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Sep 20, 2016 11:11 AM ET

Archived: The Jazz Guitar Amp That Goes Where You Go: The Mighty Flea combines the sound and looks of a vintage guitar amp with the portability of a laptop

iCrowdNewswire - Sep 20, 2016

The Mighty Flea – The Jazz Guitar Amp That Goes Where You Go

by McBee Audio Labs by Daniel McBrearty

The Mighty Flea combines the sound and looks of a vintage guitar amp with the portability of a laptop.

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Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

What is a prototype?

About this project

The Mighty Flea is a superbly portable jazz guitar amplifier that doesn’t compromise on sound quality.

The Mighty Flea gives you 35W of clean power, through a top-quality 10″ speaker. (Warehouse and Jensen options available.)

The Mighty Flea runs off a Lithium (LiFePo4) battery pack with the stamina for at least 2 hours of live playing.

The Mighty Flea has a super-efficient, state-of-the-art, Class D power amp, that converts almost all the battery power into sound (instead of heat, like traditional amps do).

The Mighty Flea has a carefully designed analogue preamp, with a tone control and an optical limiter, to ensure that the signal from your pickups is perfectly amplified and processed.

The Mighty Flea is light and compact. The 32cm square, 20cm deep amplifier, weighs just 6kg and comes with a custom-made, padded shoulder bag so you can take it everywhere.

The Mighty Flea is the perfect marriage of old and new technology, effortlessly helping you to sound great, everywhere.

With your support I can pay for the tooling and setup costs to have the Mighty Flea cabinets and circuit boards manufactured by my first-class European manufacturing and assembly partners.

Internationally renowned gypsy-jazz guitarist Robin Nolan auditions the Mighty Flea

A One-Off Chance To Buy At Up To 38% Off

The RRP of The Mighty Flea is 1140€. To celebrate the launch of the Flea, I am offering some special discounts:  

  •  38% discount for the first 3 backers – a fantastic price of 700€ + shipping.  
  • 25% discount for the next 7 backers – that’s 845€ + shipping.  
  • 19% discount for every other backer on this Kickstarter appeal. A still great price of 920€ + shipping.

The Flea and a classic valve amp – side by side comparison

Shipping, Customs and VAT

We will ship The Mighty Flea in March 2017. This allows sufficient time for manufacture of circuit boards and cabinets, final assembly and test. The amplifiers will be sent using FedEx International Economy, a tracked, door-to-door service which typically takes four to six days. We will advise you when your amp has shipped, and supply a tracking number. 

Customs The amplifiers will ship from Belgium, which means that customers in the EU will not have to pay customs charges. Customers outside the EU may be liable for customs charges, which are their own responsibility. The shipments will be described as “electronic goods” and the value will be the price you paid. 

VAT McBee Audio Labs (Daniel McBrearty) is not registered for VAT at present.

From Prototype To Production

As you can hear in the videos, our working prototype sounds great, and has already impressed the best of the best. The production version that you will receive will be further improved, with the addition of an integrated battery charger. Just plug in the external power supply,  like you would with your laptop, and the battery is charged automatically, while you continue to play music.

We also plan to use the Kickstarter funds for tooling costs, allowing us to outsource manufacture of the electronics and cabinets to our European partners. This results in better prices and quality.

McBee Audio – Dedicated To Musical Electronics

Who am I? My name is Daniel McBrearty. I’ve had a passion for both music and musical electronics for more than 30 years. I started playing jazz saxophone and clarinet when I was about 12. I got my first electronics experience in the Royal  Air Force (long ago!), then, in the 1980s, in the British pro-audio industry (including a few years at Soundcraft Electronics). By the late 1990s, I was a freelance audio specialist, and designed mission-critical audio systems for Royal Opera House in London – which have been in continual use for the last 16 years. Now, I use my technical and musical know-how to create tools for today’s working musicians.

Why am I doing this? My first love is playing music, especially clarinet and saxophone. I love making great audio electronics. I love touring with my band, travelling, playing in little bars and sometimes the street. The Mighty Flea is a product I just need to create! Kickstarter is the perfect way for me to do that.

My Values Audio technology doesn’t have to cost a million to sound like one. My designs are extensively tested on the bench and in use before I release them. I believe in solid engineering practices, and real-world musical testing – not “magic components” and hand waving. Above all – I believe in continuous improvement, and in making promises that I am sure I can keep.

How The Flea Was Born

Hit The Street I’ve always loved playing music. Every good musician evolves over time, and you do it by playing with others, in front of people. When I didn’t have a gig, I would sometimes play in the street. Even now – if I go on tour with my band, we might still do that. I love the reactions we get, especially in out of the way places that most artists don’t go to. Great fun!

But – if you want to make your music talk, you must have a great sound. I am mostly a clarinet and sax player, but I also play some guitar, and I often play with guitarists. In the street, we often had a problem. Most battery amps sound bright and tinny, and when the batteries start to go down (often way too soon) they tend to distort horribly.

Rocking On Batteries In 2015, a local band, Roq Au Vin, asked me to make a replacement for their old Electro Harmonix “Freedom” battery amps. They play a lot of outdoor gigs. They had two requirements : the amp had to be small and light enough to carry on a neckstrap, and loud. (They mostly play rock covers.) Straight away I loved the idea, and I spent three days researching. I saw some great possibilities, then I called them and said “OK, I’ll do it”.

That was December 2015. Now they are using the amps I designed. They are lighter and louder than their old ones, and the batteries last much longer. They love them! I even designed a battery powered bass guitar amps – it weighs about 8 kg, and sounds pretty good, right down to low E.

Jumping With The Flea So, I decided to refine the design I made for Roq Au Vin, and create a great guitar amp aimed mostly at jazz guitarists. I got my friend Peter Lewis to make the prototype boxes look great, and fitted a top class 10″ speaker. Got some musical pals to try it, and they all love it. Now – I just needed a name. Why “The Mighty Flea“? It just came to mind – I guess, because it’s tiny and … well … Mighty!


What Do You Get?

  • one Mighty Flea guitar amplifier
  • one external power supply
  • one high quality padded carry case

The Rear Panel

This is how the Rear Panel of the Mighty Flea looks.

The Rear Panel
The Rear Panel

1. Input Socket.

2. Preamp Gain.

3. Signal LED indicator. Adjust Preamp Gain (2) until this flashes when you are playing your loudest.

4. Clean / Crunch switch.

5. Tone Control. Boosts and cuts treble and bass by +/-6dB (so treble  will be 12dB more than bass or vice versa).

6. Direct Output. Unbalanced line output, can be connected to an external PA system or recording device. The Volume control (7) does not affect the Direct Out signal,  but Gain (2), Crunch (4) and Tone (5) do.

7. Volume Control.

8. Battery Level  indicator. Glows dim red as the battery is in about the last 20% of charge. Glows bright red for about the last 5%. Glows green when charge is in progress.

9. On/Off switch. Press upwards to switch the amp on. Press downwards and hold for about 1 second to switch off.

10. On/Off LED indicator.

11. Charger / Power Supply input. If battery is low, charging will start automatically when the charger is connected. Can also be used to power the Flea when playing.

(Optional) Mic / Aux Input Panel

If you wish to buy this option, please add 165€ to your donation.

The Mighty Flea is the world’s first modular guitar amp. It is possible to expand the amp by purchasing add-on parts. In future, McBee Audio plans to develop a range of add-on modules, for instance, effects units. Right now, you can add a  microphone input to your Flea, which allows you (for instance) to use it to amplify vocals as well as your guitar, thanks to the high quality microphone amplifier. The Mic/Aux Module looks like this.

Mic-Aux Option
Mic-Aux Option

1. Microphone Input Socket Balanced 3 pin  XLR socket with 20V phantom power option.

2. Microphone Preamp Gain Control

3. Signal LED Indicator. Adjust Preamp Gain Control (2) so this LED flashes on when input signal is loudest.

4. Tone Control. Adjust Treble/Bass balance of microphone signal

5. Volume Control. Adjust Volume of microphone signal.

6. Aux Volume Control. Adjust Volume of signal from Aux input.

7. Aux  Input. Stereo mini-jack input for connection to iPod or similar personal music players.

Other Optional Extras

Want to pimp your Flea? Choose from our optional upgrades:

  • instead of the standard Warehouse 10″ Vintage speaker, choose a Jensen 10″ 4 ohm Alnico – for a brighter, more rock-like sound. If you wish to buy this option, please add 30€ to your donation.
  • personalise your Flea with a hand woven grille fabric, made by Corrien Maas. It is up to you to order the necessary fabric from Ms. Maas, we will  then fit it to your amp. Please contact us to advise that you have purchased this option. If you wish to buy this option, please add 35€ to your donation.

More Extras – As Standard

As well as all that – these great extra items are included AS STANDARD, at no extra cost, with every Mighty Flea.

  • luxury, padded shoulder bag (custom made by Trifibre UK Ltd) – makes carrying your Mighty Flea from gig to gig super easy.
  • full user manual available as downloadable PDF file.
  • three year guarantee. You pay the shipping costs, both ways – I fix your Flea. Simple!

Build Quality and Warranty

The Mighty Flea is designed in Antwerp, Belgium. The cabinet and circuit boards will be made by professional assembly companies in the EU and UK. I will also test every one individually, and make sure it is perfect when I ship it to you.

Every Mighty Flea amplifier is covered by a three year, unconditional, no quibbles warranty. All you have to do is pay shipping to and from Belgium.

Risks and challenges

I have decades of experience of creating top-quality audio electronics. The Mighty Flea has been thoroughly researched and prototyped, and I am confident that I can deliver. I also have great experience in project engineering – essential to create a product such as this. (We have a cunning plan …!)

One issue is that I don’t know (until the Kickstarter appeal runs) what our production quantities will be – I might end up building any number of these amps. But, I have plans in place for a range of possible production volumes. If the volume goes high (above about 50 units) we will most likely plan to deliver in stages, each month from March 2017. You will be kept informed!

As with any manufacturing project, some components might be out of stock or on long lead times. I try to avoid single source components in the design, but there are some key areas where that is just not possible. This might delay the project – but they will still be built and delivered.

In the end – I promise to keep my backers informed, and to do everything I can to get your amplifier to you on time!

Contact Information:

McBee Audio Labs by Daniel McBrearty

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