Is the Positive Grid Spark Amp the Most Versatile Amp on the Market?
In this review, we offer 10 reasons why the answer may very well be yes.
Let’s talk about the Positive Grid Spark Amp. More often than not, smart technology in music is notorious for quality issues. Manufacturing malfunctions, user navigation complications (e.g. the overwhelming amount of options), and disappointing tones result in user hesitance, especially for those of us who don’t like to waste time on extra knobs, much less an entire array of sounds that you have to dig into the digital cloud to find. Trust me, I’ve been there—in fact, 99% of the time I’m that guy raising arms at the new world of gear.
That being said, I also love the ability to experiment with sounds that are new to me, practice with ease, and record ideas on the fly without compromising audio quality. This is where smart technology can open up a whole new, albeit scary, world. The desire to practice doesn’t necessarily come easy, so when it does I like to be able to just plug and play without connecting my entire pedalboard and dealing with troubleshooting. As a songwriter, when I practice, the result is often a few ideas for new songs that end up in one (or both) of two places: a folder where ideas go to be forgotten, or my social media pages where they go to be loved on.
Either way, juggling these desires and finding the right balance as a musician takes a long time, and you have to be somewhat advanced to accurately understand and connect all the varying tools. As artists, we’re no longer just musicians anymore; we’re also engineers and content creators, keeping up with the reasons we fell in love with music in the first place.
In the middle of this multifaceted world of music is where the Positive Grid Spark Amp thrives. Weighing just 11.5 pounds and compact enough to carry around your shoulder like a purse or handbag, the 40 Watt Spark Amp is set up to function in an everyday home setting—it’s adaptable and accommodating to whatever mood you may be in. In just the first 30 minutes spent with this amp, we learned that it’s a:
- Traditional 40 Watt Amp: it can be used with its built-in hardware alone, if you’re not ready to open up the app immediately.
- Bluetooth Speaker: literally, you just connect to it via Bluetooth and play music from your phone or computer.
- Audio Interface: included with the packaging is a USB cord with which you can connect the Spark Amp directly into your computer, open up your DAW, and immediately begin recording.
- Video and Audio Recorder Optimized for Socials: you can record quality video and audio direct to the app, which includes the option to upload a backtrack to your recording.
- Electric, Acoustic, and Bass Guitar Amp: the 4″ speakers are capable of outputting a wide range of frequencies.
- Amps/Pedals: The app offers 30 amps and 40 pedals to experiment with. Imagine connecting to that much gear…nevermind, don’t.
- Skill Development platform: within the app, you’ll find a number of options to develop your skill at your own pace, such as Auto Chords technology (yes, the app displays chords for your favorite songs in real time), and tons of backing tracks to play along with.
- Community: Upload your tone creations to the ToneCloud, and download other sounds created by fellow players, artists, and producers. There are over 10,000 available and counting.
- Tuner: the amp includes a built-in tuner.
- Metronome: the app features a metronome to practice along with (I was perhaps overly thrilled about this).
This long list of possibilities may feel overwhelming already, but it’s important to remember that all of the above was discovered in less than 30 minutes. The manual alone is a single two-sided page, which to us meant that the Spark Amp is:
- Built with the most intuitive and user-friendly navigation in mind.
- Built to promote experimentation, and optimized for option-based learning.
In other words, the Spark Amp doesn’t assume you’re any one type of player; rather, it provides the necessary tools for you to move at your own pace. This, in particular, is what (in our opinion) truly sets the Spark Amp apart.
As mentioned in our gear review, the options begin as soon as you plug in your electric, acoustic, or bass guitar. Do you want to utilize the rainbow of sounds available with the Spark Amp hardware alone, or do you want to dive deeper into new tones with the app?
Something I really appreciate about the provided sounds is that the Spark Amp doesn’t claim to imitate any pre-existing amps or pedals; instead, it simply offers a wide range of customizable tones, powered by Positive Grid’s highly praised BIAS tone engine. On the hardware, adjusting the “mod” knob affects the sound of the channel you’re in. The delay and reverb built into the amp can also be adjusted at any time and offer a really spacey sound when cranked to 10. Take a tour of the built-in Spark Amp tones here.
Once connected to the amp via Bluetooth, you can visit additional amp tones and pedals, as well as adjust each knob on the app itself, keeping in mind that anything you do in the app will sync with the amp.
Like I said earlier, to be a musician these days means to be an entire creative team, and so having all of the tools you need in one place is what the Spark Amp app provides. It’s really important to find the flow that works best for you, which you can do by downloading the app here (no sign up required). You’ll find options such as:
- Experimenting with endless sounds and tones.
- The ability to import your music from Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube, and learn or follow along to your favorite songs with Auto Chords technology.
- The Smart Jam function, which listens to your riffs and provides drum and bass accompaniment, allows you to practice solos, or just jam right along.
- Record and distribute video straight from the app.
- Keep your recordings and your progress organized.
Another not-to-be-expected feature of this tiny 40 Watt amp is it’s potential to get loud while also balancing frequencies. I’ve used this both as a Bluetooth speaker and an amp without going past volume level four—if you have any doubts, rest assured it’s loud yet crisp!
The audio interface capability of the Spark Amp is one of our favorites, truly making it an incredible tool for musicians and producers on a budget, and a great resource for idea development.
Typically, for audio recording, you need an interface that ranges from $100 and beyond in price. The USB cord that comes with the Spark Amp allows you to just plug into your computer and open up any DAW such as GarageBand, Ableton, or the free copy of PreSonus Studio One Prime recording software that your purchase comes with.
All of the guitar sounds in our gear review were recorded using the Spark Amp interface process, so you can listen to the quality of the recording for yourself.
Troubleshooting note: if you experience latency, lower the buffer size in your DAW until the latency is gone.
Is the Spark Amp worth it?
We’ll let you make that call for yourself; however, what we will say is that for $299.00 (plus a 20% off New Year promotion) you’ll receive every essential necessary to maintain your practice routine while exploring your soundscape curiosities and evolving as a creator and songwriter. In our opinion, there’s almost no going wrong with the Positive Grid Spark Amp.