One great way to get started learning guitar or adapting your current practice routine to be roommate friendly, is to look into mini amplifiers.
There are more options for mini amplifiers coming out every year and they are continuing to get more and more versatile.
Case and point: the Flatsons FGA-3.
It shares a nearly identical design to the Blackstar FLY3 mini amp that I reviewed a few weeks ago. At first, I was a little discouraged, thinking that I would be repeating myself in this review, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are some noticeable differences (and improvements) between these two little amps.
I may just need to do a comparison video, but for now let’s take an in depth look at the Flatsons FGA-3 mini amplifiers.
Flatsons FGA-3 Spec Summary
- 3 Watt Solid State Output Power
- 2 Channels (Clean/Distortion)
- Onboard Delay Effect
- Runs 9V adapter, USB or 6 AA batteries
- 3” Speaker
- AUX compatible
- Headphone Out
An easy to use and sonically satisfying mini amp.Davis Wilton Bader
As with the Blackstar, I’ll start with the glaring shortcoming of this amp: the speaker. The Flatsons FGA-3 shares the same small speaker design that 99% of all mini amplifiers share, and it doesn’t do the amp justice. There’s just no feasible way for a 3” speaker to deliver the bass frequencies required to make an amp sound enjoyable to play through.
It doesn’t have the capability for an extension cab, like the Blackstar does, but I don’t see this as an issue because it’s a pretty unusable feature. There are ways to make it sound bigger, like using the headphone out jack to connect to a PA speaker.
I did this by using my line 6 Helix paired with the Powercab 112 Plus, however, that is a rather intricate signal flow and defeats the purpose of buying this amp. The simplest and most practical way to listen to the FGA-3 is through a decent pair of headphones.
Because I want to give this amplifier all due respect, my review will be based on the tones that I hear through a pair of Sennheiser HD 201S over-ear headphones.
Controls and Effects
The FGA-3 has an easy to understand control panel that will be great for beginners trying to learn tone controls. The text is easily read. The knobs have a good contour for easy grip and have an orange line to show you where your settings are. Let’s see what they do.
The Flatsons FGA-3 has two channels (Amazon currently notes 3, but this is inaccurate), a clean channel and a distortion channel. Both utilize the same Gain and Level controls that you’ll use to shape the overall distortion of your signal. The channels are switched by a small push button on the control panel.
Compared to the ISF controls on the similarly built Blackstar FLY3, this tone control is much more intuitive in its design. As you add more tone, the high and mid-range frequencies get added in. All the way to the left is a warm, round tone with shelfed off high end and to the right adds treble and mids. I found that I preferred the tone control set to about 9:00, as this gave me a pretty fat tone. Moving the dial much further than that starts to introduce some shrill frequencies that I didn’t prefer.
The onboard delay effect is a cool one to have in theory. In execution, however, the delay is the second aspect of the amp that is especially lacking. It is borderline unusable, as the delay tone just sound like a buzz that neither accurately or charismatically repeats your signal. I was only able to get a somewhat usable setting out of it in the form of slapback delay, where it is more of a textural or doubling effect than anything else.
The power options are where this amp excels in design. You have the choice of either 6xAA batteries, 9V adaptor, or USB powering. Battery power is always great, as it means you can take this out of the house with you and still use it, maybe in the car or outside. For the sake of limiting the number of cables in my office, I very much enjoyed the option for USB power.
I was able to get a satisfying clean tone using a Telecaster electric guitar, with the Gain at 10:00, Volume at 4:00, and Tone at 8:00. As with most solid state guitar amplifiers, the responsiveness is a little flat compared to traditional tube amps, but I still enjoyed this tone. It has ample low end and a warm, round midrange. Crank the Gain to 2:00, Volume back to 12:00, and you have yourself a solid rhythm crunch sound. I was pleasantly surprised with the clean tones I could get out of this little amp.
Just by pressing the channel button in and keeping the same settings I used for the “rhythm crunch” tone above, you are thrown into a great heavy gain rhythm tone reminiscent of 80’s metal tones. I preferred to roll the tone control all the way off with my telecaster. Dime the gain and add just a touch of delay (Delay Level at 10:00, Time at 7-8:00) for a convincing slapback or doubling effect to give yourself heavy lead tones.
As a Practice Amplifier
Much like the Blackstar Fly 3, I could see this being a great practice amp for the novice or professional alike. Being able to practice with headphones is an invaluable resource. I feel more comfortable practicing this way, as my roommates won’t hear me working on the same riffs for hours on end. The fact that the tone is pleasing through headphones is a relief, because the speaker tone almost scared me off.
I think mini amplifiers in general are an excellent option for parents that are being asked by their kids to buy them electric guitars. If you are worried about the noise of a budding Rocker blaring through the household, this is a great solution.
Just give them a pair of headphones and this amp will give them enough variety to keep them engaged. A new student can also plug in their phone or MP3 player and jam along to their favorite songs. This is sort of like the modern-day equivalent of jamming along to a record player and I am all here for it!
Pros & Cons
✔️ Affordable Price Point
✔️ Good Tones Through Headphones
✔️ Easy to Use
✔️ Multiple Power Options
✔️ MP3 Compatible
❌ Poor Built-In Speaker
❌ Limited Uses for Delay Effect
❌ Not Practical for Live Use
Final Thoughts On the Flatsons FGA-3 Mini Amplifier
The Flatsons FGA-3 is an easy to use and sonically satisfying mini amplifier that makes it a worthy competitor compared to other amps in its class. Though its design is hardly original, the quality of tone and practicality make it a great option for practicing.
I don’t think that anyone buys these amps with the intention of live use, but it would still make a great road companion. If you are realistic about the amp’s potential, it will serve as a cheap and fun practice tool.
If you are looking for an affordable amp to keep in the office during your isolation and for the days beyond, this is an amplifier definitely worth considering.
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.