The Joyo MA-10E amplifierHow cool is it to bring your instrument with you when you travel? You could be on a family vacation and entertain your loved ones, or be on a business trip and practise some new material as soon as the meeting adjourns. It’s also common to meet other musicians, no matter where you find yourself in the world. But what happens if you are an electric guitar player? Unless you have some kind of amplification system available, no one will hear you properly! You might want to consider a travel amp, such as the highly portable Joyo MA-10E. With this product, the China based manufacturer has created a cool looking option for travel. Read on to discover if this might become your favourite travelling companion in the near future.

I’ve recorded some sound samples showcasing the MA-10E’s versatility and documented my impressions in this short video.

Portable and versatile

Portable amplifierThe Joyo MA-10E has a really simple design that covers the basics. To remain compact, the manufacturer opted for a 5-inch speaker. It keeps the unit from being bulky and makes it a breeze to carry around. The speaker is a full-frequency unit, which is unusual for a guitar amplifier. This is because Joyo wants you to make full use of the Aux In jack, which lets you plug in your favourite music player via a 1/8th inch jack. There is no individual volume control for this, so you’ll be balancing the levels between your backing tracks and guitar with your player’s volume control.

The MA-10E presents 10 Watts of power and features two channels: clean and overdrive. Both of them share the same controls: a volume, gain, and tone knob. The tone control affects how bright or dark the sound gets, and you’ll be able to find the best setting for your guitar easily thanks to its broad range. The amp is powered by an included adapter, but you can also use 6 x AA batteries for those settings when electricity isn’t available. Joyo promises up to 3 hours of use—a decent amount for such a tall order. There is also a headphone jack for silent late-night practice.

Last but not least, my favourite features are the innovative hidden shoulder strap buckles. There is no handle on the amplifier, but Joyo’s got that covered in an original way. The shoulder strap buckles screw out (you can even use a pick), and you can attach a regular guitar strap to carry the amplifier around. Since it’s under 4 pounds (1.7 kg), the MA-10E is very easy to lug around.

Carry the MA-10E with a strap
Carry the MA-10E with a guitar strap

Good sounding channels

Compared to expensive modelling amps and even most of the company’s products, this one might seem a bit limited. There are no models to choose from and edit; no confusing effect names to get lost in; no obscure knobs that don’t seem to affect the tone. Sometimes that’s a good thing. When I started playing, this is how most affordable amplifiers were set up—no frills and straight to the point. That’s what you get with the MA-10E.

The clean channel is quite usable, providing a high-headroom type of clean, perfect for sparkling pop riffs, chicken picking, and, by rolling some tone off the amp and the guitar, swinging jazz sounds. It’s also quite good when you plug effects into it, so if you have some, make sure you bring them along wherever you’re going. The OD channel has a healthy amount of gain on tap, enabling a wide variety of sounds, going from crunch to soaring high-gain leads.

MA-10E's two channels

Of course, there are some limitations because of the 5-inch speaker. Traditionally, guitarists use 12-inch speakers, or, from time to time, 10-inch variants. This seems to preserve a nice balance between the mid and higher frequencies of the instrument, and a nice bass response. You lose a lot of the low end when you cut down to 5 inches. While the MA-10E sounds good, a more discerning ear might consider it slightly tinny, and possibly even fizzy. Especially if they are used to playing through an oversized 4 x 12 cabinet.

That being said, it’s to be expected from such a small amplifier. I’ve also noticed a volume difference between both channels; the clean channel is noticeably less loud than the overdrive section. This is not a major problem because you probably won’t be in a situation where the volume discrepancy can negatively affect a performance with this amp. I would mitigate the volume differences by simply riding the volume knob appropriately to match things up.

Ideal for travelling, but also for practising

MA-10E's back panelI love the idea of the MA-10E as a travelling amp. It’s very light, easy to carry thanks to the shoulder strap, and, from what I can tell, durable enough if you take care of it. I have different practice setups for travelling, but they all involve headphones and a lot of knob twiddling. Personally, I much prefer having something that emits sound and saves me the trouble of playing through headphones. I suspect a lot of guitarists feel this way, and this Joyo amplifier might be the affordable, portable practice tool they are looking for. There is something very liberating about simply plugging into your amp and rocking out, even if that’s at a gas station in the middle of a road trip.

Joyo MA-10ENewcomers to the guitar might also benefit from buying this model. It’s simple to use, sounds good, and won’t break the bank. It’s a good starting point because it covers the basic guitar tones and won’t distract you with a bunch of bells and whistles. The headphone jack will keep you from disturbing the neighbours, and will additionally give you some privacy for your early development stage. If you outgrow it, you’ll be more developed as a guitarist. Armed with much more playing knowledge, you’ll be able to make an informed choice on the next amplifier. I also suspect that you’ll hang on to it even then, thanks to its portability.

Make sure you take a look at the Joyo MA-10E on BestBuy.ca.