When an amazing new product arrives at my house, it gets a lot of attention. After reviewing some 10,000 gadgets over the last 20 years, I know when something stands out. Usually, once I realize a product is cool and innovative, I mention it to random people I know. I show it to family members. I trumpet it on my social media feed. I become a major advocate.
In a bit of irony, a new product called the Positive Grid Spark is quite tiny and easy to overlook. I love how small it is, and more on that in a moment. Suffice it to say, the small box sat unnoticed for a day or two.
I soon fount out, though: the Positive Grid Spark is a guitar amp made for people who love playing guitar. It’s not intended for someone who wants to create a wall of sound on stage, although the 10-watt output is surprisingly robust. The amp weighs only about five pounds.
When I first started using it with a Fender Telecaster American Vintage II (which I am also reviewing, stay tuned on that — no pun intended), I noticed a few things right away. First, the knobs are easy to find and use. You can switch to a solo mode, for example, that creates a more piercing and distinct tone. A preset knob changes the tone further. There’s a volume knob for the guitar and, curiously, one for “music” that controls the input from your phone.
That’s right, this amp is really designed to work with the Spark app, and that’s where the product really starts to shine. I was blown away by how this all works. This is the first time I’ve tested a Positive Grid product, and at $229, I was surprised at how much I liked it for the low price. Right off the bat, I found I could enable distortion, delay, and other effects with a simple button press on the amp. Important to know — this actually works well. The app is amazing to use because it makes a big impact on the sound and mimics an actual effects pedal. I’ve used an app before with guitars where the distortion pedal just adds a grungy backdrop, or the virtual delay effects pedal doesn’t really sound that convincing. Not so here. I was impressed right away.
Then I discovered several other features. There’s a jam mode that is multi-faceted. You can teach the app to learn what you are playing, and it will add a bass, drum, and other instruments as a background track that matches your chords. It’s a blast, and it works. You can also just play a jam session and play the chords shown on the screen. Another mode lets you load a song you like (I found tracks by Paper Kites and The War on Drugs). When you load the song, you can see the chords of the song and play along. Honestly,it all seems quite magical to me. And that is saying something considering how long I’ve been playing guitar and reviewing products.
The Spark works over a Bluetooth connection, which means it doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. There’s a similar product from Roland that is an amp and a Bluetooth speaker, but minus the amazing app. The app also lets you record video of yourself playing along, then share the results on social. It feels a bit like — what can this little amp (and app) not do?
I will mention one little gripe. I have an iPhone 11 Pro and not the “max” version, so at times the chords are hard to see, especially if you are not sitting right next to your phone. I intend to try the app with an iPad but then I know I lose the extreme portability.
Overall, this is an ingenious product. Great sound quality, easy to use, transportable, and an amazing and innovative app. It’s one of my favorite products of the year.