I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.
Budget Option - Practice Amp Under $100
Blackstar Fly 3
The Blackstar Fly 3 is an affordable combo amp that allows you to practice virtually anywhere, thanks to its compact profile and ability to run on six AA batteries.
At less than 2lbs, this amp is as portable as it gets, while giving you good room level tones with its 3W amp section and 3" speaker.
It also has an MP3/line-in jack for playing along with your favorite tracks, while the headphones out allows for quiet playing.
All these features make it ideal for use during trips and hotel stays, especially when paired with a travel guitar.
As expected, it features Blackstar's ISF (Infinite Shape Feature), which lets you change the amp's voicing from American to British with just one knob.
- Power: 3W
- Speaker: 1 x 3"
- Channels: Clean, Overdrive
- Effects: Tape Delay
- Controls: Gain, Volume, ISF, Delay Time, Delay Level
- Input/Output: 1x4"(Guitar), 1x8"(Mp3/LineIn)
- Extras: ISF, Can Run on 6 x AA Batteries
- Weight: 1.98 lbs.
Being able to practice anywhere is the Blackstar Fly3's main selling point, reviewers are pleased at how portable and conducive the amp is for practice. Having been made by Blackstar, it also gets a lot of thumbs up for its overdriven tone, which impresses even experts like Michael Brown of Music Radar who gave it a perfect rating and concludes his review by saying "it sounds as good as practice amps four times the size, with a meaty bass response, American-style cleans and hefty gain." It also helps that it is super affordable, and has good build quality.
Some users find the clean channel lacking, especially in the low end. While a few find this 3W amp to be a little to quiet for their preference.
If you're looking for a very cheap portable practice amp, then the Blackstar Fly 3 is your best bet.
Practice Amps Under $200
Fender Mustang LT 25
Fender's foray into the practice guitar amp market continues to be met with rave reviews, and the LT 25 is one of their more popular offerings in the sub $200 price range.
This amp is rated at 25-Watts and has an 8" speaker, housed in a modern and sleek looking cabinet.
Being part of Fender's Mustang line, the LT 25 is unapologetically a full on amp modeler, with 25 digital effects, 50 presets, and 20 amp models that include classic Fender tube amps.
For an amp modeler, Fender was able to keep the control panel intuitive, and they did so by assigning more complex parameter control to be done via USB using a software editor. You can also use the USB connection to record your playing in DAW software.
Other features include built-in tuner, color display, aux input and headphone out.
- Power Rating: 25 Watts
- Speaker: 1 x 8"
- Models: 20
- Effects: 25
- Controls: Gain, Volume, Treble, Bass, Master, Preset Control Switches
- Input/Output: 1/4", 1/8" (Aux), 1/8" (Headphones)
- Extras: USB Connectivity, Built-in Tuner and Tap Tempo
- Weight: 14.9 lbs.
This amp is often described as a great practice amp, and rightfully so with its good balance of features and intuitive control. Many use this as their main plug and play amp at home, while others commend it for its portability. Tone wise, users are impressed with how this amp emulates Fender's clean tones, and there are also some who love its overdriven sounds.
While this amp can go loud, there are some who report that tone degrades as you push the volume higher. Some of the default effects and amp model settings are also not as well received, thankfully you can edit them to your preference and save them on the amp.
The Fender Mustang LT 25 is a modern practice amp with classic tone sensibilities.
Orange Crush 20RT
With so many feature packed amps available in this price range, it's interesting how guitarists continue to give high ratings to something as simplistic as the Orange Crush 20RT.
This amp is as old school as it gets, with a straightforward 2-channel clean / overdrive configuration, with basic controls that include gain, 3-band EQ and reverb.
Nothing about it will confuse any guitar player, regardless of skill level, making it very suitable for practice and for quickly plugging in to capture and develop musical ideas.
The Crush 20RT's 20W solid state amp section drives a single 8" speaker, but it also comes with headphones out with speaker emulation in case you want to practice quietly.
Other features include a traditional Aux input port and it has a built in tuner.
- Power Rating: 20-Watts
- Speaker Size: 8”
- Models: N/A
- Effects: Distortion, Reverb
- Controls: Dirty, Treble, Middle, Bass, Gain, Clean, Reverb
- Input/Output: AUX-In, Headphone/ Line-Out
- Extras: Tuner, Voice of the World Speaker
- Weight: 15.9lbs
Solid build quality and consistent tone are two of the main characteristics that makes this the favorite practice amp of many players. For what would be considered as limited in terms of features, many are impressed at how responsive the amp's voicing is to its basic controls. This in turn gives it enough sonic flexibility to please many players. Its crunch overdriven tone is the most praised, but there are also plenty of positive comments pertaining to its clean to low gain tone. Many also report that it receives pedals well, much like an old school solid state amp.
Ironically, its main strength is also its weakness, if you want more effects and voicings, then this is not for you.
If you’re looking for an easy to use practice amp with great distortion tone, the Orange Crush 20RT may be your best bet.
Practice Amps Under $500
Roland Cube Street
Roland Cube amps are known for being portable and beginner friendly, this includes the Cube Street, a 2-channel 5-Watt amp with mic and guitar inputs ideal for budding singer songwriters and multi-instrumentalists.
The guitar / instrument channel comes with 8 amp models and 6 built-in effects, all of which are based on Roland's COSM modeling - the same technology found in Boss guitar processors.
What makes this a good practice amp is its wedge type profile, making it easier to align the amp's dual 6.5" speakers to your ears much like a floor monitor would, allowing you to better hear your playing, which is of utmost importance in both practice and performance.
Also, you can run the Roland Cube Street on 6 x AA batteries, making it possible for you to practice or even perform anywhere.
- Power Rating: 5-Watts
- Speaker Size: 2x6.5”
- Models: 8 COSM Amp Models
- Effects: Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo, Delay, Reverb
- Controls: Mic Channel (Bass, Treble, Delay/Reverb), Guitar Channel (Bass, Middle, Treble, Effects, Delay/Reverb)
- Input/Output: 1/4", XLR-1/4" Combo, 1/8" (Aux), 1/4" Headphones Out
- Extras: Runs on 6 x AA Batteries
- Weight:11.46 lbs
Singer/guitarists appreciate how it simplified their practice rig with its mic input. And thanks to its ability to run on batteries, many use it as their portable busking amp, which means getting more value from the amp that they bought. The sound of the amp also gets a lot of thumbs up, especially its clean tones, and its modulation effects.
Given the smaller size of its speaker and limited power rating, there are some who report that it sounds too trebly. Lack of nifty features like a line-out jack would've been a great addition, to better utilize the amp as a monitor.
If you're looking for an affordable and portable practice guitar amp with dedicated mic channel, then check out the Roland Cube Street.
Blackstar HT-1R MkII
The Blackstar HT-1R MkII is a 1-Watt tube amp, which lets you crank the amp to get great tube tones at lower volume levels.
The amp section houses a 12AX7 preamp tube, and a 12AU7 poweramp tube, driving its clean and OD channels.
It is housed in a combo amp with an 8" speaker that gives it a bit more low-end for a low-watt amp.
Having been made by Blackstar, it comes with the company's ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) knob, which lets you tweak the voicing from American to British style amp tones.
To expand your tone tweaking options, Blackstar equipped this amp with a Voicing button, that lets you switch between vintage and modern voicing for the clean and OD channels.
Other practice friendly features include having built-in digital reverb, Aux input, headphones out, and USB direct recording.
- Power: 1W
- Speaker: 1 x 8"
- Preamp Tube: 1 x 12AX7
- PowerampTube: 1 x 12AU7
- Effects: Reverb
- Controls: Gain, Volume, ISF, Reverb, OD, Voice
- Input/Output: 1 x 1/4" (Instrument), 1 x 1/8" (Mp3/AuxIn), 1 x 1/4" (4-16 ohms), 1 x 1/8" (Headphones/Emulated out), USB
- Extras: USB Direct Recording
- Weight: 12.34 lbs.
"Tiny but mighty" is a phrase that nicely encapsulates market sentiment towards the Blackstar HT-1R MkII. Owners are pleased at how full and big it sounds given its wattage and size, and more importantly it does so while sounding good enough to appease even experienced tube amp users. As expected, it gets a lot of kudos for its overdriven tone, especially with the gain set to around mid settings. Michael Watts of Guitar.com shared the same sentiment, stating that "it is in the truly impressive lower/medium gain settings that the HT-1R MkII proves its versatility as an excellent amp for blues and alternative styles, too".
Being a 1-Watt amp, volume is limited for use in bedroom or small studio settings, anything beyond that and you'll need a different amp. A few users caution that cranking the volume too much results in unwanted buzz or muddy tone.
The Blackstar HT-1R MkII is ideal for those who want to practice with a great sounding and versatile tube amp.
The popularity of desktop studio setups resulted in specialized amps that fit modern workflow better. The Yamaha THR10II is one such amp, with a rectangular profile that sits nicely on desks.
This desktop friendly profile puts its controls within arms reach, and better aligns the speakers to the musician, removing the need to stand or awkwardly reach down to tweak the controls of traditional amps. This position works nicely for practice, especially if you're working with online lessons and tutorials.
The THR10II is a 20-Watt amp with stereo 3" speakers and built-in amp modeling that lets you choose between 15 guitar amp models, 3 mic amp models, 3 bass amp models, and a flat mode. It also houses essential effects that include reverb, delay and various types of modulation.
All of these features add up to a wide range of tone tweaking options that can be great for practice or for recording.
Other practice friendly features include USB direct recording, Bluetooth streaming and a built-in tuner.
- Power Rating: 20-Watts
- Speaker Size: 2 x 3”
- Models: 15 Guitar Amps, 3 Bass Amps, 3 Mic Amps, Flat Mode
- Effects: Reverb(Spring/Hall), Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo, Echo, Compressor, Noise Gate
- Controls: Amp, Gain, Master, Bass, Middle, Treble, Effect, Echo/Rev, Output (Guitar/Audio), User Preset Buttons and Tap Tempo Button
- Input/Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux In)
- Extras: Bluetooth Connectivity, Built-in Tuner and Tap Tempo
- Weight: 6.61 lbs
The Yamaha THR10II is a great all-around amp for home use, catering to both novices and experienced guitarists. It is easy enough to use for novices to enjoy, while having enough depth and functionality to impress even experts like Paul White of Sound on Sound, who summarized his review by saying: "A surprisingly mature-sounding little combo that has serious studio applications as well as practice, live and mobile uses." Portability is another important factor, which means that you're not limited to practicing at your desk. Many are also impressed at how good it sounds, especially when considering how compact the amp is.
Speaking of compact, it would be unfair to expect more volume from its 3" speakers. If you're looking for a traditional practice amp that has enough volume for jamming with a band, then this is not for you.
Yamaha THR10II is a value-packed amp that address practice and recording needs in a compact package.
Positive Grid Spark
Positive Grid is well known for their digital sound processing apps, which allow you to get great sounding tones via computer or smart phone and tablets.
The Spark amplifier carries over much of the technology found in their BIAS apps, and packs them into a compact desktop profile 40-watt combo with dual 4" speakers.
Its amp modeling, built-in effects and USB audio interface functionality make the Positive Grid Spark a great guitar processor and amplifier for home studio use, with just the right volume, connectivity options, and features for recording and practice.
But what makes it standout as a practice amp is its auto accompaniment called Smart Jam, which generates a rhythm section (bass and drums) based on the chords you're playing and the timing that you're plating them in.
The amp can also analyze your favorite tracks and tell you which chords are being used, behaving much like an AI transcriber, built right into the amp. This feature is very useful for practice, and can be used when brainstorming songs and arrangements.
Finally, it has a built-in tuner right on the amp, so you can always check if you're playing in tune.
- Power: 40W Class D
- Speaker: 2x4"
- Models: 30
- Effects: 40
- Controls: Amp Type, Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Master, Mod, Delay, Reverb, Output Volume, Music Volume, Four Preset Buttons, Tap/Tuner Button
- Input/Output: 1 x 1/4" (Input), 1 x 1/8" (Aux-In), 1 x 1/8" (Headphones), USB
- Extras: Smart Jam, USB Audio Interface
- Weight: 11.46 lbs.
Many are surprised at how good the sound of this amp is, impressing even experts with its various amp models and effects. Music Radar concludes their review by saying, "The Positive Grid Spark 40 might just be the ultimate at-home amp. The tones are great, and the smart tech is indeed smart. Auto Chord and Smart Jam are incredible practice and learning tools, and a lot of fun, too." It also gets a lot of thumbs up for its pricing, which many consider to be very affordable given the many things it can do.
With so many digital processing features, getting used to the controls may take more time than usual. Some caution that fiddling with the settings can sometimes eat away at the time you ought to spend practicing or recording. Some users caution that the controls on the amp are limited and a bit cramped, you will need to control it via software if you want to make use of all its features.
With its amp modeling, effects and Smart Jam auto-accompaniment, this is definitely a nice amp to have especially for those who have yet to get a desktop style amplifier.
Boss Katana Head MkII
The Boss Katana MkII is a distinct entry in this guide, because it is a 100W amp head that's more suited for stage use.
What makes it practice-friendly is its built-in 5" speaker and power attenuator, that lets you lower its power rating down to 50W and even lower at 0.5W. This means that you won't need different amps for practice and performance.
In addition, it has powerful DSP (Digital Sound Processing) with 10 amp models (Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown and Acoustic with variations) and a wide range of digital effects taken directly from Boss guitar processors.
Other features include having a power amp input, built-in effects loop, and it even has speaker cabinet emulated outputs for direct recording.
Summing up all its capabilities, that the Boss Katana Head MkII has the potential to be an all-in-one guitar rig, that you can use for everything from quiet practice, to recording, to big stage performances when used with an optional speaker cabinet like a regular amp head.
- Power: 100W (Power Attenuator: 50W, 0.5W)
- Speaker: 1 x 5" (Internal Speaker)
- Models: 10
- Effects: 60 Boss Effects
- Controls: Amp Type, Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, Booster/Mod, FX/Delay, Reverb, Presence, Master, Power, Tone Setting, Cab Resonance
- Input/Output: 1 x 1/4, 1 x 1/4" (Power Amp), 1 x 1/8" (Aux), 2 x 1/4" (Line/Speaker), 1 x 1/4" (Headphones/Rec)
- Extras: Power Attenuator, Built-in Speaker, Effects Loop
- Weight: 19.4 lbs..
While its not the cheapest in its category, the feature set of the Boss Katana Head MkII makes it very hard to beat in terms of value for money. And this is reflected in reviews, guitarists especially love its 5" speaker and power attenuation, which expands the amp's use to more than just a loud amp head. Many are also pleased at how good it sounds, even those who own expensive tube amps. Ease of use is another common reason why people rate this amp highly.
Some users caution that the software editor requires more time to get used to. Others wish for more amp voicing options. Note that to make use of its 100W and 50W power rating, you will need to pair this amp with a guitar speaker cabinet, which you have to buy separately,
If you're looking for a stage amp that you can conveniently use for practice, then the Boss Katana Head MKII is for you.
Practice Amps Under $1000
Yamaha THR30II Wireless
The THR30II is part of Yamaha's desktop friendly line of guitar amplifiers, meant to better address the needs of modern computer-based home studios. And since home recording via computer is now the norm, this amp is in demand.
It's distinct profile allows it to sit on a table, which makes it a perfect ft into the usual home setup that guitarists use.
Compared to smaller THR models, this particular one is a step up in terms of size and volume, rated at 30 Watts and sporting two 3.5" speakers.
It comes with the same Virtual Circuitry Modeling (VCM) technology that other THR amps use, which utilizes component modeling for improved realism. Sonic options include 15 guitar amp models, 3 bass amp models, 3 mic models and a flat mode.
Other features include built-in reverb, delay and modulation effects, bluetooth compatibility and USB direct recording.
- Power: 30W
- Speaker: 2x3.5"
- Amp Modeling: 15 x Amp Models
- Effects: Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo, Echo, Compressor, Noise Gate, Reverb
- Input/Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in), 2 x 1/4" (Line out)
- Extras: Power Attenuator (0.1W)
- Weight: 9.48 lbs.
The convenience of using just one amp for multiple instruments, and for multiple purposes like practice and for recording, is a common reason why this amp is rating so well. And while there's no replacing conventional amps, especially on stage, this amp is hard to beat when it comes to practicality and efficiency in modern setups. Users appreciate the sound quality and extra projection that this amp provides compared to its smaller siblings, while having the same tone quality.
There are a few who wish for a version with more conventional and bigger speaker design, but that would hamper the benefits of its table-top format.
If you're looking for a home studio friendly amp that can also double as your main practice amp, then check out the Yamaha THR30II Wireless.
Things to Consider When Buying a Small Amp or Practice Amp
Gone are the days when guitarists have to use multiple pieces of equipment just to practice, thanks to guitar amps that have practice friendly features.
Amps that are good for practice should, at the very least, have an AUX-in and a headphone-out. The AUX-in allows you to plug in a different device and have its audio come through the speakers (some amps even come with backing tracks, though they are more limited than what you can find online). This is a huge help if you’re running through backing tracks. A headphone-out lets you play through headphones, which is a must-have feature if you’re looking to practice silently.
There are also two features which are becoming more popular on practice amps: a metronome and a looper. A metronome plays notes at a consistent speed which, when you play along with it, can help you develop your sense of time. A looper records a small section of audio and plays it back, allowing you to essentially be your own rhythm guitarist (which is great for practicing improv.). Another noteworthy feature to look out for is auto accompaniment or those with built-in backing tracks, which can make practice more fun and interesting. Finally, amps with built-in power attenuation allow you to lower the power rating so you can get good tones at bedroom volume levels.
- There are two main reasons why portable amps are great for practice: they are easy to move around both at home or for warming up before gigs. Portable amps are easy to carry around and bring to any room, and sometimes simply changing the location where you are practicing at home can help improve your overall experience. Being able to warm up before going up on stage also helps prepare you for your performance.
When you see an amp advertised as “number”-watts, that’s referring to its power rating. As a general rule, the higher and amp’s power rating the louder it is going to be. For gigging, a 100-watt solid-state amp will usually suffice. But for practicing, as long as it’s audible to you there’s not really a set amount of wattage you need.
Speaker size is another important specification to look at. Generally speaking smaller speakers have a hard time producing low-end frequencies, making the sound they produce perceived as being “thinner” than the sound you’d get from a larger speaker - especially when playing with others. However, as speaker size gets bigger amps get bulkier and heavier. Those with big speakers also tend to be too loud for use at home. Thankfully, speaker size is not as much of a big deal for solo practice, especially when amps utilize modeling and cabinet simulation.
Tone quality, good or bad, is subjective, because what we consider as good sounding is based on personal preference. But there are certain baseline standards on what constitutes good tone, like clarity and responsiveness, but even still, different people will have different opinions on tone. So your best bet at finding a good sounding amp (to your ears) is to get an amp that has similar voicing (or comes with amp models) that are similar to what your favorite guitarists use.
It is also good to get an amp with tones that you can use for the genre of music that you want to play. If you want to play country, an amp that has decent cleans is right up your alley. Similarly, if you want a metal amp you’re going to want an amp that’s focused on high-gain.
A cool component of modern amps is that many have the capability to model different amp cabinets, which changes the shape of your sound. You can set your amp to model the response of a 4x12 stack, giving it way more depth and presence. Similarly, you can set it to have a response more similar to a small combo, focusing its tone and punch. You can also set it somewhere in the middle.
Many amps also come with different channels, generally in the form of either a clean or distorted setting. These two settings allow you to easily flip from very clean to distorted which gives you a wider array of tones you can produce. Amp modelers offer even more sonic flexibility, but at the cost of more complex controls.
Many practice amps come with digital sound processing that allow for amp modeling and effects. Amps that do this generally include an example of everything, so you have basic settings for: distortion, overdrive, fuzz, delay, and modulation (chorus, flange, phase, tremolo, and vibrato).
The benefit you’re going to get from built-in effects depends on what you’re going to want to do. If you want to play a bunch of different genres, odds are that an amp with a bunch of built-in effects is going to be an asset. However, if you don’t plan on using effects, you can get a better deal if you don’t buy one with built-in effects (though this does depend on your budget).
Practice Friendly Features
Power Rating and Speaker Size
Performance (Tone/Channels/Amp Models etc.)
Best Practice Amp Selection Methodology
The first edition was published in 2017 and the current edition was published on March 4, 2022.
While there is no universal definition of a practice amp, for the purposes of this guide we defined them as combo electric guitar amps with practice friendly features, and weighing no more than 20 lbs. In addition to meeting those specifications, to be eligible for this guide an amp had to be available from a USA based retailer.
We ended up with 63 amps on our short-list, which entailed analysis of over 68,000 review and rating sources. These rating sources include relevant reviews, ratings, forum discussions and expert recommendations, including the most recent ones up to late February, 2022. These were then processed via the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the rating scores out of 100 that we used to recommend only the highest rated options. Finally we divided the list into different price categories to make it easier for you to see which ones fit your budget. For this 2022 edition, we've expanded the categories to include a budget-friendly sub $100 amp, and a premium sub $1000 amp.
For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.
About the Author and Contributors
Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.
Lead Author & Researcher
Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.
All the videos above have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.
The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.