Best Busking Amp : Battery Powered PA Street Fight

Buskers with the Roland Cube: Is it the best busking amp?

What’s the Best Busking Amp on the Street These Days?

My nephew is an avid busker.  He plays a keyboard and will literally setup up on a busy street corner, plug up to a battery powered Roland CUBE Street amp and play to his heart’s content.  I’ve been wanting to take a crack at it myself and began to look for the best busking amp or all-in-one PA that would fit the bill.  The biggest thing that separates busking amps from similar speakers is the fact that they must run on a battery.  Think about it… You’re playing on the street… Where do you plug in?  Answer: nowhere… you must bring your power with you.  You also have to think about the size and weight of your equipment. Are you parking four blocks away and hiking with your gear to your chosen street side venue? In my case, I will be walking a few blocks with guitar and amp in hand. What type of instrument do you play? I play acoustic guitar and sing to backing tracks, a minimum of one mic input with a guitar channel and aux input is a must for me. Let’s look at the Roland CUBE Street, the Roland CUBE Street EX, the Bose S1 Pro, and the JBL Eon One Pro and decide which is the best busking amp for my needs (and hopefully yours as well).

Roland CUBE Street

The Roland CUBE Street amplifier is a nicely appointed battery powered busking amp. This little amplifier delivers 15 hours of use on just (6) AA Batteries.  It’s nice that it will run off of AA’s instead of a proprietary battery pack as is common among this type of amplifier.  The CUBE Street employs 5 Watts through 2 x 6.5″ speakers and weighs in at roughly 11.5 lbs.  It also provides 2 channels plus an auxillary 1/8″ stereo input.  One channel is for a microphone via a balanced XLR input, the other channel is dedicated to guitar via a 1/4″ unbalanced Hi-Z input.  Both channels provide independent effects, tone and volume controls.  The guitar channel also provides modeling capabilities as well as a tuner.  In addition to these features, this little amp is awesome for apartment living because it has a 1/4″ headphone output for quiet practice when required.  There are also two foot switches available for channel and effects control.  This little busking amp seems to have it all in a lightweight, affordable package.  I would normally be scared of an amp that only claims to push 5 Watts, but after playing through it, I’m impressed with it’s sound. Sure, it isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off with power, but it’s definitely good quality amplification for a small crowd!
Read Amazon Reviews | Comparison Chart

Roland CUBE Street EX

The Roland CUBE Street EX is the Roland CUBE Street’s big brother.  It claims to push 50 watts of sound through it’s two 8″ woofers and 2″ high frequency drivers.  I’m always wary of wattage claims when looking at speakers because it can be hard to tell sometimes if it refers to RMS or Peak wattage.  I read one review of this by an electrical engineer stating that the 50 watts had to be peak power because mathematically the RMS wattage on battery power was closer to 5 watts.  Power aside, the CUBE Street EX does offer twice as many channels as it’s predecessor.  These added channels and inputs allow for two mics and a keyboard (stereo) or even a second guitar. One downside though is that the added 1/4″ inputs are line level.  This battery powered busking amp also has a stereo aux jack which will not only allow you to play music from your phone or any other MP3 player, it also provides two-way communication with IOS devices for specific apps (I’m not an Apple user, so I can’t profess to know what this does exactly, but it’s there if you need it!).  This busking amp provides 20 hours of busking time on (8) AA Batteries.  Again, kudos to Roland for using AA batteries!  This way if your rechargeables die, you can swing by any store for more power in a pinch!!   This buskers amp offers many of the same effects, modeling and EQ capabilities of it’s younger brother, while providing a little more umph and play time. I believe the Roland CUBE Street amps are more tailored to the electric guitarist busker. Being primarily a vocalist, I wouldn’t choose either of these units for my own use. Despite this amp’s preference for electric guitars, it is the best busking amp when it comes to battery life.
Read Amazon Reviews | Comparison Chart

Bose S1 Pro

The Bose S1 Pro is a brand new, multi-purpose, battery powered amp.  I’ve been the proud owner of two L1 Compacts for many years now and I’ve always been impressed with their sound despite their size.  This little battery powered amplifier is the little brother to Bose’s F1 812 speaker.  It contains three of the F1’s 2″ high frequency drivers along with a 6″ woofer for the low end frequencies.  Each of the 2″ drivers is arranged in a manner to maximise sound dispersion (just as is done in the L1 Compact and the F1).  While not as feature packed as either of the Roland CUBE Street models, it has 4 channels.  Two channels can be used for microphones, guitars or line level signals.  Each of these channels is equipped with two of Bose’s proprietary Tone Match settings (guitar or microphone).  This Tone Match switch can be set as needed depending on the use of the channel.  The Tone Match can also be turned off.  Each channel also has high and low frequency EQ knobs for adjustment as needed and a very nice sounding reverb effect.  An 1/8″ auxiliary input is also provided on a 3rd stereo channel.  This channel can also connect to a phone or laptop via bluetooth for wireless performance.  The cabinet itself can be tilted back for busking, laid on it’s side as a monitor, set flat on a level surface, or mounted on a speaker stand.  There is also a 1/4″ output to link to another S1 or even a sub woofer if needed.  The battery is an internal lithium ion battery that takes over on the fly if AC power is unplugged. It typically takes five hours to charge the battery, but Bose smartly equipped with S1 Pro with a quick-charge setting that will fully charge the battery in 3 hours.  It can provide up to 11 hours of play time if needed. The Bose S1 Pro seems to be quite a bit louder than the Roland Cube Street. The sound is also much rounder with more low end frequency range. As an owner of two L1 Compacts and a fan of Bose pro sound gear, I have to say that the S1 Pro delivers L1 sound from a tiny package!
Read Amazon Reviews | Comparison Chart

JBL Eon One Pro

The JBL Eon One Pro is the flag ship of this comparison.  It’s much more powerful than the other listings and also provides battery power which would make it downright awesome as a busking amp. Be prepared though, it weighs 35 lbs (the wheeled case may be needed if you want to carry it long distances).  The built-in mixer has 7 channels (the 7th channel is the stereo aux / bluetooth channel).  Each channel provides reverb and hi / low EQ settings for dialing in just the right sound.  Phantom power is also provided for condenser microphones. JBL has even included a USB charging port and cradle for the phone of your choice! The six 2″ high frequency drivers are housed in a compact line array that mounts above the 8″ sub.  This configuration lets you play for a much larger group of people if needed because the high frequencies aren’t blocked by standing bodies. The entire system pushes 118 SPL and can play for up to 6 hours on a fully charged battery pack. For the busker needing extra power and inputs, this is the ultimate busking amp.
Read Amazon Reviews | Comparison Chart

My Choice For Best Buskers Amp Is…

After browsing endless reviews, playing with my nephew’s Roland CUBE Street and thoroughly testing the Bose S1 Pro, I’ve determined that the Bose S1 Pro is the best busking amp for my needs. The S1 Pro provides enough battery life for more than a full day’s worth of street side sets and also gives me plenty of flexibility for setup. If I’m at a coffee house, I can mount it on a stand. If I’m playing to a larger crowd with my larger PA, I can use it as a monitor. And of course, It sets up nicely as a busking amp. I’m not a huge user of effects, but I do like a little reverb to sweeten my vocal a bit. The S1 Pro delivers with a nice sounding reverb and Tone Match settings for both my vocal and my acoustic guitar. Another huge plus for me is the bluetooth streaming capability of the Bose S1 Pro. With the Bose Connect app, two can be used at once to stream in stereo! Now that you’ve seen my selection process, I hope you can now choose an excellent buskers amp for your needs! Be sure to check out my other posts for the best in pro audio. | Check Out The Bose S1 Pro On Amazon!

Busking Amp Feature Comparison

Roland CUBE StreetRoland CUBE Street EXBose S1 ProJBL Eon One Pro
Power (RMS)5 Watts50 WattsNot Published250 Watts
Speakers(2) 6.5″(2) 8″ and (2) 2″(1) 6″ and (3) 2″(1) 8″ and (6) 2″
Weight11.5 lbs16.4 lbs15.7 lbs35 lbs
Number of Channels2437
Effects / ReverbYesYesYes (Reverb Only)Yes (Reverb Only)
Battery Life15 Hours20 Hours5 Hours6 Hours
Battery Type(6) AA(8) AAInternal Lithium IonLithium Ion
Battery Pack