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Boss MG10 Practice Amp

WE ALL KNOW BOSS as the company who make fascinating little boxes that produce weird and wonderful sounds when jumped upon. Well, here's another fascinating little box, albeit one that can't really be jumped upon. In fact, even sitting on it might be a problem.

The box in question is the exquisitely named MG10, an extremely portable practice amp that measures just 13" X 10" X 7". In keeping with their other products, the Boss MG10 has a tidy design, and does seem pretty solid for its size. The unit appears to be made of dense chipboard and is covered in smart black PVC. Plastic protectors are mounted on each corner, and a carrying handle is mounted on top. This handle has a fair amount of slack in it and does allow you to get your hand underneath it. This might not seem important, but the handle on the Marshall practice amp I own is mounted so tightly, I can barely squeeze my fingernails under it: I end up having to carry it like a baby (the amp, that is). Anyway, you get the picture - a good handle. The tasty little package is completed by the familiar Boss nameplate mounted on the speaker grille.

The fruits of your musical labour emanate from the MG10 via two 3½" speakers mounted side by side. The use of two small speakers as opposed to a larger single one allows the unit to maintain its portability, but it also has another advantage. Using a single 8" speaker, for example, may be more standard practice, but then the low power of the amp may not "drive" the speaker sufficiently to obtain the best from it.

The MG10 sports an impressive array of controls for such a petite creature. The control panel features three volume controls (gain, volume and master volume), a three-band EQ section (bass, middle and treble), and a presence control. When I were a lad you could count yourself lucky if you got any further than volume and tone. (Them was bad days, but we was 'appy.) There's just a single input socket and a headphone socket to ensure harmonious relations with your neighbours. The on/off switch is also situated on the front panel, with a light indicating its status.

Given the numerous settings available, when putting the amp through its paces I kept my Strat on the middle pickup selector position (ie. bog-standard, inoffensive), so I could let the amp do the hard work. It was soon evident that the EQ section was a bit of a find. Starting off on a clean sound, the tone controls were all pleasantly responsive, the middle control being particularly impressive - as well as adding some midrange punch it also proved its worth when turned right down, giving a good hollow sound, well useful for funk-attacks.

With the bass control full up, lower-register notes did begin to break up at relatively low levels, but this seems to happen with most small amps and can be seen as something of an occupational hazard. In the absence of a reverb unit, the presence control is a welcome addition and I personally felt the MG10 was at its best when this was at top whack.

Fancy a bit of dirt? The MG10 is fully equipped to "kick some ass", too. As well as the flexibility of the volume, gain and master volume controls, the Boss also features a "warp" (?) setting, activated by pulling the bass pot. Downing a crate of Special Brew, donning some leopard-skin strides and grimacing profusely, I became 'Spud' Digby, axe-hero extraordinaire and general corruptor of youth. The MG10 lived up to my "warped" ambitions, and produced some pretty heavy distortion. With the gain, volume and warp turned to maximum, the ensuing racket was mighty impressive, if totally uncultured. The warp feature adds a bit more bite to the sound, although why it is featured as part of the bass control is a bit of a mystery, because it enhances the treble, coaxing some more distortion from the amp and giving a much more "forward" tone. The effect works well enough, but Roland (the Boss parent company) obviously don't have Lawrence Logic on the design team.

The sustain on the distorted settings compares favourably with that of other amps of similar size, although it should be stated that the distortion is very metallic, doesn't sparkle with rich harmonics, and lacks any real warmth. This amp will not produce that BB King tone on tap, but there again, I've never played a tranny practice amp that will. With the master volume control about halfway up there was a fair degree of background noise too, although the amp is pretty loud anyway. This will only be a problem if you're playing soft pieces.

An encouraging sign is that I ended up testing the MG10 for much longer than I intended, due to the numerous tone variations available and because, well, I was quite enjoying myself. Like all practice amps it has obviously been designed for a limited purpose - it cannot be run on batteries and doesn't feature an effects loop circuit - but it more than matches up to the competition. It offers a lot of tonal variety, and the speakers have a punch and projection that's disguised by their appearance.

At less than £60 it won't break the bank, and although the MG may be a midget, it's got a big and impressive voice.


INFO: Roland UK, (Contact Details)

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Small is Beautiful

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Phaze 1 - Apr 1989


Gear in this article:

Amplifier (Combo) > Boss > MG10

Review by Michael Leonard

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> Small is Beautiful

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> Fender "Special" Telecaster

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