Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Mambo Amp

Since a few weeks I have had the pleasure of playing a demo Mambo 10 Jazz Amp. Mambo Amps are the brain child of Jon Shaw. He was so kind to send one to me for a test drive. Jon has a degree in electronic engineering and designed this very portable yet powerful, high quality amp. They are hand built in the UK.

It was soon clear to me that this is a very special amp. The specs are impressive:

• cabinet size 30cm high by 30cm wide by 25cm deep (approx)
• weight 8 kg
• the loudspeaker is 10inch, 250W rms rated, 97 dB / Watt @ 1 metre sensitivity
• the power amplifier is rated at 180 W rms (continuous sine wave)

Wow. 180 watts at just 8 kilos?

The one I played was wedge shaped so that the speaker is pointing at you when you place it on the ground. A simple but effective concept and I wonder why not more amps are being built like this. This way you don't have to buy a stand that does that trick for you. And the amp looks gorgeous. Most amps are pretty ugly to look at but this one is ... cute somehow.

Mambo amps are specially designed for Jazz Guitar. Some of the benefits are stated as follows:

• very compact and portable with a warm deep tone
• powerful and loud with wide range tone controls
• built in harmonic enhancement and digital reverb
• effects loop for connecting external effects; echo, overdrive, chorus etc.
• direct output (balanced XLR)

Apart from the treble, mid and bass controls on the top panel, the rear panel features two additional switches that enable you to modify the amp's sound. There is a 2 position switch to choose the amp sound: clean or harmonic enhanced and there is a 3 position switch to choose the overall amp tone... deep, normal and bright. I liked the amp best with the 2 position switch at "clean" and the 3 position switch at "deep." The deep setting boosts lows and cuts highs by a few dB. The normal setting is fairly flat (-3dB bandwidth 50 Hz to 10 kHz) and the bright setting boosts the highs and cuts the lows considerably. When using the clean setting, the guitar volume has very little effect on harmonic content and there is more headroom.

I liked the sound best with the treble control rolled off a bit. Very woody and mellow. This is how my ES 175 sounded through it:

And when I plugged in my Tal Farlow it sounded like this:

The harmonic enhancement setting adds a spectrum of harmonics like in valve amps. The idea behind this switch is that the louder you play, the more dynamics are added. This is supposed to make the sound richer and sweeter. It´s very subtle. Anyway, I did not hear much difference at low volume levels.

So does this amp live up to its expectations? O yes. It is easy to get mellow and woody tones from it and it is extremely portable. As a matter of fact, from all the smaller amps the sound/size ratio is the best. No other amp this size sounded so good. Heck, I have played bigger ones that did not sound this good!

I took it to the Crow for a stage test and found out that louder volume settings are no problem for this little amp. You do have to tweak the sound though when the volume goes up. Otherwise it tends to get a bit trebly and boxy. But when you do that and experiment a bit, good sounds are to be had. Still, if you abolutely require lots of headroom, you probably will be more comfortable with a bigger amp or a bigger speaker cabinet. Like all small amps, the Mambo IS a compromise between size and sound. And at this, it does a really impressive job!

To conclude, this is the best sounding small amp I have played so far. It is way smaller than my Polytone (15" speaker) and considerably smaller than the Henriksen Jazz Amp 112 ER (12" speaker) that I tested earlier.  And ... it has the best reverb so far. Way better than the Henriksen and the Polytone. Here's a clip with the three amps side by side. Bear in mind that all of the amps sound better with some tweaking but I decided to record all 3 of them with all eq flat to give you an idea.

Mambo amps are being shipped worldwide. A standard 10" Mambo Amp like the one I tested costs GB£575 (approx €670, US$860). Local import taxes and shipping rates apply of course. Just email Jon for a quote. And do give him my regards!


  1. Great work - hadn't heard of this amp before now.

  2. Hi - Very interesting. I'd never heard of the Mambo - was planning to try a Hendriksen, but will now investigate the Mambo too.
    (I found your blog when I was googling for a review of the Mambo - I think I also saw a clip of yours on Youtube a while ago, where you were playing a Marvin Gaye thing on a L5? I can't find it anymore since Youtube messed around with their interface. I wanted to ask you what backing track you used).

  3. You're one lucky guy. If I sat next to my wife in the main room and started playing when she was knitting, she'd throw me out however good I am! I am banished to the far side of the house, and like you, I certainly don't play loud. Nice site by the way.

  4. Great playing. I checked out your previous review of the Henriksen Jazzamp. Would you say that the Jazzamp sounds better for low volume playing, or the Mambo? Its been my experience that most amps just don't sound as great at low volumes as they do at gigging levels.

  5. Hello!
    Great little amp. Comparing the 3 amps, I liked the Polytone better and the Mambo was a very close challenge.

    Fantastic blog btw

  6. HI guys, i have am mambo amp to sell if you are interested, contact on on
    I'm in the UK. It's a great amp, but i usually use valves so it is not seeing as much use at it should.