Best Modeling Amp on a Budget for 2017

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.

This guide has been updated for 2017 with a new section that discusses the features that you need to look for in modeling amplifiers. The Line 6 Spider V and Peavey Vypyr VIP have retained their positions in this guide. New this year are our recommendations for the Vox AV30 and Fender Mustang I V.2.

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 AV30

Line 6 Spider V

Peavey Vypyr VIP 3

Fender Mustang I V.2

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. 18 amp models and 37 effects including models of some of Fender's most famous guitar amps.
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What to Look for in a Budget Modeling Amplifier

Amp Models

Thanks to technological advancements in sound processing, the sound quality of modeling amplifiers continues to climb. Even experts and critics find themselves impressed with the tones they're getting, and since this price range is aimed at beginner to intermediate players, the sound quality of the amps listed here should meet the expectation of most players. So at the end of the day, it will just be a matter of taste and preference. Note that if you're looking to utilize many different sounds, then you want amps with more amp models. But its not always the case that more is better, because you'll probably end up liking just a few, and using even fewer of them.

Effects

Built-in effects in amps are frowned upon by experienced players, mostly because they already have their preferred pedals. Still, these effects are heaven sent for budget conscious players, and for beginners who are looking to experience using more effects, without spending a fortune. Reverb is the most essential of the effects, but it won't hurt to have delay, modulation and other effects built-into the amp, as long as you don't waste your time tweaking them too much.

Power Rating / Speaker Size

Power rating and speaker size dictate the loudness and projection of the amp. If you're just planning to use the amp for practice then this shouldn't be a big deal, but it is important if you're planning to gig with it. Most, if not all the amps we listed in here have bigger or smaller siblings that you can look at in case you prefer something that's louder or smaller.

Intuitive Controls

There are some guitarists who find digital control panels to be frustrating to use, so if you are one, do check out the control panel of the amp you're planning to get to see if it fits your standards. On the other hand, there are some who prefer to personalize their sound via deep EQ and parameter editing. Consider your preferences and buy accordingly.

Extra Features

Some practical features to look out for include portability and reliability, especially if you're planning to gig with the amp. Other useful additions include metronome and aux input for practicing, headphones out for quiet playing and USB connectivity for direct recording or for convenient deep control adjustments.

Vox AV30

Vox AV30

When digital modeling was introduced, many complained that 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 further improve feel and fidelity, Vox decided to equip the AV30 with an analog modeling circuit instead of a digital one, and combined it with tube driven preamp and poweramp sections. This genuine tube driven analog modeling method helped give this amp improved quality and dynamics, getting ever closer to accurately representing the behavior of the amps that it mimics. Since it utilizes analog circuits, the AV30 is limited to just 8 models, but it does include classic AC15 and AC30 Top Boost circuits, along with essential American combos, British stacks, and even modern high-gain amp tones. In addition, the amp comes with built-in reverb, delay and chorus. Finally all these impressive features are packed in an affordable and compact combo amp package with 30W of power and a 10" speaker. It retails for just under $329.99.

Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.


Line 6 Spider V 30

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 capability. The Line 6 Spider V 30 model has 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 3

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 I v.2

Fender Mustang I v.2

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 I v.2 retains the sought after Fender clean tone at its core sound, which means that fans of the brand will still be able to produce the tone that they expect. The addition of amp modeling expands the sounds to include models from other makers, which makes the amp viable for many different musical styles. Still, its best models are those of actual Fender amps like the Twin Reverb and Bassman, which many describe as very convincing.

All in all, this amp gives you 18 amp models and 37 effects to play around with, which is more than enough to play virtually any guitar style or music genre. The powerful DSP and solid state 10W amp drives an 8" Fender design speaker, and all of the parts are housed in an elegant looking chassis. Considering all its features, the Fender Mustang I v.2 is a great deal, especially since it is retailing for just under $120.

Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.


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

guitar headphone amplifiers See our Guitar Headphone Amp Report - most come with effects and plug directly into your headphones.
 

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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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