Capturing a thunderous drive sound in the studio isn't easy. The sound pressure generated by a valve stack can play havoc with microphones and produce harsh results. Enter Zachary Vex, the stompbox guru responsible for some of the most ingenious designs of recent years.
Rated at one half-watt and integrated into a pedal housing, the Nano Head is the world's smallest production valve amplifier. With its twin JAN-6921W military spec valves, mini transformer and cooling fan, the Nano Head is built exactly like a grown up amp, only it sounds better than most.
We hooked the head up to a 2 x 12 with Celestion Vintage-30 drivers and cranked up the volume to see what it was capable of. With the volume around three o'clock, the bright switch engaged and the Thickness and Mellow controls set to normal, the tone is reminiscent of a Blackface Bassman on full tilt, with a hint of classic Marshall.
With just a budget condenser mic we were stunned by the authenticity of the recorded tone: a truly exceptional high-gain sound full of harmonic complexity and bags of raunch, sitting perfectly in a mix without the need for outboard EQ.
Clean the tone up and things get a little more VOX-ish, but stay just as satisfying. Disconnect the cab and the Nano's internal speaker comes into play; try mic'ing this up for nasty no-fi fuzztones.
With your eyes closed it is hard to believe that the huge sound you can hear is really coming from the Nano Head. If £399 seems excessive, consider the price of either a power attenuator for your 100-watt head of choice, or rival low wattage valve amps that are still too loud for use outside of a soundproof environment when cranked.