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:
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.