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Why We Made Spark MINI: Q&A with Product Design Director, Ethan Lu

Why We Made Spark MINI: Q&A with Product Design Director, Ethan Lu

It’s true that Spark MINI delivers innovative smart guitar playing to go with impressively big, multi-dimensional sound. But the idea behind the amp is relatively simple: We want to give you the freedom to play more, wherever you are. And there’s no one better to explain the “why” behind MINI than one of its main designers, Ethan Lu. We hope you enjoy this Q&A and insight into all things Spark MINI.

Learn more about Spark MINI at positivegrid.com/spark-mini.

What is the inspiration behind Spark MINI?

The very first concept came as a result of those endless Zoom meetings during the early part of the pandemic.

I spoke with my co-workers, and it turns out many of us actually picked up a guitar during those calls (muted of course!), or in between meetings during short, 10 minute breaks. Most of us simply played our electric guitars unplugged out of convenience, because we knew we’d likely put the guitar down in a minute or two, and because our guitar rig was not around our computer.

We designed Spark MINI to allow you to play in those in-between moments. It’s extremely portable and very easy to use. And when you plug in, it sounds good enough to really feel the music. You can play whenever and wherever you feel like, without worrying about a complicated rig or a power source.

What is your vision with Spark MINI? How do you hope it impacts guitarists' lives?

We want to provide an option that really gives you the freedom to play.

When I play acoustic guitar, I have the freedom to choose the location, and I can play whenever I feel the calling. But playing electric guitar is very tethered, not only to your rig but also to the power outlet. Spark MINI is not necessarily designed to be a top of the line, pro-level amp, but rather to be an option of freedom when a player needs it. A guitarist can still own tube amps and play boutique pedals, but when they’re in an environment where it becomes challenging to use that gear, the battery-powered Spark MINI will come in handy. The freedom to play anywhere is about more than just the ability to play in any geographical location – it’s about removing any boundaries between you and your desire to play. Making it unstoppable.

Our Artist Relations manager Chris shared a story with me. He has a home studio that’s full of great gear that he’s been playing for years. But he finds himself plugging into Spark MINI more than the other amps, especially in those in-between moments when you have just a short time to play. It’s just that fun. I hope more players find that MINI adds to their home setup in this way too.

In photography, there is a saying that goes “the best camera is the camera near you at the moment you need it.” In that same spirit, the best guitar is the guitar near you, and the best amp is the amp near you. I truly hope that Spark MINI is the amp that stays by your side. I hope you enjoy that freedom.

How about sound quality? What makes Spark MINI unique there?

Spark MINI has a lot of really cool smart features, but the effort and time we put into the overall sound was the most painstaking.

We understand that not all guitarists will want to play with Smart Jam, or need different EQ curves. But the sound is something that’s always there when you turn it on. There’s a reason why a small but capable practice amp hasn’t existed before Spark MINI, and that’s why this tiny magic is unique in the first place.

We spent thousands of R&D hours focusing on details like the proper compound formula of the amp cabinet and different speaker configurations. We even tested several versions of MINI’s damping feet, each with different levels of stiffness, to find the best match. All of these aspects make a difference when it comes to creating stunningly good sound from a small package.

We then spend hundreds of hours on the DSP, from the DRC (dynamic range compression) setting to stereo imaging. We spent countless hours testing it on our own as guitar players, providing feedback and making small tweaks to the overall design to optimize the sound. I really believe the Spark MINI sets a new standard among portable amps, in terms of engineering and powerful, realistic sound quality.

How has Spark MINI improved your life as a guitarist, how do you personally use it?

I started as an acoustic singer-songwriter, so I’m very used to playing in different locations and getting inspired by different atmospheres. But electric guitarists haven’t always had that kind of flexibility – to just pick up and play anywhere. I hope that changes after Spark MINI.

But here’s a quick example on how I’ve used it recently…I brought along two Spark MINIs in my friend’s car, and two of us played while the driver sang along. That was a good day!

A mind-blowing portable powerhouse, Spark MINI delivers innovative smart guitar playing and Bluetooth® audio streaming to go. With multi-dimensional high-quality sound, all-new Smart Jam and video creation, it’s the biggest smallest rig ever.

Learn more at positivegrid.com/spark-mini.

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