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Gear Spotlight: Vox Mini3 G2 Modelling Amp 

Peanut butter and jam. Snow and ice. Sand and surf. Certain things just naturally go together, don't they? Here's a more musical example: Vox amplifiers and Rickenbacker guitars, the epitome of mod cool in the '60s, '70s and beyond. While I save up to acquire the second component, a Rickenbacker 360 12-string, I recently acquired its mate. Introducing the Vox Mini3 G2 modelling amp:

Coming in at a very reasonable $200, the Vox Mini3 G2 is ostensibly a practice or busking amp, but don't let those three watts of output fool you: it packs quite a punch. At a little over 10 inches wide, it fits snugly into the corner nook of my tiny apartment. Size requirements aside, the main reasons for my purchase were twofold: one, to have an amplifier, period (I've not had one since I've been living in apartments—20 years now); and two, having a genuine Vox to pair with the coming Rickenbacker.

And I'll tell you, for $200, Vox has been more than generous in terms of features. The Mini3 G2 models 11 amplifiers, has two dedicated effects sections and a separate mic input with trim and effects send should you wish to busk or play a small club date. For you buskers out there, yes, it can run on batteries. There's also a simple tuner and a headphone out for late-night practice or, more importantly, a direct in to your recording device.

Let's dive in first to the effects, which are really quite impressive for this price point. The main effects section consists of compressor, chorus, flanger and tremolo, all controlled by an easy-to-use pot that increases either the depth or speed, depending on the effect. You can only use one of the four at a given time, but hey, for $200, I'll take it. (Back in my day, even high-end amplifiers had at most two effects: tremolo and reverb.) The second bank of effects features analog delay, tape echo, spring reverb and room reverb. Again, you can use only one at a time. The pot controls the dry/wet balance this time, but you can adjust the speed of the delays via an adjacent "tap" button that also doubles as a tuner.

The amp models, and what I think they're modelling, are:

  • BTQ Clean (Dumble Overdrive Special, clean channel)
  • Black 2x12 (Fender Twin Reverb)
  • Tweed 4x10 (Fender Bassman)
  • AC15 (Vox AC15)
  • AC30TB (Vox AC30, top boost)
  • UK '70s (Marshall JTM45)
  • UK '80s (Marshall JCM800)
  • UK '90s (Marshall JCM900)
  • Cali Metal (Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier)
  • US HiGain (Soldano SLO-100)
  • Line (tube preamp; i.e., neutral clean sound with no modelling)

Gain, tone and volume round out the controls, and what with the choice of amp models and two concurrent effects, this little dynamo produces a wide range of tones. I'm more the jangly, '60s/'70s singer-songwriter type, so the shred-o-rama models (UK '90s, Cali Metal, US HiGain) don't do much for me. Though I've found that even these can produce useful sounds if you turn down the gain.

The many models and effects are a bonus, but I was really after a Vox amp. And who better to model Vox than Vox, right? I put both Vox models through their paces with my Epiphone Les Paul, and they're fantastic: gritty, chimey, the sound of the swinging '60s. By switching between pickups on the guitar and adjusting gain and tone, a broad sonic palette is easily achieved with just the AC15 and AC30TB models. The UK '70s and Black 2x12 are terrific as well. The Tweed is very mid-range-y, perhaps excessively so, but might be useful in some applications.

Rather like buying the licence plate and bumper stickers before you get the car, along with the amp I bought a guitar strap, a stand and an extra set of strings. That way, when I finally pull the trigger on my coveted Rickenbacker 360/12, I can confidently and easily drive it straight off the lot, so to speak. More on that in the coming months ...