Ask any seasoned guitarist, and they’ll tell you that practicing is where all the hard work happens. For this, you need something decent to practice with. In this buyer’s guide, we share our favorites.
In our opinion, a practice amp needs to tick these three boxes:
- small and lightweight: so can take it places with ease
- simple to use: so you’re not fiddling with knobs rather than playing your guitar
- variety of tones and effects: to practice different styles
In this article, we’re going to look at the practice amps that tick all three boxes.
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Practice Amps on the Market
- Fender Mustang LT25
- Fender Super Champ X2
- Blackstar Fly 3
- Yamaha THR10II Wireless
- Line 6 Spider V 20 MKII
- Boss Katana Air
- Vox Valvetronix VT20X
- Orange Crush 20
- Bugera V5 Infinium
- Marshall Code 25
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information on Amazon.
Table of Contents
- The Best Practice Amps Available At the Moment
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
The Best Practice Amps Available At the Moment
Fender Mustang LT25
If you want a digital Fender amp that gives you the sound of a Fender (well, multiple Fender amp) at the press of a button, check out their entry-level digital modelling amp, the LT25.
It gives you the “greatest hits” of guitar tones, including 20 amp models and 25 effects, from modulation and pitch-shifting to delay and reverbs.
Through its 8-inch speaker, you can dial up everything from classic Fender cleans to thick distortion.
It being digital, it has USB connectivity for recording via your PC or Mac.
What we liked:
- Classic Fender tones at your fingertips
- Decent number of onboard effects
- great value practice amp
Fender Super Champ X2
The Super Champ X2 is a 15W hybrid amp – part tube, part digital.
Ok, most of us would prefer a high-end Fender 100% tube amp but these cost a pretty penny.
The Super Champ X2 offers the best of both worlds. Tube-driven tone, but with all the gadgetry you’d expect to find on a 21st century digital amp.
Its standout features are its versatile amp voicings (16 of them, including Tweed, Blackface, British, and Metal) and a wide selection of effects (15 in all, and a TAP tempo control for delay time/modulation rate adjustments).
The Super Champ X2 also lets you reassign the presets to different effects, so it’s eminently customizable.
It’s a great little device for home use and would pass muster at a small venue.
While it’s not 100% tube, its versatility and price makes up for it.
What we like:
- Superb tube/digital hybrid amp
- Lots of voicings for practicing different styles
- Extremely versatile amp
- USB connectivity for recording via a PC or laptop
Blackstar Fly 3
If you’re not looking to spend much, the Blackstar Fly 3 should definitely be on your list.
Packing three watts, it’s a great little practice companion and weighs less than a kilo.
It even sounds pretty good. It includes Blackstar’s Infinite Shape Feature for British and American sounds, giving you American-style cleans and hefty gain as well as a decent bass response. It even includes a built-in digital tape delay.
It’s battery power only, which limits how portable it is. At 3 watts, the output is pretty small too, but you can buy an extension cab to turn it into a stereo rig. For the price, you can’t really ask for more.
What we like:
- Excellent tones for the size/price
- Small enough to pack into a backpack
- Awesome value
- Built-in digital tape delay
Yamaha THR10II WL Wireless
Yamaha pretty much created the “desktop amplifier” category. This offering from them takes things to new heights with its wireless capability. It has become somewhat of a modern classic for the amp connoisseur.
One word of caution though: it’s also on the pricey side, so if you’ll need a healthy budget to afford this one.
It benefits from Yamaha’s VCM technology (which stands for Virtual Circuitry Modelling) which gives you a range of amp models to choose from: modern, brit, lead, crunch, and clean.
You also get a load of effects to play with too: chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo, as well as a separate delay/reverb knob. It’s quite a punchy also, driven by twin 3” speakers.
Also, it has wireless capability. Pair it up with something like the Line 6 G10 Relay and you can beam your guitar’s signal to it with zero cables. Pretty neat, huh?
Then there are all the freebies they stick on top: an onboard chromatic tuner, an mp3 input, USB connectivity so you can hook it up to a computer for recording.
What we like:
- Virtual circuitry modeling for realistic tone and feel
- 15 guitar amp models (electric guitar and bass, mic models for acoustic-electrics, and flat voicings).
- Built-in wireless receiver compatible
- Built-in rechargeable battery
Line 6 Spider V 20 MKII
The Spider V range of amps from Line 6 are some of the best practice amps available. This MK II is no exception, packing some great tone-shaping features.
There are 16 presets with 3 simultaneous effects and independent reverb. With the spider V remote app, you can unlock over 200+ additional amps, cabs, and effects.
The color-coded control panel is super easy to navigate, making it easy as pie to find a new tone to practice in.
The tap-tempo function is superb too, letting you sync delay and tremolo (among others) to your playing. The built-in tuner is handy too
What we like:
- 16 presets with 3 simultaneous effects and independent reverb
- 200+ additional amps, cabs, and effects available via app
- Tap-tempo function lets you sync delay, tremolo to your playing
- Onboard tuner
BOSS Katana Air
Promoted by Boss as “the world’s first totally wireless guitar amplifier”, the Katana Air is an impressive little amp and does a decent job of dragging the guitar amp into the twenty-first century.
Its rectangular shape looks a bit like an amp head, but on closer inspection, there’s a pair of 3-inch speakers behind the black metal grill on the front.
The Katana Air delivers a massive 30 watts of output (20 when powered by batteries) and is packed with features including 5 different amp models and a huge selection of sounds and versatile effects.
But its main selling point is the built-in wireless receiver which lets you sit or stand up to 75 feet away from the amp.
You also have the ability to edit and program the amp via your smartphone (both iOS and Android) via their bespoke app, and it runs of both batteries (eight AAs) or AC power.
What we like:
- Wireless connectivity
- 30 watts of output (20 watts on batteries to conserve energy)
- Cool looking design
VOX Valvetronix VT20X
If you want the warmth of a multi-stage Valvetronix tube preamp with the modernity of a digital modeling amp, the Vox Valvetronix VT20x should definitely be a contender.
The Valvetronix has been a popular practice rig with 11 authentic amp models (20 when using the librarian software) and 13 studio-quality effects.
With 20 watts out output through its 1 X 8” Vox speaker, it uses Vox’s Virtual Element Technology (VET) to produce some pretty accurate and realistic amplifier sounds.
What we like:
- Single valve pre-amp blended with a modeling engine
- 11 authentic amp models (20 when using the librarian software) and 13 studio-quality effects
- USB port for simple integration with a laptop or PC
Orange Crush 20
Perhaps you don’t want the bells and whistles of effects and amp modelling, and just want a straight up transistor-based amp. If so, you’ll love the Orange Crush 20.
This really is for the amp connoisseurs – especially if you want superb overdriven tones.
It has a 3-band EQ offering tons of control over your tone, plus the digital reverb is amazing and the overdrive is dirty as they come.
The Orange Crush is most at home playing rock with plenty of gain, but the cleans are sweet too thanks to the outstanding reverb effect.
It’s also built like a tank and that orange makes a change from the usual blacks and greys.
What we like:
- Back to basics transistor amp for the amp connoisseur
- Great overdriven voice
- 3-band EQ offering tons of control over your tone
- Superb digital reverb
- Cool design
Bugera V5 Infinium
The Bugera is a simple practice amp at a reasonable price, great for home usage and smallish jam sessions. It has many useful features you don’t get with higher-end compact practice amps, such as a headphone output for jamming in silence.
The Bugera also comes with a couple of great additions: a built-in power attenuator that lets you reduce the output from 5W to 1W (or a super quiet 0.1W), so you can still get an overdriven sound at a low volume.
Another super feature is the way you can unhook the built-in speaker and hook up an external speaker cabinet, turning the amp into a head unit. That’s handy if you don’t often plan bigger gigs. It also comes with a digital reverb that isn’t too shabby.
Overall, it’s a great value for money for a practice tube amp.
What we like:
- Built-in guitar attenuator
- Digital reverb
- Great value for money
Marshall Code 25
We can’t finish off the list without an offering from Marshall.
The Code 25 is a 25 watt amp, which is plenty loud enough for practice.
It models the classic Marshall tones, such as the JCM800, Bluesbreaker Plexi, and Silver Jubilee made popular by the British Invasion led (the likes of Eric Clapton and John Mayall) not to mention ’80s metal.
You get a total of 100 presets and 24 effects, which should be more than enough to keep you entertained.
As a digital amp, you can connect via USB to your PC or Mac for recording.
What we like:
- Preamp models of classic Marshall amps such as the JCM800, Bluesbreaker Plexi, and Silver Jubilee
- 100 presets and 24 effects
- Bluetooth and USB connectivity
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
They fall into two camps:
- Micro / compact. So small they sit in the palm of your hand and perfect for slinging in a suitcase. From 1 to 10 watts, they’re super light too.
- Medium size. Slightly bigger and louder, usually in the 10 to 20 watts range, these devices often have onboard effects.
Of course, you can practice on an amp of any wattage, but there’s a simple reason why people prefer to practice on lower watt devices: they sound better at lower volumes.
You could practice on a 100-watt beast, but it won’t sound its best at 1 on the volume dial unless it has a master dial so you can drive it (you’d have to crank it up to get the best sound, and for most home-dwellers, playing loud doesn’t go down too well).
The first question is how mobile do you need it to be? If you want something you can perch on the kitchen table and have a quick 5 min jam on while your kids are doing their homework, then go for a micro option.
Many are battery operated too, so fewer wires and easier to take from room to room. Although they look like kid’s toys, don’t scoff at them; even Keith Richards has been spotted with one in his house.
How important are built-in effects (e.g., chorus, reverb, etc.)? Some people love these digitally generated tones, and for pure convenience they’re handy. But many people prefer to steer clear of these digitized sounds. Which side of the fence are you on?
Do you like to change your tone a lot, one minute be playing a high gain overdriven sound and the next playing a clean tone? If you’re in the yes camp, then get one with built-in effects.
If you’re planning to use pedals, then you’ll want an amp that ‘takes pedals’ well. Can’t you use pedals with any amplifier? Well, you can, but many won’t sound any good. Bigger models (e.g., 50 watts and above) naturally sound great with pedals because they have sufficient headroom.
Smaller models, especially micro ones, have almost no headroom.
One of the things you definitely might want is a headphone socket. You want to be able to plug in and play whenever you like, right? Well, if you live in a built-up area or have neighbors in close proximity, it’s not always that easy.
The ability to plug a set of decent guitar headphones into your amp and jam away till the early hours is awesome.