The Best Practice Amps / Small Guitar Amps

The Highest Rated Practice Amps

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Make the most of your practice time by getting a good sounding amplifier that is portable and fun to use. Here we feature top rated practice guitar amps that can help you take your playing and creativity to the next level.

Our recommendations are based on user and expert reviews, user ratings and recommendations, including the most recent ones up to mid July of 2021. We have separated our recommended list of amps into three of the most popular price ranges, so you can easily find one that suits your budget and needs.

The Best Practice Amps

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Practice Amps Under $200

Vox Pathfinder 10

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 2850+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$90
Vox Pathfinder 10

Vox is sought after for the distinctly clean chime tone that their amps produce, and this same tone is what you'll get with the Pathfinder 10, albeit in a smaller format with a more practice friendly volume level.

And since most practice amps are focused on overdriven tone, getting a compact amp with good clean tone is a welcome change for many, especially those who are fans of the Vox amp sound.

It doesn't end with just cleans, because this small amp features an overdrive channel that properly represent Vox's overdrive channel sound, but in a more affordable and practice friendly format.

This combo houses a 10-Watt amp, and a 6.5" speaker, and it has a headphones output for quiet practice.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 10-Watts
  • Speaker Size: 6.5”
  • Amp Models: N/A
  • Effects: Overdrive
  • Controls: Volume, Gain, Bass, Treble
  • Input/Output: Headphone Out
  • Extras: N/A
  • Weight: 10lbs

Pros
For an affordable compact amp, many are impressed at how good sounding the Pathfinder 10 is, and it does so at volume levels that are suited for practice. As expected, most users are pleased with its Vox clean tone, while there are also some who are just as happy with the overdrive channel, especially when set to low to mid tier gain.

Cons
As expected from compact amps, raising the volume too high will result in clipping or buzzing sound. This also applies when using the distortion channel. Another concern is the lack of mid-range frequency control.

Overall
Fans of Vox will find this amp to be appealing, but even if you are not a fan of their amp tones, you will still benefit from its good tone and intuitive controls.

Fender Mustang LT 25

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 2300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Fender Mustang LT 25 1x8" 25-watt Guitar Combo Modeling Amp

Fender's foray into the entry level market continues to be met with rave reviews, and the LT 25 is one of their more popular amps 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 software editor.

Other features include built-in tuner, color display, aux input and headphone out.

Specifications:

  • 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.

Pros
This amp is often described as a great practice amp, with its good balance of features and intuitive control. Portability is also another plus, with many users using this as their main plug and play amp at home. Tone wise, users are impressed with how this amp emulates Fender's clean tones, and there are also some who love its overdriven sounds.

Cons
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.

Overall
The Fender Mustang LT 25 is a modern practice amp with classic tone sensibilities.

Orange Crush 20RT

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$189
Orange Crush 20RT

With so many feature packed amps available in this price range, it's interesting how the 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.

Specifications:

  • 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

Pros
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 in terms of tone, much like an old school solid state amp.

Cons
Ironically, its main strength is also its weakness, If you want more effects and voicings, then this is not for you.

Overall
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

Positive Grid Spark

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 3400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$269
Positive Grid Spark 40-Watt 2x4" Modeling Combo Guitar Amp

Positive Grid is well known for their digital sound processing apps, which allow guitarists 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.

Anther stand out feature of this amp is its auto accompaniment called Smart Jam, which generates a rhythm section (bass and drums) based on the chords your 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 also 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.

Specifications:

  • 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.

Pros:
Many are surprised by 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.

Cons:
With so many digital processing features, getting used to the controls may take more time than usual. And some caution that fiddling with the settings can sometimes eat away at the time you ought to spend practicing or recording. Some users feel that the controls on the amp are limited and a bit too cramped, you will need to control it via software if you want to make use of all its features.

Overall:
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.

Roland Cube Street

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$309
Roland Cube Street Battery Powered Guitar Combo Amplifier 5W

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.

Specifications:

  • 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

Pros:
Owners of this amp appreciate how it simplified their practice rig, removing the need for a separate amp for mics. It is also well loved for being a good busking amp, which means that you can use your practice amp as your street performance amp, ensuring that your tone is the same as how you hear it in practice. The sound of the amp also gets a lot of thumbs up, especially its clean tones, and its modulation effects.

Cons:
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.

Overall:
If you're looking for an affordable and portable practice guitar amp with dedicated mic channel, then check out the Roland Cube Street.

Yamaha THR30II Wireless

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 375+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Yamaha THR30II Wireless

The THR30II is part of Yamaha's desktop friendly line of guitar amplifiers, meant to better address the need of modern computer-based home studios. And since home recording via computer is now the norm, this amp continues to be in demand.

It's distinct profile allows it to sit on a desk, which means that you won't have to awkwardly reach down to make amp setting adjustments.

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.

Specifications:

  • 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.

Pros:
While there's no replacing conventional amps especially on stage, this amp is hard to beat when it comes to practicality and efficiency in home recording setups. Users appreciate the sound quality and extra projection that this amp provides compared to its smaller siblings, while having the same tone quality. The convenience of using just one amp for multiple instruments, for practice and for recording is also another reason why this amp is rating really well.

Cons:
There are a few who wish for a version with more conventional and bigger speaker design.

Overall:
If you're looking for a practical and practice friendly guitar amp that can also add value to your home recording studio, then check out the Yamaha THR30II Wireless.

Practice Amps Under $1000

Fender ’57 Custom Champ

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1000
Fender '57 Custom Champ Tube Combo Amplifier

When it comes to guitar amps, louder isn’t necessarily better. You’d be surprised how many famous recordings were made on sub-10-watt amplifiers; chief among them being Eric Clapton's Layla which was recorded on a tweed Fender Champ from the ‘50s.

The focused tone and manageable volume of this small tube amp can actually result in a huge tone when used in the studio. And it also means that you can have great tube tone at manageable volume levels for practice.

The cool thing about this amp is, rather than just being a small tube amp, is a faithful reproduction of the Champ’s used on famous albums (Joe Walsh and Eric Clapton both used them extensively).

This amp is all hand-wired, uses the original 5F1 circuit, and even uses vintage yellow capacitors.

The speaker is different, though it was designed to come as close to the tone of original Champ amplifiers as possible.

Fender used the same font that was used on their '50s amps and even went so far as to include a genuine leather handle.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 5-Watts
  • Speaker Size: 8”
  • Models: N/A
  • Effects: N/A
  • Controls: Volume
  • Input/Output: N/A
  • Extras: Protective Cover
  • Weight: 16lbs.

Pros
While digital modeling is getting close, there is still room for straightforward tube amps, and this is reflected in reviews of the Fender '57 Custom Champ. Users are simply blown away by its clear and transparent tube tone. It is also described as pedal friendly, and its low wattage makes it easier to crank even at lower volumes which makes practice more inspiring - and not to mention making the amp viable for home recording. Build quality of the amp also gets a lot of thumbs up.

Cons
The only thing that’s not to like about this amp is that it only has a volume control, so all adjustments besides that will have to come from either your pedals or your guitar.

Overall
This Fender '57 Custom Champ is a no-brainer for fans of the classic Fender tube amp tone, be it for practice or for recording. It's quite the investment but if you go by what the market says - this amp is definitely worth it.

Things to Consider When Buying a Small Amp or Practice Amp

Practice Friendly Features

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 allows you to lower the power rating so you can get good tones at bedroom volume levels.

Portability

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.

Power Rating and Speaker Size

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.

Performance (Tone/Channels/Amp Models etc.)

Good and bad tone is extremely subjective. It’s impossible to objectively say that one piece of equipment sounds bad and another sounds good, or even that one piece of equipment is better than another. However, when looking at groups of practice amps there are a few qualities that are desirable.

The main thing that you want to look for if you’re going to use an amp as a dedicated practice tool is a tone that facilitates whatever genre of music 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.

Built-in Effects

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).

Best Practice Amp Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the current edition was published on July 22, 2021.

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.

For this 2021 edition, we ended up with 63 amps on our short-list, which entailed analysis of over 55,200 review and rating sources - more than double compared to the previous edition. We looked at and analyzed relevant reviews, ratings, forum discussions and expert recommendations, including the most recent ones up to July of 2021. These were then processed via the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the rating scores out of 100 that we used to recommend only the best of the best. Finally we divided the list into different price categories to make it easier for you to see which ones fit your budget. 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

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

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

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Mason Hoberg: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Original photograph by Daniel Davis, modified by Gearank.com and available under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license.

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.

Comments

It would be nice to know the

It would be nice to know the various reasons as to why you remove particular amplifiers from your recommended list.

Hi Ian,

Hi Ian,

What happens is that when we produce a new edition of one of our guides, we recalculate the ratings for all the eligible items already in our database, plus we add new items that weren't rated for the previous edition (new items are coming out all the time), then we select the highest rated options to recommend.

This means there are usually new items that have higher ratings than some of the ones from the previous edition, so the lower rated ones get removed and we add ones with higher ratings.

Some items also get discontinued or superseded, so we remove those as well - there's no point in recommending something if our readers can't act on our advice.

Also when prices go up a product may no longer be eligible for inclusion - and we sometimes change the eligibility criteria making some items ineligible - we usually list the selection criteria in the Methodology section.

I hope this helps - feel free to ask if you have further questions.

Jason.

You actually failed to note

You actually failed to note that the Quilter Mach 2 is not a "practice amp" (although it also works well for that too), but despite the 8" speaker, is an extremely powerful and loud gigging amp that will hold it's own on just about any stage. I had one for a while, but just about the only thing it doesn't do is Fender bright cleans. It certainly does everything else amazingly well.

Actually the Quilter Mach 2

Actually the Quilter Mach 2 meets our practice amp definition stated in the Methodology section as:

"While there is no universal definition of a practice amp, for the purposes of this guide we defined them as combo electric guitar amps weighing no more than 20 lbs."

Your opinion of Quilter is one that many guitarists agree with - they appeared 5th on our ranking of Guitar Amp Brands this year.

I'm looking for a practice

I'm looking for a practice amp with built in metronome or drum loops. You mentioned this feature becoming more used in practice amp. Can you tell me amps which feature this?
Thank you and best wishes
Martin

As a guitar teacher myself, I

As a guitar teacher myself, I cannot stress enough the importance of practicing with a metronome, or at the very least, a rhythm guide.

Line 6 Spider V amps have both metronome and drum loop features. Fender Mustang GT amps also have built-in looper which can be used as pseudo metronome/drum loop.

Unfortunately, these amps did not have high enough ratings to make it to the guide.

Thankfully, there are practical alternatives that require no extra purchase - like using a metronome app on a device that can be plugged in or paired via Bluetooth to your amp.

Looking for practice amp with

Looking for practice amp with built in looper. The article mentions that such practice amps are gaining in popularity, but doesn’t mention any amps that have them.

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