Mini amps are appealing for their convenient size making them a favorite for those short on space or those who travel regularly. Amp manufacturers have seized upon this and are competing to see who can bring the most features to market, whilst keeping the price as low as possible. In this VOX Mini3 G2 review we’re going to examine VOX’s mini amp offering. We’ll take a look at the features, talk about the sound and consider how it compares to some of it’s competitors. Ready? Let’s go!
Overview of VOX Mini3 G2
The VOX Mini3 G2 is a mini amp. That doesn’t mean you need a microscope to see it. It just means that it’s compact in form and compact in terms of power output. Being mini doesn’t mean that it can’t have a lot of features. On the contrary this little amp has more than you might think.
The Mini3 is a modelling amp, meaning it uses digital circuitry to produce a variety of sounds. In plain English that means it can simulate the classic tones of other amps. One of the unique things about the Mini3 is that it has both an instrument input and a microphone input over two channels. Effectively that means that you could use the Mini3 for busking, or for PA work.
The Mini3 can be powered by either 6 AA batteries, or by the included power adapter. You’ll be able to squeeze around 12 hours of play time maximum out of 6 decent quality alkaline AA batteries. The amp is compact, although it’s not a small as other amps in it’s class, such as the Boss Katana Mini. Still it weighs just 3kg, so good if you spend a lot of time on the road.
The amp outputs 3 watts of power through a standard 5 inch speaker, which is housed in a closed back cabinet. The batteries are fitted by removing part of the back of the amp. When opening the battery compartment the mask of the VOX styling is pulled away. The battery compartment, along with the mechanism to access it, look decidedly cheap and nasty.
The top panel is broadly separated into three control areas. The most simple is the mic input area, which resides on the left hand side. Here we have a 1/4 inch input for a microphone. Underneath the input are two control knobs, one for trim and one for send. The trim controls the volume of the microphone input whilst the send controls the volume being sent to the delay / reverb effects.
The second zone is for the instrument. Again there’s a 1/4 inch jack input for you guitar. To the right of the input is the amp style control knob. Styled in the classic VOX chicken foot, the amp control knob gives you access to the 11 amp models. Technically it’s 10 plus a line input for acoustic guitars and keyboards. The 11 (10) styles are:
- BTQ Clean – This is the clean channel. It sounds good on single coil pickups
- Black 2×12 – Aiming to emulate a 2 x 12 inch speaker Fender Blackface Cabinet
- Tweed 4×10 – Aiming to emulate another Fender amp. This time the 4×10 inch speaker cabinet
- AC15 – Models the VOX AC15 classic amp
- AC30TB – Models the classic VOX 30 watt amp with top boost for that 60’s sound
- UK70’s – Moving into Marshall amps. Seeks to emulate the vintage crunch of 70’s rock and roll
- UK80’s – Another Marshall amp, this time from the 1980’s. Closer to rockier styles
- UK90’s – Similar to the 80’s but with more gain!
- Cali Metal – Even more gain. Modelling modern American style amps
- US Hi-gain – Modern hi-gain for ultra metal styles
- Line – A pure input that’s good for plugging in an electro-acoustic guitar
Next to the amp styles control knob are the gain, tone and volume control knobs. Disappointingly there’s no proper EQ control. That means less flexibility to craft custom tones.
The third zone contains the in-built effects and delay / reverb controls. There are 4 basic effects:
The labels around the control knob define the zone for each effect. Turning the knob clockwise in each zone increases the level of the effect. The effects are OK, certainty nothing special and I’d have liked to have seen the inclusion of a phaser, a fairly ubiquitous effect type.
As well as the in-built effects there are two types of delay and two types or reverb, all of which are controlled by one knob:
- Analogue delay – A warm delay sound. Emulating bucket brigade device circuitry pedals
- Tape echo – Vintage delay that’s slight more intense
- Spring reverb – Fairly subtle reverb
- Room – Very noticeable at higher levels
You can use the tap button to define tempo of the delay / reverb. Simply tap it in time with the rhythm you want to play. The LED will blink according to the tempo set. There’s an in-built tuner, which can be accessed by holding the Tap button down for 1 second. The speaker will be bypassed when in tuning mode. The tuner is very simple to use, working on the same principles as any basic clip-on tuner.
There’s an auto-off feature, which is handy for saving the batteries. If there’s no input for an hour, the unit will switch itself off. There’s a phones jack to allow you to practice “silently” or to output to a recording device. The speaker will automatically mute when headphones are connected. An AUX In jack allows you to connect an MP3 player so you can play along with your favorite tunes.
One of the problems with the Mini3 is that it sounds quite harsh with the gain turned up to higher settings. It’s plenty loud enough, but doesn’t give much punch when using the higher gain amp styles. There’s not really much depth to the tone either. It sounds like my first 10 watt amp. Cheap and a bit nasty. Sorry VOX, but I think you’ve produced a bit of a dud with the Mini3.
In comparison to the Boss Katana Mini, the Mini3 falls well short. Even when compared to the Blackstar Fly 3, the Mini3 has a lot of ground to make up. The Boss Katana Mini doesn’t have as many amp styles or as many built in effects, but it does have a 3 band EQ and a much better output.
Hmmm. Well the Mini3 has been a bit of a let down. Usually I find it more difficult to list the cons, but on this occasion i’m struggling to find nice things to say! Here are a few positives:
- Lots of features
- Suitable for beginners
- Dual input
Oh dear. Well I can think of a good few things that I don’t like about the Mini3. Here are the worst offenders:
- Sound breaks up at higher gain settings
- Sounds quite “boxy”
- Bigger than other mini amps
- No EQ
Unfortunately I can’t really recommend the Mini3. There are just better amps available in the same class, and for a lower price too. I’d encourage you to take a look at the Boss Katana Mini or the Blackstar Fly 3. Whilst the Mini3 does have a lot of features, an amp should principally produce a decent sound, which doesn’t break down at higher volumes.
Yes there’s support for a microphone, but I just don’t see how that can make up for it’s short-comings in terms of tonal quality. If you wanted something that’s portable, has a ton of features and that’s suitable for an absolute beginner, then perhaps you might consider the Mini3. Personally I’d go for the Boss Katana Mini.
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