Mighty tones from a miniscule box.
Quick—picture an archetypal jazz guitarist: Lives in New York City. Takes taxis to gigs. Not exactly wealthy. Mostly plays small clubs, except for those European summer festivals, which make gear that fits in the overhead bin a godsend.
That player is going to love the great-sounding, reasonably priced, and almost absurdly small Bud, a dual-channel solid-state combo from Henriksen, a company that specializes in compact, clean-toned amps. But it would be a shame if only jazz guitarists knew of Bud, since players in many styles could probably find uses for this impressive little instrument.
Small amps with big power aren’t a new phenomenon, but I’ve never encountered a subcompact amp that sounds so deep and three-dimensional. Bud’s 9" x 9" x 9" enclosure houses a 6.5" Eminence Beta speaker and a neodymium tweeter, producing remarkably rich lows and airy, spacious, highs. It’s rated at 135 watts and weighs a modest 17 pounds. With the amp stowed in its nylon carrying case, you could easily carry your guitar, amp, and pedalboard into the club in one trip and still have a spare hand to hold the door open for your bandmates.
Bud has two channels, each with a hybrid 1/4"/XLR input jack. Both channels have wide-ranging input-gain controls that can accommodate just about any musical instrument output and most mics. (There’s even phantom power for your condensers.) That means you can amplify guitar and vocals, guitars with dual outputs, and even two guitars for low-volume environments like practice rooms and teaching studios.
From Archtop to Bottom
I auditioned Bud with an old single-pickup Guild archtop. The amp’s warmth and wide frequency range floored me. It’s nothing like the stingy, claustrophobic sound you might expect from such a small combo. Highs are spacious and attractive, and you can emphasize them with channel 2’s bright switch or soften them by deactivating the tweeter via a top-panel switch. And man, the bass response! Bud moves serious low end. Single-note solos sound full and satisfying, with detailed “stringiness” and nice, woody warmth. Harmonically dense chord-melody arrangements maintain great string-to-string clarity. And if you’re one of those savants who play simultaneous bass, chords, and melody, you’ll marvel at how clearly Bud conveys that contrapuntal complexity.
If you’ve come to dread the gooey, fake-sounding digital reverb found on many solid-state combos, you’re in for a pleasant surprise: Bud’s reverb is subtle and musical. The 5-band, fixed-frequency EQ section is even more impressive. With cut/boost at 80 Hz, 420 Hz, 1.6 kHz, 3.5 kHz, and 7.28 kHz, it’s easy to add air, fatten lows, emphasize note attack, or clarify mids. The pot ranges are just right—it takes real effort to dial in nasty or offensive settings.
Next, I plugged in a 1952 Fender P-Bass reissue, and Bud barely blinked. I got round, deep tones perfect for walking bass lines. Such smooth sounds aren’t likely to satisfy the unapologetic slapper, but the upright-like character would be perfect for a jazz trio or quartet playing a small room.
Next, I tried a small-bodied steel-string acoustic with a hybrid magnetic/mic pickup. Again, Bud provided ample warmth, clear highs, and excellent note definition. There’s even an aux-in jack for amplifying backing tracks.
Bud’s not loud enough for every gig. The guitar and bass levels I got were perfect for small-room shows with, say, acoustic piano or a restrained drummer, but they probably couldn’t fill a large club. However, the amp includes both a 1/4" speaker-out jack and an XLR line out. You could add another cabinet for larger venues or just run the amp’s signal direct to the PA and use Bud as a personal monitor. (There’s a headphone jack as well.)
What Is This “Jazz” of Which You Speak?
Bud was clearly created for jazz players, but we guitarists have a long tradition of using “jazz” instruments (Fender’s Jazzmaster and Jazz Bass, Roland Jazz Chorus) for non-jazz styles. So I couldn’t help investigating how Bud performs as a gnarly rock amp, especially since it’s becoming increasingly popular to use a clean solid-state amp while creating distortion with pedals alone.
Mind you, you can’t overdrive Bud’s input the way you can a tube preamp stage—simply whacking the input with a loud, clean boost creates unpleasant clipping. But I found that a Tube Screamer clone compressed my signal enough to provide solid distortion sounds. And adding a germanium booster upstream from the Screamer unleashed fearsome fuzz tones (as heard in the final audio clip). And naturally, Bud works great with digitally modeled distortion tones from tablets and laptops.The Verdict
Bud’s warm and spacious clean tones belie its miniscule size. The amp boasts fine-sounding reverb and an uncommonly powerful and musical EQ section. It can accommodate any likely input signal. Jazz and fingerstyle players are likely to love it, but Bud also excels as a personal monitor, teaching-room tool, and micro-PA for laptop and tablet players. Even if you wouldn’t know a ii-V-I jazz progression if it slugged you in the face, there’s still a reasonable chance that this Bud’s for you.
Watch the Review Demo: