When I first heard about the Strum Buddy, my mind immediately flashed back to the film Fletch and the super-cool, turban-donning shredder Harry Perry cruising Venice Beach on skates. Before you get too excited, this mushroom-cap-shaped little amp that attaches to a guitar via its integrated suction cup isn’t going to provide the volume needed for a loud busking gig. But, as a mobile monitor to pull some juice out of an unplugged guitar for practice, it’s a cool device, and sounds better and louder than I had anticipated from a battery powered, 6-watt amp with a 1 1/2″ driver. It has three button-activated effects—distortion, chorus, and reverb—but no volume or tone control. (Those are governed by your guitar.)
Am I going to tell you the tone and effects sound amazing? No. The Strum Buddy does, however, make for a much better experience than playing dry when you’re inspired to woodshed and aren’t near an amp and your favorite pedals. It’s also rechargeable via USB for 3-plus hours of playing time and, depending on your case, likely small enough to fit inside it—great features indeed. Tip: Plan before you purchase. My Bigsby-equipped Epi didn’t have the real estate to position the amp where I could still play the guitar, and the light, nitro finish on my SG wouldn’t allow it to stick. When I placed the Strum Buddy on a Strat, however, I was off to the races cruising around the house trying to impress my 8-year-old. It feels a bit pricey at 80 bucks, but I think plenty of folks would be psyched to discover one in their stocking.
Test gear: 2008 Gibson SG Special Faded, 1975 Epiphone Coronet, 1985 Fender Stratocaster, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface, MXL V63M mic