The single-ended, all-tube head is powered by a Sovtek EL84 coupled to a JJ ECC803 preamp tube and a Mercury Magnetics GA5-P power transformer for a maximum of four watts.
Decades ago, practice amps were effectively no-frills versions of their bigger brothers. Even so, those little amps of yesteryear became something magical in the studio. From Jimmy Page and his Supro to Joe Walsh and his Fender Champ, getting big sounds from little amps became the stuff of legend and a go-to approach for recording. Crimsontone Amplifiers embraces this philosophy in a big way—only two of the seven amps the company offers are 20 watts or more. Their newest amp—the 4-watt SE Mini—is a testament to the power of small and a cool nod to the role of low-wattage amps in the history of rock ’n’ roll.
In the Court of the Crimson
At just 7.5 pounds, the SE Mini certainly lives up to its name. The cabinet is covered in a tough red tweed fabric, and it features a sporty aluminum handle for easy transporting to the studio—or a gig in the park for that matter. Crimsontone didn’t design the SE Mini with gimmicks in mind either, which is evident in the simple feature set. It has just four controls—Gain, Tone, and Master knobs, along with a tiny Gain Boost switch.
The single-ended, all-tube head is powered by a Sovtek EL84 coupled to a JJ ECC803 preamp tube and a Mercury Magnetics GA5-P power transformer for a maximum of four watts. The GA5-P is part of Mercury Magnetics’ fantastic Toneclone Plus line, which is stocked with the company’s replicas of famous power transformers from the past. In this case, it’s a faithful reproduction of the transformer in Gibson’s 1950s Les Paul Jr. combos. I was pleased to see that the output transformer was also a Mercury Magnetics model, an FTCO-M that replicates the units in Fender’s Tweed Champ amplifiers of yore.
The SE Mini doesn’t rely on modern circuit design, but instead forgoes current technologies for a traditional, handwired, point-to-point circuit. Upon pulling out the adorably small chassis, I was treated to the sight of tidy wiring held together with clean solder joints and tight mounting. And the Components—F&T filter caps, Alpha pots, Orange Drop capacitors, carbon-comp resistors, two Xicon power resistors, and a Cliff input jack—are all top-of-the-line.
Good Things … Small Packages
Crimsontone touts the SE Mini as a practice amplifier, but it excels at hitting tones in the ’60s classic-rock vein. With a Fender 60th Anniversary Telecaster and a feed to the two 12" speakers in a Fender Twin Reverb reissue, the Crimsontone’s clean mode belted out seriously raw, garage-rhythm jangle with a dash of classic Neil Young sting thrown in. The highs are crisp and brash, with tight lows and a gritty midrange. With a Gibson Les Paul Studio, the amp accentuated the midrange and softened highs, but the amp still retained its bold essence, staying tight in the low end and having a nice, even sag. It’s not a sound for everybody, but it speaks in the raw, unadulterated tones of no-holds-barred slingers of the first classic heavy rock era.
It’s worth noting that, while the SE Mini kicks with James Gang-worthy tones, I did have to really work with my picking hand to squeeze any real dynamics out of it. That said, that’s not uncommon with most small-wattage amps, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the amp isn’t touch sensitive. But if you’re used to using a big Marshall to get your ’70s tones, the SE Mini will feel like an entirely different animal. The amp doesn’t have excessive gain or saturation to hide behind, so it assures that you hear every single mistake. The sweet sounds that come as a trade-off are well worth it, though.
This Dog Bites
Getting the most meat and bite out of the SE Mini requires careful adjustment of the Gain and Master knobs. With the Gain Boost switch off, not much grit is available from the Gain control. Rather, it acted more like a voicing control, altering the feeling and response of the tone. Most master-volume tube amps have a gain structure that changes from tighter and crisper to warmer and spongier as you increase the Gain. Without the boost on, the Gain control on the SE Mini reacts the same way, but without adding huge amounts of saturation. Kicking in the Gain Boost adds a dose of rage to the tone, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing quick double-stops and soaring country bends with the SE Mini’s overdrive-infused, high-midrange snap.
Predictably, the boost kicks up the volume a few decibels, too. And I discovered by lowering my guitar’s Volume knob just how well the amp cleans up at even the dirtiest settings. The Gain Boost adds noticeable touch sensitivity, too. I got one of my favorite tones by dropping the Telecaster’s Volume down a quarter of the way and letting my picking-hand attack determine the amount of overdrive.
If you’re looking for more aggressive tones, it also pays to keep the Master at or near its highest levels. At practice-amp volume levels, the Telecaster sounded a little thin, and understandably so—I wasn’t pushing the single EL84 enough until I moved the Master to 3 o’clock, where there was a considerable volume jump. The sweet spot on the SE Mini’s Master is just a little higher, where it retains just the right amount of definition, while maintaining ample punch. Set the Master there and use the Gain control to set the flavor of the attack, and you’ll find a load of tone variation at your fingertips. Working within this range helped me keep the Tele’s bite under control and let the raw nature of the amp’s voicing shine through.
Four watts may not be the right recipe for tearing the paint off walls, but the SE Mini uses a well-designed circuit and quality components to sound much bigger than it looks— especially with a few 12" speakers at the receiving end of its signal. Crimsontone’s SE Mini is a great choice for lovers of dirty, jangly rock guitar tones. But, like tube practice amps of yesteryear that needed to be driven and played hard to achieve their fullest tonal potential, it can require a more dynamic and forceful touch to tap into its inherent dynamics. Still, there’s nothing quite like a healthy, low-watt tube amp cranked to high heaven for creating sweet, raw, rowdy sounds. In that musical category, the SE Mini is a hit.
you’re a fan of dirty, to-the-point guitar tones at reasonable volumes.
you need to be heard over a drummer or can’t abide bone-simple feature sets.
Street $799 - Crimsontone Amplifiers - crimsontone.com
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.