What is it?
The Mighty-15TH is yet another economic miracle from Harley Benton. Here is an all-valve guitar amplifier in the ever-popular lunchbox format. It's compact, portable, with a pair of Ruby EL84Cs under a very impressive looking hood, and it costs a shade over 200 bucks.
This, of course, is the Harley Benton M.O. Available exclusively through the German online retail titan Thomann, the Mighty-15TH looks to do for the low-powered valve amp market for the likes of the SC-550 did for the solidbody electric guitar market. Sure, the price grabs the attention, but the spec and the quality hold it.
The Mighty-15TH is joined in Harley Benton's lunchbox amp series by the Mighty-5TH. A five-watter, switchable down to a single or tenth of a watt for neighbourly friendly valve tones, the Mighty-5TH is a little pocket rocket. But with its 3-band EQ, the boost, and pair of Ruby EL84Cs, the Mighty-15TH is just that little bit more serious – an amp priced for practice but spec'd to do a little more.
It is one solid amplifier, its circuitry housed in a precision-folded steel chassis that feels a lot tougher than pretty much any other amp in this price bracket. The design looks clean, the finish faultless, with a satin black paint job contrasted by the silver-painted front and rear grilles.
Much of the electronics are mounted on a quality double-sided PCB that's through-plated to make it good and resilient. Looking at the components and how neatly they have been laid out, it's hard to shake the impression that this amplifier should be at least twice the price.
That said, the feature set is minimal. The Mighty-15TH is a single-channel affair. Its front panel has a boost switch, a 3-band EQ and controls for gain and volume. There is no footswitch, which would be handy for that boost. There is no effects loop. And for an amp this portable, a gig bag would have been handy – even as an optional extra.
But once you switch the amp on, and reconcile those tones against price, it would be churlish to complain...
Performance and verdict
Often, the budget valve amplifier's Achilles heel is background noise, the hum and hiss of a poorly put together PCB build. Fire up the Mighty-15TH, however, and there's none of that. It's quiet, spookily quiet, and that's a very good sign.
We plugged the Mighty-15TH through an open-backed 2x12 cabinet loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. There is something transatlantic to its voice, almost Tweed-like in its breakup, and how the top-end brings out lots of nice detail in your playing while the bass is tight as a drum.
Setting all the EQ dials at noon is always a good starting place when investigating any amplifier, but as it turns out, the Mighty-15TH's sweet spots are not too far away from that flat response. It didn't matter whether we were using humbuckers or single coils, it just required a little tweak to the treble and mids to bring out the best in both.
While the cleans are very impressive, it's when the Mighty-15TH is ever-so-slightly pushed that it really begins to sing. The onset of overdrive is very musical, if you dime the gain you'll get some very hot sizzle that works well for classic rock and cleans up nicely for Texas-style blues.
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For less than the price of a decent overdrive pedal, you get a physically small but sonically huge amplifier with more than enough power for the kind of gigs that most of us are confronted with.
The boost switch turns up the heat, adding a little more volume, a little more juice; just don't think of it as a high-gain switch. Instead, it adds a little more oomph for those looking to dig in hard.
After all, the Mighty-15TH is no Dual Rectifier. Metal players will want to put a dirt box in front of it. But that's okay. The fundamentals are sound and the Mighty-15TH plays well with pedals – especially at the full 15-watt setting. The seven-watt setting offers a very respectable amount of volume but delivers the crunch a bit earlier.
Either way, you're onto a winner. In its simplicity, the Mighty-15TH is a no-fuss high-performer, its pseudo-Tweed crunch is addictive and will flatter all kinds of guitars, all kinds of players, and players of all budgets.
MusicRadar verdict: The Mighty-15TH has no right to offer so many great tones at such a low price. Its low-noise performance and switchable power output makes it a solid option for recording.
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Valve preamp and valve power amp
- OUTPUT: 15W RMS, switchable to 7W RMS
- VALVES: 2x 12AX7, 2x EL84C, 1x 6E2
- DIMENSIONS: 330 (w) x 162 (h) x 146mm (d)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 6/13
- CABINET: Steel
- CHANNELS: 1
- CONTROLS: Gain, bass, mid, treble, master volume, boost switch
- FOOTSWITCH: No
- ADDITIONAL FEATURES: Power reduction switch drops output from 15W to approx. 7W, front-panel boost switch, 3x speaker output jacks
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: The 5W Mighty-5TH head is £119