The Spark Mini makes Positive Grid’s acclaimed amp sounds more portable than ever.
The Spark Mini is the latest in Positive Grid’s Spark range of digital modelling practice amps. These are designed to give the player access to a huge variety of emulated amps and effects, covering every imaginable genre and style, and they do that job very well.
I recently reviewed the Positive Grid Spark 40, and came away impressed — there’s still one on the desk in front of me — and the new Mini, despite being significantly smaller, offers up all of the same modelling functionality and app integration. To find out how that side of things works, see: www.soundonsound.com/reviews/positive-grid-spark-40
Crammed into the Mini’s tiny cuboid cabinet are Bluetooth audio, USB‑C audio interfacing, and a built‑in battery. Connect the amp with the app on your mobile device and you can use it as a Bluetooth speaker, and also control the guitar modelling, just as on the Spark 40. On the top of the unit are a jack input for guitar or bass, plus knobs for Guitar level, Music level and Preset selection. The presets are Rhythm, Lead, Solo and Custom, with the last being fully user‑customisable. The rear is where the power button, Bluetooth pairing button, USB‑C port, aux input and 3.5mm output all live.
While the Spark 40 had nine knobs for controlling the virtual amp itself, due to its massively decreased size the Mini only lets you control the master output volume. This isn’t really an issue, though, as you’ll want to do most of your tweaking in the app in order to get the most from the Spark. All the features mentioned in the Spark 40 review are here too, from the customisable patches (now with extra amp models and effects) to the ability to play along with songs from YouTube, and much more. In all there are 39 amps available (six of which are Jimi Hendrix models, which need to be purchased separately) and 48 effects (again with six paid‑for Hendrix models), plus thousands of tones downloadable and searchable from their online library.
The Spark 40 had one main issue: the speakers used in it had a very muffled treble response, and the unit put out a ton of bass. This was fun for bass playing, but not so great for guitar tones. I alleviated this issue a little by blocking the port and putting foam inside the unit, which calmed the bass but didn’t do anything for the muffled treble. I got used to it, though, and added an EQ to every patch I made to boost the treble response.
The Mini is a lot better in the treble stakes, and does away with the ‘rolled‑off’ sound of the 40. The twin two‑inch speakers give stereo sound in a tiny space, and the stereo field is very wide and surround‑like if you are right in front of the Mini, making delay and reverb a joy.
The tiny speakers are backed up by a passive radiator, which extends their bass response to the point where it’s surprisingly good for such a tiny unit, though don’t expect miracles. Passive radiators, like ports, aren’t magic: the energy is still coming from those two‑inch speakers, so a bass guitar patch can make them run out of excursion and start to crackle and distort. In short you’ll need to be careful when fooling with extremely bass‑heavy sounds.
Where the 40 has an excess of bass, then, the Mini is a little light on it, as you’d expect from its size. Me being a bit Goldilocks with speakers, I feel the perfect balance is somewhere in between, but for most patches it will suffice and you’ll not find it lacking. Not having the muffled and rolled‑off tone this time round is great, though I had to remove some of the added treble from my custom patches to compensate. Volume wise, there’s no complaints, with more than enough level on tap.
The Mini’s built‑in battery will give you up to eight hours of playing time when fully charged, and the USB‑C port it charges through doubles as the PSU. This makes it ideal as a small travel device. Some Spark modders did actually add battery packs to the Spark 40 to achieve a similar result, but this is more convenient by far. It’s absolutely ideal for throwing in a tour van, taking on holiday for a writing retreat, and so on.
In conclusion, since I only really use the Spark for desktop guitar playing, I’m going to swap the Spark 40 for a Mini. It’s smaller, more convenient because of the battery, and most importantly it boasts the amazing Positive Grid emulation, which won’t run out of cool options for sounds until long after I’ve run out of ideas myself. Highly recommended!
All the power of Positive Grid’s amp modelling but in a super‑portable package with battery‑powered operation. In some ways it even sounds better than the larger Spark 40.