When I first heard about the Strum Buddy, my mind immediately flashed back to the film Fletch and the super-cool, turban-donning shredder Harry Perry cruising Venice Beach on skates. Before you get too excited, this mushroom-cap-shaped little amp that attaches to a guitar via its integrated suction cup isn’t going to provide the volume needed for a loud busking gig. But, as a mobile monitor to pull some juice out of an unplugged guitar for practice, it’s a cool device, and sounds better and louder than I had anticipated from a battery powered, 6-watt amp with a 1 1/2" driver. It has three button-activated effects—distortion, chorus, and reverb—but no volume or tone control. (Those are governed by your guitar.)
Am I going to tell you the tone and effects sound amazing? No. The Strum Buddy does, however, make for a much better experience than playing dry when you’re inspired to woodshed and aren’t near an amp and your favorite pedals. It’s also rechargeable via USB for 3-plus hours of playing time and, depending on your case, likely small enough to fit inside it—great features indeed. Tip: Plan before you purchase. My Bigsby-equipped Epi didn’t have the real estate to position the amp where I could still play the guitar, and the light, nitro finish on my SG wouldn’t allow it to stick. When I placed the Strum Buddy on a Strat, however, I was off to the races cruising around the house trying to impress my 8-year-old. It feels a bit pricey at 80 bucks, but I think plenty of folks would be psyched to discover one in their stocking.
Test gear: 2008 Gibson SG Special Faded, 1975 Epiphone Coronet, 1985 Fender Stratocaster, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface, MXL V63M mic
Recorded with Fender Standard Stratocaster. Strum Buddy miked with MXL V63M into Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface into GarageBand.
Clip 1 - Chorus setting.
Clip 2 - Clean setting.
Clip 3 - Distortion setting.