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Acoustic mini vs. Ampeg Mini

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by ZiggyDude, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. ZiggyDude


    Jun 8, 2005
    I have recently noticed that the new trend is for manufacturers to bring out “Mini-Stacks” of bass gear. I don’t know when all this started though I do remember Marshall minis out for some time and a friend of mine (and TBL member) at one time had an Ashdown Perfect 10 mini. In some ways they seem to capture attention because they are cute. Lets face it – cuteness in bass and guitar amps. Luckily they aren’t painted pink.

    I had heard that Guitar Center (GC) had both an Ampeg SVT and Acoustic mini stacks. I could not help but be curious. Though I was having a total case of GAS and wanted to get something I can also say there was a bit of practicality. This was also driven a bit by need as I was not totally happy with my small practice amp. I have several 1x15 vintage Acoustic combos that work great for even a loud band practice – but at 80 pounds or more are a pain to haul about. Sometimes I want something that I can carry in one hand and the bass in the other. Currently the job is being done by a USA made SLM Ampeg BA112 (single 12 at 50 watts). It works pretty well but does not really have the volume needed. It is also a bit “tinny” sounding. So – off to GC!

    I finally got a GC guy to help and dragged the two stacks together. They are about the same exact size. The Ampeg sports two 10” speakers and the Acoustic one. The Ampeg cab is 8 ohms and the Acoustic 4. The Ampeg head 200 watts into 4 ohms and the Acoustic 100 watts into 4 ohms. Ampeg price is $600, the Acoustic is $300. You can buy the Ampeg pieces separately at $300 each while the Acoustic is a set.

    I was using a Music Man HH 5 stingray and a MM “Big Albert” on sale at the store to test. I also tried some MarkBass and GK small amps – but they are outside the scope of this article.

    I started with the Ampeg. The tone was very articulate and you could really hear the subtleties of how you played the notes. It was a bit shy in low end thump. Turning the bass knob almost all the way up helped that a lot but I was not really happy with the rumble factor. Volume was enough to annoy people at the shop. I was able to turn the head most of the way up before I started getting speaker farts. The cabinet has a second input jack to allow running two cabs on the stack – just like the original SVT. At this point you get the 200 watts.

    Plugging in the Acoustic was a bit of a revelation. You are immediately hit with a very deep voiced cabinet. I dare say it actually has a similar tone to the reflex 18s. The mid range control seemed to be at the proper frequency to carve out mids or add presence. The treble control also gave the Acoustic a tone close to the Ampeg. Volume was about the same as the Ampeg but you began to get speaker farts with the volume control at 5. Adding or subtracting bass affects volume. I also noticed that the cone of the speaker was white!! That was a nice touch – though it is recessed behind the grill pretty far and hard to see.

    At one point I drove both the Ampeg and Acoustic speaker with the Ampeg head. It filled out the tone some but the Ampeg cab tended to dominate. I switched back and forth between the amps until I got ear fatigue. So I took a break and planned to come back the next day. In doing so I also brought my Alembic Rogue 5 string to see how a bass I knew would sound and also give the amps some 5 string thump. Additionally I brought the Ampeg BA112 to see if either of the minis offered the needed volume that I was looking for.

    After playing the amps for an hour I finally came up with these differences. Naturally they are opinion and centered to how I play – but should still serve to describe the equipment.

    • All three amps were about the same volume. I could turn the BA112 ALL the way up and max the bass knob. The Acoustic about half way and the Ampeg mini about to 7.
    • The BA112 had the least bass – but a wonderful clear tone. The Ampeg was the more articulate and owned the upper and midrange frequencies. The Acoustic sounded the most like “A Big Amp”.
    • One of the casters on the Acoustic was bent – probably came that way.
    • All the amps handled the B string and active basses well.
    • When the Acoustic speaker starts to fart – very bad. The Ampeg mini degrades more gracefully while the true Eminence in the SLM BA112 handled all the amp had to throw at it.
    • All the cabs projected pretty well. The Acoustic kept most of the low end as you started to walk away.
    • If I was to own both – I would be tempted to put a A/B footswitch to switch amps. While grooving with the rhythm I would run the Acoustic, for a lead switch to the Ampeg. That probably describes the two the best.

    Well – despite the lack of volume I had a terrible case of GAS and negotiated a “Ziggy Price” for the Acoustic and got the last one they had which was the floor model. Since the collectable value of the cab is zero I have some mad doctor ideas for the cab someday anyway :)

    A practice with each band and also fooling about the house I have these additional findings on the Acoustic.

    • Big amp tone
    • I tried the 4 ohm head on my 4 ohm 406 wide (2x15) and it was pretty loud. A little hissy. The head is voiced deeper like an Ampeg. Distortion comes in gradually and with a nice grit. I was able to run it flat out – though due to the cheap construction would not suggest it.
    • I needed all the volume at practice, but the extra low end helped me hear it. For a very loud practice it may not be enough. For the way some metal bands practice – leave it at home and bring a real amp.
    • The head uses a removable power cord
    • Headphone output and aux input jacks, great for quiet home practice
    • White cone on the speaker.
    • Towel bar style handle on the back and two castors.
    • Decent long distance projection.
    • The bandmates likes the tone and looks. Heck – its cute.

    • One crappy speaker. I suspect a well designed enclosure is what makes the amp work.
    • The preamp is hissy if you run headphones and the treble up. Though I have the same problem with the BA112.
    • Acoustic of China continues to show its lack of understanding of vintage Acoustic – which is what a mini should look like. The blue stripe is the wrong shade with a tint of green, the head should be the same width cabinet, the logo is on the wrong side of the cab, the cab logo is more gray than white and black, there are two plastic strips on the cab in the same place the real 301 has aluminum and they could at least have been a silver color, the name is all wrong as the original 260 was a guitar amp with two vertical blue stripes and a big blue horn on the cab, the "260" was an attempt to be a small 360 - but they really emulated a 301 cab.etc.
    • Construction - there are some really tacky screws holding the plate with the stripe to the cab, one rear caster is bent (waiting for GC to replace the cab).
    • This should be an 8 ohm cab with an extension jack just like the Ampeg. At 8 ohms the head would still be able to drive the speaker to distortion and with two cabs you are back to 4 ohms. This would solve the speaker problem while providing some serious thump. I am sure the cab would be affordable and sell. Not offering the ability to run two cabs (like the original 371) is both a technical and sales mistake that borders on stupidity!

    Suggested Modifications
    Granted that not all of these are possibly cost effective – but ideas regardless
    • Fix the negatives
    • Ability to run two cabs
    • After making the head wider, rearrange controls and add a 5 band graphic EQ – make it look like a mini 370.
    • Have the cab handle extend like they do on luggage. One could strap the head and cords on and just roll about.

    Well – hopefully not too long winded and providing some fun.

    - Ziggy -
  2. ZiggyDude


    Jun 8, 2005
    I wonder if I posted this on the wrong subject. Maybe reviews?
  3. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    I think it may just be too much reading for most TBers. That's a long post. Maybe shorten it up a bit. From what I read, the BA112 would be my choice. For a practice amp. You need a gig rig?
  4. Thanks for the review. I spent a little time with both and have similar results. I am currently tossing about the idea of getting the Ampeg head to run my 215 cab. I love the tone and my band is only moderately loud. anything I am missing can be run through the pa. Thanks again!


    P.S. No pics-no amp!
  5. insain


    Apr 21, 2008
    great review- the way i would have tested both myself. i am looking for a good practice/small gig combo and noticed the new acoustic in the latest GC mailer
  6. Get 2 Acoustics and slave 1, lol
  7. Antares

    Antares Supporting Member

    Jul 18, 2009
    Austin, TX
    I recently picked up the Acoustic mini and so far i love it. I only use it for practicing so im not concerned with real loudness. It gives a really nice sound,as you said it sounds like a bigger amp. I can rumble my walls with it if i give it enough lows and volume.

    Havent played the Ampeg mini stack, but ive heard mixed reviews on it.
  8. ihateusernames


    Jun 26, 2006
    where are the suggestions for acoustic mini with vt bass?
  9. Good review. I bought the Acoustic mini and in general agree with you.
  10. ZiggyDude


    Jun 8, 2005
    Thanks all.

    I was worried about how long this was and I am going to have to make a shorter version to post to the reviews on GC, MF, Harmony, or someplace.

    I don't really see the Acoustic mini as a gig rig. Not unless you are going against an acoustic guitar. Even if you are in the PA I am not sure the stage volume would be enough. But as a home practice amp or a light band practice - it seems fine.

    I did take mine back to GC and exchanged for one that did not have a bent wheel.
  11. Mike19


    Aug 11, 2009
    Tallahassee, Fla
  12. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Great review; never would have guessed that Acoustic would have a chance next to the Ampeg. At half the cost, seems like a deal; if you really needed to spend 6 bills sounds like 2 Acoustics would beat 1 Ampeg
  13. I recently played them too, and was very impressed with the Acoustic (as well as the other Acoustic gear). I was playing a Squire P bass, and it was nice and deep and much louder than I thought it would be.

    I could see using the mini stack for home recording or practicing, even a low key acoustic or maybe jazzy type gig.
  14. ZiggyDude


    Jun 8, 2005
    Glad folks liked the review.

    If the Ampeg and Acoustic were the same price - I would have been hard pressed to decide. But - such was not the case. I still think Acoustic really missed the boat by not making it an 8 ohm cab and allowing you to buy a second cab as an extension. You can do that with the Ampeg and actually have a 200 watt 4x10 (although at $900 who would ever!).
  15. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    I totally agree, (and did read the review, finally), the 4 ohm Acoustic set up really misses the mark. And, though i have no reason to own either one, they do look really cool, and the mini size is certainly appealing. Nice review, thanks.
  16. marchone


    Nov 30, 2009
    Thanks for the review. It seems that there aren't any really satisfactory options for small portable amps for live play with power trios in that price range.

    I've been looking also and have now gotten interested in a Phil Jones combo like a Super FlightCase or a Six-Pak. But at 2 to 3X the price of these combos from Ampeg or Acoustic it seems it's just the reality.
  17. Mike19


    Aug 11, 2009
    Tallahassee, Fla
    I completely agree with all the comments re. the 260 mini stack missing the mark with 4 ohms rather than 8 ohms.

    I bought the mini stack because for my needs I don't need an additional cab. But, I would have gladly paid an additinal $100 for a head pushing 100 watts @ 8 ohms and 150 or 175 watts @ 4 ohms with the ability to drive a second 8 ohm cab (2 cabs @ 8 ohms will present a 4 ohm load to the amp). IMHO, this would have made the mini stack even more competitive with the Ampeg Micro stack.

    How could Acoustic have missed this? Don't they do customer surveys before the final design is approved for a new product?
  18. ZiggyDude


    Jun 8, 2005
    My understanding is that they actually don't. They have some design team that argues about names and stuff. They did have a good guy named Patrick that visited the Unofficial Acoustic site and TB - but he moved on to another firm. He has not been adequately replaced.

    If you want to see a more scalding discussion - check this out. Some folks venting are even employees of the original Acoustic!

  19. funkytoe

    funkytoe Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2008
    Northern California
    Finally got the chance to A/B the Ampeg and Acoustic mini rigs today. My Impressions:

    The Ampeg does that Ampeg thing pretty well. Kind of like a B100r.
    Muted, with a little hair on the notes. Would sound pretty good in a 70's cover band. Not a whole lot of volume, but a nice pleasing tone nonetheless. Overall, I don't think that I would take this to a gig without a second cab, and maybe not even then. Just didn't pack a lot of punch.

    The Acoustic -- well that was another story. Great BIG bottom from this 1x10. I almost could not believe it. I tested the b200 in both combo and head versions last year and did not have any lasting impression of either. But, the mini stack does impress. It was punchy and deep. Very much what I would expect from the company that took over the Acoustic brand. I did get the single 10 inch speaker to crack a little at about 2:00 o'clock on the master, but I was really happy with it up until that point. The Acoustic was easily louder than the Ampeg when both were played through their matching cabs. And the Acoustic was only 1/2 the price of the Ampeg at $299 for both head and speaker.

    I actually came pretty close to buying the Acoustic. In the end, I felt it was just too limited. The head has only one speaker output and will only run a 4 ohm load. Kind of wish they would have made it 200 watts with 2 x 8 ohm speaker outs for 4 ohm total. Also wish they would have put a more rugged speaker in it. But, if I was back in high school and on a limited budget, I would not hesitate to snatch up one of these little babies. The Acoustic rocks!
  20. stonedmotus


    Dec 10, 2009
    i got the acoustic mini-stack about a month ago. i love it. great sound, great looks, great price. it is one purchase i am completely happy with.