhythm is playing. The rhythm level allows you to alter the volume of the backing rhythm. The start/stop button does as you’d expect, stops and starts the selected rhythm.
Whilst it’s nice to have a variety of rhythms, I don’t really like them. Perhaps it’s personal preference, but I find that they sound like the rhythms produced by cheap keyboards in the 1990’s. It does get a little better when you start playing, but for me I don’t think I could find a practical reason to use the rhythm, given how boxy it sounds.
The Rhythm 5 allows you to plug in a a microphone via a 1/4″ jack into a separate channel, allowing you to accompany your playing with vocals. Or you could use the Mini 5 for PA work in a small space. The mic channel has two further controls which allow you to control the volume of the mic and the amount signal sent to the delay/reverb effect.
There’s also an onboard tuner, which can be accessed by pressing the variations button for at least a second. The tuner is very simple to use. The three LEDs that define the variations of rhythm will indicate if the tuning is flat, sharp or in tune. It’s a handy feature to have, allowing you to quickly tune up before selecting your amp styles and effects parameters.
A 3.5mm input jack allows you to connect a set of headphones to play “silently”. The speaker is automatically muted when the headphone jack is connected. You can also connect to a recording device using the headphones jack.
A further 3.5mm aux in jack allows you to connect a phone or computer to play back music. The amp doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, but at least you’re able to connect via the aux in port. As a bonus the amp features an auto off feature. If there has been no activity for around 60 minutes, the amp will automatically switch off. A small, but convenient feature.
Although the Mini 5 has a lot of features, it’s not suitable for anything other than practicing and busking in a small space. It certainly won’t keep up with a band or cut through the noise of busy bar. The Mini 5 is a good way for a beginner to start to experiment with effects and to get their ear in by playing along with the built in rhythm.
The Mini 5 is a practice amp that’s really packed full of features. As a practice amp it’s great for beginners who might want to experience effects, different amp styles and who may want to get their ear in playing along to backing tracks.
One of the things I really like about the Mini 5 is the fact that it comes with a power adapter, which is all too often an optional extra. The compact nature of the Mini 5 makes it appealing to those short on space and the option to use headphones is great for the beginner who doesn’t want to disturb others in close proximity.
If you want to use the Mini 5 to busk but don’t need the rhythm you can save yourself some money by opting for the VOX Mini 3, which is basically the same amp except it outputs a maximum of 3 watts and doesn’t contain built in rhythms.
If you want the amp styles and effects but aren’t bothered about built in rhythm or a separate mic channel then the Roland Micro Cube is similarly priced and contains similar features, although it’s maximum output is 3 watts.
If you’re looking for something that’ll cut through the noise of a busy bar you’ll need something more powerful. Check out my Amplifiers Page for more. I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page.
If you want to find out more about the VOX Mini 5, click the link below.
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