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Polytone MiniBrute 3 and extension cab

Polytone MiniBrute III

3 3 out of 5, based on 1 Review

A great basic sound in a lightweight amp with some puzzling control choices.

25th April 2012

Polytone MiniBrute III by drbob1

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 2 out of 5
  • Features 2 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 3

Polytone sort of wrote the book on lightweight, SS jazz amps starting in the 70s. As more tightly focused offerings have come along, these basic amps have become much more affordable. This review is of a 110w, 112 combo with a 110w, 112 extension cabinet.

Both pieces are cosmetically plain, the combo covered in carpet, the extension in leatherette. Grills are a heavy foam that's become somewhat warped so doesn't fit snugly. Inputs on the combo include high and low volume inputs. There appear to be bass and treble controls for the low input and a single tone knob for the high (all unlabeled, my best guess as to function) and a master volume knob. The extension cab is fan cooled and requires a speaker level signal to function. Both have what appear to be generic, stamped frame 12" speakers although I haven't pulled one out to check for branding.

The basic sound is a warm, clean tone with good overhead. I tested with single coils and humbuckers, and also using an overdrive pedal. I also AB'd with a Roland Jazz Chorus. Clean the JC120 seems to have a bit of an edge volume-wise compared to the two others. Put it down to clearer treble and more sensitive speakers I'd guess. It also has the advantage of a full range of tone controls and reverb and chorus in stereo. Since the extension cab requires a speaker level signal you can't use the Polytone as a wet/dry amp pairing, so no stereo effects.

The two advantages the Polytone has are portability (each cab weighs 28#, so even with both you're significantly less than the JC120) and with distortion. Anyone who's played a JC knows that the distortion sound harsh and unusable, but putting an OCD style distortion in front of it isn't a lot better, unless the treble is turned way down. The Polytone, OTOH is very happy with distortion, and if you don't need the tone to be completely clean, the volume can get up to similar or possibly more than the JC.

For a grab and go jazz guitar, lightweight bass or even a regular electric rig, you could do much worse than the Polytone and now that they've dropped down into the sub-$300 range they make a louder and better alternative to a portable rig than say the Tech 21 PowerEngine or 60w combo.

Edited to add: Played the annual outdoor fundraiser this weekend. 4 guitars, a bass with an SVT full stack, two drum sets, and a monster PA system the like of which you haven't seen since the 80s (speaker stacks 8' high and 8' wide on either side of the stage). I ran a Princeton Reverb using the second speaker output to the extension cab. Filled out the sound with the 12" nicely for more bass than you'd really believe from a PR and ALL the volume I could possibly need with the amp sitting in the sweet spot. Louder than my Pro with JBLs and I could easily carry the two amps, one in each hand!

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