Price paid: $ 15
Purchased from: Online Dealer
Features: The Maestro by Gibson Mini Amp is a 4 watt solid state amp that originally is included with some Maestro by Gibson guitar models. The model I am reviewing was bought out of a new packaged guitar when it was opened. They seem to go for $15 - $20 dollars used online, and that includes the AC adaptor and the thin canvas shoulder strap. This amp has no competition at this price and size except possibly the Danelectro Honeytone amps, which I believe, go for about $30 dollars, and some speaker-less pocket amps run for about the same price.
There is an instrument input, a microphone output, a volume knob, a treble knob and a Function Switch (basically the on/off Switch which also has a third position for Over Drive). The built-in overdrive is nice for a dirty blues tone. The Mini Amp has what appears to be a 3 to a 3.5 speaker. There are small screw heads protruding from each side to put the shoulder strap on.
The Mini Amp has a single band EQ (treble), but really needs a full 3 band EQ. The Mini Amp should have come with a built-in tuner. There is no Gain control and no built-in reverb, and I believe that every amplifier needs gain and reverb. There is no aux-in to play a backing track through the amp. The Mini Amp does have 4 small rubber feet on the bottom, and comes with an AC adaptor and strap included, which are nice touches for a battery powered amp. Some much more expensive battery powered amps do not come with an AC adaptor, which makes this a big plus for the Maestro Mini Amp. // 5
Sound: The Maestro by Gibson Mini Amp is NOT a versatile amp. The Mini Amp DOES NOT take pedals well at all. As a small battery powered amp, this is for busking and/or dorm room type situations. Unfortunately, the Mini Amp does not get loud enough for busking and if you push the volume the speaker sounds horrible. With a clean tone you get almost no volume at all out of the amp, and on the overdrive channel the volume is much higher but also quicker to make the speaker sound bad.
There is, however, a sweet spot you can find with the volume about halfway up and overdrive channel on that is a very solid classic rock tone (AC/DC) or gritty blues tone just mess around with the tone and volume on your guitar. This amp has only one trick, which is a gritty classic rock/blues tone and only at a moderate volume for this amp which is pretty quiet. The amp really sounds much better through decent headphones than the stock speakers. Comparatively speaking, the classic rock tone you can get out of the Mini Amp sounds better than what I could get out of a Line 6 Spider III 15 watt combo. For the very usable gritty/classic rock tone, I will rate this amp as a 6 for sound this rating is also taking into account the super cheap price of this amp, etc. // 6
Reliability & Durability: The Maestro by Gibson Mini Amp is built surprisingly tough. I know it can survive drops off the back of the roof of my SUV onto the cement driveway unscathed from several past experiences. It isn't super heavy but you can tell it is solid. The rubber feet are a great feature. Corner bumpers would have been nice but not included on this amp (I don't know what they are called, but today I am calling them corner bumpers/corner caps). I have had this amp for about a year now, and it has lived in my suitcase, in the floorboard of my car, on my front porch for a few days, etc., and this thing is in the same condition as it was new. You got to give this little Mini Amp credit, it is really built tough for what it is. // 7
Overall Impression: It is hard to rate the Maestro by Gibson Mini Amp, but recently I purchased an Orange Stereo Micro Crush, which is a small Orange battery powered amp. The Orange amp really stomped this in tone, volume and battery life, but the Orange Amp is also $89 new, which is almost the cost of 6 of these Maestro Mini Amps. Comparing this to the Danelectro HoneyTone, I would say the Maestro is very solid for its price. It isn't great but it isn't useless would be good for someone with very limited space and the tone is good for that very specific gritty classic rock/blues tone. The main strength of this amp is its small size, and to capitalize on that strength it should also have a built in tuner and an aux in to play along with your MP3 player. It is much more useful if played through headphones instead of the speaker, but really it seems like a better speaker in this amp would make it Shine above the competition in this super low price range of battery powered amps under $50. As is, it is usable in a very limited way and not complete trash and therefore I give it a rating of 4. // 4
- Brandon East (c) 2011