What Are The Best Practice Amps?
Practice is where the magic really happens, it is where skill limitations are overcome and musical inspiration strikes. This means we ought to carefully consider our practice gear, including the amp we use.
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.
Since there are so many practice guitar amps to choose from, we decided to list down what we and many others rate highly. Amps that are conducive to playing, easy to setup and great sounding were selected, key areas that make them ideal tools for practice. The following is a detailed list of the eight best practice amps and why we think you should consider them.
Fender Mustang I
Given all that this particular model has to offer and its impressive sound, this full-featured amplifier gets the top spot in this list. It easily gives you the best value for your buck, with a variety of robust amp models and over three dozen effects. Backed by big name artists like Eric Johnson, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and many more - it really is not surprising that Fender knows what practice amps should be, and so they made Fender Mustang I to be both versatile and simple to operate while still retaining the crisp tone expected from Fender amps.
Unlike other amps, this one sounds great no matter how loud or soft the volume is. There is also a headphone jack provided, so you can practice without disturbing your family or the neighbors. What's even more impressive is how its many features are easily accessible through its intuitive control board.
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 and you can find out more at and get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.
Line 6 Spider IV 30 30-watt 1x12 Modeling Guitar Amplifier
Affordable amp modeling is Line 6's specialization, and their ability to churn out great sounding, budget friendly and versatile gear has helped propel their brand name to worldwide recognition. Now owned by Yamaha, we can only expect their efficiency to further improve, forcing other manufacturers to up their game and in the end, giving we guitarists better options in the low to mid-tier market.
Although a bit dated, the Spider IV 30 is still holding its rank as one of the best selling amplifiers in the market, proving the effectiveness of Line 6's strategy and design philosophy. This amp gives you all the essential tones you need and lets you browse through them via an intuitive rotary knob interface. You can choose between 12 amp models that cover vintage British amp tones to modern American high-gain amps, and they all sound great considering the price point and size of the amp.
One of the Spider IV 30's strong points is its impressive clean tone, something that some other practice amps can't seem to get it right, modeled after a 1973 Hiwatt Custom 100. Other favorites include the crunch tone modeled after a '65 Marshall JTM-45, British style rock tones ala Vox AC-30 and high-gain tones that are modeled after the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. On top of nice tone, the amp comes packed with practice friendly features that include preset saving and sharing, aux input, headphones output, recording output, built-in effects and tuner. If you're looking for a practice amp that has worked well for many guitarists, this amp is the safest pick. The Line 6 Spider IV 30 30-watt 1x12 Modeling Guitar Amplifier can be purchased for $199 and you can find out more about this amp and see the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com
Vox MINI 3 G2
Thanks to prominent bands like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, The Who and many more, Vox has become a worldwide phenomenon. The distinct clean tone of Vox amps have become a staple in many studios and have etched the brand into our collective memories. However, Vox was not content to merely being tied down to their classic British tone reputation, so incorporated modern technology to compete in today's guitar amp market - and they continue to successfully do so, thanks to their impressive amp modeling technology and their ability to reproduce their popular British tone even on their more affordable amp models.
Speaking of affordable amps, the Vox Mini 3 G2 takes the latest technology that the company can offer and packs it all inside a compact and lightweight 3-Watt combo amp. For its size, it packs quite a lot of features including 11 amp models and 8 FX types, more than enough to get your practice mojo going without having to plug into your complicated live guitar rig.
You can easily polish your sound, with the included controls, plus it features an innovative Bassilator circuit that delivers impressive low end. And adding to its value is the optional ability to be powered by six AA batteries that last up to ten hours. This means you can practice anywhere, further reducing your excuses to not practice. The amp even has an onboard tuner so you're friends and family will not have to bear with you playing out of tune. Retailing at just below $120, this is simply a steal. For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com
Peavey Vypyr VIP 2
Peavey is one of those multinational brands that can literally do it all, with their flexibility it's hard to pigeon hole them into a particular sound or musical style. And more importantly they are able to build impressive gear without jacking up the price too much. Their cost effective production and experience with various types of musical instruments give them an advantage when it comes to building practice amps, so it is not surprising to find their name come up on recommendations and lists like this.
Being one of the latest from Peavey, the Vypyr VIP 2 exemplifies the company's approach - which is to provide as many features as they can without compromising quality. This one has 36 amp models that make it useful for electric, acoustic and even bass guitar, making this amp a hybrid guitar, acoustic and bass amp. And since it uses Peavey's Variable Instrument Input technology, switching into bass or acoustic gives out natural sounding tones.
As for tone, the amp features 32-bit floating point SHARC processors for the modeling and the company's TransTube analog circuitry for adding tube like characteristics to the resulting tone. And since it is rated at 40 Watts, it has more than enough power for band practice and even for small venue gigs. Now factor in USB connectivity, 25 effects and a looper feature that can be pedal activated - and you have an amp that gives you the best value for your money. It is currently retailing just under $129. For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com
Orange Crush 12
If like me you prefer a more traditional straightforward practice amp, then you will find the Orange Crush 12 to be a nice and affordable choice. Instead of going for the more mainstream DSP approach where amps come bundled with amp modeling and various digital effects, Orange decided to go old school providing basic controls for the volume, gain, and the three parameter EQ settings. 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 used on this amp is described as a solid state reproduction of the company's popular Rockerverb tube amp, and we agree with the majority in saying that this practice amp sounds impressive for its size and price. It is even described as being a great amp when you want to practice with your pedals engaged.
As expected from the company, the cosmetics aspect is not compromised, sporting the familiar orange basket weave tolex, picture frame edging, woven speaker grille, beading, and the distinct PiX heiroglyphs. So you get a practice amp that looks and sounds cool. This compact 12-watt amp drives classic tones into a 6" speaker . Even if you 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
Marshall Amps need no introduction, it continues to be the brand of choice for professionals and legendary guitarists that include Angus Young, Joe Perry, Eric Johnson, Steph Carpenter, Slash and many more. And they're not just building amps for the stars, they also have practice amps for up and coming artists and wannabes! From their production line, the Marshall MG15CFX is highly recommended because it comes with a solid state version of the familiar Marshall crunch tone bundled with essential effects.
For quick practice with minimal setup time, you can use it as a traditional amp and just adjust the 3-band EQ, volume and gain knobs to get the sound you want. But it doesn't end there because the amp has four channels that you can edit, store and recall for instant tone versatility. This gives you the option to stick with classic tones or go for other sounds by playing with presets, settings and the built-in effects.
Speaking of effects, Marshall equipped this amp with only the essential effects that include the three popular modulation effect types - chorus, flange and phaser. Also built into the amp are delay and reverb effects. These effect types aren't as over the top as the other modeling amps, making sure that you stick to practicing and avoid wasting time on playing with exotic effects that you probably won't be using live anyway. Finally the amp is housed in a nice looking carbon fibre finish exterior which looks nice to the eyes. This simple but effective practice amp is currently retailing for a little under $150. For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com
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. Among the popular Cube series, the 3-Watt Micro Cube GX is the most portable and practical practice amp, carrying a small 5" speaker and weighing in at just 6 pounds while having the same sonic flexibility as the other bigger amps, thanks to built-in DSP effects and COSM amp modeling technology.
While other amps have "so-so" amp model and effects quality, the Micro Cube GX utilizes the same technology found on more expensive Roland/Boss multi-effects products. This means that the effects and amp models that are included are not merely fillers or fluff so to speak, rather they are professionally implemented and sound great. Effects include 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-in a microphone into the amp!
Fully embracing the digital age, this amp will let you connect to your iPhone or iPad via the i-Cube link port, allowing for a very convenient and portable way of capturing your performance. There is even a free Roland Cube Jam app that you can download to turn your iOS device into a tool for recording, jamming and learning. 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
Blackstar ID:Core BEAM
Although considered as a new comer in the amplifier industry, Blackstar continues to gain artist recommendations, reputation and market share with their high-gain friendly amps. While they are good with old school analog circuits, the company does not shy away from trying new technology as evidenced by the ID:Core Beam, featuring Bluetooth connectivity and multiple instrument compatibility.
Convenience is the king of this new age and its rule has expanded on to guitar amplifiers, guitarists now want the same wireless convenience that they get from their audio systems applied to their amplifier. The ID:Core BEAM is Blackstar's response to this ever growing need, bundling their portable and versatile amplifier with Bluetooth playback capability.
Far from being a one-trick pony, this amp packs six impressive sounding amp voicings that let you sweep from acoustic amp sounds to electric guitar amp sounds to bass amp tones. Combine this with the company's ISF tone shaping knob and built-in effects and you have yourself a versatile tool kit for practicing. Other features include direct recording via USB, hi-fi quality audio playback and wide stereo dual speaker configuration. Although this one is a bit pricey at $280, it can easily be justified by its sound and elegant looks, also it can double as a Bluetooth music player so you get more use for it than you would a regular amp. For more information and to see the latest price & reviews, go to Sweetwater.com
While there are many practice amps to choose from, the eight models mentioned above are among the best in the market. All of these amps can either be bought online or at a local music store.
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