While you may think getting the best guitar is a hard decision, getting the best guitar amp is really important too. You should know pretty swiftly which is the right guitar for you but the amp is a whole different piece of gear.
One that can augment your sound with the right tone and crank it up for your audience to hear as you intend them to.
Remember that bad guitars can still sound brilliant through an exceptional amp. However, a poor amp can make your great guitar sound pretty unremarkable.
Getting the wrong guitar amp could even hamper your playing development, if you cannot properly hear the sounds you are creating.
The tones and response of an amplifier can create notable changes to your guitar playing. Forcing you to find out what you like and pushing you forward.
Guitar amps keep changing with digital technology though you may want to stick to a tested formula and a brand you trust.
Find the best guitar amp for you can be tricky yet once you have it, that amp is well worth the effort.
Best For A Classic Look And Sixties Sound: Fender ’68 Custom Princeton Reverb
You can trust Fender when it comes to a guitar amp. The Sixties was a defining era for the guitar amp so it is no surprise that the brand has gone back to that era. If you are looking for a retro look as well as an all-valve operation with manageable volume then the search is over.
This is the latest in a long and successful series of amps and there is a certain familiarity with some modern development to enjoy.
While keeping the classic silver panel look, the performance has been modified somewhat. This amp should take a variety of pedals and treat them well which we enjoyed in our testing.
Negative feedback has been reduced for a quicker overdrive which may go against your retro sensibilities but is warranted here. You can also expect that classic, warm sound from custom-made Schumacher transformers and hand-wired valve sockets.
Thankfully, they do still make them like they used to.
- Classic Fender Silver Panel Appearance – The amp belongs in the Sixties for its retro styling and will look great in the practice room or onstage
- Manageable Volume – Should be loud enough for small gigs and heavy practices without drawing noise complaints
- Pedal Compatibility – If you like to experiment with your pedals then this amp works well
- Modified Princeton Reverb All-Tube Circuitry – For expert richness of tone and touch-sensitive dynamics for a defining sound
- Powerful Output – A 22 watt output may be too loud for a lot of homes but just right for gigs
- Lack of High-Gain – If you wanted high-gain then there are better guitar amps
- A modern tone circuit gives modern players greater tonal flexibility with pedals
- A more distinctively rock 'n' roll flavor is delivered by a 10" Celestion TEN 30 speaker
- Fitted amplifier cover and 2-button footswitch included
Best For A Compact Design: Orange Micro Terror
Should space be at a premium when rehearsing, you may have to skimp on size. Your budget may not stretch that far either. That should not mean skimping on the wattage and the Orange Micro Terror should be considered.
Micro in size but not in output as a tidy 20 watts is delivered. That should be enough for a small show yet certainly a considerable output for a rehearsal.
For a backup, or even entry-level, amp this is a great option to get yourself heard. At a price that should suit many budgets, this amp is easy to carry and so simple to use. Three simple controls for volume, tone and gain, that is all you need and was a feature we enjoyed in our experience of this product.
The Orange Micro Terror may be the only guitar amp you require at a size and price you want.
- Compact Yet Formidable – A design that measures 28 by 15 by 17 cm yet still packs in 20 watts of output is commendable
- MP3 Aux Input – Ideal for plugging in and playing a few tunes
- Simple Controls – One for the volume, another for the tone, and a final one for gain
- Lackluster Volume – For a guitar amp with the word ‘terror’ in the description, there are several amps that truly define a terrifying volume
- Power: 20 watt (hybrid)
- Tube: 1 12AX7 tube preamp with solid state power amp
- Controls: Volume, tone and gain
- Headphone output & Aux input for MP3
Best For A Versatile And Experimental Sound: Positive Grid Spark
For an amateur guitarist who has an idea of their sound yet wants to find it through experimenting, the Positive Grid Spark has all the options. This is also the amp for someone who has mastered their guitar sound but wants to play around with it.
For one, the amp has a 40 watt output. With effects for mod, delay and reverb as well as a built-in tuner, you can easily tune in then work in some effects which we liked in our testing.
There are 10,000 tones to select yet the Spark still sounds authentic. That is quite remarkable when you consider the digital capabilities and just what you can do with this amp.
An app that displays the guitar chords in real-time to voice control, for instance.
Once you are ready to put a track down, you can use the supplied PreSonus Studio One Prime Recording Software. For beginners or professionals, this is a guitar amp that you will never tire of.
- Over 10,000 Tones – Choose from a huge selection of presets selected from studio engineers, famous guitarists and session players
- Smart App – Ideal for learning a guitar part by displaying the chords in real-time
- Voice Control – The app will also respond to your voice commands, whether you want to stream a particular song or use a virtual backing band
- PreSonus Studio One Prime Recording Software – Use the amp to record your tracks on your computer
- Perhaps Too Modern – For those who want to stick to a traditional sound and amp, this may be considered too modern
- Smart Jam learns your style and feel, generating authentic bass and drums to accompany you
- Access to 10,000+ amp-and-FX presets on ToneCloud, powered by PositiveGrid’s BIAS realistic virtual tube amps and effects for Guitar, Acoustic or Bass
- Import your music from Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube and Spark’s smart app will auto display the guitar chords in real time
- Powerhouse 40 Watt combo includes onboard tone stack controls, effects, tone starter preset programs, a built-in tuner, tap tempo and more
- Use Spark as your USB audio interface and track your ideas with included PreSonus Studio One Prime recording software
Best For A Classic Guitar Tone: Vox AC30 C2
Some may argue that the Vox AC30 C2 should remain in the Sixties when it had its time. But what a time. Do not forget that this guitar amp was the preferred choice of The Beatles.
If not the Sixties then how about Dave Grohl and The Edge? If that is not a high enough endorsement then consider Brian May.
The guitar amp comes with a sizable weight yet you should expect that considering that formidable 30-watt output. There is also versatility from two channels that each have their own volume control.
Certainly, the look has barely changed since the Sixties and why should it? Not when it looks this good, sounds this powerful and delivers such a classic tone. It even takes pedals really well too.
- Normal And Top-Boost Channels – Versatility comes with two channels, each with their own volume control while the top-boost has treble and bass tone controls
- Powerful Output – A 30-watt output with a famous mid-focused sound from three 12Ax7 preamp valves
- Reverb And Tube-Driven Tremolo – Ideal if the mid-range sounds a bit harsh, simply soften it down with the reverb and tremolo
- Classic Look – The guitar amp has barely changed appearance since the Sixties and still looks just as good now as it did then
- Heavy To Carry – The guitar amp comes with three handles as it may need more than one person to transport it
- Normal and Top Boost channels
- 2 - 12" Celestion G12M Greenback speakers
- 3 - 12AX7 preamp tubes
- 4 EL84 power tubes
Best For Practicality: Yamaha THR10IIW
For clean and distorted tones you can practice with at home or in your own space, this is the ideal guitar amp.
Not only does the Yamaha THR10IIW have a rechargeable battery, it also looks great wherever you put it and we liked the appearance in our testing of this product.
That stylish design may even take the focus away from the functionality. There are five amplifier models; from clean to high-gain and each is worth trying.
Wireless capability also means you can connect to a digital audio workstation effortlessly with a USB.
Yes, it may lack the power of certain other models yet for practical use few guitar amps come close. Not with the onboard effects or delay, reverb and modulation options.
- Wireless Capability – Enjoy Bluetooth connectivity for audio playback
- Rechargeable Battery – Charge it up and take it away with you
- Compact And Stylish – Will look good placed anywhere, in your practice room, the bedroom or on a coffee table
- Digital Audio Workstation Compatibility – Connect the amp to a DAW via a USB for easy recording with limited noise
- Not Great For Bass Or Acoustic – While this is a great electric guitar amp, there are reports that this is not ideal for a bass or acoustic guitar
- Realistic tube-amp tones and feel plus essential effects
- 15 Guitar amps, 3 bass amps, 3 mic models for acoustic-electrics, and flat modes for everything else
- Bluetooth support for audio playback, editing via THR Remote, and more
- Built-in wireless receiver compatible with optional Line 6 Relay G10T transmitter
- Built-in rechargeable battery lets you play anywhere
Deciding which guitar amp is right for you will tell a lot about the guitar sound you wish to create then develop. You may want to keep it classic with a tube amp, keep it modern with a digital amp or go in between with a solid state amp.
Certainly, a tube amp will bring the volume and the wattage yet that would be wasted if you were solely playing at home. There is also the practicality of your amp which may sway your decision.
Some amps provide a formidable sound yet require multiple people to transport, something to consider if you are out on the road.
The sheer size of a guitar amp can vary wildly. Some amps are easy to transport and sit well on a coffee table. Others simply demand to be turned out, turned up and left in a corner once a couple of settings have been worked out.
If you are forking out for a large practice space then each amp can soon take up a sizable portion of the room. Finding one that is just the right size for just the right volume is ideal.
Tube, Solid State Or Digital?
If you wanted an original, authentic sound then go back in time to tube amps. This was the original format for guitar amps, up until solid state amps used transistors.
Many guitarists still swear by the tone and response of a tone amp, even if a solid state amp is comparatively lighter.
If you do opt for a tube amp, be prepared for organic overdrive once you crank up the volume. This is known as the harmonic distortion that you can hear as a rather natural breakup to your guitar sound.
One of the benefits of a tube amp is how powerful it can be, maybe too powerful as you may face noise complaints. Don’t be tempted to go up to 11, no matter how much you want to.
The best reason for getting a tube amp may be something as simple as heritage. You may want to emulate your guitar heroes by using the same format that they used.
Those guitarists may be dead, yet their sound lives on in the guitars they used and the amps they plugged in.
By learning with the same equipment as them, you can develop your guitar sound to mirror theirs. If classic rock, country and blues are your jam then remember that those guitarists likely started out on tube amps back in the day.
The real issue is their weight which makes them ideal for home use, not so much out on the road.
Digital and solid state amps can excel in providing decent volume yet without the distortion. It may not be the classic, warm sound you want but it will be replicated properly when you crank it up.
This is great if you want a clean sound to remain clean or you want to use pedals. If you already know your sound will be distorted with a tube amp, you may struggle to learn what sound the pedal is playing with.
Once you find the distortion or overdrive pedal that you want, playing it through a solid state or digital amp will bring a consistent sound.
Pedals may be ideal for the desired experimentation of many guitarists but digital amps go so much further. With various effects and a wealth of tones, you may not even need a pedal after all.
The best digital amps may come with built-in sounds that mimic tube-like tones, without having to deal with the weight.
The wattage may be the most crucial factor of all in deciding which is the best guitar amp. For a guitarist who solely practices at home, you may only need a measly five watts.
As the higher-end, more powerful amps are designed for live performances, you should only pay for the wattage if you require it.
Also, consider the relative power between a tube amp and a solid state or digital amp. You will want more power for a gig yet 20 watts from a tube amp will be louder than the same wattage from a solid state amp.
That amount should be a benchmark for a tube amp in a small to medium-sized gig. Due to the distortion on the volume, you should only need a bit more space to go into overdrive.
In comparison, a solid state or digital amp probably requires around 100 watts to be properly heard at a live performance.
An amateur guitarist can quickly use digital technology to their advantage. The range of presets and tones that are available can seem bewildering yet offer so much choice.
If you know what guitar sound you are aiming for, you should quickly find it.
Certain manufacturers have linked their amps to their own custom-made apps, but of course they would. This is a digital age and there is already technology that can recognize a song through some speakers onto your smartphone.
However, with an app you can also find the correct guitar chords and play along. No more books, just more use of your smartphone.
As with most musical equipment, there are some classic brands which simply cannot be ignored. For the Sixties aficionados out there, you can still find the brands that your favorite guitarist used should you wish to mimic them.
That means finding a Fender or Vox guitar amp and basing your sound, and look, on your heroes.
Which is all fine though you may find that the amps look retro yet have limited features.
The retro guitar amps tend to be tube amps too which does mean an added weight and that expected distortion when cranked up.
There is something to be said about an Orange guitar amp that just defines that bygone age from seeing their rich, bright colors peek out from a cigarette fog onstage.
The buttons all seem to be in the right place too and they typically come with a durable design that you would expect. That may be exactly what you are looking for to match your, and your band’s, ‘look’ yet it can seem quickly dated.
It could easily be the case that you prefer the aesthetics of a classic amp simply because they have limited functionality.
A digital amp may provide plenty of options yet on some occasions you may simply want to change one setting and not spend too much time fiddling.
Sometimes less is more, and that may certainly be the case with a classic brand.