The Wangs Mini 5

Discussion in 'Amp-a-ridifiers' started by duceditor, May 10, 2018.

  1. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    I started a new thread here because this amp, and my discovery of it capabilities, will I think deserve a lot of words. It is truly something else.

    Something else, first off, from my expectations.

    Now saying that sounds negative. Its not. Anything but. Let me explain...

    My sole experience with a small tube amp is that of a `50s era, Champ circuit, type. That amp was basically a simple "student" grade one. (There are folks here who can explain this with much greater understanding than my own. And I welcome them to join in.)

    Again that sounds like a negative, but its not. Those amps were meant to be used at very moderate volume -- and their fame is based on the wonderful stuff that happens when you don't; when you drive them really, really hard. They distort like mad -- but in a very musical sense. Creamy smooth. Electric whip cream if you will.

    Just think Clapton's guitar in Layla. Simply wonderful.

    Okay, that was my expectation for the Mini 5. That'd it'd be a Champ but with great tonal flexibility;ity. It is NOT.

    What it is is a technically low power (5 watt) amp, that does what a much larger (yes MUCH)) and more expensive (yes, MUCH) amp does. It is articulate in the way that a Twin Reverb is. Every inflection of one's playing comes through.

    You can flavor those inflections in a large number of ways. Warm. Rich. Full. Thin. Bright. Mid-range rich. But it will always remain articulate. This amp ain't whip cream. It is the bull that chased the cow and you out of the pasture.

    I just had a session trying to use it in different ways. First turned up loud. Tube glowing hot. I had the speaker soak down to one. It was still pretty loud. But it was almost as articulate as when the soak was at ten and the amp was a one or two. More "gritty," yes. But every nuance of my playing still showed through.

    That explains why there is a choice of two rectifiers. Choose solid state and there is no evidence at all that this is a low output amp. It is totally quiet and VERY loud. Go over to the tube rectifier and then there is some feeling of the amp being driven. Some "oh, stop asking so much of me" compression. But only some. Pick softly an you will never experience it. Demand a lot and it'll show itself. Again there's that word -- articulation.

    Want "creamy"? Want a lot of distortion? Then with the Mini 5 you'll have to do what you do with any other "big" amp -- use pedals.

    Some weeks back someone here asked for a small amp that has the sound of a Twin Reverb. I (and others) with great authority said "Nope!." In fact there is. Well, almost. The Mini 5 is it.

    When Wangs (and independent reviewers) said this is a "boutique" amp they were't speaking advertising hype. It really, really is.

    The Mini 5 is a small amp (really small!) that does what no small amp is supposed to do. It truly sounds big. And not a synthesized 'big." Not a little amp faking it. No -- a truly big amp that just happens to have been made small.

    Here's mine. Cookin' hard.


    Wangs Mini 5 1.jpg


    More to follow.

    -don
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
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  2. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Squier-Nut

    534
    Feb 16, 2018
    North Central NC
    Following what follows...
     
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  3. nobucks

    nobucks Squier-Meister

    Age:
    50
    485
    Mar 9, 2017
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Great review, Don! I look forward to hearing some samples from it...maybe another rendition of "On and On," only, do a shoot-out between the Gibson and the Epiphone... ;)
     
  4. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    Unless I use pedals it'd be very clean with either of those guitars.

    I'm thinking, though, of trying the HB-equipped ES-Artist through it next. I somehow think that is going to sound fantastic!

    Oh, as likely will one of my offsets -- for surf! How unexpected is that?

    -don
     
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  5. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    I sent a slightly abbreviated/modified version of my initial [post to Wangs Amps. Just got the following response...


    From Wangs.JPG

    -don
     
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  6. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Squier-Nut

    534
    Feb 16, 2018
    North Central NC
    I don't suppose they supplied a schematic with it... I'd sure like to see the specifics.
     
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  7. wickedtools

    wickedtools Squier-holic

    May 16, 2010
    west texas
    Sweet, will have to be in the lookout :) HNAD :)
     
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  8. surfrodguitar

    surfrodguitar Squier-holic

    Aug 4, 2016
    Laguna Niguel
    Wow, well your review makes me want one!
     
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  9. Luvs2yoko

    Luvs2yoko Squier-holic

    Jan 19, 2014
    Pa
    Could Don be colluding with the Wangs to influence our purchasing habits? No, but I'm pretty sure I'll never get to use the phrase colluding with the Wangs again.
     
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  10. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    No. (Rats!)

    I'd love to here the hows and whys from knowledgeable guys here.

    Even things like how the tubes are used. There are (as seen below) 2 12AX7s. But the info on the lower right suggests that one is only used half in the preamp stage, and the other half is used, along with the 12BH7, in the power stage. Is that sort of tube use common in guitars amps? (Or at all for that matter)

    wangs mini5.JPG

    Two, how is the warm and bright settings accomplished? A different tone stack? (Is that the correct phrase?) or just a switched modification of settings?

    I've yet to fully explore this amp, or to find its place in my working systems. But already I am SO impressed with its capability. Its hugeness.

    Oh.... maybe the box is really empty and it is just magic. :D

    -don
     
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  11. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Squier-Nut

    534
    Feb 16, 2018
    North Central NC
    McIntosh MC30s use only 1/2 of the first 12AX7, as an example. It's certainly common to see them used in a variety of ways, since they're actually two triodes in one package.
     
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  12. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    Nah. Wouldn't think of it! :D


    Wangs 3.JPG


    Wangs 2.JPG |


    wangs 4.JPG

    Just teasing here of course. I have no relationship whatever with Wangs Amps. Just an amazement with what I've seen that I wanted to express to and about them, and that the company responded too. :)


    -don
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2018
  13. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    Okay, just had another nice session using the Mini 5. This time with an HB-equipped guitar. My 1980 Gibson ES-Artist.

    ES-Artist 1.jpg

    Working with the amp yesterday I started hearing possibilities that panned out today just as expected. The key to this is the marvelous articulation of the Mini 5 amp. -Its ability to hold onto the complex harmonics of a humbucker without going mushy -- and this even with the amp set to 10.

    Playing with various ways to get the most from the amp -- the 2nd and 3rd string high register glissandos, for instance, written into the instrumental break of On and On remaining sweet, without losing the 5th and 6th string drive that surrounds them. The amp carries these beautifully. Something I struggled with ever since I left off using a Tele for the song. (It was written on a Tele)

    In the end I left the neck PUP in full HB mode but dropped one of the two coils on the bridge PUP.

    Once I found the sweet spot tonally I tried each of the rectifier modes and settled, for this song (at least for now) on the tube type. Its compression helped the upper lead bends (and, again, that glissando) stay sweet without becoming overly bright or brittle -- a tonal challenge I struggled with for some time.

    This is just day one however. Nothing is written in stone.

    Tools, tools, tools. Like brushes to a painter layering on the colors with subtlety and grace.

    -don

    Final amp settings end Day 1 -- "On and On" - ES-Artist with bridge coil 'tapped.'

    (as much for my records as anything) ;)


    Settings - On and On - ES-Artist bridge w coil tapped.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2018
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  14. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Squier-Nut

    534
    Feb 16, 2018
    North Central NC
    I'd love to hear some brief clips if you get time.
     
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  15. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    I will be happy to once I settle in to a sound. Sometimes I think I am there and then the next day I listen and it just doesn't please me.

    No problem though. No "rush." No impatient producer. No frustrated engineer. Not even any band members anxious to get to the pub. Ah, retirement! :D

    -don
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2018
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  16. Undone

    Undone Squier-Meister

    Age:
    50
    231
    Feb 13, 2018
    Virginia
    I wonder how they compare to the Monoprice/Stage Right 15 besides the obvious wattage difference? ;)
     
  17. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    One would have to do a head to head to know. But apart from the fact that both are moderately priced for what they are tube amps I see little similar about them.

    The Mini 5 is just a head, the Monoprice is an entire combo with reverb. One, I expect, is a standard design, straight-froward, amp, the other what is known as a "boutique" amp, both in unique design and point by point wired construction with supposedly high spec individual components..

    I've heard good things about the Monoprice. And it is a lot of amp for the money.

    The Mini is the later too, but rather I expect a very different thing and nowhere near competitive price wise. To use it one needs a speaker cabinet, and if one wants reverb that too.

    Still I one is looking it is nice to have such choices! :)

    -don

    PS - Wangs does make an amp with somewhat similar general parameters as the Monoprice. But it, again, is rather a different beast when one looks deeper. It is the VT-18
     
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  18. Treynor

    Treynor Squier-holic

    Jun 22, 2016
    Terra Firma
    Enjoying learning more about this amp...tuned in.
     
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  19. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    71
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    One wonderful possibility that exists when we get new gear is that it inspires us and, just occasionally, leads us up a different road. That is what is happening to me with the Wangs Mini 5.

    As I've posted here before over the years I started off as a Gibson guy. When our son was born Jan and I, looking at what the rock scene was becoming, bowed out. I sold all my electrics (and Jan her organ) and we went acoustic. But in 1988 when our son went off to college we went electric again (No risk now of our corrupting him. At college he could corrupt himself!) :D and my first "reentry" guitar was a Gibson Les Paul.

    That was one of my two main axes for a good decade (the other was a Tele) but in time I gravitated away from humbucker guitars. Fender types became my thing, and then P90 models.

    These with an overdriven small amp became my main rock voices, and offsets with a clean amp my other -- for surf.

    Anyhow the Mini 5 is opening my humbucker thing again. That because it is just so articulate -- all the complexities of the harmonics come through with no mud.

    Yesterday I worked with an ES, but today I picked up that old `88 Paul, and... wow did it speak!

    This one...

    My `88 Les Paul.jpg

    The reason the `88 is so sweet is because back then the PUPS were truly overwound. 490 and 495 models? I never knew or cared back then, but that is I think what I've since learned. Andf what had made me lose interest was that mud. It was either that or sterile clean.

    Not so with the Mini 5. That with no overdrive provides rich sonarities. Clear and ringing, but fill of character.

    So much so that finding an "it" tone took just minutes. And that for a song -- the one that I've shared here -- that in the past could only sound and feel right to me with hard overdrive. Fascinating!

    That catch is the 'Paul's weight. My back starte d hurting in ten minuets or so. And still hurts now and hour later. (No, I didn't stop. The musical moment was just too magical!)

    When the back pain finally got too severe I put down the Paul and picked up the SG. It, too, has HBs, but they are `57 Classics -- not over wound. And while they sounded "nice" the true magic was not there with them.

    Jan saw and heard what was happening and said that I'd have to find away around the 'Paul's weight. Maybe, she thought, a back brace of some sort. I'll have to look into that.

    What a wonderful musical surprise! :)

    -don
     
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  20. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Squier-Nut

    534
    Feb 16, 2018
    North Central NC
    You didn't happen to catch it on your cell phone, did you? :)