Small Package, Big Tone
Good things come in small packages. It’s one of the oldest clichés in the book, so it should come as no surprise that good tone can also be had from a seemingly diminutive unit. 2009 was a BIG year for that, and these are the best of the … shall we say, unhuge.

Komet 19

A “portable powerhouse” with loads of versatility and personality. That’s how reviewer Steve Ouimette described the Komet 19 amp head back in our September 2009 issue. Komet has made a very nice name for itself with its high-quality components and construction, and its custom-designed output and power transformers. It took all of that know-how and neatly stuffed into the Komet 19, and the result blew Ouimette away. “It reacted like the power and punch of a Marshall Superlead mixed with the chime and sparkle of an AC30,” our reviewer gushed. “And it was loud and incredibly dynamic, with the loudest strums nicely breaking up into great a crunch tone. It belies its size with a gigantic range of tones that let your instruments’ true personalities sing.”
MSRP $2295
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Blankenship Carry-On
Blankenship Amplification Mini-LEEDS21 Carry-On

Imagine getting punched out by the smallest kid on the block. The Carry- On, part of Blankenship’s LEEDS21 series of amps, does just that—and more. It was designed to be a small, lightweight amp that guitarists can lug around without breaking their backs, or losing any tone or wallop. The Carry-On succeeds in both areas, delivering a powerful voice quite uncommon for an amp its size. As reviewer Brian Barr puts it, the Carry- On is “the lunch-box version of a Marshall Plexi … voiced for the classic British tone of the ’60s, but with modern updates that may make some enthusiasts think twice about leaving the house again with their prized vintage amp.”
Street $1499
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Cornford Roadhouse 30 ComboCornford Roadhouse 30 Combo

Cornford has been making amps for quite some time now, though never have they tried to compete within the ever-growing horde of endlessly shrinking amps—that is, until 2009. And little did anyone know they’d raise the bar as high as they did with their Roadhouse 30 Combo. Although slightly bigger than most of the competition is this class, the Roadhouse Combo (June 2009) wins out handsomely by pushing 30 watts of sonic dynamite through a 12" Celestion Vintage 30. Reviewer Kenny Rardin said, “I found the Cornford Roadhouse 30 combo to be a great amp for those looking for a professional-quality tone without the weight. It’s a small package with a big tone, and it would serve the needs of almost any type of guitarist. Whether it’s blues or screaming, harmonic-laden riffs, this amp seems to do it all very well.”
Street $1499 (Combo); $1399 (Head)
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Vox Night Train
VOX Night Train NT15H Head

Big sound got really small in 2009, and one of the most anticipated “small” releases was the VOX Night Train NT15H. Suffice to say, it didn’t disappoint. VOX’s storied past met head on (no pun intended) with today’s trend to pack as much technology and punch into ever-shrinking enclosures, and the result was sweet music to our ears. Reviewer Jordan Wagner (August 2009) summed it up this way: “It’s not often that you find a small-wattage head with cleans that can compete tonally with some of its larger wattage brethren, and also be as capable and convenient for gigging. It’s certainly the best sounding small-wattage clean tone that I’ve heard so far. Coupled with a fantastic overdrive that seems like an entirely different amp itself, the Night Train is really hard to beat if you’re in the market for a low-wattage amplifier.” ’Nuff said.
MSRP $700
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SWR Spellbinder BlueSWR Spellbinder Blue

If you thought big tone in a small package was limited only to guitar amps, think again. SWR blew away bass aficionados with its amazing Spellbinder Blue—a powerhouse of a bass amp run by a 160-watt Class D power amplifier thumping sound through a single 10" SWR-Designed Eminence Neodymium Driver and a Customer Eminence Supertweeter. It doesn’t get much better than that, and reviewer (and noted Nashville bassman) Sean O’Bryan Smith (February 2009, web exclusive) agreed: “Take my word that this is a LOUD 160 watts. Even at pushed volumes the sound is articulate and full. The user-friendly features coupled with extreme portability are sure to entice players of all styles. Studio musicians and jazz players especially will love how easy it is to dial up a big sound in a small package.”
MSRP $1499
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MegalithMountainking Electronics Megalith

Big tone in a small package doesn’t have to just be limited to the world of amplifiers. Mountainking Electronics delivered the goods in a stompbox-sized package with a “massive sounding Fuzz/Distortion Pedal that will leave you shaking in the wake of its destructive path,” wrote reviewer Brian Barr (November 2009). He wasn’t kidding. The Megalith lets you dial up a slew of killer fuzz/distortion combinations that may just cause you to neglect your other fuzz pedals. It was definitely a worthy recipient of our recognition.
Street $265
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