Matamp Amplification has quite a history. The tale begins with German radio engineer Mat Mathias, who fled Germany for England during World War II when he was just a child. In 1945, he joined a radio repair business called Radio Craft, and which he eventually purchased. Mathias developed the first Matamp model—the Series 2000—in 1964. Like many guitar amps of the day, it incorporated ideas from contemporary hi-fi circuits. The Series 2000 gained a devoted following after Peter Green used one to record Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross.” In 1968, Matamp’s most famous product, the 100-watt Orange Matamp, made its debut. Over the years, Matamp products have gained cult status among collectors and players. Though Mathias died in 1989, the company continues to build tube amps in a converted mill workshop in West Yorkshire, England.
In 2005, Matamp joined the low-wattage amp party with their MiniMat head, and in 2007 they updated the original design with a valve-driven (rather than chip-driven) boost and a Master Volume, and rechristened it the MiniMat II.
Take a Tour
Even by miniature amplifier standards, the 12" x 7 1/4" x 6 1/2" MiniMat II head is diminutive. Sporting one Edicron 6V6GT power tube and two JJ ECC83S preamp tubes, the head delivers four watts of power.
The MiniMat’s front panel offers a single input and four controls: Gain, Boost, Volume, and Tone. The Boost knob lets you preset additional gain and turn it on and off with a footswitch. The rear panel provides 16- and 8-ohm speaker outputs, a footswitch jack for the Boost circuit, a mono RCA direct out, and a handy power attenuator that’s wired to the 8-ohm speaker jack.
After eyeballing the exterior, I couldn’t resist peering inside. Sliding the chromed chassis out from the head shell, I inspected the component layout and milling, and was impressed by the impeccable workmanship. Matamp products are all handmade, and the company’s attention to detail really shows with the MiniMat II.
Plugging in a Gibson Les Paul Custom with Tom Anderson pickups, I began exploring the MiniMat II’s sonic palette. For my initial tests, I used a Matamp 112S cabinet, loaded with a single 25-watt Celestion G12M Greenback speaker. In short order, I was rewarded with superb, smooth tones reminiscent of several mid-’70s Orange heads I’ve had the pleasure of playing over the years. For those unfamiliar with that era of Orange models, the highs are very smooth and biting, and the strong, growling midrange is supported by a fuzzy, blooming low end. The MiniMat II captured this tone extremely well, though it lacked the thick, fuzzy lows. That’s not surprising, though, because you can only create that type of burly bottom by pushing a high-wattage amp through a speaker cabinet with several drivers. Because of this, the MiniMat II’s drive tone is compelling, but somewhat limited.