More Guitar Amps
Be it for inspired practice or for performing on stage, these market favorite modeling amps for guitar are worth your time and investment.
We have decided to sift through what's available to present you with the best modeling amps for guitar, divided into three price brackets that fit the average budget. In addtion, we've included important features and noteworthy feedback from both experts and users, to give you a good overview of how well each one is received.
We've also included tips and considerations that can help you narrow down the list further to those that match your needs. While most modeling guitar amps in the sub $1000 price range are aimed at beginners to intermediate players, there are some that are more than ready to take on the stage, so do check them out if you're looking for a road worthy rig.
- The Best Modeling Amps for Guitar
- Things to Consider When Buying a Guitar Modeling Amp
The Best Modeling Amps for Guitar
Don't underestimate the Yamaha's THR10X's small profile, because this 10W combo amplifier with stereo 3.15" speakers is more than capable of handling high gain tones, with 5 different metal flavors of metal classic to modern. It easily stands out from other amps with its desktop friendly profile, which makes it ideal for practice and recording (via its USB output). In addition to the high gain amp models, the THR10X also features a bass amp model, for plugging in your electric bass, an acoustic guitar amp model for acoustic-electric guitars and there's even flat response amp model for plugging in other gear. Essential modulation and reverb/delay effects are also available, along with 3-band EQ for tone shaping. Finally, the Yamaha THR10X amp can run on battery power for true play anywhere portability.
- Power Rating: 10 Watts
- Speaker: 2 x 3.15" Stereo
- Amp Models: 8
- Effects: 8 (2 Simultaneous)
- Controls: Amp, Gain, Master, Bass, Middle, Treble, Modulation Effect, Delay/Reverb, Guitar Output, USB/Aux Output, Tap/Tuner Button
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" Aux, Bluetooth
- Output: 1 x 1/4" Headphones
- Extra Features: Runs on 8 x AA batteries or AC adapter
- USB: Type-B USB
- Weight: 6.17 lbs.
The Yamaha THR10X continues to get rave reviews for its great combination of desktop-friendly profile and high-gain tones. Even pros like Ola Englund got good sounding heavy tones out of its small speakers, and even better when recorded direct to his computer. And it's not just limited to metal, because many were happy that they got decent sounds out of its acoustic amp model. There aren't that many complaints, but I do agree with the minority that wanted the price to be lower, especially when considering that you can get louder and bigger amps in the same price range. Guitar World had a lot of nice things to say as well, and I quote: "If you’re looking for a quick, easy way to get a huge variety of sounds that you can take pretty much anywhere, the THR10C and THR10X are unbeatable bargains for classic and metal guitarists, respectively."
Note that there are two other versions available, the standard THR10, and the THR10C which leans towards more classic rock / boutique amp tones. If your'e looking for a tabletop amplifier with amp modeling flexibility and recording, then check out the Yamaha THR10X.
Line 6 Spider Jam
Line 6 just recently released the 5th generation of their Spider amp line, interestingly the Spider Jam (which was launched along side 3rd gen Spider amps) continues to be a staple in the amp modeling market - many years after its first release. And its age is the main reason for its limited modeling features, which includes just 12 amps and 7 effects. Still, it continues to be rated highly and in demand, thanks to its versatility and good hardware specs, which include having a 75W amplifier, and a full-range speaker system with a 12" Celestion Speaker and a 2" Tweeter. Speaking of versatility, this amp even comes with a mic input, which makes it behave like a mini-PA system. In addition, it comes with a built-in looper and "jam" functions that's great for practice and one-man-band performances. Note that since this amp is old, it doesn't have a USB output, but the SD card slot makes up for this lack.
- Power Rating: 75 Watts
- Speaker: 1 x 12" Celestion and 2" Tweeter
- Amp Models: 12
- Effects: 7 (3 Simultaneous)
- Controls: Amp Models, Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Channel Volume, Modulation Effects, Delay/Echo Effects, Reverb, Master, Tuner Button, Set of Looper/Jam Controls
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR (Line), 1 x 1/8" (MP3), 1 x1/4" (Aux)
- Output: 1 x 1/4" Headphones, Stereo Recording Output
- Extra Features: Built-in 24-min Looper, SD Card Expansion,
- Weight: 37.1 lbs.
Reviewers are quick to point out that the Line 6 Spider Jam gives them way more than what they paid for. Many describe the amp as a true "band-in-a-box" package, with its looping capability and 100s of built-in song presets. And a lot of users like how the built-in tweeter added to the overall sound quality, which is quite surprising when you consider that this amp is many years old. Ironically, there were a few users who did not like the sound, specifically when using the effects. There were also some who were overwhelmed by its myriad of features, and wished for a simpler interface.
All in all, the Spider Jam is a great combo amp to get if you're looking for a versatile modeling amp with mic input.
The Best Modeling Amplifiers - Under $1000
Blackstar ID:260 TVP
The Blackstar ID:260TVP is a solidstate guitar amplifier that introduces the company's TVP (True Valve Power) technology. Blackstar's ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) by itself is already impressive, because of how it shapes guitar sound to mimic different amp voicings. But the company raised the bar yet again with TVP, which allows you to switch between different virtual tubes to further tweak your sound. This new parameter lets you pick from six popular tubes (EL84, 6V6, EL34, KT66, 6L6 and KT88), which you can mix and match with the amp's Voice, ISF and EQ settings for a wide variety of tones. With 120W of power and two 12" Celestion speakers, this combo amplifier packs quite the punch, and is ready for big venues and stages. Other features include 12 built-in effects to complete your virtual guitar rig, expanded controls, and USB connectivity.
- Power Rating: 120 Watt
- Speaker: 2 x 12" Celestion
- Amp Models: Variable via Blackstar's Voice, ISF and TVP Controls
- Effects: 12 (4 x Mod, 4 x Delay, 4 x Reverb)
- Controls: Voice, Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, ISF, TVP, Effects (Type & Level), Resonance, Presence, Volume, Multiple Switches (For Tap, Effects, Presets)
- Input: 1 x 1/4", MIDI, 1/4" Aux, 1/4" Footswitch
- Output: 2 x 1/4" (Speaker), 1 x 1/4" (Emulated DI Out)
- USB: Mini-B USB
- Weight: 53.35 lbs.
Music Radar gave the Blackstar ID:260 TVP top marks, commending it for its genuine "valve sound and fee"l, "huge range of tones" and its USB connection. Most users share the same sentiments, with some saying that they were blown away by the amps overall quality. The deep control that the amps provide for shaping and personalizing tone is also well appreciated. Ironically, this same complex control irked a few users who prefer instant one-button amp models.
If you don't mind the price tag and the longer learning curve that the Blackstar ID:260 TVP requires, you will be rewarded with a versatile and great sounding modeling amplifier.
Line 6 DT25-112
The Line 6 DT25-112 is an interesting modeling amplifier that combines tube components, digital modeling and analog circuit switching. Co-designer Reinhold Bogner added a Class A to Class A/B and triode to pentode switching, which works in conjunction with the amp's 12AX7 preamp tube and dual EL84 output tubes, for more control over tube tone nuances. Instead of going the easy multi-amp model and digital control route, the DT25-112 is stripped down with just four main voicings that can be achieved via a switch and some knob tweaking. The four main voicings are described as American clean, English chime, English crunch, and modern high-gain. But it doesn't end there because you can get more voicings by tweaking the parameters to your liking. Finally, this amp's main draw is its compatibility with Line 6' line of POD HD guitar processors, it automatically configures its analog components to match the modeled amps on the processor.
- Power Rating: 25 Watt
- Preamp Tubes: 1 x 12AX7
- Power Tubes: 2 x EL84
- Speaker: 1 x 12" Celestion Custom G12H90 speaker
- Amp Models: 4 Boutique Models (Variable via Analog and Digital Settings)
- Effects: 1 (Spring Reverb)
- Controls: 2 x (Dive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Reverb, Volume), Channel Switch, Pentode/Triode Switch, Class Switch, Voicing Switch
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Output: 1 x XLR (DI Out), 4-/8-/16-Ohm Speaker Outs
- MIDI: In and Out
- Extra Features: L6 Link for use with Line 6 POD HD Guitar Processors, Effects Loop, DI
- Weight: 50 lbs.
Most DT25-112 owners are also Line 6 POD HD owners, and since they get the most out of the amp, they have mostly good things to say. But it's not just for Line 6 fans because other were just as impressed with the amp's realism and overall sound quality. This review conclusion from Sound on Sound reflects much of what the market feels about the amp: "I think the DT25 manages to pull off the trick of looking, sounding and feeling authentic, while combining the flexibility of modelling and switchable power-amp topographies". There were a few users who found the learning curve to be a bit too much, compared to the usual modeling amplifier, but they were satisfied when they finally got the sounds they wanted.
If you are a Line 6 POD HD owner, then the Line 6 DT25-112 is a no-brainer. It will also be a good addition to anyone who wants a versatile tube-driven modeling amplifier.
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 while they can be fragile, they are preferred 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. 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
While not all manufacturers follow a specific power rating standard, 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.
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
Before we did the research, we decided to stick with what most users will probably buy, which are combo amplifiers that are priced under $1000. Even with this limitation, we still ended up looking at more than 50 amps, and eventually gathering data for almost 30 of them. The said data are comprised of over 3,000 relevant reviews, ratings and forum discussions, gathered from both end users and experts. These data were then fed to the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the scores that we used to rank each one according to three specific price brackets - which is sub $200, Sub $500 and Sub $1000. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.