Price paid: $ 2100
Purchased from: Fargen Amplification
Features: The amp was made in early 2011. It is an incredible amp intended to produce the spectrum of Marshall JTM 45, Plexi, and JCM 800 tones, and it accomplishes that goal extraordinarily well (http://www.fargenamps.com/fargen-amps-9/mini-plex-mk-ii). Most of what I have written is about the head, but I will say here that the matching 2x12 cab sounds great and compares favorably with other cabs that I have. In many cases, a single channel and such simple control set translate as a lack of flexibility. Not here. The Mini Plex MK II reflects remarkable ingenuity and engineering. Ben Fargen clearly put a great deal of thought into the design, and it is made with first-rate components, careful attention to detail, and excellent craftsmanship.
The rear panel includes effects loop in and out jacks, 4, 8, and 16 ohm taps, and standby and power switches. It's 8-12 watts output allows the amp to be driven hard enough to deliver the great tones that made Marshall famous at volumes that are perfect for home use and recording. (Doubters: Marshall is on board with this idea. Also, see the rave reviews of its five 1-watt 50th anniversary and Class 5 amps.)
Three deceptively simple, important features:
- The "Power" control allows the user to vary the output tube power from 0.5-12 watts. This does not alter the volume or distortion, but allows the tone to be refined beyond what can be accomplished without it. Instead of using words like shimmering, dark, etc., I will tell you that after you adjust everything else to your satisfaction, a twist of the "Power" knob will improve your tone.
- Another standout feature is the "Decade" switch, with markings labeled 60's. 70's, and 80's to represent emulation of the JTM 45, Plexi, and JCM 800, respectively. Sure, other manufacturers have added controls for essentially the same purpose, but Fargen's implementation is dead-on.
- The third noteworthy feature is that octal power tubes can be swapped out without re-biasing the amp. (How many of us know what biasing is anyway?)
Want to know what the amp would sound like with KT-66's or 6L6's instead of EL-34's? Unplug (cya: discharge the capacitors), yank the EL-34's, plug in the tubes of choice, plug in the power cord, PLAY. No bringing the thing to the shop, no complicated instructions: Basically, plug-and-play. If the concept of deceptively simple controls that result in fantastic flexibility and great tone appeals to you. If you would rather accomplish the same thing with like bells and whistles and switches and knobs. // 9
Sound: Guitars: Heritage H150-CM (LP style; Seymour Duncan Seth Lovers), PRS SE Custom 24 and Parker PM-10 (Lollar Imperials in both), Gibson ES-335 (stock), '67 Gibson Melody Maker (modified to H-S-H 2 Gibson Humbuckers and stock single coil pickup).
Styles: Rock (multiple flavors), blues, fusion, pop, etc. It handles all of the guitars and styles as well as a Marshall. Except make your ears bleed with a master volume setting of "3". It's not noisy at any settings, it can produce virtually any sound the 3 Marshalls can make, the tone controls actually do a much better job of shaping tone than they do on most amps. In my opinion, the Mini Plex MK II delivers EXACTLY what Fargen states it was intended to deliver. // 10
Reliability & Durability: I don't gig with the amp. At the same time, if you play enough at home, you know that amps get whacked, bumped, shaken and stirred. All I can state is that the Fargen is solid as a rock and, after 2 years, there has not been the slightest hint of a problem. I can also state that Fargen is very responsive to ordinary questions, much less issues. It is a great company, and Ben Fargen is not only brilliant, he's a great guy. Also, as I mention, if the power tubes flake out, replacing them is a snap compared to what is required with most tube amps. // 10
Overall Impression: I have been playing for (gasp!) 38 years. I have a variety of amps, ranging from a Roland Micro Cube to a (solid-state) Randall Commander 120 to a Carr Mercury and others. If you like Marshall tone, want a great-sounding, extremely versatile, well-built amp for home or recording use, and don't want to deal with the control panel of the Starship Enterprise, the Mini Plex MK II is a dream amp.
If this thing were stolen, I would hunt the filthy dog down to the ends of the Earth, and get it back - or find a way to get another one. OK. We need a negative comment. I dislike reaching behind the amp for the power and standby switches. That's it. Sorry. No other negatives. Is it cheap? No. Does it sound cheap? No. It's pure magic. Is it built cheap? No. It's a rock. The versatility of this amp makes it a great bang for the buck. Most of us don't have $2k in the sofa cushions (I didn't). But I can tell you this: Long after the taste of ramen noodles has faded, this amp will still be sweet. // 9