Once upon a time, you had a guitar, amp, and pedals – a complete guitar universe. Today, there’s a fourth factor to consider – the internet.
Enter the Spark, a standalone amp with built-in models and effects that, once connected to the web via tablet or smartphone app, provides access to thousands of amp and pedal sounds. It can also conjure drum and bass tracks to accompany your playing, morphing into a virtual backing band and practice device.
On its own, Spark is an enclosed 40-watt modeling amp with two 4″ custom-designed speakers and a bass-reflex port. Like many modeling boxes, it has a pre-set selector knob for Crunch, Clean, Bass, and Acoustic models, plus a three-band EQ, and quick-grab effects for Mod, Delay, and Reverb. There’s also a tap-tempo button and pre-set save buttons. It’s a feisty little amp with a clean vintage look. So far, so good.
The world of Spark really opens when you get the app running. It connects to your device with a USB cable or Bluetooth. Suddenly you have access to Positive Grid’s ToneCloud of amp and pedal tones – we’re talking over 10,000 choices. Explore tones for days and never get bored or link the app to your favorite Spotify or Apple Music library and jam to favorite songs. The Spark will even provide chord diagrams for many tracks in real time. Slow the tempo down to make learning easier and add drums. The Spark is a modeling amp with effects, but it’s also a great tool for practicing, learning, and making music.
So what is the Spark, in a nutshell? It’s an Internet-ready interface that will connect your guitar or bass with an online world of sounds and tools. Many of the patches sound good, though they’re still digital models that you’ll likely want to EQ to taste. Also, the Spark is powered by a barrel-plug adapter, so it’s clearly made for home or studio work and not gigging.
The kicker is that for the price of two or three stompboxes, you get a mountain of goodies. Value-wise, the Spark is off the charts. If you want to stick with your proven amp and pedals, that’s fine, but if you’re ready to experiment with a vast matrix of online tools, the Spark is easy and affordable.
This article originally appeared in VG April 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.