Something’s happening in the world of amplifier heads.
Take a stroll through a trade show in 2010 and you’ll still see the big boys, stacked up like leather breeze blocks, atop monster cabinets, for the delectation of well heeled punters still stuck in the ‘big is best’ mindset of 70s stadium rock.
Increasingly popular, though, are the new breed of so-called lunchbox amps: smaller, lighter and cheaper versions of all-valve heads that run at lower power (usually a maximum of 20 watts), reach their sonic ‘sweet spot’ at more practical volumes, and hop aboard any cabinet you fancy.
The recent lunchbox craze is widely credited to Orange’s Tiny Terror, so for this group test, we brought in that model’s classy Hard Wired brother (£663). As the only non-PCB model (ie, it doesn’t use a printed circuit board, but features point-to-point hand wiring), there’s no doubting the Orange’s psychological advantage here, but it will have a fight on its hands against the much cheaper contestants in the test.
Such competition comes in the form of Hayden’s Mini-MoFo (£329), Jet City’s JCA20H (£319) and Blackstar’s HT Studio 20H (£379).
To keep things equal, we’ll be testing all four heads through the same 2x12 cabinet, and playing Back In Black at least once on each. Heads up…