View the full lesson at Beginner Guitar Amp Buyers Guide | JustinGuitar
Would love to know what you think of the Positive Grid Spark Amps and the effects that are available though their app.
My view, first and foremost, is that they have been massively overhyped, largely through sponsored Youtube “reviews”.
They are decent enough practice amps and pretty good value for money. But they aren’t as good, nor as “revolutionary” as the Internet hype makes out.
Comparing 3 amps I own, or have owned recently, that are in or around the same price bracket and with similar capabilities:
1. Boss Katana - I would say, if you have the space you should get this over the Spark. It’s a far more capable and better sounding amp. It lacks the “pretending to be other amps” element but, in my view, that’s actually a good thing. There’s also far more effects and effects options. The Katana’s are great sounding and very versatile amps and the Katana 50 is about the same price as the Spark and you get much more bang for your buck.
You don’t get Bluetooth control or streaming, but there is a very good PC app for creating sounds (far more capable than the Spark one) and you can get a Bluetooth streaming adapter for around $20. There’s also some decent online patch libraries that are, in general, far better curated than the Spark one.
Also look at the Line 6 Catalyst and Fender Mustang ranges (I’ve not owned these so I can’t comment).
2. Yamaha THR 10ii - This would be my second choice if you need something more portable or physically smaller, and don’t need something that will work for gigging or rehearsals. The THR’s look great, sound great, and have a decent range of sounds and effects. Like the Spark it has Bluetooth streaming and a control app. Again, the THRs don’t overtly try to pretend to be other amps, but they do come with several models that are based off well known amp styles and it’s possible to approximate most amps.
3- Spark 40 - I would put this amp well behind either the Katana or the THR. Roughly speaking, it has similar form factor and capabilities to the THR, but the audio quality from the speaker isn’t as good IMO (and in the opinion of most unsponsored reviews). The onboard speaker sounds quite “woolly” and bass-heavy at times, although if you actually use it with a bass guitar, it struggles to cope at louder volumes. You can use an EQ pedal to fix this to a degree, but doing this then prevents you using a modulation effect. It does have the promise of emulations of real world amps and some of these are quite nice, but I think it’s generally a bit hit and miss in this respect. None of the models are horrible though, and all sound decent through the USB output (which is what you will be hearing from most of the Youtube videos).
All of the clever library, cloud, auto-accompaniment stuff they promise is all app based and, IMO, is a bit rubbish. I doubt you would still be using this stuff after a few months. It is, specifically, a practice amp (as is the THR) so you won’t be able to use this practically for rehearsals with a band, or gigging. If you think you might want that at some point, get a Katana.
It’s a decent enough small practice amp but there are better IMO. If you really want the ability to model specific amps then I guess it’s worth considering this over the THR. Personally I would get the THR every time.
As an owner of the Spark 40, I have found it lacking. It seemed to hit all my initial desires, but the reality is that it doesn’t. It is my only guitar amp, and I use it daily, but I am also planning to replace it for Christmas. It just isn’t quite enough anymore, but at least I have a far better idea of what I want now.
- the sound is ok. Not awesome, but acceptable for home practice
- models are ok. Noticeably not as good as my Helix LT, and I rarely use anything now except the cleanest amp model with nothing before or after it. I use the Helix for any modeling now.
- the order of the effects are fixed, and you cannot double any of them
- There was no foot switch - now there is, but it is expensive for what you get.
- There is no effects loop. you can only put external effects on the input
- I have doubts about the 4-inch speaker. It seems to be ok until you compare it to a purpose-built guitar amp or cabinet with a 10 or 12 inch speaker
- the web-based features are not reliably engineered. The chord guessing algorithm is laughable.
- backups require dropbox or publicly sharing on the Positive Grid cloud.
on the good side, it is very portable. I took it on a vacation last year, and with the natural reverb in the hotel room, it sounded pretty nice. It stuffed into a bag without any trouble, and sat unobtrusively in the hotel room.
If I were in the market for a small modeling amp today, I’d give the Yamaha a better look than I did before. I already would have the Katana at the top of my list.
I prefer lots of options, so the Helix makes sense for me. Maybe a small amp head and cabinet with a handful of pedals might make sense for you, so don’t forget that idea as well.