The Smokey Amp is the worlds cheapest guitar combo amp that's actually worth something. It runs a whopping $25. I don't know how much power the amp puts out, but my guess would be around .5 watts or less. It has a built in 2" speaker that is about as low-fi as it gets. Oh yeah, it comes in your choice of cigarette pack, I got a Marlboro... There's an input and an output (which bypasses the internal speaker). That's it. No volume or tone controls, no fancy gimmicks.

That in itself is nice to know, eh? Now, the real point is, why does this thing kick ass? As you probably gather, this is about the crappiest setup you could play through and has probaly less than $5 in parts. While this would make for a rather crappy audio amplifier, in the guitar world, low-fi is where it's at. Back in the day, all distorted guitar sounds were done the old fashioned way, by overdriving an amplifier. No fancy stomp boxes or pedals, just an amp struggling for it's life and clipping like crazy, producing distortion.

Now here's where it get's tricky. A big, powerful amp is better able to drive speakers cleanly. The more powerful your amp is, in general, the louder you have to turn it up to get it to distort. My main amp is a Fender Pro Junior, with a whopping 25 watts. It is the loudest 25 watt amp I have ever heard, which presents a bit of a problem. To get it to distort, I have to crank up the volume to about 6. At this level, it's about 30 times louder than I can get away with in an apartment. Now, it works great playing with a band where we can crank it up, but not at home. The key to getting distortion wthout pedals at home is...a tiny amp!

That's where the Smokey Amp comes in. It's so tiny, it distorts like crazy. Plug a guitar into it, and it's about impossible to get a clean sound while having it loud enough to be audible. Crank it up and play, and the poor little 2" speaker distorts like mad and begins jumping around in death throes. Now this in itself is amusing, and quite good for late night jamming, but that's not really where it shines. What it really does well is power an external speaker (cabinet). According to the manufacturer, it can power a 4x12" cab. Never tried it, but I have tried with a single 12" cabinet. Nice. It's got plenty of balls to power a 12" speaker, and it's got a great distortion that is very unique. So good, I'd be tempted to mike the output if I ever actually formed a band and we had gigs...

Now, you can also use it as an input/fuzzbox to a regular amp or combo, but I'm not sure how good that is for the other amp not to mention it's so insanely loud it will drive you crazy. Maybe if you have a small amp... But overall, if you want to pay around with natural distortion without a lot of dough, this thing and a cheap 1x12" cab will do the trick nicely. Plus, for $25, it's worth it just to play through it for your friends to see the reaction on their face.

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