Best Guitar Amps under 500 – Solid-State and Tube Amps

guitar amps under 500

As you gain more experience and your skills improve, the best guitar amps under 500 have you covered. They are great for practice and jams, and have good enough projection and tone for gigs and even recording.


Digital signal processing has progressed tremendously over the decades, resulting in the popularity of versatile modeling amps with digital brains in the entry-level to mid-tier price range.

There aren’t that many tube amps in this market segment, but they’re still in demand. Aside from traditional tube amps, there are also hybrid amps that combine tube preamp circuitry with digital versatility.

Featured here are the best cheap guitar amps that fall under the sub $500 price range, divided into four sections: Sold-state Guitar Combo Amps, Tube Combo Amps, Amp Heads, and Pedal Amps.

The Best Guitar Amps Under 500 – Different Amp Types

Author & Contributors

Best Guitar Amp under 500 Dollars - Digital & Solid-State

Line 6 Catalyst 200

97
GEARANK
97 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.
$439.99
Line 6
Line 6 Catalyst 200 200-watt 2x12 inch Combo Guitar Amp

Cons

  • Lacks the character of a traditional tube amp

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Great power on tap
  • Reacts well to different guitar types
  • Great value

The Line 6 Catalyst 200 is a 200-watt, 2x12 combo solid state amp lauded by guitarists for its versatility and wide range of tones and effects. Featuring six channels and six effects, it boasts a modern and stylish design and is favored by intermediate to advanced players.

One of the standout features of this solid state amplifier is its responsiveness and clarity across various guitar types, from Strats to Les Pauls. Users have specifically praised its ability to deliver edge-of-breakup tones, a feature that has won over blues and country musicians. While it offers the convenience of digital modeling, some users feel that it lacks the character of a traditional tube amp.

The Line 6 Catalyst 200 is one of the best best budget guitar amps, striking a balance between flexibility and affordability. This digital amp is a versatile companion for both practice and performance settings, offering a wide range of tones and effects suitable for various music styles with its 200-watt output.

Its modern and stylish design has been well-received by professional musicians, but some users may prefer the nuanced sound of tube amps over digital modeling.

Specifications

  • Power: 200W (100W/0.5W/mute settings)
  • Speaker: 2 x 12" Custom Design speaker
  • Amp Modeling: 6 x Original Amp Design Voicings (clean, boutique, chime, crunch, dynamic, hi-gain)
  • Effects: Boost, 6 x Modulation, 6 x Delay, 6 x Pitch/Filter
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" TRS (aux in)
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (DI out with ground/lift)
  • Weight: 41.6 lbs.

Best Guitar Amps under 500 - Combo Tube Amplifiers

Vox VT40X

92
GEARANK
92 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.
$349.99
Vox
Vox VT40X Modeling Tube Guitar Combo Amp 40W

Cons

  • Stock speaker is a nonstandard 5 ohms
  • Lacks line out

Pros

  • Useful companion app
  • Great clean amp tones
  • Lots of rig options
  • Very responsive to playing nuances

The Vox VT40X is a hybrid amp, combining the best of tube and solid state combo amp technology. This makes it versatile for guitar playing, powerful as a practice amp, and affordable as a stage amp.

This melding of old and new technology allows the amp to retain the vibe of classic tube amps, while having the flexibility of modern amp modelers.

Speaking of flexibility, the Vox VT40X lets you choose from 11 preloaded amp models (expandable to 20 via its software editor), and 13 effects - all of which are customizable via the software editor.

This means that you are getting a tube amp and a versatile guitar rig all in a compact and more importantly, affordable package.

With its power rating and rich feature set, the Vox VT40X is easily the best budget guitar amp on this recommendation list.

Reviews of the Vox VT40X continue to be overwhelmingly favorable, pointing to the amp's value for money as its best trait. It's no surprise that it can reproduce the jangly bright tones of classic Vox amps, impressing even the experts.

While other fans of the amp report that it is relatively easy to craft good sounds with its interface. Nick Guppy said in his Music Radar review, "There's no real secret to this; they sound superb".

There are a few who complain about noise from cabinet components rattling, but it maybe due to some small parts coming loose on the inside, which can be fixed. As such, better handling care is recommended, thankfully it is not much of a deal breaker given that this amp comes with a 12AX7 tube.

Speaking of tubes, there are some users who got better results after swapping out the default tube. Others are looking for modern features like Bluetooth connectivity which this amp doesn't have.

The Voc VT40x is the best amp under 500 if you're looking for tube amp quality tone with the flexibility of DSP.

Specifications:

  • Power: 40W
  • Preamp Tube: 1 x 12AX7
  • Speaker: 1 x 12"
  • Amp Modeling: 11 Amp Models (Up to 20 via Editor Software)
  • Effects: 13 (3 Simultaneous)
  • Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (aux)
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/8" (Headphones)
  • Weight: 20.94 lbs.

Marshall DSL1CR

93
GEARANK
93 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.
$499.99
Marshall
marshall-dsl1cr-1-watt-1x8-inch-tube-combo-guitar-amp

Cons

  • Needs a cab to unlock potential

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Great all tube tone
  • Affordable
  • Works great with extension cab

The Marshall DSL1CR is a highly regarded 1-watt tube combo amp known for delivering classic Marshall tones at lower volumes, making it a good tube amp for home use, jam sessions, and recording.

It sounds great at low volume levels, with a warm valve sound and organic response. The amp's 8-inch Celestion speaker is noted for producing a surprisingly good sound quality, given its size. Other amp settings include two channel switching, reverb, and effects loop, all of which provide impressive versatility in a compact package.

On the positive side, the amp is easy to use, portable, and boasts a straightforward design. It offers great sound quality, especially considering it is an all-tube amp. Its manageable volume in a small, lightweight package makes it convenient for various settings. Additionally, it performs well with high-gain tones, and the attenuator is seen as a valuable addition. Users have also reported that it works great with an extension cab.

However, some users find that the DSL1CR is not as robust in design or performance as its predecessor, the 2012 1-Watt anniversary model. Additionally, some suggest that pairing the DSL1 head with a 1x12 cab might be a better option for more versatility. The 8" speaker also tends to muddy when the amp is cranked up. So be mindful of the tube combo output volume setting.

If want genuine tube tone and you're looking for the best tube amp under 500 for low volume practice, then the Marshall DSL1CR is for you.

Specifications

  • Power: 1W (0.1W power setting)
  • Speaker: 1 x 8" Celestion Eight 15 speaker
  • Amp Modeling: not specified
  • Effects: Loop effects
  • Input: 1 x 1/4" (instrument), 1 x 1/8" (aux in)
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/8" (softube emulated out), 1 x 1/4" (internal speaker)
  • Weight: 17 lbs.

Best Guitar Amp Heads - All Types - Under $500

Boss Katana Head MkII 100-Watt Guitar Amp Head

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.
$369.99
Boss
Boss Katana Head MkII 100-Watt Guitar Amp Head / Combo 5" Speaker

Cons

  • Its sound is not very convincingly "natural" but it can definitely get close when paired with a good guitar cab and thrown into a band mix
  • Connection to pc is needed to get tons of settings and sounds

Pros

  • The sound is pitch perfect and it has multiple of choices of sound
  • good inexpensive guitar amp

  • It has a couple of line-out options, playing with headphones and direct line-in recording via DAW is easily done as well
  • Option to get rid of all your foot pedals and just program the sound patches you want using your laptop and the Boss Studio Software
  • Pro4

The Boss Katana MkII series is so well received that some are describing it as "hype". As proof of this - many of their models are rating high enough to make it into this guide. And Katana amps are considered by many to be among the best affordable guitar amps.

This 100-Watt Amp Head takes the same technology found in the combo version, and packs it in an amp head configuration which you can pair with your preferred speakers. But what sets this one apart is the inclusion of an internal 5" speaker - which together with the built-in power attenuator, allows for getting good tones at low volume levels.

Everything else follows the tried and tested Katana formula, at the core of which are five amp voicings that include Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown and Acoustic. MkII adds in a variation switch that modifies the five voicings, essentially expanding your amp tone options to 10.

As mentioned above, it comes with built-in power attenuator, that lets you switch from 100W, to 50W, all the way down to 0.5W.

As expected, it comes with Boss effects derived from the companies popular stompboxes and guitar processors.

Other noteworthy features include effects loop and power amp input.

Many consider the 5" internal speaker as the best asset of this amp head, making it very versatile, and more importantly making it more friendly to guitarists who are stuck at home. There are reviewers who use the 5" speaker exclusively and are happy with the tones, while those who use it as an amp head are happy to have a low volume option built into the amp head. It's also worth noting that many users find Katana MkII amp head to be easy to use, which is surprising given the many features it houses.

There are a few complaints regarding the software editor, which they say is hard to configure or not working at all for some users.

The Boss Katana Head MkII Amp Head is a bedroom friendly amp that you can take on stage, highly recommended especially in today's stay at home restrictions.

If you're looking for the best guitar head under 500, then this is for you.

Specifications:

  • Power: 100W (Power Attenuator: 50W, 0.5W)
  • Channels: 4
  • Amp Models: 10
  • Effects: 60 Boss Effects
  • Input: 1 x 1/4, 1 x 1/4" (Power Amp), 1 x 1/8" (Aux)
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (Line/Speaker), 1 x 1/4" (Headphones/Rec)
  • Weight: 19.4 lbs.

Best Guitar Amp under 500 - Floor / Pedal Board Amps

Fitting the components of a guitar amplifier into a pedal size form factor is challenging. But there are a few that does this well, like the best amps under 500 in pedal form featured below..

Quilter Labs SuperBlock US

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.
$319.00
Quilter Labs
Quilter Labs SuperBlock US 25-watt Pedal Board Guitar Amp

Cons

  • Not intended for high gain

Pros

  • Low noise floor
  • Takes pedals really well
  • Fits perfectly on a pedalboard
  • Tube-like response

The Quilter Labs SuperBlock US 25-watt Pedal Board Guitar Amp is a compact yet powerful amp known for its three American voicings and pedalboard-friendly design. It can drive a PA or stage cab, offering direct monitoring options with dry and cab-emulated outputs. Users appreciate its reverb, FX loop features, and clean tones rather than high-gain distortion. The Limiter knob is highlighted for its compressor-like effect, smoothing out peaks and mimicking tube amplifier response.

The SuperBlock delivers fantastic cleans, making it versatile for various playing styles, with a low noise floor and a lightweight, portable design. It pairs well with effects pedals, maintaining clarity without introducing grainy tones, and offers warm, tube-like sound and responsiveness despite being solid state.

However, it's not intended for crushing distortion and excels at clean tones, making it less suited for heavy distortion.

The Quilter Labs SuperBlock US 25-watt Pedal Board Guitar Amp is a compact and versatile amp renowned for its three American voicings, pedalboard-friendly design, and clean tones. Its best-in-class solid-state performance, low noise floor, and excellent pedal compatibility make it an ideal choice for musicians seeking a portable and reliable amp for various playing styles.

While it may not cater to those seeking heavy distortion out of the box, its warm, tube-like sound and compressor-like Limiter knob make it a standout option for clean and versatile performances.

Specifications

  • Power: 25 Watts 8 ohms (4-16 ohms okay)
  • Channels: Single
  • Effects: Limiter
  • Input: 1 x 1/4" mono (1M input impedance)
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (direct out), 1 x 1/4" (4/8/16 ohms)
  • Weight: 1.35 lbs.

Seymour Duncan PowerStage 200

91
GEARANK
91 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.
$499.00
Seymour Duncan
Seymour Duncan PowerStage 200 - 200-watt Pedal Board Guitar Amp Head

Cons

  • Kind of big for a pedal board (takes up the space of about 2 stomp boxes)
  • the Amp could use some rubber feet to keeping it from sliding around

Pros

  • Lightweight, powerful with 2 speaker out jacks and runs at 4 ohms
  • Completely transparent (doesn't color the sound of pre-amp pedal)
  • Plenty of features for a variety of situations (you can run directly into cab, into balanced out, or to headphones)
  • Pro4

The PowerStage 200 takes Seymour Duncan's Class D amplifier pedal format up a notch by adding headphone amplifier functionality, complete with Cab Sim and extra input/output options.

At 200W, this pedalboard friendly amplifier is viable for stage use, while the headphone amp feature makes it just as viable for quiet practice.

And it does all this while retaining a reasonably compact size, which is around the same size as 2 regular pedals side by side.

Another important distinction that this amp provides over the PowerStage 170 is the addition of a Presence knob.

Everything else is similar to its smaller sibling, including the top mounted control form factor and the large volume knob.

Reviewers describe this as a great solidstate power amp to partner with guitar processors and amp modelers. Users mention getting good results when pairing with Line 6 processors like the HX Stomp and Helix, along with other processors from Boss, Fractal Audio, Kemper and more. Owners are also happy with its overall build, stating that it feels and looks solid, and sits nicely on their pedalboards.

There are also many who attest to it being more than capable of driving speakers for common gig venues and stage volume. Guitar Interactive Magazine summarized their review by saying, "It's insanely powerful, versatile and offers a ton of tweakability."

Since this is meant as a power amplifier, it is not meant for tone coloration as many other guitar amps are. This makes it ideal a great amp for those who like to get their tone solely from their guitar processors.

If you're using an amp modeler and you are looking to bring back the feel of interacting with an actual amplifier without having to haul bulky amp heads, then this is for you.

Specifications:

  • Power: 200W
  • Channels: 1
  • Effects: None
  • Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (Speakers), 1 x XLR (Cab Simulation)
  • Weight: 2.87 lbs.

Things to Consider When Looking for the Best Cheap Guitar Amp Under $500

  • What Amp Can You Afford?

    The guitar world is composed of guitarists from different economic levels. This is the reason why amps come in different price teirs. If you think the best guitar amps under 500 category is a stretch, you should consider something more affordable. You may want to look at the best guitar amp under 200. If on the other hand you can afford something better you should consider the best guitar amps under 1000. You can find our recommendations within our article the best guitar amps up to 1000, the top brands.

  • What is a Combo Amp?

    A combo amp is simply one where the amplifier section and the speaker cabinet are combined into a single unit instead of having separate amp heads and speaker cabinets. This combined configuration is popular because it makes amplifiers easier to carry around, and reduces the number of equipment that you have to manage. This simplified configuration also makes combo amps ideal for students and beginners.

  • What is an Amp Head?

    Amp heads are amplifiers that don't come with speakers, as such they are smaller than their combo counterparts. But to make them work, you are still required to plug them into a separate compatible speaker cabinet. Amp heads are preferred by some because they can use the speaker cabinet that they prefer, others also prefer the distributed weight of separate amp head and speaker cab vs combo amps when lugging around. Interestingly, some manufacturers like Boss have been installing small speakers into their amp heads, giving users a convenient low volume option, that essentially transforms the amp head into a mini combo amp.

  • What is an Pedal Amp?

    Pedal amplifiers are essentially amp heads that come in a floor / pedalboard friendly form factor. They are expected to do the same task, amplify your sound and drive a speaker cabinet. The main advantage that they have is that they are smaller and easier to incorporate into existing pedalboard rigs. The downside of having a small form factor means that they may lack features and connectivity options that amp heads offer.

  • Tube vs Solid-State

    It's interesting how tube technology, which is now over a century old, still persists in this modern era - mainly thanks to guitarists who love the sound of tube amps. The sound, feel and response of tube amps are generally regarded to be better than solid-state, but since they utilize fragile tubes, they are typically more expensive and require more handling care and maintenance.

    On the other hand, solid-state amps are generally regarded as more reliable. And since they use readily available components, solid state amplifiers are often more affordable. Thanks to improvements in digital sound processing, these amps are also getting ever closer to nailing the feel and sound of their tube counterparts. This is the reason why many consider solid state amps to be best cheap amp.

    Those who are looking for something practical that can get the job done will appreciate solid-state amps, while those with picky ears may want no less than the best valve amp under 500.

  • Power Rating

    Power rating describes the loudness of an amplifier, so generally speaking, the higher the power rating, the louder amp. Those who are looking for a stage amp will want something loud.

    But it's not always about being loud, because most situations call for lower volumes, especially when practicing at home, hence the availability of low wattage tube amps.

    This is also the reason why some amps come with built-in attenuators, which allow users to drive the amp hard at lower volumes. Note that tube amps tend to be louder than similarly rated solid-state amps. S don't be surprised to see high solid state combo output ratings sounding quieter than tube amps with lower ratings.

  • Speaker Size

    Speaker size also affects overall loudness, but even more so, it affects the sound clarity. Smaller speakers tend to emphasize the mids, which complements most guitar styles. On the flip side, there are guitarists who prefer the added bass emphasis of bigger speakers for a fuller sound.

  • Amp Modeling

    Made possible by improvements in Digital Sound Processing (DSP), more and more manufacturers and guitarists are embracing the convenience and versatility of a digital modeling amp. You can read more about the best modeling amp, where we share our top picks. Some go so far as to allow complex customization of virtual amp components.

    While amp modeling technology has been improving, don't expect it to sound 100% like a vintage Fender tube amp. But amp models can get the job done.

    While having more tone palettes is good, having too much of a good thing can be bad for some. If you're into sonic versatility and personalization then you'll want one with more features. Those who prefer plug-and-play convenience will appreciate amps with fewer options and controls.

  • Built-in Effects

    Reverb is the most common effect added to amplifiers, because of how it adds space and texture to the sound. Some electric guitar amps come with other effects, but they are usually limited in terms of function and controls. Some frown on the quality of these extra effects, but others appreciate the practicality and convenience that they offer.

  • Connectivity

    If you are planning to use your amp on stage or for recording, extra connectivity features will help greatly. Those with speaker emulated outputs allow for direct connection to PA systems and recording consoles. The ability to play quietly via headphones is also a nice plus, especially if you're looking for a good practice amp. Some of the recently released amps feature USB connectivity for direct recording and software control. This means that the amp can double as an audio interface. Modern digital amps even come with Bluetooth technology, which allows for convenient wireless audio streaming straight to the amp. Having two or more inputs is another nice feature to have, so you can plug in multiple electric guitars. Having an ABY Pedal is also good for multi-amp switching and stereo setups.

Best Guitar Amps Under 500 Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2018. The current edition was published on June 21, 2024

This guide features guitar amplifiers priced between $300 and $500 which are available from major US based music gear retailers.

For this edition, we've expanded the guide to include sections for amp heads and for floor / pedal amps. They join the original two sections so you can better choose between the best rated Tube Amp vs Solid State amp combos. We surveyed the retailers and put the 46 most promising qualifying models on our short-list for closer examination.

We then collated reviews, ratings and forum discussions about each amp and processed that data with the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 for each of them.

More than 19,000 sources were examined during this process. We then selected the highest rated models in each category above to recommend and used our research to provide an overview of the pros and cons of each 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.

Contributors

Raphael Pulgar: Supplemental Writing.
Jerry Borillo: Product research.
Alden Acosta: Product research.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Produced by Gearank.com using photographs of the Boss Katana-100 MkII and Fender Pro Junior IV.

The videos 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.

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