The Spark Amp by Positive Grid is one of the most reviewed and liked desktop amplifiers on the market. Almost everyone agrees this practice amp has some game-changing features for beginners. It is even possible that some players, just starting to learn guitar, might use this as their only amp for years. It is 40 watts (stereo) with two 4-inch speakers.
I didn’t need another amp or even another practice amp. I currently have three guitar amplifiers. One of them is a 15-year old modeling, practice amp from Vox with a single 5-inch speaker and a maximum of 10 watts. But I got caught up in the hype and ordered a Spark directly from Positive Grid. The main feature I was interested in was build-in Bluetooth connectivity to stream backing tracks or tunes I was attempting to learn. The portability of the amp should have been another factor but wasn’t.
Although I am always trying to learn how to be a better guitarists, I am not a beginner. I have been playing for 60 years. The Spark’s ability to listen to a tune and figure out the chords sounds interesting but when it managed to show me chords, they were not the ones I would have chosen. I prefer the Real Book chords for jazz standards or the iReal Pro app which can show me the same Real Book chords on my phone or computer.
The Amp and pedal modeling and tweaking is something that will appeal to many guitarists. You can choose from the typical assortment of amps from clean to high gain plus bass and acoustic amps. Pedals include a noise gate, compressor, drive, modulation, and echo, most with several different models and a bunch of settings that can be customized. But, my preferences are a fairly clean sound with little or no overdrive and just a hint of reverb when playing in a small space. I had difficulty finding more than three amp models that I could tweak to get a sound I thought acceptable. For me, none of the tones were great.
The amp has fairly typical knobs that you would find on any combo or head for physically adjusting the settings without using an app. However, the app is essential to set your tone beyond a limited range. This is typical for the current generation of desktop amps. Sometimes I just want to turn on the amp and change a few settings without pulling out my phone. I couldn’t get a an acceptable tone without the app.
The iPhone app (also available for iPad, android phones and android tablets) creates a virtual amp head and effect chain you can visually explore from your phone or tablet. Although it is similar to the Positive Grid Bias FX 2 app for phones and tablets, the Spark is missing features available on Bias FX 2. For example the Bias app allows you to select the cabinet to go with your virtual amp head. This is not possible on the Spark amp app.
Regarding portability: I am into small, compact, lightweight equipment now that I am retired. I sold my tube amp (Fender Princeton Reverb) over five years ago. The Spark was actually larger than my Vox DA5, ZT Lunchbox and even my Quilter 101 mini head, although if I include the cabinet the Spark and Quilter are probably close in size. In other words, the Spark is not large but it is bigger (or as big as) any of my current amplifiers.
My biggest complaint is the tone. The cabinet is too bass-y. The Spark has a typical 3-knob EQ section and I had to set the bass to 0 to get the tone close to where I wanted it. Even then, it wasn’t great. I found many others who have found the same thing in online reviews. Somehow I missed these comments before I ordered the amp.
Positive Grid has a thirty-day return policy (you will have to pay for return shipping). I tried to like the Spark. You might love it. But, after more than a week of playing with it, I requested a refund. The amp has been shipped back to Positive Grid.
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