Guitar amps in the under $500 price range are just about the most popular on the market. Amateur enthusiasts and seasoned musos with a modest budget can afford them, and you’ll be amazed and delighted at the power and extra features you can get for your money that you just can’t find in amps in the lower budget sector.
Why you should spend $500 on an amp
One important question that many folk ask when considering buying an amp in the under $500 range is, why not save your cash and wait until you’ve got $1000 to spend on one? This is a good question! After all, when it comes to buying any guitar-related piece of gear, it’s best to buy the very best you can afford, right? Well, in the world of amps, this is not necessarily the case.
There are actually two good reasons why buying a guitar amp for under $500 might be a better choice for you than scrimping and scraping to save up $1000. First of all, your financial circumstances might mean that you have to wait forever to save that much money, leaving you frustrated and amp-less for far too long.
Secondly, today’s technological advancements mean that most amps in the under $500 price bracket will give most musos everything they need for home practice, recording, and local gigging. A $500 guitar amp is the happy medium, whereas a $1000 one might just be overkill and an unnecessary expense that you can’t really afford.
What’s the best choice of amp for gigging?
Once you move out of your garage and venture out onto the road, you’ll want an amp that’s practically portable. For this reason, many musicians who gig professionally prefer an amp head. A head is much lighter and more easily transportable than a combo. Also, many venues have their own speaker cabs so all you’ll need to do is bring the head.
However, this a matter of personal choice. And if you’re a fan of a particular make, you might prefer to have their badge front and center on your on-stage kit.
Best Guitar Amps for Under $500
In our list of recommended products, we’ve included both heads and combos.
Why? Well, the heads that your $500 will buy you are miles more versatile than those you’ll find in the under $300 range so your choice is far broader. It’s all about getting the most “bang for your buck” and not having to buy twice if you get it right the first time.
We’ve reviewed 7 of the very best amps that you can get for $500 or less. All these amps are available through Amazon.com. Just use the handy one-click “Check Price” link to each one to check out the full spec, read purchasers’ reviews, and then make a purchase!
Now, let’s cut to the chase and look at our Magnificent 7 simply awesome amps!
Marshall Amps M-DSL20HR-U Guitar Amplifier Head
No list of guitar amps would be complete without a representative from the legendary Marshall brand! And this offering is one of the next generation Marshall DSL series.
This neat amp head weighs-in at just 26 pounds, making it the ultimate in portability and giving you the freedom to choose your own preferred cabinet. DSLs are packed full of classic Marshall tone, functionality, and features that will delight novice players and pros alike.
Each of the two channels has dedicated volume and gain controls. Choose sparkling clean sounds via the Classic Gain channel or the more aggressive break-up of a Marshall JCM800 amp. The Ultra Gain channel gives even more distortion for those looking for high gain tone.
The amp gives you reverb and has high and low power settings, as well as dedicated resonance control. The Marshall DSL has equipped with Softube emulated output, 3 x ECC83 and 2 x EL34 valves, giving you the full, rich tone of a valve amp in a more portable and compact format.The reviewers’ verdict
There was a split decision by the purchasers who reviewed the DSL amp head on Amazon! Overall, the amp was awarded a rating of 4 stars.
The DSL was praised for its full, clean tone, classic Marshall crunch, and ease of use. The effects loop also went down well, as did the unit’s portability. On the negative side, one purchaser thought that the amp sounded “fuzzy”, but that could be down to personal preference. Marshall fans will undoubtedly love this classic amp head!
Orange CR120H Crush Pro 120 Guitar Amplifier Head Bundle
Offering superb added value to your purchase, Austin Bazaar has created this cool bundle of accessories to go with this excellent pro head amp from Orange Crush. When you buy this package, you won’t need to spend more cash on extra bits of sundry kit; you’re ready to start playing right out of the box! And there’s an extra instrument cable so that you have a spare, as well as a polishing cloth to keep your new amp in mint order.
The Crush Pro is designed as a stage-ready, solid state amp. It’s inspired by the twin channel circuitry in Orange’s outstanding Rockerverb series and is made with high-grade solid state components. This amp delivers the warm, rich tones that you associate with Orange coupled with incredible levels of versatility.
The CR120H has the same 120 watt output as the CR120C model, installed into a lightweight head format. You can connect a range of speaker cabinets via two parallel outputs.
The amp’s clean channel has plenty of vintage-inspired sparkle. Increase the volume and the sound breaks up into a glorious bluesy crunch at the higher settings, with musical touch-sensitive overdrive. If you need to, you can reduce the volume to quieter, home practice levels.
The dirty channel gives you four stages of gain, and even at its very limits remains focused and tight with sustain for days!
The features offered by this classic Orange head amp include pro details such as a super-transparent, fully buffered effects loop, and a footswitch digital reverb.The reviewers’ verdict
This amp gets the full 5 stars from Amazon reviewers, who quite simply “loved it.” ‘Nuff said!
Orange Crush CR60C
Orange Crush have produced this high-power, solid state amp for the purist!
This piece of kit is not overloaded with myriad fancy features – most of which you wouldn’t use anyway. They’ve kept it simple and classic. What you have here is an analogue, solid state amp with two channels – dirty and clean – based on their classic and prestigious Rockerverb range, volume, and reverb.
The dirty channel gives you four stages of gain and a three band EQ, giving you an astounding range of distorted and overdriven sounds. The dirty channel is based on a two-band, two-stage EQ design, which provides you with a clean yet warm sound that breaks up nicely when you crank up the volume, just like the old-school Rockerverb!The reviewers’ verdict
Almost 90% of reviewers gave the Orange Crush CR60C 4.5 plus stars.
The overall consensus among the purchasers of this amp is that it knocks a tube amp out of the park in terms of tone and sound quality! The main gripe was that the amp is rather on the heavy side to be easily portable for gigging – so, get a roadie or a gym membership!
Fishman Loudbox Mini Limited Edition Acoustic Amplifier
Acoustic guitar players will undoubtedly be impressed by the much anticipated Fishman Loudbox Mini limited edition, black and white portable amp!
This brilliantly light and easily portable amp is manufactured to Fishman’s legendary high standards and delivers the tonal quality you’d expect from a maker with their pedigree.
Despite its petite size, the Loudbox Mini delivers 60 watts of power to your acoustic. The amp has 2 channels that feature Fishman’s tone and preamp control designs. There’s a chorus and digital reverb for the amp’s instrument channel, and the mic channel also has reverb. So that you can jam along for practice and for recording your performances, there’s a balanced XLR DI output and an AUX input.
A really useful feature for those guitarists who regularly play gigs in small clubs and bars where the acoustics are less than ideal is the Phase switch that helps to get rid of feedback.The reviewers’ verdict
Over 90% of Amazon reviewers who purchased the Loudbox Mini awarded it 4.5 plus stars.
Players loved the clear sound quality and tone, and they found the amp plenty loud enough for home rehearsals and playing reasonably large venues too. You can crank up the volume if you want to, without suffering distortion. On the downside, the amp’s Tolex covering is a major bugbear, as it is fragile and tears very easily.
Roland AC-60 - 30W Stereo Acoustic Amp
At the top of the under $500 price bracket sits Roland’s AC-60 Acoustic Chorus amp. This amp is small enough to be portable, but also packs enough punch to be used for gigging at venues of a modest size.
Roland’s 30 watt stereo amp uses digital signal processing to produce the brand’s signature rich, natural tone and crisp sound. Maximize your own sound with the lush stereo/multiband chorus, and wow your audience with effects such as wide mode-plus delay/reverb with footswitch control.
Rid your performance of the nails-down-blackboard effect via the clever Auto Anti-Feedback control, even when you crank the volume dial up to the max.
The amp has a 2-channel mic/guitar input line design and is configured to be stand-mountable for convenience, excellent projection, and space-saving in small venues.The reviewers’ verdict
100% of Amazon reviewers who bought this amp gave it over 4.6 stars!
Singers love this amp, praising the sound quality and its ease of use. However, a small gripe is that the unit seems much heavier than the 29 pounds it’s supposed to weigh. Also, the carrying handle is much too tight to the unit to be useable, even if you have really small hands!
Roland CUBE Street EX Battery Powered Amplifier
For those who play al-fresco at outdoor gigs, festivals, weddings etc, where there’s no mains power source, you really do need Roland’s CUBE Street EX!
The CUBE runs off just 8 AA batteries, yet still produces an awesome 50 watts of power. This amp is designed with the ultimate portability in mind, and it can also be stand-mounted for greater projection when required. The angled-back design makes this amp perfect for use on stage.
The amp is equipped with 2 x 8” woofers and 2 x 2” tweeters that will pump out plenty of volume for home rehearsals and small venue gigging.
The CUBE gives you 4 independent channels for connecting instruments, mics, and audio devices. If you perform as a duo, you won’t have to share a mic! The amp has 2 XLR mic inputs!
COSM tones are provided for your electric guitar, including crunch, clean, and lead. Acoustic players will love the clean, natural sound that the CUBE gives you.The reviewers’ verdict
Over 92% of reviewers give the CUBE 4.5 stars plus!
Plenty of plus points are highlighted for this amp, including its super-clean sound and versatility. Players love all the connection options – you can pretty much plug in a whole band and play at a beach wedding! The dedicated volume control for each input is voted a big positive too.
One thing that’s universally commented on is the lack of a dedicated effects dial for mixing. However, the overall feeling is that this a surprisingly powerful battery amp that produces a great sound!
ZT Amplifiers Lunchbox
If you’re looking for a super-powerful amp that’s extremely portable, look no further!
The ZT Lunchbox Combo is pretty much the most compact amp in this price range that’s genuinely loud enough to gig with. Weighing less than 10 pounds, the amp delivers an impressive 200 watts of power through its 6.5” speaker. For good measure, this amp can also simultaneously drive an external cabinet. If you need even more power, add a cab extension speaker or a 2 x 12 or 4 x 12 cabinet for more tonal variation, enhanced bottom end, and so much more output your drummer will complain that you’re drowning him out!
With an ultra-low latency circuit for the ultimate in player responsiveness, a pure analog front-end, and diode overdrive capability, the ZT Lunchbox Combo really does have it all! You can further enhance the already awesome proprietary dynamic tone shaping by using the open-back speaker simulation for ambience effect.
If you gig abroad like many of the pros who use this amp on tours, the Lunchbox has you covered with switchable 115V/230V capability.The reviewers’ verdict
Over 85% of Amazon purchasers awarded the ZT Lunchbox Combo an impressive 4.5 stars plus.
The little amp has astounded many with its sheer volume and wonderful tonal range, limitless clean headroom, and light weight. The “ambience” setting in particular receives praise for adding dimension in a delay or subtle chorus. In short, add a digital reverb pedal and you’ve got yourself the best jazz gigging guitar amp around!
The only real negative seems to be that some people found the amp to be faulty when they received it, and it did not produce any sound at all or very little. However, these are isolated cases and the manufacturer is very happy to repair or replace the product promptly and without quibble.
Every one of the amps we’ve reviewed here will give you the power and features that you need to rock-out any venue! If you can stretch your budget up to $500 to buy your new amp, you can take the next step on the ladder from home practice towards building a seriously good sound rig.
Once you’ve read our reviews and checked-out the product specs, just pick out the amp that most suits what you want, click “Check Price”, and get ready to rock the nation!