The Best Modeling Combo Amplifiers Under $1000
Fender Champion 20
The Fender Champion 20 is a combo guitar amp that offers the flexibility and convenience of modern amp modeling technology, in a very intuitive and affordable package.
It houses a 20W amp, an 8" speaker, and features modern amp modeling that's easily controlled via a single voice knob. With that you can quickly dial in the sound of 12 amplifiers, including classic Fender tones, British crunch and even high gain metal.
If that's not enough, it also comes with built-in effects that include reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, Vibratone, auto-wah and more. The effects section is controlled by an FX selector knob, a level knob, and a Tap Tempo button for manually setting the timings of some of its effects.
Wrapping it all up is Fender's distinct "Blackface" styling, which gives this modern amp a classic appeal.
- Power Rating: 20 Watts
- Speaker: 1 x 8" Fender Special Design
- Amp Models: 12
- Effects: 12
- Controls: Gain, Volume, Voice, Treble, Bass, FX Level, FX Select, Tap Switch (Time Control)
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" Aux
- Output: 1 x 1/8" Headphones
- Weight: 12 lbs.
It gets a lot of commendation for its versatility, but most of the comments point to its authentic Fender sounding clean tones, which is quite special given the price and size of this amp. While many consider it as the best beginner guitar amp, it doesn't stop experts from enjoying the amp themselves, as seen on many reviews.
There are a few who feel that the effects could have some more additions, while others are looking for a bit more control over the amp models. Still, even those who complained are impressed with its overall performance considering its price.
The Fender Champion 20 is a true champion in the entry-level market, beating the competition with its value for money, flexibility and simplicity.
Line 6 Spider V 20 MkII
Line 6 continues to update their popular Spider series of entry-level modeling amps, and do so with much success.
The Spider V20 MKII is the smallest in the series' most recent iteration, and as such, it is a bit more limited in terms of features. But coming from Line 6, this "limited" feature set still outclasses what others in the same price range offer.
It lets you mix and match 78 amps, 24 x cabs and 4 x Mics, which should be more than enough even for heavy tweakers. If that's not enough, it also has over 100 effects models built-in. There are also 200 presets to play with, many of which are artist created, while others are set to emulate guitar tones from famous songs.
New with their MKII line is the ability to turn off amp and mic simulation, for a more classic amp like behavior.
This 20-Watt amp drives a single 8" woofer, and has modern compatibility with computers and mobile devices.
- Power Rating: Watts
- Speaker: 1 x 8" Woofer
- Amp Models: 78 amps, 24 x cabs and 4 x Mics
- Effects: 100+
- Controls: Preset, Drive, Tone, Volume, Reverb, Effects, Master, Tap Tempo
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Output: None
- Weight: 11 lbs.
Value for money is the main draw of this amp, considering the many presets, amp models and effects that it carries. Much like its predecessors, the Spider V 20 MkII is often commended as a great starting amp, while others are pleased with its portability. Interestingly, many are happy with the the ability to switch off its mic and cab emulation.
This amp is not exempted from the flak that older Spider series amps get from some critics and experienced players who are not too impressed with some of its presets and amp models.
It's hard to top the versatility of the Line 6 Spider V 20 MkII, a good all-around amp that'll easily meet the demands of most entry to intermediate level players.
Fender Mustang LT 25
Even with the continued success of their tube amps, Fender does not shy away from technology, developing and releasing DSP powered amps as their entry-level market representatives.
The Mustang LT is one such amp, with 20 amp models that include emulations of iconic tube amps of from Fender, 25 digital effects and 50 presets.
This 25-Watt amplifier is paired with an 8" speaker and packed inside wrapped wood cabinet.
Other features include color display, headphone out, aux input and USB connectivity.
- Power Rating: 25 Watts
- Speaker: 1 x 8"
- Amp Models: 20
- Effects: 25
- Controls: Gain, Volume, Treble, Bass, Master, Preset Control Switches
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux)
- Output: 1 x 1/8" (Headphones
- Weight: 14.9 lbs.
Great for practice is a good summary of how most users feel about this amp. It is also well received for being easy to use, and move around. While it doesn't have as many presets and amp models, it does get a lot of praise for tone quality, especially for clean.
There are a few who aren't too happy with its high gain tones, there are also reports of tone degrading too early as you crank up its volume.
If you're looking for a practice amp with good balance of tone quality and sonic versatility, then check out the Fender Mustang LT 25.
Roland Micro Cube GX
The Roland Micro Cube GX3 is a portable 6-pound combo amplifier with the sound of 8 different amplifiers, 8 digital effects, and powers all these with 6 x AA batteries.
This means that you can conjure different amp and effect tones virtually anywhere, as long as you have enough batteries.
This includes familiar clean, crunch and rectifier tones, and it also includes a dedicated acoustic amplifier model for those who prefer to use their acoustic-electric guitar.
Since it is designed to be portable, it doesn't have much power with its 3W rating and 5" speaker, but it is loud enough for bedroom or outdoor jamming.
Other practice friendly features include Roland's i-Cube Link port for connecting with iOS devices, and headphones out for quiet practice.
- Power Rating: 3 Watts
- Speaker: 1 x 5"
- Amp Models: 8
- Effects: 8
- Controls: Amp Type, EFX, Delay Reverb, Gain, Volume, Tone, Master, Memory and Tuner Buttons
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" Aux
- Output: 1 x 1/8" Headphones
- Extra Features: Runs on 6 x AA batteries or AC adapter
- Weight: 6 lbs.
I have to agree with many who describe the Roland Micro Cube GX as the best portable modeling amplifier, thanks to its battery power option and lightweight design. Ease of use and amp modeling sound quality are often mentioned in a positive light, even impressing experienced players. Paul White from Sound On Sound said, "For busking, garden jams or open mic nights, the MicroCube GX delivers the goods in style".
On the flipside, the effects section received a few thumbs down, with some saying that the quality is not up to par given that Roland is the mother company of the renowned guitar effects company Boss. There are a few users who expected a bit more power from the amp, but given its portability, it is a necessary compromise.
The Roland Micro Cube GX is a portable modeling amplifier especially designed for guitarists who are always on the go.
Yamaha THR30II Wireless
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Combo Modeling Amp Under $1000.
Everything is being integrated into computer systems, and guitar amplifiers are no exception. The THR30II is part of Yamaha's line of desktop friendly guitar amplifiers, meant to easily integrate into home studios that record using desktop computers. And since this is the setup that most home recording enthusiasts use, the Yamaha THR series continues to enjoy popularity and good success in the market.
This solid state amp is rated at 30-Watts, and comes with stereo 3.5" speakers, and as a modeler it packs 15 guitar amp models along with bass, acoustic and flat amp models. Reverb, delay and Bluetooth connectivity wraps up its other home studio friendly features.
Finally, its rectangular profile allows it to conveniently sit on top of a table, which is a big contrast to traditional combo amps that usually sit on the floor. Its compact profile and built-in rechargeable battery also make it ideal for those who want a compact and portable amplifier.
- Power: 30W
- Speaker: 2x3.5"
- Amp Modeling: 15 x Amp Models
- Effects: Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo, Echo, Compressor, Noise Gate, Reverb
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
- Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (Line out)
- Weight: 9.48 lbs.
Computer integration is no longer optional, especially in home recording, and the THR30II takes advantage of this niche nicely. Users appreciate its practicality and functionality, especially its compatibility with bass, acoustics and mics - allowing them to save a lot of space while still being musically productive. Many also appreciate its tone quality, including its high gain settings. And as expected from Yamaha, owners report that it looks and feels well built.
While its smaller dual 3.5" speakers are more than enough for most home recording setups, there are some who wish for a bit more volume coming from the amp.
If you're looking for a guitar amp that'll compliment your desktop workspace, then this is for you.
The Best Modeling Amplifier Heads Under $1000
Fender Super-Champ X2 HD
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Modeling Amp Head Under $1000.
The Fender Super Champ X2 is a hybrid amp head that combines a 15W tube amp section with built-in modeling. This means that you get the feel and vibe of tube circuitry, complete with a pair of 6V6 tubes and a 12AX7 preamp tube, while enjoying the versatility that modeling provides.
Speaking of modeling, this compact amp head lets you choose between 16 different voicings that are based on popular amps, the core being the iconic Fender clean, but can go to brit crunch, and can even cover high-gain territory.
If that's not enough, this amp also hosts 15 effects with nifty tap tempo control for delay time/modulation rate adjustments.
This amp can also function as an audio interface with its speaker emulated USB output for recording direct to your computer.
- Power Rating: 15 Watts
- Tubes: 2 x 6V6, 1 x 12AX7
- Amp Models: 16
- Effects: 15
- Controls: Volume 1, Gain, Volume 2, Voice, Treble, Bass, F/X Adjust, F/X Select, Channel Select, Tap Tempo
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (Line out)
- Extra Features: USB Output for Direct Recording
- Weight: 18.5 lbs.
Pristine, authentic and convincing are just a few of the many positive words used to describe how this amp sounds. Most users point to its clean tone, but there are plenty of users who love the extra voicings that it offers, so much some have named their favorite presets. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for its sonic versatility and convenience. Finally, most owners of this amp feel that they get more than what they paid for.
There are a few who are not as impressed with the extra voicings, while others wish for extras like the addition of a foot pedal, even if they have to pay a bit more for it.
If you're looking for an affordable tube amp head with the flexibility of amp modeling, then this is for you.
Marshall Code 100H Modeling Amp Head 100W
Marshall's presence in the amp modeling market continues to expand, thanks to their CODE series of amplifiers.
The 100-Watt amp head CODE 100H is one of their top rated offerings, it carries over the same amp modeling and digital effects found on other CODE series amps, only this one is in a head form factor so you can match it with a speaker that you prefer.
Instead of modeling specific classic amps, the CODE series lets you mix and match preamp and poweramp models, allowing for even more flexibility in tone shaping. This can also be coupled with speaker cabinet models which further expands your tone options.
On the effects side, this amp lets you choose between 24 effects, including compressors, distortions, modulation, pitch shifters and even auto wah.
Finally, this amp head comes with modern connectivity including Bluetooth and USB.
- Power Rating: 100 Watts
- Amp Models: 14 Preamps, 4 Poweramps, 8 Speaker Cabs
- Effects: 24
- Controls: 3-Band EQ, Gain, Volume, Pre FX, Amp, Mod, Delay, Reverb, Power, Cab
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux)
- Output: 1 x 1/8" (Headphones), 2 x 1/4" (FX Loop), 1 x 1/4" (Speaker Out)
- Weight: 24.25 lbs.
More and more users are being won over by the versatility of this amp, not by the sheer number of models, but by the ability to mix and match preamp and poweramp models. This simple separation of the preamp and poweramp allows users to be more creative with their tones, and reviews reflect this simple yet practical advantage over conventional amp modelers. Most positive comments point to the quality of its mid to high-gain tones. Finally, it also helps that for a 100-Watt amp with Marshall's logo, it retains a very accessible price tag.
Speaking of gain, there are a few who aren't as happy with its clean and low-gain sounds. There are also a few who feel that it does not have the volume and punch as expected from a 100W amp.
This is a no brainer for fans of Marshall, but you don't have to be a fan to appreciate the sonic customization that it affords.
The THR100H is a 100W amp head that comes with the same amp modeling technology as their popular THR series of amps.
There's not really much to choose from in terms of amp models, but by tweaking parameters, the five voicings that it offers can cover most tones, from classic cleans to modern high gain.
There's also the ability to select between five power tube models, which include 6V6, EL84, KT88, 6L6GC and EL34 - this opens up your tonal palette tremendously, especially when you have experience with tube amps.
Another killer feature of the THR100H is its variable power output, which lets you set the power rating to 25W, 50W and 100W.
- Power Rating: Switchable 25W/50W/100W
- Amp Models: 5 Amp Models, 5 Output Tube Models
- Effects: Reverb, Boost, Noise Gate and IR Speaker Emulation
- Controls: Amp Model, Booster, Gain, Master, Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence, Reverb, Volume
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Output: 1 x 1/4" TS, 1 x 1/8" (headphone), 1 x XLR (Line out)
- Extra Features: Built-in Power Attenuator
- USB: Type B
- Weight: 8 lbs.
The top two reasons why users love the Yamaha THR100H include sound quality and portability. Many are blown away by how they can tweak the tone of the amp to whatever they want it to be, especially when used in conjunction with the editor software. Most of the comments point to its clean and slightly overdriven tones, but there are also plenty of comments who prefer the other side o the amp. Build quality is also noteworthy, with many describing it as top notch and roadworthy. Speaking of roadworthiness, there are plenty of users who are now gigging with this amp with great results.
While its sonic complexity enamors many users, there are still a few who wish for a more intuitive control setup, like having special buttons for each slot.
Those who are looking for a versatile, compact and roadworthy amp will find the THR100H appealing.
Things to Consider When Buying a Modeling Amp
Solidstate vs Tube
Most modeling amplifiers have solid state components, they are generally regarded to be more affordable, reliable and since they have fewer moving parts, they also requires less maintenance. Some modeling amps feature tube components, and they are often called hybrid amps - since they combine digital processing with genuine tube components. While tube can be fragile, they are still preferred by many for their improved tone, feel and sonic detail. Some manufacturers have found a way to vary amp voicing without the use of digital processing, allowing the proliferation of tube amps with analog-based modeling capabilities, however they will not have the same convenience and variety as their digital counterparts.
Most modeling amps offer straightforward digital operation, where switching between models are done via buttons or switches. These days, some manufacturers have gone the analog route, opting for a more fluid way of changing the voicing via analog knobs and controls. Some manufacturers have stepped up their technology by doing component modeling, which lets you mix and match virtual components like preamp/poweramp to your preference. While it can be tempting to get one with the most number of amp models, more is not always better in this case, especially since you won't normally be using more then 5 amp models in one performance.
Power Rating and Speaker Size
Not all manufacturers follow a specific power rating standard, but the power rating of an amplifier gives you a good idea of how loud it can go. The speaker size also helps in the loudness department, but more than that, it dictates bass definition and clarity. Wider speakers are usually preferred for their extra bass response, but there are many circumstances where smaller speakers and lower power ratings are preferred, specifically for room practice and when portability is your priority.
Those who want to get the most out of their money will prefer amps with built-in effects. They allow you to practice and jam without the need to setup effect pedals separately. Don't expect much in terms of quality and control over these built-in effects though, but they can get the job done. Essential effects to look out for include reverb and delay.
Generally speaking, the more complex and versatile an amplifier is, the steeper the learning curve. This is especially true of analog modeling amps where you have to tweak knobs to get the different amp voicings. If you are patient and want a more personalized tone, you'll appreciate deep controls better, but if you just want a plug-and-play amp with some versatility then you're better off with regular digital amp modeling.
Having the ability to connect to a PA system via DI out is a nice plus, especially if you're looking to use your amp on stage. USB connectivity is another important feature, as it allows for easy recording and removes the need for amp miking or for an audio-interface. Those who want to practice quietly with their favorite tracks should look for headphones out and aux in ports. Interestingly, there are now Bluetooth compatible amps on the market, which allows for convenient wireless playback of your favorite tracks, and some even allow for software editors to work without needing to be tethered to your amp.
There's no point in buying a full featured modeling amplifier that ends up gathering dust in your room because you're tired of hauling it around. So you'll have to balance features over portability, get one that is reasonably light considering your needs, while having enough volume and the features that you really need. For this reason, we've included the weight of all the amplifiers in the list.
Best Modeling Amp Selection Methodology
The first edition was published August 2017, written by Alexander Briones who also wrote the latest edition published on August 6, 2020.
We started off by short-listing 38 popular combo amps and heads that you can readily buy from major US retailers. We then collected and analyzed over 12,800 relevant reviews, ratings and expert recommendations, including the most recent ones up to August of 2020. The resulting data were then processed via the Gearank algorithm, which gave us the scores that represent market sentiment about each amp. Finally, for this update, we decided to divide our ranking into two categories: Combo and Head, which we hope will make it easier to compare and examine our recommendations based on what you actually need. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.