Best Modeling Amp on a Budget
Updated for 2014: 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.
When digital modeling was introduced, the modeled tones lacked fidelity, nuance and dynamics. However, technology has is 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 poweramp section is driven by a 12 AX7 tube, which works in conjunction with 33 distinct amp models and 25 effects that you can tweak, mix and edit to taste. With its combination of digital modeling, analog tubes, and affordability, Vox Valvetronix+ claims the top spot in this list. We highly recommend the Valvetronix VT40 Plus, for its great balance of size, features, sound and cost. It retails for just under $250. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Line 6 Spider IV
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. Made by the same company that pioneered the am modeling trend, the Spider IV amps are literally packed with great sounds and features, while remaining affordable and accessible.
The really cool stuff happens when you play with the amp's 16 amp and 20 effects models, giving you access to a lot of tones. Aside from the wealth of tools, Line 6 also spoon feeds you with great presets, enlisting the help of professional artists to create 300 artist-made presets, and providing 200 song-based presets that mimic the tones used on popular songs.
These features make the amp a fun toy to play with during practice and a serious tool when performing. The Line 6 Spider IV 120 model is a loud and powerful workhorse amp currently retailing for just $399. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
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 Amazon.com.
Although well known for their classic tube and solidstate amps, Fender knew that they have 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 Amazon.com.
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