4 Retro Style Small Portable Battery Powered Amps for Under $50.

Here are 4 small retro style portable battery powered amps for under $50 – perfect for the traveling hobbyist!

These amps are as beautiful to look at as they are to hear, and they are perfect for hobbyists on a business trip. Lightweight and compact, they pack enough power to practice and they won’t disturb the guy in the next room over during your hotel stay.

These little champs can be good for backstage tune-ups as well.

The retro style also earns these little guys a spot of prominence in your home too – they’re just great decor!

Danelectro Hodad DH-1 Mini Amp

First up is the Danelectro Hodad DH-1, battery powered mini amp. This little guy (it ways about a pound and a half) has a classic ’60s tone and the style to match.

This amp is TINY. It measures in at 6″ x 5.5″ x 3.1″, and comes in a two tone brown and cream color scheme.


The Danelectro Hodad Amp has twin 2″ speakers, echo effect and vintage tremolo, with adjustable speed. You can also get a Mini pedal for additional effects, and you can use an AC adaptor since it chews through a 9 volt battery with ease.

The slapback echo and tremolo make the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 well suited to retro country, twang, and rockabilly styles and can be a ton of fun.

In case you’re staying in a hotel and are truly paranoid about waking anyone, it has a headphone out jack, so you can keep your picking and grinning all to yourself.

Don’t expect a big sound from this little guy, but he does deliver some excellent tone.

The MSRP is $59, but Amazon both sells the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 for less than $50. Here’s a demo of the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 in action:

Danelectro Hodad II DH-2

Up next is the Danelectro Hodad II DH-2, or the “mini-me” to the Hodad DH-1.

This little guy (and I do mean LITTLE) is more of a micro amp than a mini amp. Think alarm clock instead of lunchbox.

At 5 3/4″ x 3″ x 5 1/4″ and about 1lbs, this amp definitely fits the portability criteria. It’s also battery powered, running on – you guessed it – one 9v battery, but you can buy the Danelectro DA-1 9-Volt Power Adaptor (sold separately) to get a power boost.


Despite its tiny size, the Hodad II DH-2 packs a bigger punch than you might think. It features twin ceramic 2″ round 4 Ohm speakers, and cranks a full watt when powered by battery. The power adapter brings this up to 1.5 w.

The Hodad II DH-2 sports a cool modern-vintage style coming in aqua-cream two tone color scheme.

In keeping with its micro design, the control set is minimal: Tone (EQ control), Gain, and Off-On / Volume. There’s also a headphone out jack, which can be used as a line-out to a recording device.

It may not seem like much, but for less than $30 it really is a good buy. And you don’t get much more portable!


Danelectro Honeytone N-10

The Danelectro Honeytone N-10 is the last Danelectro offering in this mini amp roundup. The Honeytone N-10 is plugged as the “little hot rod” of portable, battery powered amps and sports a retro style and vintage tone.

This amp measures 5.6″ x 5.8″ x 3″ and weighs in at 1 lbs. This is the only amp in this list with a belt clip – how’s that for portable?!

It comes in 3 variations:

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Aqua $19.95 from Amazon

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Burgundy $23.44 at Amazon

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Black $19.95 at Amazon

Guitar Center also has the Danelectro Honeytone N-10 available in yellow and Danelectro Honeytone N-10 Guitar Mini Amp Burgundy.

Danelectro Honeytone N-10 also comes with a genuine leather handle and headphone jack. The controls are simple and straight forward: Volume, Tone, and Overdrive.

The Honeytone N-10 is a 1w amp and has a single 3 inch, 8 Ohm speaker, but you can get some very nice tones.

It does chew through batteries fairly quickly though, so you’d probably want to buy the Danelectro DA-1 AC adapter, and save the battery for when there’s no power option.

On a side note, if you’re into the DIY thing and modifying your amps, you should check out the Danelectro Honeytone Repair & Modifications page. It’s very extensive.

Here’s a demo:

Vox AC1 RhythmVOX

The Vox AC1 is easily the most expensive amp on this list. It lists for $85, but usually sells for closer to $50. As I write this, Amazon has a deal for the Vox AC1RV 1-Watt 2×3 Guitar Combo Amplifier for $44.99. Guitar Center also carries the Vox Ac1 Rhythmvox

But enough about price, here’s why it’s more than the other portable, battery powered amps on this list…

The AC1 RhythmVOX features gain, tone and volume controls, twin 3″ speakers, is battery powered with optional power cord.

There’s an overdrive switch to toggle between high gain sound, or clean.

What really makes the AC1 RhythmVOX stand out from the portable amp pack is its rhythm section. The AC1 RhythmVOX comes with 66 different rhythm patterns to play along with.

The AC1 is a great stand alone practice amp, and rhythm box.

Here’s how the rhythm feature breaks down:

10 rhythm patterns – 8 beat, 16 beat, blues, funk reggae and more complex beats with multi-measure drum backing -66 patterns in total.

Each rhythm pattern has serious sound quality and presence, providing realistic drum backing.

Tempo and volume of each pattern is easily controllable.

The rhythm patterns are a great way to keep your playing in time, and also helpful for developing your own licks and riffs. The tempo ranges from 40bpm all the way up to 240bpm.

There is also a Aux-in jack for plugging in a CD or MP3 player, a headphone jack and a dedicated E-string tuner.

This is also the only battery powered amp on the list that runs on 6 AA batteries instead of a single 9v. I’m not sure if that’s more convenient or not, but you can always get the AC adapter and skip the batteries.

The dimensions are 7″ x 2 1/2″ x 5″ and it weighs about 1 lb.

Here’s a demo:

Final thoughts on portable battery powered amps

It’s important to check your expectations here. Most of the amps in this list only have a 2-3 inch speaker, and about a watt of power. They’re small and there isn’t a lot of headroom, so cranking the overdrive and the volume to 10 with quickly produce some crappy sound.

These aren’t going to compete with a 10 or 15 watt 1×10″ amp. I can’t believe I have to say that, but a lot of people miss that point and quickly complain that the amp sounds “tinny” or breaks up badly, but those are the people who crank everything to 11.

Just find that sweet spot in the middle and you’ll do alright.

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Pigtronix Fat Drive Pedal Giveaway!

The Pigtronix FAT Drive is an all analog tube sound overdrive pedal that won’t rob your tone. It’s 100% analog overdrive with multi-stage tube emulated clipping and true bypass. Pigtronix FAT Drive features a hi/lo gain switch, tone control and “more” switch. The Pigtronix FAT Drive runs at 9 or 18 volts – i.e. battery or AC adapter. The battery is convenient, but the AC really provides the headroom needed to truly open it up.

The Pigtronix FAT Drive is incredibly flexible and lets you get tones from bluesy overdrive to rich saturation. It’s completely transparent, which means it won’t alter the character of your instrument, just compliment your tone.

I’m not the one giving away the Pigtronix FAT Drive though. That honor goes to The Tone King.

I wish it was me, but alas I’m not a big enough fish for such attention from the likes of Pigtronix. At least not yet – Hey, I can dream, can’t I ? 😉

Anyway, head over to TheToneKing.com an register to WIN a FAT DRIVE by PIGTRONIX . You can register until the end of May, at which time a winner will be chosen.

Wait, what are you still doing here?

Not convinced the Pigtronix FAT Drive is worthy of a place in your pedal board or gear bag? Ok, fine. Head over to the Pigtronix site for a demo and sound samples of the Pigtronix FAT Drive.

The Tone King also has a demo at hisWIN a FAT DRIVE by PIGTRONIX page. I think the Pigtronix demo highlights the bluesy tone better, while Tone King tears it up with crunch and the “more” switch.

Many thanks to The Tone King for hosting this giveaway!

Both Amazon and Guitar Center sell the Pigtronix FAT Drive for $139, but this is your chance to get one – free!

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Why Are Tube Amps Better Than Solid State Amps?

Why are tubes better than solid state when it comes to amps? It’s a question asked by every serious guitar player at some point in his journey. Most start with solid state amps simply because they are cheaper and more readily available to the beginner. They’re also easier to maintain and general require less maintenance than tube amps.

KT88 Tubes

But tube amp aficionados don’t claim tube amps are better for price or ease of maintenance. They’re concerned with sound. Some say tube amps are better because they give a fatter tone. Others say that tube amps are louder than solid state amps.

On the other hand, it may have to do with the fragility of the harmonics in a vacuum vs a crystal lattice where electrons are concerned.


Wait, what did I just say?

I’m not going to pretend to understand that myself. It’s my attempt at paraphrasing Howard Alexander Dumble, living legend and bona fide amp wizard.

The world of guitar amplification is full of amp wizards who got there start with various big name bands or guitar legends, and go on to form their own companies and mass produce their goodies. Bogner, Rivera, and Soldano are a few names in this field. Jose Arrendondo is another. He gained notoriety in the 80’s for his work on Eddie Van Halen’s Marshalls.

That’s not Dumble.

Dumble is legendary like Bigfoot as much as he is like Arrendondo and company. Maybe mythical is a better word. He’s a recluse by nature, and fiercely protective of his magic, even going so far as to blanket the electronics of his amps with a black epoxy like substance to keep prying, eyes from reverse engineering his components. That’s hardcore.

He must be doing something right because the list of guitarists who prefer(red) Dumble amps is impressive. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Larry Carlton, David Lindley, Steve Lukather, Eric Johnson, Lowell George, John Mayer and Kirk Hammett are a few proud Dumble owners.

His amps can go for $10,000 – 20,000 and if you want him to make a custom amp just for you, it’ll cost you a 10k deposit for the chance to play for him, because only if he likes what he hears will he work for you. Even then, you’ll get it when it’s done. He works on his own schedule, not yours.

Dumble on Why Tube Amps are Better than Solid State Amps.

Here’s a video of H. Alexander Dumble describing as only he can why tube amps are better.

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