EDITOR’S NOTE: The views below are by a “circle show” street performer. If you want to see amps reviewed by a street performing musician, we’ve got a post for that.

What are the “Best” Amps for Circle Shows?

In the world of busking, there are different needs for amplification depending on your act. A musician has very different needs for sound quality than a living statue would just playing music to draw attention.

Circle-style shows also have very specific needs for an amp, like being able plug in and control both a headset for talking and a device to play music (such as a phone or a tablet). Because of this, there are only a few good amps that suit the bill for us circle show performers.

In this article, I will be focused solely on battery-powered amps that do not require to be plugged in to a power outlet, for busking and portability purposes. These reviews are based on personal opinions and experience, not the views of all performers.


About the Author

Brittany Sparkles has been in circus for over 12 years, and toured both nationally (USA) and internationally (Australia, New Zealand, El Salvador), teaching and performing. She recently built her own street show with the help of her boyfriend, George Gilbert, who has been busking for over 13 years, and has provided much input for this article.


 THE BEST AMPS FOR CIRCLE SHOWS


7. Fender Amp Can (discontinued)

Size: 8.75″ x 7.75″ x 6.75″ (22 x 20 x 17cm)
Weight: 13 lbs (6kg)
Power: 15 watts
Price: Discontinued ($99 used)
Battery Power: Yes

Though this amp has a cute shape, it was discontinued for a reason. The sound output is not spectacular. For a newbie performer on a budget, used models can still be found online. It has one XLR port, one auxiliary port, and a rechargeable battery.


6. Crate Taxi (discontinued)

Size: 14.5″ x 12″ x 12″ (37 x 30 x 30cm)
Weight: 20 lbs (9kg)
Power: 15 watts
Price: Discontinued ($159-199 used)
Battery Power: Yes

Some long-time street performers have many fond memories of this little old-school amp, but it has since been replaced with newer ideas and lighter-weight amps. Fans of this amp can still purchase used models online. It has one XLR and one auxiliary port.


Mackie Freeplay Live

Size: 14″ x 7″ x 7.8″ (36 x 18 x 20 cm)
Weight: 8.8 lbs (4kg)
Power: 150 watts
Price: $399.99
Battery Power: Yes
Buy on Amazon

This amp is ultra light-weight and portable. For the price, however, the sound is only acceptable. The volume is not great, and is really most suited for small venues or small circle shows. It does have Bluetooth capabilities, and two XLR channels, but this amp gets mediocre reviews at best. You might want to consider spending your money elsewhere, or get a nice Samson Expedition for less money and better sound.


Size: 10.6″ x 7.5″ x 5.1″ (27 x 19 x 13 cm)
Weight: 5.7-7lbs (2.6-3.2kg)
Power: 150-300 watts
Price: Variable (they are “built to order”)
Battery Power: Yes
Buy it here

Neither of us have ever used this amp, but everyone in the UK says it’s the best one… so I suppose in the UK it is? It gets rave reviews from many UK-based performers. It is actually a system made of two very light-weight amps, and offers 6 to 10 hours of rechargeable battery life. One of the amps is the main unit and can be used on its own or with the other “passive” speaker for additional volume. It’s so popular with circle shows that Nick Warburton and his team often have a waiting list to get one (with several international artists on it).


Roland Cube Street

Size: 11.6 “x 16.4 “x 9.8” (29 x 42 x 25cm)
Weight: 11.5 lbs (5.2kg)
Power: 5 watts
Price: $299.99
Battery Power: Yes
Buy on Amazon

This amp is one of the most popular amps for musicians and circle-shows alike, and is very light-weight and portable. It offers great volume, especially for its size, but the sound quality can be hit or miss, depending on the act/location. It has one XLR port and one auxiliary port, and is best used on the ground due to its unique shape and tilt.


Size: 13″ x 20″ x 13″ (33 x 51 x 33cm)
Weight: 16.9 lbs (7.7kg)
Power: 100 watts
Price: $249.99
Battery Power: Yes
Buy on Amazon

This is an excellent amp if you want to watch cost but still get something decent. Though it does not get as loud as the Bose S1, it still delivers a nice tone and clear sound. If you want more volume, you can always get another one later on, too (it is easy to connect two of these amps together, if you don’t mind carrying a 2nd amp, though one is sufficient in most situations).

It has one XLR port, one auxiliary port, and Bluetooth. This amp has great battery life, and is small enough to fit inside most suitcases for travel. I have flown with this amp as a carry-on in a small suitcase with no trouble.


Size: 19.4″ x 11.1″ x 13.1″ (49 x 28 x 33cm)
Weight: 20 lbs (9.1kg)
Power: not published
Price: $638.40
Battery Power: Yes
Buy on Amazon

This amp has a long list of great features, but here are my top ones. The Bose S1 has crisp, clear sound with a great tone and excellent volume. This amp is amazing in both sound quality and reach of sound. One very useful feature is that it can either be put on a stand or on the ground, where it can be tilted back to ensure the sound carries far and clear.

In terms of hardware, the battery life is good and can last a few days of shows (depending on how many shows you do a day!). It has two XLR ports, an auxiliary port, and Bluetooth capabilities. This amp also has a special backpack made specifically for carrying (as a separate purchase), which also has extra pockets for headsets and accessories. I’ve even been able to fly overseas with this amp as a carry-on backpack. The old saying is true—you get what you pay for. This amp may be at the high-end on price for battery-powered amps, but it delivers on quality and is worth every penny.


MIPRO makes many battery-powered amps in a wide range of sizes and prices. I do not have any personal experience with these amps, but know that they are favored by many performers, and so I wanted to include this brand on this list for anyone who may not mind doing a bit more personal research.


The bottom line

Simple: there are lots of options, so it is always best to try every amp you can get your hands on before making a purchase, as everyone has different preferences.