If you’re a guitarist who longs for the perfect practice rig, you need to do yourself a favor and look at the iRig Micro Amp by IK Multimedia. It’s an ultra-portable solid-state amp that packs a big punch.
Little Amp, Big Sound
The iRig Micro Amp is a tiny little thing, measuring just 5x8x6.5 inches in its entirety. It has a 4-inch speaker and 15 watts of total power when powered by an optional 9-volt power supply or 7 watts of power with six AA batteries. Either way you go, the power is on you—neither the batteries nor the power adapter is included. The good news is that I was able to use a regular power adapter from a pedal to juice it up, which is convenient. For what it’s worth, it also worked fine with the power supply on my pedalboard.
On its own, the Micro Amp has three channels—clean, drive, and lead—along with a shared three-band EQ (bass, mid, treble) and dedicated volume and gain controls. Like most little amps, it features AUX-in for playing along with external sources and a headphone out for late-night jam sessions. Oh, and get this—it has a cab out on the back. Yeah, you can hook this little bastard up to a full 4×12 cabinet (or any other cab) if you want. That’s nuts!
The iRig Micro’s speaker out, AC input, and battery bay.
Much to my surprise, all three channels sound good right out of the box. The cleans are very glassy and smooth (even with normally harsh pickups), the drive channel offers very usable dirty tones for gritty rock rhythms, and the lead channel boosts the gain to provide a metal tone that I honestly wasn’t expecting. With the gain knob at about 3 o’clock, you can get some pretty devastating tone (for a 4-inch speaker, anyway) that should be able to hang with the heaviest stuff you want to play, especially just for practice.
Amp Sims Provide Maximum Versatility
The excellent bundled tone is really just a bonus because the Micro Amp’s real benefit is the fact that it pairs up with an iOS device, Mac computer, or Windows PC to leverage popular amp sims like Amplitube or Jamup. Once connected to an outside source, the onboard controls are totally disabled, save for volume.
And that’s where the Micro Amp really shines. When paired up with an external source running whatever amp sim you prefer (IK Multimedia designed the Micro Amp with Amplitube in mind, but it works fine with other apps) the sky is pretty much the limit. If you already have a bunch of custom amps and presets designed in your amp sim, you can break them out of the headphones or monitors and easily take them with you wherever you want. Theoretically, I guess you could even gig with it using the Micro Amp’s cab out, though I’m not sure anyone would really want to do that. (I’m sure someone does.)
At this point, you can damn near make the Micro Amp do what you want out of it—tweak your tone in the software, and the amp will respond accordingly. I mean, it’s just working as a speaker at that point anyway. But that’s really what I think is cool about the Micro Amp: sure, it’s just the speaker being driven by software, but it’s a well-tuned speaker for this sort of application. It just sounds so damn good for such a bitty little thing.
For comparison, I have Boss Katana head (which is such a killer modeling head on its own) that has a pair of four-inch speakers for standalone use, and the Micro Amp absolutely crushes it in terms of sound quality. The Katana is a monster through my 2×12 cab but sounds like crap on its own. I originally got it so I could use the head as a standalone practice setup at night, but I hate the tone of the tiny speakers so much I never use it without the cab. The Micro Amp is the perfect solution for practice—it’s small and not incredibly loud, but most importantly, it sounds great. I don’t care if I’m just practicing—I don’t want to play with garbage tone. Ever.
Probably Don’t Use it For Gigging Though
For giggles, I decided to try the cabinet output on the Micro Amp. I paired it up to my Avatar 2×12 (with Vintage 30s) to see what it could do. The built-in tones offered more of the same—usable tones, albeit with more oomph than the 4-inch speaker could provide. When paired up with the iPad, however, well, the experience wasn’t as great. Things sound fantastic from the little 4-incher (again, recognizing the fact that this is a four-inch speaker and has limitations) but when pushed through the 2×12 cabinet, it just sounds…bad. It’s very distant and tiny sounding, almost like it’s coated in layers of reverb then pushed through an AM filter. But whatever, I can’t think of a practical use for this, so it was mostly just for fun.
Really, the Micro Amp isn’t about getting massive tones through a cabinet (so I’m honestly not sure why there’s a cab out in the first place?), it’s about what it is: a micro amp. It’s a portable, powerful practice rig that is just as at home on your desk as it is on vacation.
But that’s the other thing: if you take one on vacation, you’ll probably want to be careful with it. While I wouldn’t call it “fragile” by any means, it’s pretty clear that this little amp isn’t designed to take a beating—the plastic shell feels like it could get broken pretty easily if you, I dunno, get too into your jams and kick it down a flight of stairs or whatever. It should be fine if you don’t throw it around (it’s tiny, so that’s tempting), but I figured it’s worth noting that it doesn’t feel super robust.
But Yeah, This is My New Favorite Practice Rig
I’m a “bedroom guitarist” (well, I play in my office, but whatever) most of the time, but I still love my head and 2×12 cab. Sure, it’s overkill most of the time, but it sounds so good. It’s also loud as hell, so it limits my playing hours. I’ve tried a bunch of different practice amps and pretty much hated them all. Little amps—especially modelers—sound like crap most of the time.
That’s what makes the iRig Micro Amp so impressive. It’s a killer little rig on its own, but once you pair it up with your favorite amp sim, it’s one of the best little practice amps around. With the right software, there’s almost nothing it can’t do.
Here’s What We Like
- Sounds excellent for its tiny size
- Can be powered by an adapter or with AA batteries for maximum portability
- Amp sims make it incredibly versatile
And What We Don't
- Build quality feels less than sturdy
- AC Adapter isn't included