IN THE PANTHEON OF GREAT ROCK tones, the sound of a P-Bass driven through an Ampeg is high on the list of all-time classics. Whether it’s the creamy bump of a B-15 combo or the napalm spew of an SVT in heat, there is no mistaking the signature tone the company has forged over its long history: warm, round, and full-bodied. In times past, to enjoy the SVT grind at home you had to crank it to levels that would certainly bring law enforcement to your doorstep. Ampeg’s first attempt at “Honey I Shrunk the Rig” was the 200-watt Micro-VR stack, which gained many fans for studio use and small club work; I initially had to wonder if a smaller version (100 watts) would be of any use. But once I pulled the adorable little feller out of its box and plugged in, I discovered that this “Mini Me” is packing some heat of its own.
The Micro-CL has black Tolex, black speaker grilles with white piping, and a black faceplate, just like its big brother, the SVT-CL. The full-size model is a bone-crushing 300-watt all-tube head, while the Micro-CL provides a modest 100 watts of solid-state power. The Micro’s control panel has two inputs— one for passive basses, and one with a 15dB pad for active instruments. With just a master volume control and treble, mid, and bass controls for tone shaping, it couldn’t get much simpler. There is an aux input with its own level control, so it’s easy to port in your favorite sound source through the r” mini jack. The speaker output is muted when you plug into the headphone jack, making the Mini Fridge a convenient partner for silent practice. The unbalanced line out and effect loop give you several ways to connect to the outside world; the single speaker output uses a ¼” plug.
The supplied 2x10 cab is rated for 100 watts at 8 ohms, and matches up with the head’s output perfectly. While the Micro-CL head can be used with any 8-ohm cab, after several experiments, I found that the stack’s native 2x10 gives the most Ampeg-like tone. Its slim, vertical design makes it a snap to carry, and the small footprint means it will fit easily in a cramped apartment, or coffee house stage.
The Micro-CL stack is purposed for home use—the size, volume, and auxiliary features all point to use as a diminutive practice rig. In all, the Micro-CL does that very well. But this little pony has championship bloodlines, and it was hard to resist the temptation to push it to the limit. Keeping the volume below 3 produces a clean sound with the distinct markings Ampeg is known for. The tone controls are voiced with the classic Ampeg palette in mind, and it’s easy to shape the output from a chocolate-y punch to in-your-face edge. Rolling the volume up above 4, saturation starts creeping in—the tone gets brown and crusty around the edges first, but quickly flames out once you go above the 12 o’clock position. I won’t lie, it’s a total blast to crank it up and get that quintessential overdrive tone at a volume level that won’t raise the ire of my HOA. But beyond pure fun, I immediately saw the value for recording situations, and began to wonder if this Munchkin could make it all the way to Oz.
I brought the Micro-CL stack first to a gig with two acoustic guitarists (both amplified) in a 150-seat room. Without drums, the amp did a splendid job—the tone was right, and the output level was perfectly matched to the task. Next, I decided to throw it into a higher volume setting to see how it held up. At a livingroom rock rehearsal with a drummer I affectionately refer to as “Bigfoot,” and a guitarist running through a 15- watt Fender Champ, the Micro-CL got pushed into saturation, but easily kept pace. The amp behaved dynamically, letting me use my touch to control the tone—just like the big boy it was modeled after. I have no illusions as to how this amp would fare on a balls-out rock gig, but for rehearsal levels, it did an admirable job. The amp functions well, but after a few weeks of pushing the crap out of it, the cabinet did develop some anonymous buzzes. Of course, once you take the amp into the red zone, they magically disappear.
While best suited for home practice or recording, the Micro-CL stack does a good job in small live settings, and provides the unmistakable Ampeg tone in a tiny package.
MICR - CL STACK
Bottom line Like Spinal Tap’s famed stage prop, the mini Micro-CL is susceptible to trampling by dwarfs. But this diminutive monument to the iconic Ampeg SVT stays true to its pedigree, delivering clean, balanced bottom end at low volume and sweet, saturated sounds when pushed beyond the pale.
MICRO - CL
Amp type Solid-state
Power output 100 watts @ 8Ω
Controls MASTER, BASS (±11db @ 50Hz) MID (±11db @ 600Hz), TREBLE (±13db @ 6kHz), AUX LEVEL
Inputs Passive (0dB), Active (–15dB), r" aux
Outputs q" speaker out, q" line out (unbalanced), r" headphone out, q" effects send and return
Dimensions 7" x 12.2" x 10"
Weight 13.8 lbs
Made in China
Speakers 2 x 10"
Power handling 100 watts @ 8 ohms
Dimensions 24" x 13" x 11"
Weight 33 lbs
Made in China