A guide to the best guitar amps currently on the market

This comprehensive and extensive guide helps musicians find the best guitar amps suited for their individual needs. Not every guitarist needs a 100 watt amp or wants the warm tone of a tube amp, but some do. This guide pin-points the type of amplifier that best fits specific circumstances and then recommends the best amps on the market that match that criteria.

Table of contents:

  1. Amplifiers for both performance and practice
  2. Amplifiers for practice
  3. Amplifiers for live performance
  4. Tube amps
  5. Amplifiers for acoustic guitar
  6. Portable guitar amps
  7. Amplifiers for classic rock
  8. Amplifiers for metal
  9. Amplifiers for bass guitar
  10. Amplifiers for electric ukulele
  11. DIY guitar amp
  12. General info
    1. What are watts in a guitar amp?
    2. How important is a good amp?
    3. How much money should be spent on an amp?
    4. What do I need besides an amp?
    5. Cables for amps and guitars
  13. Notable amplifier brands
  14. Conclusion

5 best Amplifiers for both performance and practice

  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Champion 40
  • Watts: 40
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: MG50CFX MG
  • Watts: 50
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Line 6
  • Model: Spider V
  • Watts: 60
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Orange
  • Model: Crush CR60C
  • Watts: 60
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: DSL100H
  • Watts: 100
  • Type: Half stack

What is a combo amp?

A combo amp is a type of amp which consists of an amplifier and speaker combined into a single unit. This design allows for a more compact, straight forward, and mobile piece of equipment. They’re generally the most common type of amp for everyday guitarists. Combo amps don’t take up a lot of space in comparison to half-stacks, but they can still pack a punch depending on the number of watts. The right combo amp can be used for both practice and for playing at small gigs. Sometimes performers choose to carry one of these around instead of a half-stack because of how easy it is to transport.

Top 5 Amplifiers for practice

  • Brand: Vox
  • Model: V9106
  • Watts: 10
  • Type: Practice
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: MG15CFX MG
  • Watts: 15
  • Type: Practice
  • Brand: Peavey
  • Model: Vypyr VIP 1
  • Watts: 20
  • Type: Practice
  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Champion 20
  • Watts: 20
  • Type: Practice
  • Brand: Roland
  • Model: CUBE-20GX
  • Watts: 20
  • Type: Practice

What is a practice amp?

A practice amp is an inexpensive amplifier whose sole intention/purpose is to be used for independent practice. The tone on these amps generally aren’t great. Even if a musician is talented, a practice amp used in front of an audience may give the audience the audible impression that something is “off”. Worst case scenario is that they incorrectly attribute this to the performer’s lack of musical prowess. A practice amp generally stays in the bedroom. Though the incredible amount of mobility might tempt some to take it out.

5 Best Amplifiers for live performance

  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Champion 100
  • Watts: 100
  • Type: Performance
  • Brand: Blackstar
  • Model: IDCORE100
  • Watts: 100
  • Type: Performance
  • Brand: Orange
  • Model: Tiny Terror
  • Watts: 120
  • Type: Half stack
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: DSL100H
  • Watts: 100
  • Type: Half stack
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: DSL100H
  • Watts: 100
  • Type: Fullstack

What is a half-stack amp?

A half-stack amp is a performance grade amp that consists of an amplifier head which sits on top of a big speaker. It’s called a half-stack amp because it consists of a single speaker rather than the 2 speakers that traditionally accompany a full-stack amp. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a half-stack amp is a less valid piece of performance gear compared to a full-stack. A half-stack amp stills delivers a ton of volume that’s enough to fill a decently size venue. It’s generally the preferred piece of performance gear for actively performing musicians as it’s easier to transport than a full-stack and is still super loud.

5 best Tube Amps

  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Super Champ X2
  • Watts: 15
  • Type: Tube
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: DSL5C
  • Watts: 15
  • Type: Tube
  • Brand: Bugera
  • Model: V22
  • Watts: 22
  • Type: Tube
  • Brand: Blackstar
  • Model: HT1R
  • Watts: 1
  • Type: Tube
  • Brand: Kustom
  • Model: Defender
  • Watts: 30
  • Type: Tube

What is a tube amp?

A tube amp is an amplifier that uses vacuum tubes rather than transistors. Up until the 70s they were the most popular type of amp, but then transistor amps took over the market (due to their affordability & reliability). The current appeal of tube amps is the warm vintage sound that they produce. They attract a large demographic of musicians and audiophiles. Another name for tubes amps are valve amps. It can be a challenge searching for something like the best small valve amp because it can take over a half hour for them to warm up sometimes. You can’t just flick a valve amp on and hear its true tone right away. It takes time and patience. Luckily there are reliable tube amps out on the market with a good reputation already which you can trust for the most part.

Amplifiers for acoustic guitars

  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Acoustasonic
  • Watts: 40
  • Type: Acoustic
  • Brand: Behringer
  • Model: AT108
  • Watts: 20
  • Type: Acoustic
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: AS100D
  • Watts: 100
  • Type: Acoustic
  • Brand: Fishman
  • Model: Loudbox mini
  • Watts: 60
  • Type: Acoustic
  • Brand: Peavey
  • Model: E110
  • Watts: 100
  • Type: Acoustic

What is an acoustic guitar amplifier?

An acoustic guitar amplifier is (as one might guess) an amp that’s designed specifically for the acoustic guitar. They’re usually built in such a way that allows for careful control over the amplified frequencies, in an attempt to limit distortion. This allows the acoustic guitar to maintain a clean natural tone while also revving up the volume by quite a notch. Another great thing about a number of these amplifiers is that some of them have input jacks for microphones. So it’s not entirely necessary that an acoustic guitar have a pickup installed in order to be amplified.

Portable guitar amps

  • Brand: Blackstar
  • Model: FLY3
  • Watts: 3
  • Type: Portable
  • Brand: Mugig
  • Model: MA-1
  • Watts: 10
  • Type: Portable
  • Brand: Vox
  • Model: MINI3G2CL
  • Watts: 3
  • Type: Portable
  • Brand: Roland
  • Model: Micro Cube
  • Watts: 3
  • Type: Portable
  • Brand: Yamaha
  • Model: THR10
  • Watts: 10
  • Type: Portable

What is a portable guitar amp?

A portable guitar amp is essentially a mini amp that’s powered by battery. They’re great for traveling with because of how small and easy they are to carry. These portable amplifiers are especially popular among buskers because of this mobility. It’s common to see musicians playing on busy tourist streets and then using portable instrument amps to make sure their music is heard over the loud crowds that are passing by. It’s definitely a solid investment for a busker.

Amplifiers for classic rock

  • Brand: Peavey
  • Model: CLASSIC30 112
  • Watts: 30
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: DSL40C
  • Watts: 40
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Super Champ X2
  • Watts: 15
  • Type: Tube
  • Brand: Vox
  • Model: AC30HW2X
  • Watts: 30
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Blues Deluxe R
  • Watts: 40
  • Type: Combo

What are the best amplifiers for classic rock?

One of the defining characteristics of classic rock is the vintage guitar sound that everyone loves. But to achieve this classic rock tone you need more than just a good guitar. You need an amp that’s suitable for classic rock. Now in order to find a vintage sounding amplifier all that has to be done is an analysis of the guitarists from that era. What gear did those musicians use? Well most of them actually used tube amps. Back in the 60s that’s pretty much all they had access to so it was the dominant type of amplifier used for instruments. Little did those musicians know that their tone would be so sought after half a century later. So in essence, the safest bet will always be to go for a tube amp when in search for a classic rock tone. An alternative would be to carefully select a combo amp or even possibly a half-stack amp that was manufactured in the 1970s.

Amplifiers for metal

  • Brand: Engl
  • Model: MetalMaster
  • Watts: 40
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Line 6
  • Model: Spider V
  • Watts: 60
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Orange
  • Model: Dark Terror
  • Watts: 20
  • Type: Mini stack
  • Brand: Blackstar
  • Model: ID260
  • Watts: 120
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: Code 50
  • Watts: 50
  • Type: Combo

What are the best guitar amplifiers for metal?

Metalheads can be very particular about their tone. Many of them are on a never ending quest to find the best possible metal tone there is. While achieving this can certainly be subjective, there are still a number of guidelines that can be followed which result in a fantastically grimy metal sound. If on a budget then going with a high quality combo amp that panders to metal is the way to go. Many of these amps have metal effects build into them that allow you to distort the sound to heavy degrees. On the other hand, if money is no object then it’s highly recommended to get a quality half-stack amp for metal accompanied by some good effects pedals.

Amplifiers for bass guitar

  • Brand: Ampeg
  • Model: BA110V2
  • Watts: 40
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Orange
  • Model: Crush Bass
  • Watts: 25
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: '59 Bassman Ltd
  • Watts: 50
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Rumble
  • Watts: 25
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Ampeg
  • Model: MICRO-CL
  • Watts: 100
  • Type: Bass stack

What are the best amplifiers for bass guitar?

Playing a bass guitar through a regular guitar amplifier is a huge no-no! Doing this can ultimately blow up your amp if you play too loudly. You might get away with it at low volumes for a while, but prolonged use will damage your amp. Regular guitar amplifiers were not built to amplify the low frequencies of bass guitars. So for bass guitars you need bass guitar amps. The best bass amp is all dependent on the player’s particular needs, but going with a decently sized combo amp will always be the safest bet.

Amplifiers for electric ukulele

  • Brand: Fender
  • Model: Frontman
  • Watts: 10
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Mugig
  • Model: BM25
  • Watts: 25
  • Type: Combo
  • Brand: Mugig
  • Model: MA-1
  • Watts: 10
  • Type: Portable
  • Brand: Vox
  • Model: MINI5R
  • Watts: 5
  • Type: Portable
  • Brand: Marshall
  • Model: MG10CF
  • Watts: 10
  • Type: Combo

What are the best amps for electric ukulele?

Ukuleles are acoustic instruments but they’re still very small so their natural volume isn’t always loud enough. Sometimes a louder punch is required to deliver the sound to a whole audience. This is where ukulele amps are useful. If your ukulele is an electric ukulele then it’s no problem, simply hook your instrument into a ukulele amp amp do your thing. But if your ukulele is purely acoustic then you have two options, either attach a piezo pickup or hook up a small mic. The end goal is to run your ukulele’s sound through an amplifier so that the volume is audible to everyone. The best electric ukuelele amps are actually small guitar amps. The frequencies at which ukuleles play make it safe to run through regular guitar amps. However, you may be interested in looking at portable amps specifically designed for ukuleles.

DIY guitar amp

Much like with anything else, it’s possible to do it yourself if you have the know-how. It’s possible to build your own guitar amplifier with the right set of skills, tools, materials, and of course motivation. It’s generally not recommended to most people though because messing with electronics can be dangerous and building your own amp surprisingly doesn’t save you any money. Many of the diy guitar amp kits founds online are expensive, so this project should be taken on out of interest rather than in an attempt to acquire a budget friendly amp. But if you’re keen on building a high quality amp head for example, then here is a good but expensive kit for a custom amp head with a tube. A much cheaper alternative would be to simply construct a cigar box amp as a sort of proof of concept. These rustic little amps compliment cigar box guitars perfectly.

General info about amps

What are watts in guitar amps?

Whenever looking at an amp the one technical figure that’s clearly advertised as a selling point is the wattage. You might see a portable amp that’s 10W and then a half-stack that’s 120W. The logical discernment is that the bigger the amp the more the watts, and this is generally true. Simply looking at the number of watts that an amplifier has can give you a solid idea how big the amp will be before you even lay eyes on it. So there’s also a direct correlation between how loud an amp is and how many watts it has.

How important is a good amp?

To address this question, let’s first look at the problem with bad amps. Playing through a bad amp will usually make the music sound worse than it is. It’s like playing a bad guitar with lots of fret buzz, even if you know how to play it will sound like you’re making lots of mistakes. Of course a very experienced guitarist can get away with playing on both a horrible instrument and amp; one of the great talents of musicianship is making the best of what you have. But an experienced guitarist will still prefer playing with good equipment. Owning a good amp does make a significant difference in sound. It’s an important investment that is eventually made by every serious guitarist.

How much money should be spent on an amp?

The amount of money that should be spent on an amp depends on a couple of variables. The first thing that should be taken into consideration are your needs. Will you ever be performing live? If so then you’ll want a powerful enough amp that will be able to fill up an average sized venue. If you can’t afford an amplifier like this yet then you should consider saving up money until you can. On the other hand, if you have no plans on performing live then not only will you want a smaller amp but it’s actually recommended. You don’t need a full-stack amp if you don’t perform live because you’ll never even crank the volume up halfway. It will just take up a ton of space in your home. A much more rational option would be to go with a combo amp. Having said that, the second variable to take into consideration is your budget. There are a lot of decent amps under $500 that are budget friendly. But if money is no object then spending a little more is sometimes encouraged.

What do I need besides an amp?

All you need to have in order to use your amp is an instrument with a pickup, a cable to connect said instrument to your amp, and finally a power source (an outlet) to connect your amp to. You don’t necessarily need anything else. But there are a lot of nice supplemental things you can get to alter the sound of your amp. Of course your amp should sound great on its own, but there are a lot of nifty effects that almost all guitarists use to achieve additional aesthetics. These mentioned effects are mostly applied through guitar pedals. Almost every guitar enthusiast has a collection of guitar pedals. They’re incredibly fun to play with. You operate them by pressing a button on them with your foot which activates their function. This makes it easy to change effects while playing. You’ll often notice guitarists on stage using multiple pedals at a time.

Cables for amps and guitars

Cables might seem insignificant, but they’re actually still a very vital component to a guitar setup. Getting a bad cable can completely ruin your sound, sometimes in frustratingly subtle ways that make it hard to pinpoint the fact that it’s the cable’s fault. It’s more important not to get a bad cable than it is to get a high quality cable. Cables are inexpensive, they’ll run you between $10-$20. But if you decide to try and save a few bucks and buy that cheap $4 cable then you’re essentially shooting yourself in the foot. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s no point in getting any of those luxury cables for $50 because they’re not actually doing anything more for your sound.

Notable amp brands

There are a lot of world famous amplifiers with a rich history in the music world. These iconic amplifiers were for the most part produced by companies that are still in existence today. Buying an amp from any of these brands are generally a safer bet. So here are some of the best brands for guitar amps.

Marshall Amps: An iconic brand

Marshall Amplification is probably the most well-known brand for guitar amplifiers. The company is so iconic that you’ll frequently see enthusiasts wearing Marshall tee shirts. They have an extensive history in the guitar world. Most of these amps can be trusted to be of a high quality. If you’re looking for more information about this company you can check out marshall.com. Store bought amps have the benefit of being able to take them back in case something conks out and having the store be more willing to look at them. But buying amps online in this day and age is often much better as you can find better prices. Taking an amp into a guitar shop should never be a problem, but expect to pay for their services.

Fender Amps: Are they any good?

Although known for their instruments, Fender’s founder Leo Fender started making amplifiers long before electric guitars. To this day the amplifiers have a subtle presence in the guitar scene. The design of their combo amps is a familiar view to many musicians. These amps are amazing for most rock.

Peavey Amps: What’s the deal?

Peavey amps are like the off-brand soda of the guitar world. Their amps are relatively more affordable than others but are still good enough that most people don’t seem to be able to pick up on any of their flaws. These USA made guitar amps are still a serious competitor in the business and shouldn’t be completely dismissed, especially if on a budget.

Vox amps: Who are they?

Vox is a company known for its amplifiers. It was founded in England but is currently owned by the Japanese company Korg. They manufacture some very historically important amplifiers such as the Vox AC30 which helped produce the iconic tone from the British invasion.

Line 6: Best beginner’s amp?

Line 6 is a relatively new amplifier company, but a very successful one (it was acquired by Yamaha a few years ago). Their amps bring together the tone of many different genres to create a contemporary piece of music equipment. They might sound a bit less natural and probably aren’t the preferred amp for most performing musicians, but they’re great for what they’re built for. They’re a great amp for beginners who want to play music of all genres without having to buy a ton of additional equipment to adjust tone.

Ampeg amps: Best bass guitar amps?

This is a fantastic amplifier brand but if you come across an ampeg amp then be careful. Ampeg mostly makes bass guitar amps. The company produces some regular electric guitar amps, but you want to be certain what you’re looking at before purchasing. Generally the models beginning with the letter “b” are for bass and “g” are for guitar. The ampeg g410 is an example of a great sounding guitar amp that delivers a vintage 70s tone.

Ibanez amps: Best amp for instrumentalists?

Being the first guitar brand to produce seven string guitars and distribute them on a global scale, it’s no wonder that Ibanez is a favorite among many enthusiasts. The company is famous for sponsoring many great guitarists and building them custom models (ex. Steve Vai. & Joe Satriani). Their amps can be a hit or miss since it’s not a piece of equipment Ibanez focuses on, but they have a few good models that are great for instrumentalists.

Behringer amps: Best amp for audio engineers?

Behringer is a popular company that makes a lot of recording studio equipment. They impressively manufacture this affordable equipment without sacrificing anything in terms of quality. Behringer is a favorite brand among recording studios, universities, and highschools. It’s a brand that all audio engineers are familiar with.

Roland amps: Affordable beginner’s amp

Roland is an amplifier company that’s famous for their Roland CUBE amp series. It’s a popular choice among beginners because of its affordability and surprisingly decent tone. The amps are usually installed with a few tone settings, a bunch of effects, and even a guitar tuner. They’re a beginner’s amplifier that deliver a good bang for your buck.

ENGL amps: Best amp for metal?

Engl is an underappreciate amp company based in Germany. Engl amps don’t even have an English wiki page as of yet. But they produce some of the best amplifiers for metal. The amps have a stunningly clean but deep metal tone and are an absolute joy to play through.

Blackstar Amps: Underappreciated metal amp

Blackstar is a very new amp brand but already has a lot of reputation. Famous artists such as Ozzy and Dimmu Borgir all support Blackstar. So naturally it’s a great amp for metal. They’re a British guitar amps manufacturer despite initially starting their operations in the States.. The company consists of many employees who have a history of working with some of the biggest amp names in history. The designs are absolutely top notch and most of the amps have a very natural tone to them.

Orange amps:

The distinctive look of orange amps make them hard to miss. They’ve been used by many famous guitarists for decades and helped contribute to their unique sound. Orange cabs are fantastic for bringing an interesting tone to a live audience for all to appreciate. The orange brand is perfect to turn to for musicians who want to experiment with a number of different genres.

Unique guitar amps

Sometimes you’ll find the odd brandless guitar amp. These apparent custom amps should be played with caution, especially if you can’t find any information on them. Unfortunately it’s a popular practice to mass manufacture electronics on the cheap in foreign countries before shipping them over. This sometimes motivates sketchy “entrepreneurs” to steal patents and then produce items with the cheapest available materials. The result is obviously a bad product with lots of risks. A good rule of thumb is that if the price of something seems too good to be true, then it most likely is. Having said all that, the best case scenario is that the unique guitar amplifier is the result of an enthusiast’s DIY project. So always try to find out as much as you can about nameless products before purchasing. Unless of course you have the money to burn and are willing to take the risk.

Guide Conclusion

This guide hopefully helped you figure out the sort of amp you need. There are a lot of amps out there so it can get easily overwhelming. Finding the best guitar amp or any other amp is entirely dependant on personal needs. Feel free to refer to this guide whenever you or anyone else are having issues with picking out the right amp.