Last Updated: May-28-2018
We gave our practice amp chart a little reshuffle, removing two models – the Orange Micro Dark and the Marshall Code 50W – and replacing them with the versatile Line 6 Spider Classic 15 and the classic Fender Frontman 10G.
The old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ couldn’t be more appropriate for guitar – the only way to get really good is to put in the hours at home.
Table Of Contents
The chart in this article highlights some of the best practice amps on the market today, in several price ranges and wattages. Let’s get right to it!
|Image||Guitar Amplifier / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
|+ -|| Peavey Vypyr VIP 3 |
Total of 4.83/5
The epitome of modeling versatility great for home and limited stage use.
|+ -|| Marshall MG Series MG15CFX |
Total of 4.78/5
Small, simple, powerful and full of that trademark Marshall tone we love.
|+ -|| Line 6 Spider Classic 15 |
Total of 4.80/5
A cool practice amp with huge tonal flexibility.
|+ -|| Blackstar ID: Core 10 V2 |
Total of 4.90/5
Blackstar's take on fully integrated modeling amps in the super compact segment.
|+ -|| Fender Frontman 10G |
Total of 4.65/5
Hard to fault this popular compact combo from Fender.
|+ -|| Vox Pathfinder 10 |
Total of 4.88/5
A piece of Vox history in a modern package that is affordable.
Peavey is the brand that has made some of the most popular guitar amplifiers we have today. When they are not spending time designing stage legends, they are known to produce explosive practice combos. Peavey Vypyr VIP3 is definitely the first such model that comes to mind. Filled to the brim with awesome features, emulations and effects, this modeling amp is the perfect answer for any practice sessions. The package we are looking at here brings a great combination of sound quality, volume and versatility. On top of that, the price makes it a bargain. If you are looking for a Swiss army knife of home guitar amplification, this pretty much as good as it gets in this price range.
Marshall's MG Series are a proof that solid state amps are still in business. This super compact combo doesn't come with all the bells and whistles that most modern modeling amps do, but it offers something much better than that. You get the epic Marshall tone in a slightly compressed version. Those who want to experiment with effects pedals and need a fairly neutral but good base, should definitely look into Marshall MG15CFX. To satisfy your overdrive/distortion appetite, Marshall has included three dirty channels similar to those you can find on their flagship models. With Crunch, OD1 and OD2, you have access to three different yet unique sound profiles. Add a very solid clean channel and you got perfection.
For players who enjoy a little experimentation while practicing, there are few better practice amps than the Spider Classic 15 from Line 6. This affordable little amp offers four awesome preset amplifier models allowing you to change from clean to crunch then instantly to heavy metal tones at the press of a button, as well as two Smart FX rotary controls, offering a range of digital effects including reverb, tremolo and echo. With 15 watts of power, there is more than enough volume for home use, while the built-in digital tuner and a headphone jack are excellent features for practice. Check out more details in the full review of the Spider Classic 15.
One of the more simple facts regarding practice amps is that size sometimes can be essential. Blackstar ID: Core 10 V2 is a very compact little combo that lacks nothing in terms of versatility nor performance. The effects suite you get is impressive all things considered. With that said, one of the best things about this amp is the price, which is extremely competitive. In essence, Blackstar' ID:Core 10 V2 is the perfect solution for guitar players who are working with a very tight budget. On top of that, you get full connectivity package that allows you to record music on your computer, program the amp and more. Overall, this is by far one most capable tiny amps available.
As we mention in the complete Fender Frontman 10G review this compact combo ticks many boxes on the checklist for a solid practice amp including simple controls, modest output and solid tone. Unlike some others on this list, it won’t cope well with performances featuring just 10 watts of power, but it’s a great plug n’ play amp to have laying around a bedroom, living room or studio. The clean tone is classic Fender, while a quick push of the gain button gives you a very good overdrive that will cater for everything from surf rock to metal. The auxiliary input and headphone outputs are useful features from home practice too. For under $100, this sturdy little amp shows awesome value.
Vox still holds the reputation of being one of the most iconic amp brands in existence. Even though they are mostly known for their large stage units and the legendary AC30, they also offer some pretty interesting practice amps. Vox Pathfinder 10 is a super compact solid state amp that brings the core of what Vox is all about. It is a 10 Watt package with a built in speaker and a control interface that is simple but effective. While you won't find any of the effects we see on most modeling amps, we get a rendition of Vox's iconic sound at a very attractive price. At this price, you will have a hard time finding something better than this.
One of the main mistakes many beginners make is to spend their entire budget on an electric guitar, then ‘dry practice’ for a long time before grabbing an amp. However, it’s beneficial to plug into an amp from the first chord you play, as amplification will give you important feedback on your technique.
Another issue arises from dry practice. When you play with no amp, you are unknowingly forcing yourself to play more aggressively because unplugged electric guitar is very hard to hear. In some cases, this can result in bad habits, which will be hard to get rid of down the line.
This is why it’s well worth buying a small amp to practice with from the moment you start playing guitar. The good news – as you will have seen from the chart above – is that we live in a time where you can buy a great little combo amp at a dirt-cheap price.
These allow you to give your guitar a real voice, without breaking the bank. In most cases, these amps will last you a few years, until you start to outgrow them with ambitions of recording and performing.
Any guitar amp you have at your disposal can be classed as a practice amp. For example, if you practice on a stack of 4×12 Marshall cabs, this is technically a practice amp. But it’s probably not the best one. Let’s take a quick look at what features a good practice amp will have:
As most guitar practice is usually done at home, the size of the practice amp matters. In an ideal world your practice amp will be compact enough that you can store it in a cupboard or under a bed if space is an issue, while being light enough to move it around quickly (for example, when your mom/your partner/the kids are out and you want to enjoy a quick session in your alone time!).
Blasting a 100-watt stack is a wonderful experience, but it’s not something you will want to do in your home on a daily basis – unless you enjoy frequent visits from the police. Thankfully, these small practice amps are rarely overpowered by design, giving you good tone without making the practice session uncomfortably loud.
Even with a small amp, there’s no need to compromise on versatility. All amps should offer volume and gain controls, as well as 2 or 3-band EQ. Depending on the price you spend, you can pick up an affordable amp worthy of practice that still offers an excellent range of amp models and built-in effects including delay, echo and chorus. While digital effects aren’t essential to practice sessions, they can help with experimentation and overall experience.
One of the best things about a practice amp is their price. Some models are more expensive than others, but rarely will you end up paying over the odds for something you keep under your desk. In fact, some amps come in at well under $100, which allows you to factor this price into your initial spending costs.
The majority of practice amps are solid-state models. Why? Because they tick all the boxes for what makes a good practice amp – affordable, lightweight and easy to use. For a complete beginner, a solid-state amp makes the most sense. However, if you are a more advanced guitarist, a small tube amp to practice on can really enhance your sessions. With the advent of low power switches, tube amps are becoming more and more suitable for low-volume practice at home. Providing you are experienced enough to make the most of them – and that you can afford the cost – a tube practice amp can be a worthwhile choice.
Another variable worth considering is whether to go for an amp head or a combo amp. Of course, 95% of practice amps are combos because they are so convenient. You don’t need a separate speaker to be heard and they are much cheaper than heads. However, don’t completely rule out heads as they tend to add some big versatility. For example, you can practice on it via headphones at home, then easily transport it to a venue, hook it up to a cab and gig with it.
Practice amps are the best way to properly develop your guitar skills – whether you are a complete beginner or an experienced shredder who continues to develop his chops. Although our chart is by no means a comprehensive breakdown of all the practice amps out there, it will certainly give you a flavor of what’s hot and will hopefully have given you some inspiration.