It's a Small World these days, and amplifiers have been following that trend for a while. Not to be outdone, Hughes & Kettner has released their Ant-Man sized Spirit of Rock Nano mini amplifier head. It's a fully functional 50 watt amplifier with H&K's Spirit Tone Generator technology crammed into a package fit for shrunken Superheros and guitarists alike. The Spirit of Vintage Rock is a great alternative to the more "connected" micro amps out there. And if something is easy to use you'll use it more.
The Spirit of Rock Nano features:
Up to 50 watts of class D power at 4 ohms
Spirit Tone Generator technology for remarkably tube-like feel
Master, Gain and Tone controls
Sagging control for tube-like touch and saturation
Fully analog circuit path
Headphone output with RedBox emulation (no speaker load required)
Non-frequency compensated line out
3.5mm aux input for play-along capability from phones and audio players
3.5" x 3.5" x 7.4"
2.4 pounds (amp only, not including weight of power supply)
There are three flavors of the Nano series -- Vintage, Metal and Rock -- and the Rock series is targeted to emulate sound of a classic -- large -- British amplifier. Plugged into a Traynor closed back 1x12 with Greenback speaker, the Spirit of Rock has a forward midrange emphasis and mildly aggressive voice that says its ready to rock. The gain knob gets to work early, and using a vintage output humbucker guitar reveals tones that get pretty crunchy early in the dial. If like to play with a little crunch all the time, this is the pick of the Nano series. And frankly if you play with headphones a lot, a little crunch is always nice to give the sound a bit more depth and dimension. Distortion tones are classically British with lots of tight crunchy mids and a sparkly top end emphasis. Crank the gain up and you are in Slash-GnR territory. As with any of the Nano series, its pint size is in stark contrast to what is coming out of the speaker.
Part of the Nano secret sauce is attributed to their Sagging control which varies the compression, saturation and what we like to think of as the "push-pull" guitar/amp response typically associated with a tube rectifier amplifier. The Sagging control gives the user the option of a "tight" attack response at one end of the dial to a progressively looser more squishy feel. It never gets to the point of Champ/Tweed loose and squishy, but it's a great way to finesse the way the amp responds to your playing style and the amount of gain and grit you dial in.
Other nice features include a headphone jack -- we asked, and no speaker load is required -- and a 3.5mm input so you can play along with your favorite songs. Yes, there is no reverb but the amp has a decent amount of natural shimmer to it and we never thought it felt overly dry. Thank you Spirit Tone Generator...and there is no reason you can't use pedals with the Nano. It's small but it's not weak.
One of the most compelling features of the Nanos is that they make it easy. No bluetooth pairing, no phone app, no menus. Plug in, power up, play. Isn't that what we all want to do anyway? Technology is wonderful but sometimes it's best when the product gets out of the way and lets us have fun. The Spirit of Rock is a great alternative to the more "connected" micro amps out there; and if something is easy to use you'll use it more.
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