At the recent 2005 NAMM Expo, AXL Music was displaying a unique portable amp, the ThinAmp. It’s only 2″ thick, and weighs just five pounds, yet it packs 10 Watts of power, 18 built-in DSP effects, a three-band EQ, and twin speakers. It’s so unique, that it is helping to create a new class of amp.
There are thousands of amps available for musicians to choose from, so it takes something unique to make one stand out. The ThinAmp does just that, by combining a powerful set of effects with one of the most portable amps ever designed.
Comparing it to other amps is difficult. It doesn’t have the body or volume of a full-size amp, or even many portable amps. It’s digital effects are useful, but are not state-of-the-art.
But try and fit any other amp in a laptop bag, and you’ll see that the ThinAmp offers its own unique benefits.
The ThinAmp is remarkably portable. At first glance, it looks a bit like a thick laptop computer. In fact, the ThinAmp comes with a carrying case that’s the size of a laptop computer bag.
While AXL, the makers of the ThinAmp, is targeting it towards guitarists, its size should make it worth consideration by any musician interested in an extremely portable amp. Laptop DJs and producers could pop the ThinAmp and a laptop in one bag, and have a seriously loud portable studio!
The ThinAmp has legs that pop out on the back, so that it can stand up at a convenient angle when in use, and fold down for storage. The case is rugged plastic with a metal front grill and faceplate. It seems rugged enough to stand up to normal abuse.
Controls (left to right):
- DSP Preset Group – selects from four families of effects
- Reverb & Effects levels – adjusts reverb & effects mixes from “dry” to “wet”
- Volume, Gain & Tone levels – standard to most amps
- Four effects knobs – select between four options for each family of effect
- Digital Delay – Level and Time adjustments
- Input & Rec/Phones output – Plugging into this jack disables speaker. This can be used for phones, or to patch the ThinAmp into a mixer or recording device.
- There’s also a tiny panel that hides Aux In & Aux Out conections. You can use this to connect additional devices, like a CD player to practice with.
The knobs and switches are compact, and not very deep. This keeps the ThinAmp thin, and reduces the likelihood that the knobs will get knocked off or broken with use.
AXL nicely includes a laptop-style carrying case and a car adapter. This makes the ThinAmp into an all-around solution for players looking for a very portable amp.
Power connects on the right-hand side and a wall-wart is provided.
Using the ThinAmp
The ThinAmp is fairly easy to use. Just plug in a guitar or other device, adjust the levels and you’re ready to rock.
The effects provided are basic, but useful, and provide a good variety of sounds. By using the Gain & Tone controls along with the effects, many different sound options are available.
We found the effects controls a little confusing at first, because you use one knob to select the DSP Preset Group (Ambience, Vibrato, Flanger & Chorus), one of four knobs to select the specific effect within the DSP Group, and then two knobs to control the effects mix. This could be made easier if the the DSP Preset Group knob was labelled with the effects group name (ie, Ambience) instead of a letter. It might be easier still to just use a 16-position switch to select from the various options.
We tried the ThinAmp with guitar, bassline synth, and laptop. The effects are tailored for guitars, and work well for that. AXL provides suggested settings for various effects in the manual that should help get guitarists off in the right direction.
We also tried the ThinAmp with a bassline synth and laptop. For bass synth use, the effects aren’t as aggressive as we’d like. It’s not surprising, though, since most ThinAmp buyers are likely to be guitarists, playing chords instead of one note.
For laptop use, we found it very useful with the ThinAmp internal effects set to dry. Then we could control everything from the laptop itself. The sound levels and quality blew away the tinny laptop speakers!
The ThinAmp provides 10 W of power. This is enough to be loud, even painfully loud close up. You shouldn’t expect to rock the house with an amp that’s 2″ thick, though. The sound of the ThinAmp reflects its size, strongest in the midrange, and weaker in the bass.
The ThinAmp is a unique type of amp, designed to be a complete portable amp solution. It’s difficult to compare it do other amps and devices, because design decisions obviously had to be made to make it so portable. Because of this, we recommend that interested buyers look at the ThinAmp as an extremely portable amp, instead of trying to compare it to traditional amps. Considered like this, the ThinAmp has little competition.
The Thin amp comes with a nylon carryng case and a car adapter. An optional battery pack is avaiable that lasts up to 3 hours.
- Portable, Convenient Size (Only 2″ Thick!)
- 16 DSP Multi-Effect Settings
- Easy-to-Use Analog Controls
- Lightweight ABS Shell
- Built-In Tilt Back Leg System
- Multi-Function Inputs & Outputs
- Includes Padded Carrying Bag
- Includes Power & Car Adapter
- Rechargeable Battery Pack (Optional)
- External Universal 12VDC Adapter
- Car Cigarette Adapter
- External Rechargeable 12V Battery (optional)
Power Indicator: Blue Diffused LED
Output Power: 10W
Speakers: 2 x 4” Speakers
Rated Load Impedance: 😯
EQ Section: Bass (100Hz) +/- 3dB
Middle (1KHz) -15dB / +3dB
Treble (10KHz) -14dB / +5dB
Digital Audio Effects (16 Presets separated into 4 groups. Effect Level is variable.):
- Chorus with 4 various speeds and Depth
- Flanger with 4 various speeds and Depth
- Vibrato with 4 various speeds
- Ambience (4 Types):
- (THD<0.5%), (<-90dBV) noise voltage
- Adjustable delay time range from 31ms up to 342ms.
Frequency Response: 50Hz~22KHz
Input Jack: 1/4” Phone Jack
REC/Phones: 1/4” Stereo Jack
AUX In/Out: Hidden RCA Jacks for input & output signals
Reverb: Digital (Reverb Level is variable.)
Cabinet Tilt Level: 45º angle with respect to the vertical direction.
Dimensions: 13” (330mm) W x 10.5” (267mm) H x 2.2” (54mm) D
Weight: 5.35lbs. / 2.43Kg