Although you can certainly find some great starter amps at an entry-level price, if you have a little more flexibility in your budget, you’ll have a much wider selection of products with more features too.
With a bit more to spend, you’ll be able to experience the joys of amp heads and enjoy much more in the way of effects and other gizmos that you don’t get with the bargain basement amps.
Table of Contents
Why you really should get a practice amp
A small amp is essentially a practice amp. They’re great for home rehearsals, practicing new material in your bedroom or garage, and even for playing gigs in small venues where a full-size stack would blow the roof off!
Despite their size, smaller budget amps in this price range can still be powerful and versatile enough to fulfil all the requirements of the proficient beginner, established musician, and aspiring rock god!
In addition, spending just a little more buys you a shedload more features and generally gets you better quality and reliability too.
Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 – 20 Watt Modeling Instrument Amplifier
Peavey are world-renowned for their superb quality musical kit, and their Vypyr VIP 2 is right up there at the top of the charts when it comes to small amps in the budget price range.
The Vypyr VIP range is unique in that it includes bass, acoustic, and electric guitar amp functionality. And that’s not all! You can also access instrument models through this amp too.
Peavey’s cutting edge tech combines powerful 32-bit floating point processors with patented analog circuitry to create the most impressive modeling amps you can buy. The WYSIWYG control surface takes all the guesswork out of using the amp’s controls – creating superior sound and tone couldn’t be easier!
Use the VYPYR’s USB bi-directional data and audio port to record and/or connect to the amp’s software and presets, and to practice to backing tracks stored on your own computer.
Players of all genres will love that the sound is as warm as a tube, although it’s not a tube amp! If you’re keen on switching back and forth from dirty to clean using the EFX, this is the perfect amp for you.
On the downside, some of the more gainy sounds aren’t the best. In addition, some may find the noise gate too exaggerated on some of the channels. This means you have to crank up your guitar volume in order to avoid losing your quieter sounds.
Line 6 Spider V 30 Modeling Amplifier
The Spider V 30 gives you an impressive 30 watts of output – plenty of power for home practicing and for gigging in smaller venues.
The Spider gives you an impressive collection of amp and effects models, all housed in a modern, clean design with a full-range speaker system.
The amp is refreshingly simple to use and offers a choice of over 200 newly refined cabs, amps, and effects. Easy-to-use color-coded controls allow you to quickly dial-in the perfect tone without wasting time fiddling around for the effect you want. Sound just like your favorite artiste in minutes thanks to the preset iconic rigs, artist-built tones, and line 6 signals that allow you to access a whole arsenal of professionally dialed-in sounds.
The speaker system is where this amp really shines, giving your amazing depth and clarity, whether you play acoustic or electric.
This is an excellent practice amp that’s also perfect for playing small venues. If you’re a metal head, you’ll love the high gain distortion that you normally need pedals to attain. The amp sounds great, even at low volume levels.
My main gripe is that the amp doesn’t give much low end at all, despite its 30W output. However, this shouldn’t put you off investing in a Spider. For a small amp, it’s brilliant value for money.
- Now available as the spider V MKII!
- Fast and easy tone shaping with intuitive controls
- Built-in Tuner, metronome, and drum loops provide a complete practice toolset
VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier
The VT20X has been built with a shiny new modeling engine to give a much improved sound!
The revamped VT20X features a multi-stage Valvetronix tube preamp. The preamp design by incorporates VOX’s trademark genuine analog circuitry, effectively capturing the nuances and adjustments in tone associated with vacuum tube amps.
In addition, the VTX features a snugly sealed cab and bass-reflex that’s designed to give super-stunning resonance to your playing. The brand new VOX Tone Room editing software enables you to modify the preset amps and effects to suit the sound you want. And you can even create your own unique vibe as you wish!
I loved the control provided by the free Tone Room app. The flexible compressor also impressed, and the delays were not sounding brittle and too digital. The reverbs are perfectly tailored for guitar, and the flangers and chorus outperform other similar amps’ offerings.
All in all, this amp is designed by serious musicians for serious musicians!
On a small negative, the FX can only be used in the order they come in and you can’t combine certain FX because of signal chain limitations. However, because the FX order is so well thought out, this doesn’t present a problem. It’s a really great amp, especially given the price point.
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Marshall Code 25 – 25W Digital Combo Amp
State-of-the-art tech is combined with years of experience to create the Marshall CODE range of guitar amps, their most versatile and feature-packed digital product ever. The Marshall Code 25 gives you digital amp models, cab sims, power amps, FX and much more, enabling you to dial-in every tonal option you are ever likely to need.
The 14 preamp sounds the amp provides vary from classics such as the JTM45, DSL JVM, and the JCM800 to the iconic Silver Jubilee.
Connect the amp via Bluetooth or USB to enjoy handy remote control of every feature and function that the amp provides via the unique Marshall Gateway software. The software also gives you an app for mobile devices, including access to the online tutorials, community, patch sharing and more!
With plenty of power for small, local gigs, versatility and portability for home practice, and enough features and effects to please the most demanding pro muso, the Marshall CODE is the only small amp you’re ever going to need!
The amp stands out for its astounding quality and for its vast range of effects. The USB direct-in for recording came in for special applause, as did the amp’s potential for gigging too thanks to its volume capability while still retaining tone.
On the downside, if you allow your A or E strings to ring, rather than mute them, the amp will sometimes distort. However, this doesn’t happen when you keep your guitar volume down and just use the amp’s volume setting. Obviously, this issue is purely down to your preferred playing technique and won’t affect everyone.
In a nutshell, this great little amp will give you an impressive amount of bang for your buck. You won’t need to buy again if you choose this stand-out little guy!
- Authentic modelling of Marshall tones with pro quality FX
- 14 MST preamps, 4 MST power amps, and 8 MST speaker cabinets
- Connect via Bluetooth to stream music from your iOS or Android device
What to expect in a practice amp
The power rating assigned to an amp is a pretty good indicator of how loud the amp is when you crank it right up.
A practice amp doesn’t really need a higher wattage than 20W. In fact, the sound you’ll get from a smaller amp will be superior at low volumes to that produced by a bigger one.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that choosing an amp with a slightly higher wattage might be useful if you’re at the start of your pro/am gigging career.
As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the speaker, the more low-end it will reproduce.
Smaller speakers like those used in small amps place more emphasis in the middle frequencies and have more articulation. If you want a perfect speaker for intimate practice, or if you play blues and classic rock, you’ll really need this!
Most amps at this price level are chock-full of channels that allow you to switch between different tones. This feature is perfect if you want deep tone customization functionality to refine your six or 12 string’s sound.
One feature that’s missing from many of the cheap amps is reverb. But spend a little more and you can have this and much more besides!
Most guitar amps in this price range have a comprehensive range of effects so you can enjoy all the tonal variety you’re ever likely to need.
Tube vs solid state
If you’re a beginner just starting out on your guitar playing journey, you should know that solid state amps with digital modeling and built-in effects are by far the most practical and versatile option for you in this price bracket. This affordable state-of-the-art technology allows you to focus on your playing, while enjoying all the fancy tonal effects at your fingertips.
In addition, you should note that tube amps are traditionally less reliable than solid state ones, and the tubes can fail and need replacing.
When it comes to features, you’ll be amazed how much you can get for less than $200!
Most amps in this price range have USB connectivity as standard. This feature basically enables you to use your amp as an audio-interface. You can record your own playing if you want to – great for evaluating your practice sessions and for composition work too.
Other features to look out for include tuning, looping, and preset management with sharing.
If you can stretch your budget to under $200, you hit the sweet spot where practice amps are concerned. In short, you get the most bang for your buck.
Every one of the amps we’ve reviewed in this guide gives you a tremendous amount of performance and additional features at a modest price.
If you’re ready to step up, check out our reviews of amps under $300.
Last update on 2024-03-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API