The Best Practice Amp Guide

Practice is the key to unlocking your playing and musical potential, and there's no other way around it. Thankfully, practice does not have to be too hard, because with the right tools, you can have fun while taking your guitar playing to the next level. This is where we come in with our recommendations, to help you in finding the right guitar amplifier that will inspire you to play better.

Sweetwater

This page is sponsored by Sweetwater so you can click through to get the full specifications, the latest price, and purchase any of the practice amplifiers stocked by Sweetwater that we have recommended.

Here we present you with the best practice amps for guitar, updated for 2017, amps that are versatile, conducive to playing, easy to setup, and do all of these while sounding good.

We ended up with a list of eight amps, and provided detailed descriptions for each one, along with why we, and many others, regard them highly.

Contents

The Best Practice Amps for Guitar

Vox VT20X

Vox VT20X

The VT20X is a versatile practice amp that combines digital amp modeling with a genuine 12AX7 preamp tube, resulting in inspiring tones that include Vox' distinct British clean sound. See our full meta review below
Blackstar ID:Core BEAM

Blackstar ID:Core BEAM

Wireless convenience is creeping into guitar amplifiers, and the ID:Core BEAM is Blackstar's response to this growing need, bundling their portable and versatile amplifier with Bluetooth audio streaming. See our detailed meta review below
Boss Katana 50

Boss Katana 50

The BOSS Katana 50 combo amplifier represents a new generation of flexible amplifiers for practice and performance. With a set of familiar controls allow for amp modeling and old school tone shaping. See the full meta review below
Yamaha THR10

Yamaha THR10

Onboard the THR10, you'll find a ton of useful tools for songwriting, recording, and practicing. Craft your tone from five intricately modeled tube amplifier types, or plug in your bass or acoustic guitar directly. See the full meta review below
Marshall Code 25

Marshall Code 25

An affordable practice amp from big name amp manufacturer Marshall, with modern amp modeling, built-in effects and Bluetooth amp modeling, all packed in a compact combo profile. See our extended meta review below
Roland Micro Cube GX

Roland Micro Cube GX

Having won a number of awards and recognition, the Roland Cube line continues to be the among the top selling practice amps in the world, thanks to their combination of portability, affordability, features and tone. See the full meta review below
Fender Mustang I V2

Fender Mustang I V2

With their extensive experience and reputation, Fender knows what a good practice amp should be, and this is what the Mustang I is, versatile, intuitive and affordable. See our detailed meta review below
Orange Crush 12

Orange Crush 12

If you're not interested in amp modeling and multi-effects, then the Orange Crush 12 is the practice amp for you. It features old school controls for the volume, gain, and the three parameter EQ settings. See the full meta review below

Vox VT20X

Vox VT20X

Trusted by iconic bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, U2 and many more, Vox certainly knows how to build good amplifiers. And they proved that yet again with the Vox VT20X hybrid digital-analog amplifier, with its combination of modern amp modeling technology and old school tube preamp section, resulting in improved response and dynamics, all packed inside a compact and affordable combo amplifier.

At the core of this amp is the Valvetronix preamp which feature a multi-stage 12AX7 tube driven circuit, designed to reproduce the dynamic response and characteristics of tube amps. This is paired with a digital-analog hybrid power amp section that reproduces Class A and Class AB tones. In between the two is a digital sound processor that lets you choose from 11 amp models (Up to 20 when using the editor software), allowing for a wide variety of tones with genuine tube character.

On top of all that, this amp houses 13 built-in effects that include different types of modulation, delay, reverb, tremolo and more. It also lets you save your settings into any of its 33 presets (expandable to 60 when using the editor/librarian software). With its 20W power rating and 8" speaker, it has enough power for band practice or even for small venue events. It can also quiet down further for room practice, or you can go the quiet route via its headphones output. Finally the amp has an aux input for playing along with your favorite tracks. Retailing at just under $180, the Vox VTX20 is simply a steal.

For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com


Blackstar ID:Core BEAM

Blackstar

Blackstar continues to make waves in the amplifier market with good reviews, expert recommendations and artist endorsers. The ID:Core BEAM is one of their latest practice friendly amps, adding Bluetooth wireless connectivity to their already impressive tone shaping technology, and fitting all of these into a compact combo amplifier with stereo speakers.

As expected from a Blackstar amp, this compact amp handles high gain tones nicely, and does so at lower volume levels. But it's not just about rock and metal, because this amp has six amp voicings that include the usual amp stereo types, all of which can be further tweaked via Blackstar's ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) to that morphs the tone to American or British flavors. This amp can also handle acoustic-electric guitars as well as bass guitar, with dedicated amp models for the said instruments, further adding to its versatility.

The 20W amplifier section drives two 3" speakers, with plenty of volume for jamming and solo practice. There are also a headphones output for quiet practice, and an aux input in case your media player does not have Bluetooth. Finally, this amp has a USB out that allows for direct recording to your computer, a convenient feature that adds even more to the ID:Core Beam's overall value. Although this one is a bit pricey at $280, you are getting more use for it than you would a regular amp, well worth the price.

For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com

Boss Katana 50

Boss Katana 50

The Boss Katana 50 is designed to be flexible yet still stay true to amp tradition, as such it takes a more streamlined approach to getting good tones, with just four electric guitar amp characters - clean, crunch, lead and brown. This simplified configuration makes it easier to get good clean or overdriven amp tones, without the need for much tweaking. You get essential tones via the clean, crunch and lead, while the brown setting provides 80's style metal tones.

Since it carries the "Boss" brand, the Katana 50 is equipped with 15 effects that can be accessed conveniently via the amp's control panel. You can expand your selection to 55 effect models via the software editor, but in keeping with its simplified design, you can only use up to three effects at once. On top of all that, there's also an acoustic amp voicing that's designed to work with acoustic-electric guitars and other pickup equipped acoustic instruments.

For the price, the Boss Katana 50 packs quite the punch, with 50W of power that provides more than enough juice to drive its 12" speaker for playing in small to medium sized venues. But what makes this stage ready amp ideal for practice is the addition of a power attenuator, which lets you lower the power rating from 50W down to 0.5W.. This allows you to drive the amp harder at lower volumes to get inspiring tones without disturbing your neighbors. You can purchase the Boss Katana 50 for just under $200.

See the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com


Yamaha THR10

Yamaha THR10

The Yamaha THR10 easily stands out from others on this list because of its desktop friendly profile, but it's not just unique looking because it is designed to be a true desktop amp - ideal for practicing and recording at home. Much like most of today's amps, the THR10 offers good tone flexibility with its five amp models which include the usual clean, crunch and lead tones, as well as a British high gain and a modern high gain setting.

Since many guitarists tend to record their own acoustic and bass parts at home, Yamaha equipped this amp with dedicated acoustic and bass amp models. There's even a setting where you can turn off the amp modeling feature, in case you want to use a separate amp modeler. Further tone shaping is provided for by its 3-band EQ. There are also a number of modulation, delay and reverb effects built into the amp, all of which are easily accessible via the top mounted controls.

All of the above mentioned features are packed with a 10W amplifier section which drives its two 3.15" speakers. This allows for true stereo effects, and lets you playback your favorite tracks in stereo. As mentioned, this desktop friendly amp also doubles as an audio interface, so you can record your guitar, bass or acoustic guitar playing straight to your computer. Finally, the THR10 is also designed to be portable, able to run for 6 hours on 8 x AA batteries. With its high quality stereo sound, and distinct aesthetic appeal, the Yamaha THR10 is well worth checking out if you're looking for a portable amp for practice and recording. It is currently retailing for $300.

For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com


Marshall Code 25

Marshall Code 25

Marshall is known for being the amp of rockstars, serving virtuosos that include Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Slash, Joe Perry, Eric Johnson, Steph Carpenter, and many more. But it's not just about pleasing big names because they have since expanded range to build quality amps for up and coming guitarists, which includes the Marshall Code 25. This amp caught our attention with its classic Marshall tones, modern amp modeling, and practice friendly profile.

Instead of merely picking an amp model, Marshall Code 25 breaks it down further into preamp and power amp components. It starts off with 14 preamp models that include popular Marshall classics including the Bluesbreaker Plexi, Silver Jubilee and JCM800. They can then be matched with your preferred power preamp which can be divided into four types. By mixing and matching the preamp and power amp settings, you can achieve vintage, modern, British and American flavor tones. There's also 8 speaker simulations to choose from, which adds to the depth and complexity of the sounds you can craft.

Marshall also equipped the Code 25 with 24 digital effects, which expands your sonic palette even further. All these features are packed in a compact combo amp with 25W of power and a 10" speaker, a combination that's ideal for practice, be it solo or with a band. Other features include modern Bluetooth connectivity for wireless control of the amp, direct USB recording, aux-in port and headphones out. If you're looking for a practice amp with big brand backing then do checkout the Marshall Code 25. It is currently retailing for a little under $200.

For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com


Roland Micro Cube GX

Roland Micro Cube GX

Even in the face of recent releases from the competition, the Roland Cube series continues to be a top contender in the market, we specifically like the Micro Cube GX with its good balance of affordability, portability, versatility and tone. With a 3-Watt amp and a small 5" speaker, this combo amp is not meant for band practice, let alone gigging, but it has enough juice for solo practice. And this is exactly where it excels, a simple and practical plug-and-play practice amp with easy to use amp modeling and effects.

Since the Micro Cube GX features the same COSM technology found on premium Roland/Boss guitar processors, sound quality is up to par with its more expensive counterparts, albeit limited in volume and features. It has built-in effects that are based on actual Boss pedals, including chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, heavy octave, and a separate delay and reverb processor. While the amp models include Acoustic simulator, JC clean, Black Panel, Brit Combo, Classic Stack, R-Fier Stack, Extreme (high-gain) and there's even an amp model for microphone use - in case you want to plug a vocal mic into the amp!

Another nifty feature of the Micro Cube GX is its i-Cube link port, which lets you connect the amp with your iPhone or iPad for recording. There is a free Roland Cube Jam app that you can download to get the amp to work with your iOS device. Finally, the Roland Micro Cube GX is housed in a sturdy chassis that comes in different colors, which means that you are not limited to the usual black finish. With a price tag of only $149, this small but feature packed amp is an easy pick.

For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com


Fender Mustang I V2

Fender Mustang I V2

There's no denying the popularity of Fender amps, especially with their big name artist users which include Larry Carlton, Jerry Garcia, Brian Setzer, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Johnson, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and many more. As such, all Fender had to do to produce good practice amps - that is to retain their signature clean tone, add modern amp modeling and effects and make the price affordable - and all of this they did for the Mustang I.

With its 20W amplifier and 8" speaker, the Fender Mustang I is meant to provide good tones at lower volumes. But what makes it even more special is that it sounds good even when you crank up the volume, able to handle band practice reasonably well for the size. For quiet practice, Fender installed a headphone jack, so you can practice without disturbing your family or the neighbors.

The top mounted control interface provides ample control over the sound, but you can get even more control by connecting the amp to your computer via USB and using the Fender FUSE software. The amp can also double as an audio interface, so you can use it to record directly to your computer. The version 2 software update expands the amp's capabilities even further, showing Fender's commitment to keeping the Mustang series relevant. The Fender Mustang I costs around $120.

Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.


Orange Crush 12

Orange Crush 12 1x6

The Orange Crush 12 is meant for those who prefer a straightforward and affordable practice amp. It strays from what other amps offer, and is streamlined for a more traditional workflow. There are no amp modeling or multiple effects to get hung up on, just good old basic controls for gain, volume and 3-band EQ. You literally just plug and play with minimal tweaking, and you get a transparent tone that lets you focus on technique to get the right sound, rather than gear settings.

The overdrive circuit of this amp is its main selling point, commended by many for its quality and response. This is all thanks to the amp being a solid state reproduction of the company's popular Rockerverb tube amp, which is well loved for its rock friendly tones. You can always just plug your preferred pedals if you want effects.

Orange amps easily stand out from the usual black colored amplifiers, thanks to their distinct exterior which usually include basket weave tolex, woven speaker grille, and orange picture frame edging. The Orange Crush 12 follows this to a tee, including having distinct PiX heiroglyphs as control labels, albeit in a compact and portable profile. So the bottom-line is, you get an easy to use practice amp that looks and sounds cool. This compact 12-watt amp drives classic tones into a 6" speaker. Even if you already have bigger amps, this is a great buy for something priced at just $99.

For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com


What To Look For in a Practice Amp

Here we present important features and considerations that you should keep in mind when buying a practice amplifier.

  • Volume / Projection

    Most practice amps are designed to give you good tones at lower volumes, while still having enough projection to fill an average size room. This is the reason why they are usually smaller and have lower power ratings. These compact, low-power amps are ideal for solo/quiet practice, great for musicians who live in dorms, apartments and the like, where they want to avoid disturbing the neighbors while practicing. While plugging your headphones into an amp is the quietest option, many still prefer amps with speakers because they sound more natural.

    For those who are practicing with a band, you'll want to look for louder amps that can be heard over drums, bass, keyboards and other instruments. 20W amps can do reasonably well, if your bandmates control their volume. To be on the safe side, you can go for amps that have more power and bigger speakers. However, loud amps can be a bit harder to use in low volume room practice, especially when the amp's requires you to crank up its volume to get good tones.

  • Amp Modeling & Effects

    Practice amps with built-in amp modeling and effects are common place because they give you more for your money, and they allow for more sonic flexibility. They are also invaluable learning tools because they can help you experience and better understand the workings and tones of different amps and effects, without having to shell out money to collect multiple pieces of gear. Amp models let you go from clean to crunch and all the way up to modern high gains, while effects usually include reverb, delay and modulation, but don't be surprised if some include even more.

    On the flip side, don't get too carried away tweaking knobs and pushing buttons, because you might end up wasting time fidgeting with the amp instead of practicing. So don't write off straightforward practice amps just yet, because they are good for efficient grab-and-go practice, especially if you prefer the dynamics of a guitar plugged straight into an amplifier, much like I do. They are also ideal if you prefer getting your tones from a separate guitar effects pedal or processor.

  • Practice Friendly Features

    Aux inputs allow you to play along with your favorite songs or backing tracks, while the headphones out allow for quiet practice. Bluetooth connectivity is also a nice plus, since it lets you stream songs to the amp wirelessly. Having a built-in tuner is also handy for setting your guitar up. Amps with built-in metronome are highly recommended, because getting your timing right is fundamental to good guitar playing. Looping function is also useful for building your chops, while onboard USB direct recording allows you to critic your own playing and make the necessary adjustments.

  • Configuration and Portability

    Most practice amps come in traditional combo configuration, where the amp and speaker are housed in a single cabinet that is meant to sit on the floor. However, there are now amps with a smaller and longer profile that are meant to sit on desks/tables. There are also practice amps that are meant to be portable, with convenient features like carry strap, battery power option, compact size, and light weight. These amps are great for musicians who are always on the move, but still want to keep their guitar playing sharp.

Sweetwater Thank you to Sweetwater for their sponsorship and providing the full specifications for the practice amps above where possible.

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Portable practice amp

I tried several of the amps you have listed here,
and I find it strange that you did not include
the one I ended up buying. After messing
around with many,
I decided on the VOX Mini3
as it takes AA batteries and I bought
rechargeable eneloop 2500Mah's.

Another really good one is the
Pignose Hog20 !!!!

For a beginner I would

For a beginner I would still recommend the Line 6 Spider IV 15 - but if you've got a bit more experience, then I'd thoroughly recommend the VOX Mini 3 - as an added bonus it has the VOX logo on it :)

Fender Champion X2

I consider the Fender Champion X2 an excellent practice and gig amp for around $379(free shipping). The clean channel is great sounding for my Tele. Channel two has DSP effects that emulate 16 fender amps. Try voicing #8 and super sonic voicing (#13 I believe). Pedals are not necessary but can be added to your mix.

Best practice amp

VHT Special 6. Or Ultra w fx loop. My friend brought over his Peavey Rage & my Vht blew it away. Seriously, they're cheap, u can change the tubes & they sound like honey. & I've had the micro cube.

Amplifier

I just recently bought Mustang II (v2) & I love it. I paid only &120 on eBay but they normally cost $199 new. I also have a brand new Fender G-DEC Thirty (v2) and it has everything a person would want including a band to practice with. I paid $130 and they normally run about $350 but well worth it. It's plenty loud enough with a 10" speaker with 30watts. The Mustang II has a 12" speaker and it's 40 watts but sounds like 30 on some settings.

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