Best Modeling Amp on a Budget

Thanks to modeling amplifiers, we can enjoy the flexibility of having multiple amps and effects without emptying our wallets.

Big name guitarists and even producers are now embracing the magic that amp modeling technology brings, and this in turn pushes the quality of amp modelers to new heights. Here we look at the best modeling amps that offer amazing value for your money, focusing on amps that sit below the $400 mark.

Sweetwater

This roundup is sponsored by Sweetwater so you can click through for the full specifications, latest price, and purchase any of the Guitar Amplifiers stocked by Sweetwater that we have recommended.

Vox VT40X

Line 6 Spider V

Peavey Vypyr VIP

Fender Mustang

Our top pick because it combines digital modeling with an actual tube poweramp - the best of both worlds! 78 amp and 101 effects models combined with over 100 song-based and artist created presets. 36 amp models including 6 bass amps and 6 acoustic amps to combine with 26 different effects. 17 amp models and 44 effects including models of some of Fender's most famous guitar amps.
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Vox VT40X
Vox VT40X

When digital modeling was introduced, the modeled tones lacked fidelity, nuance and dynamics. However, technology has been quickly catching up, blurring the sonic distinction between the real amps from their modeled counterparts.

To improve the feel and fidelity of their amp models, Vox decided to go the hybrid route with the Valvetronix+, combining digital modeling with a poweramp section that is driven by an actual tube. This practical method of melding two technologies helped give the amp improved fidelity and dynamics, getting ever closer to accurately representing the behavior of tube amps. The latest amp to come from this line is the VT40X, which features updated modeling algorithms that sound closer to the real thing than ever, thanks to the utilization of real tube. The poweramp section is driven by a 12 AX7 tube, which works in conjunction with 11 (up to 20 with software editor) distinct amp models and 13 effects that you can tweak, mix and edit to taste. With its combination of digital modeling, analog tubes, and affordability, Vox VT40X claims the top spot in this list. We highly recommend the Valvetronix VT40X, for its great balance of size, versatility, tone and cost. It retails for just under $250. Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.


Line 6 Spider V
Line 6 Spider V

Years after they first came out, the Line 6 Spider Series continues to be among the top selling amps in the world and for good reason, they offer flexibility, durability and power at very tempting price points. The Spider V is the latest iteration of this affordable modeling guitar amp line, with even more sounds, deeper parameter controls and upgraded hardware, as expected from the company that pioneered amp modeling itself.

There's virtually no end to what you can do with this amp, just going through its staggering 101 effects, 78 amps, and 23 cabinets will take quite a lot of time. Now factor in the over 100 presets and the various combinations, and you have yourself a super versatile modeling amp - that doesn't dig a hole in your pocket. Aside from the wealth of tools, Line 6 also spoon feeds you with great presets, enlisting the help of professional artists to create artist-made presets, along with song-based presets that mimic the tones used on popular songs.

From a fun toy to play with during practice, the Spider V can turn into a serious tool for performance and recording with its full range speaker system, 30W amplifier and direct USB recording capabilitiy. The Line 6 Spider V 30 model just upped the standard for affordable compact amp modeling, you can have one now for just $199.99. Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.


Peavey Vypyr VIP
Peavey Vypyr VIP

Peavey has made a name for itself by providing affordable and versatile products that maintain good sonic fidelity, and the Vypyr series is a great example. They packed these combo amplifiers with features while successfully keeping the price tag sane, and ensured that they sound great.

The Vypyr VIP series is the latest iteration of their affordable entry level amp line, surpassing the sonic quality and flexibility that popularized its predecessor. It now has even more modeled amps and effects that crosses over to bass and acoustic guitar territory. You can customize your sound by playing with its 36 amp models, which also include 6 bass amps and 6 acoustic amps. The total accessible effects that the amp carries is 26, more than enough to cover virtually all conventional guitar styles.

The 100 Watt Vypyr VIP 3 is highly recommended in this price range. It has enough power for gigs and is small enough for convenient transport., with enough power for gigs while retaining an impressively low price tag of $299. Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.


Fender Mustang
Fender Mustang III

Although well known for their classic tube and solidstate amps, Fender knew that they had to embrace amp modeling if they want to stay relevant and compete with other amp builders. The Mustang series is born out of this strategy to provide amp modeling features within affordable combo amplifiers.

The Mustang III retains the sought after Fender clean tone at its core sound, which means that fans of the amp brand will still be able to produce the tone that they expect from the brand. The addition of amp modeling expands the sounds that are possible, and as expected models of actual Fender amps like the Twin Reverb and Bassman are very convincing.

All in all, the Mustang amps give you 17 amp models and 44 effects to play around with, which is more than enough to let you gig with just one guitar and amp. The powerful DSP and solid state amp drives a 12" Celestion speaker, and all of the parts are housed in an elegant looking chassis. The Fender Mustang III with its 100 Watts of power is a steal, retailing for just under $330. Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.


Related Articles:
What Are The Best Practice Amps?
Amp Modeling Software

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GSP1101

Great list! For those looking for recording or integrating with a rack rig (or even running into another amp), the DigiTech GSP1101 still blows me away even though it's pretty old at this point. With good IRs, it's up there with the Eleven Rack, AxeFX, etc.

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