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Hughes and Kettner Spirit of VINTAGE NANO Mini Amp

You've heard about "lunchbox" amps? How about a "pack of cupcakes" amp? Well that's the new Hughes & Kettner Spirit of Vintage Nano mini amplifier head. It's a fully functional 50 watt amplifier with H&K's Spirit Tone Generator technology crammed into a package that would fit comfortably inside the lunchbox. For jams, recording, small gigs and silent practice the Spirit of Vintage Nano is amazingly practical and functional.

The Spirit of Vintage 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 Vintage series is targeted to emulate the classic sound of a Fender-style combo amplifier. Plugged into a Traynor closed back 1x12 with Greenback speaker, the Spirit of Vintage does a very nice rendition of the bouncy cleans and springy lows of a small American combo. The size of the amplifier just does not visually compute with what is coming out of the speaker. And while Spirit Tone Generator is a nice bit of marketing hyperbole, the Nano really dispenses with the clinical nature and lack of feel often associated with solid state and modelling amps.

Much of this can be 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 Tweed Deluxe 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.

Speaking of grit, the Vintage series Nano has the most clean headroom of the series. With humbuckers we were past noon on the gain before we got any significant breakup. And it's a nice blackface kind of distortion, with plenty of detail, sparkle, and not overly compressed. It's great for roots rock and blues, but if you are into harder stuff look to one of the other Nano's. But it's also real amp so you can always stick a pedal in front of it too.

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 are always pedals for that.

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 Vintage Nano is just that.