Andy's Tone Tips: How Small, Low-Wattage Amps Can Make Big Recorded Sounds in the Studio

If you're an electric guitarist who plays heavy, loud music, you may be quick to dismiss a smaller, low-wattage amp on the basis that it just doesn't have the power to support your needs. And when it comes to live performance and the stage, you're probably right—low wattages often can't fill a club. But when it comes time to lay your tracks down in the studio small, lower-wattage amplifiers can actually end up providing big sounds.

Today, Andy is here to back up that claim by demoing three small amps—the Kalamazoo Model 2, the Gibson Skylark, and the brand-new Tone King Gremlin. But first, he shares two of his hard-and-fast rules for making little amps sound large.

"For me, there's always been two key ingredients in getting a big sound out of a small amplifier. First, turn up that amp and let the preamp, power amp, and speaker do their best. Secondly, don't be afraid to back off of our microphone, since capturing the room is equally important. Even if you have a two-mic setup like I do today, backing off on the direct mic gives really gives it some extra depth," Andy says.

Kalamazoo Model 2

As you saw in the video's opener, Andy is digging into the details of the brand-new Tone King Gremlin. At only eight watts, this tube amp still manages to be loud and powerful (especially in the studio). The inclusion of the onboard Ironman II attenuator allows players up to 34dB of attenuation, so you can find the amp's sweet spot of breakup without cranking the volume.

Andy compares this brand-new offering to a couple of older small amps from his own personal collection, kicking things off with the vintage Kalamazoo Model 2. The Model 2 is a five-watt all-tube combo amp that was made by Gibson in Michigan in the 1960s. It provides a raw sound, almost like a fuzz when it's cranked up, largely due to the 10-inch original Alnico speaker that doesn't feature a lot of headroom and is super warm to begin with, according to Andy.

The last vintage offering from his collection is also from '60s-era Gibson: the all-tube Gibson GA-5T Skylark. Another five-watt combo, this amp is also capable of a bigger-than-you'd-expect sound. Check out the video above to hear the full demo and how well it breaks up when driven by some humbuckers.

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