There are just so many guitar amplifiers on the market in today’s day and age that it’s impossible to confidently say what is the ‘best‘. They all vary in quality, durability, tonality, and of course, preference.
This guide will not provide you with the answers as to what is the ‘best’ amplifier, because such a tag is unrealistic, misleading and ultimately pointless. Instead, I will point you towards some of the more popular amplifiers for a number of price ranges and musical styles.
As always, never take my advice as gospel. I’m just a bloke on the internet writing about music, and like every other person who does this, we are blinded by our own biases. I know, I know, you must be so sick of hearing this, but such is its importance that it simply bears repeating.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY.
Wattage: 10 watts
Type: Solid-state (combo)
Knob functions: Overdrive switch, Treble and Bass EQ, separate volume and gain controls, Aux input
Fender’s amps are some of the most popular among guitarists of all level, and their entry into the ‘first-amp’ market is no exception. Often coming in guitar + amp combos, the Fender Frontman 10G is a compact, lightweight practice amp that screams convenience.
The Frontman 10G isn’t exactly the most versatile of amps — it doesn’t have a particularly commanding or identifiable tone, and isn’t flush with features. Most guitarists that pass the basic point of their musical journey will move on from the amp.
Okay, so why recommend it at all?
Well, relative to its price, the Frontman 10G does actually boast a pretty impressive range of functions. It comes with an overdrive switch, a headphone output and controls for volume, gain, and EQ adjustments.
It’s obviously not going to be particularly loud given its design constraints, but it is perfectly usable for a wide variety of applications — learning in a room, jamming with a friend in a small space, or providing a decent clean and overdriven tone.
For a beginner guitarist, it really does tick a lot of boxes. Look, the Frontman 10G ain’t gonna set the world on fire. But it’s not designed to, and nor does it have to. The Frontman will get the job done. If you want a dirt-cheap amp to practice on in your room, this offering from Fender can be a good place to start.
Wattage: 20 watts
Type: Solid-state (combo)
Knob functions: Overdrive (dirty), Treble, Middle and Bass EQ, Gain, Clean
Orange are a pretty well-known brand in the amp world, even though they aren’t quite as popular as heavyweights Fender, Marshall and the like. What they are renowned for is their distorted tone — punishing, warm, and heavy, prominent in styles of music like metal, blues, emo, noise rock and punk.
While they are known for their overdriven sound (the name ‘Crush’ gives a pretty good indication of this), their clean output is nothing to sneeze at.
Due to its size and price, this amp is perfect for beginners that want to practice in their bedrooms, though it is also loud enough to play a small, indie show.
Wattage: 25 watts
Type: Modeling (combo)
Knob functions: Gain, Bass, Middle and Treble eq, and Preset. It also has a metronome function.
Fender are one of the most well-respected brands in the guitar industry for a reason — their offerings, from beginner to advanced, are typically high-quality and well-manufactured.
The Fender Rumble is no exception.
Being a modeling amp, it doesn’t necessarily have the ‘authentic’ tube tones that many may be looking for, but it more than makes up for this in versatility.
Providing 50 presets for bass players, you can now rock out to metal music, or noodle away to a jazz section using the very same amp. It’s a great way for newcomers to identify what kind of bass tones they like to use in their music.
But as a beginner amp? It’s a great, affordable starting point for bassists.
Fender Acoustasonic 15
Wattage: 15 watts
Type: Acoustic solid-state (combo)
Knob functions: Volume, Bass, Middle and Treble EQ and Chorus
Another amp recommendation, another Fender. Are you seeing a pattern here? That’s not to say Fender are the best amp manufacturers — that mantle is up for debate and always decided by the individual’s tastes.
But their prominence and the high stead they are held in means that their amplifiers are very easy to suggest for beginners and experts alike. Fender’s Acoustasonic is a tiny, easy-to-use amp that is designed for acoustic-electric guitars but is just as viable for digital keyboards or microphones.
Typically, acoustic-electric amps are focused on clarity of sound and faithful reproduction, as opposed to ‘sweet tones’ that one might be looking for in an electric guitar amp.
Coming with a small speaker and only being a 15-watter, the Acoustasonic is not particularly loud. That said, it is more than serviceable as a bedroom practice amp, and you could busk outdoors with it to great success. It even comes with an in-built chorusing effect.
Perhaps its best feature is the 2-channel input. This is fantastic for small-scale live performances, as you can plug both your mic AND guitar into the amp simultaneously, reducing the amount of gear you need to lug about.
Wattage: 100 watts
Type: Solid-state (combo)
Knob functions: Amp type, Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle and Treble EQ, Booster, Modulation, Delay, Reverb, USB and Power control
Additional features: Aux in
I’m going to be honest with you all — I’ve never used a Boss amp before. However, I have used their pedals before which are some of the most popular in the industry. If their amps are anything like their pedals, then they’re a good bet.
So, how can I recommend something I’ve never actually used? The overwhelming positive feedback, reviews, and YouTube demonstrations have sold me. This seems like a great amp in the mid-level price range. It’s a step up from the small, practice amps you find for under $200, but doesn’t break the bank.
First of all, it is jam-packed with features. Coming with five in-built effects options, eight-tone memory that allows you to store your favorite amp settings, Mic’d cabinet emulation and a USB port, the Katana is powerful. It also comes with Boss Tone Studio, which allows you to download additional features and functions for your amplifier.
Boasting 100 watts, the Katana is more than powerful enough to rock most smaller-medium gig environments. Though it is a solid-state amp, Boss have paid a lot of attention to replicating the authentic valve sound that guitar purists know and love.
Wattage: 30 watts
Type: Solid-state (combo)
Knob functions: Bright switch, Treble, Middle and Bass EQ, Reverb and Chorus
Additional features: Footswitch, effect loop send-returns
Roland have been a major player in amp manufacturing for a long time, with their popularity peaking in the 70s as a point of difference to tube amps. Their most identifiable characteristic is easy for everyone to see — clean, jazzy tones with an inimitable and instantly recognizable chorus sound.
That said, if you’re after an overdriven, powerful, ear-melting sound, the JC-22 probably shouldn’t be your first choice. However, for any of your clean guitar desires, whether you’re making dream pop, recording a metal ballad, or playing a live indie show, Roland’s amp is a fantastic option.
Perhaps the biggest drawback is its relative lack of features (especially compared to its bigger brother, the JC-120), but this simplicity may actually be appealing to some guitarists. The JC-22 knows what it wants to do, and it does it well.
*If you’ve only ever heard ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley, you may be excused for thinking this is the case.
Wattage: 500 watts
Type: Solid-state combo
Knob functions: 3 tones, 3 distortion tones, Bass (low), Middle and Treble (high) EQ, frequency response, compressor, chorus and octave effects
Additional features: Footswitch, effects loop send return, USB and mic output
Let me be honest for a second here. It would be really easy to just recommend the Fender Rumble 200 as a great intermediate option for bass players. However, seeing as we’ve already covered the beginner version of the Fender Rumble, I looked elsewhere for a suggestion.
The Blackstar Unity UB500 is absolutely nothing to sneeze at, and many do actually recommend it over the Rumble 200 (as they are in similar price ranges).
It offers three unique tones that players can switch through to try and find their preferred voice — vintage (replicating a tube amp), modern (a sleek newer sound profile) and flat (which is exactly what it sounds like, no tonal change).
Along with its suite of options, the UB500 is a powerful unit. It isn’t huge, so it’s easy enough to get around with it in your gear, though it certainly isn’t as lightweight as some of the earlier recommendations on this list. It’s a great option for bassists just starting to get into gigging and makes for a fantastic second amp.
Wattage: 60 watts
Type: Acoustic solid-state (combo)
Knob functions: Phase, Bass (low), Middle and Treble (high) EQ, Reverb, three chorus options, microphone EQ band, Bluetooth pairing, Aux input
Fishman aren’t exactly the most well-known amplifier manufacturer in the industry, but what they lack for in exposure they more than make up for in quality.
The Loudbox Mini is a unique design that has a specific purpose in mind — portability. It is perfect for buskers, or those that want to play shows for their friends, at parties, or small gigs.
The biggest reason for its portability?
On top of that, the Loudbox packs a punch, defying its compact nature. You certainly won’t have to worry about cars (or god forbid, motorbikes) obscuring your performances when you turn the master volume all the way up.
It comes with a microphone jack, as well as Bluetooth functionality, reverb and chorus.
When we start thinking about ‘pro’ guitar amps, in this price range (approx.. $1000 and above), it’s hard to go wrong. While unique tone and personal preference are of course important when thinking about your first and second amp, it becomes even more significant when upgrading to an expensive behemoth.
At this point in your guitar journey, you should have enough experience with amplifiers to have refined your personal taste. Whether you’re after a solid-state combo, tube, or modeling amp, it’s nearly impossible to make a recommendation here and not immediately think ‘yeah, but this one’s also good, and maybe this one, or even this one!’
When dropping a four-figure sum on any sort of item, it would be completely negligent to not put in proper due diligence. Listen to YouTube video demonstrations, go to your local music shop and hear it for yourself, see what guitarists you like have to say about the amp you’re thinking of purchasing.
Whatever you do, DO NOT just buy an amp because some bloke on the internet recommended it. These are just suggestions to put you on the right track — where you go from here on your amplifier journey is entirely up to you.
If I haven’t listed your favorite amp, it’s not because I think it’s bad, or because these other amps are better. It’s due to the fact that in the modern era, there are so many good amps that listing them all would be completely pointless.
It’s also worth noting for the purpose of this article I will focus on combo amps — amplifiers that have the speaker cabinet and amp head combined into one model. This is purely out of simplicity and not functionality, and large-scale performers may want to consider meshing heads with different speakers to find the setup they truly adore.
Wattage: 15/30 watts (depending on the model)
Type: Tube combo (available as a head)
Knob functions: 2-4 inputs (depending on specific model), ‘top boost’ customization, including: Bass and Treble EQ, as well as effect options for Reverb, Tremolo, and Tone Cut
Additional features: Footswitch, effects loop send return
The VOX AC30 is one of the most prominent amps in the music industry of all-time. Having been born in the late 1950s and coming into full-force during the ‘British Invasion’ of the 60s, the AC30 has been used by all manner of famous musicians, such as: all of The Beatles, Brian May (Queen), Keith Richards (Rolling Stones), Joe Strummer (The Clash), The Edge (U2). The list goes on and on.
With such pedigree endorsing the use of this amp, there’s almost no need to dive into what it is that makes it so good. That would completely contradict the entire paragraph I wrote in the disclaimer though, so let’s carry on.
The VOX AC30 is pretty much the definition of a vintage tone that is so revered by many guitar players. It isn’t the most customizable of amps, but that is part of its appeal.
It focuses on producing a powerful, identifiable tone that is particularly prominent in blues, rock, pop and punk styles. Both its clean and overdriven tone are world-class, producing a warm, musical yet detailed sound that is pleasing to the ear.
It isn’t the loudest amp, and performers may want to purchase the head independently and pair it with a cabinet to really rock out entire stadiums.
Wattage: 85 watts (this varies based on specific model)
Type: Tube combo (available as a head)
Knob functions: 3 inputs, Vibrato input, Treble, Middle and Bass EQ, bright switch, Reverb, and Tremolo speed and intensity.
Headphones?: No, but there is an external speaker output
Additional features: Footswitch
All roads lead back to Fender. The Deluxe Twin Reverb is one of the most sought-after amps for guitarists, and for good reason. Its alumni includes Neil Young, Big Star, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and nearly every country album recorded in existence.
The Twin Reverb isn’t exactly known as a gigging amp (though it can certainly hold its weight here) — where it really comes into its own is as a studio amp. Musicians simply love to record using this thing. It has a distinct ‘Fender’ tone, which is as malleable as it is identifiable.
Due to its low wattage, many actually find it preferable to be used at low volumes, which plays a part in its status as an amp perfect for studio recordings.
The FDTR is typically associated with clean tones — sparkling, detailed and intricate, and has found use in all manner of genres, be it blues, country, rock, pop, and more niche styles like dream pop, post-rock and indie rock. Some reviews identify it as simply being ‘the cleanest amp ever made’.
This amp doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re looking for an industry-standard studio amp, there aren’t too many options that can claim to be more valued by musicians.
A powerful, face-shredding option that is prominent in blues, rock and heavy music. It is mostly known for its overwhelming overdriven sound, but is valuable for its clean tones too. This might be the most respected metal amp in the genre’s storied history.
* Available as a combo amp too (Marshall SC20C).
Another amp that lays a claim to a piece of metal’s history, the Mesa Boogie Mark V is a pretty expensive investment — but for those that love its sound, it’s worth every penny.
Perhaps best known for playing a hand in Metallica’s seminal album Master of Puppets, Mesa Boogie’s amps are not a one-trick-pony, and have been used by artists such as The Verve, Santana and The Rolling Stones.
Now this is a niche amp if I’ve ever seen one. It’s a digital amp that offers customization options that are simply leagues above its competitors. With hundreds of tones to model and tinker with, the guitar technician will have hours of fun with this product.
That’s all not to mention its insane 600-watt rating, meaning you should have no issue pairing it with a cabinet to blast away the competition at live shows.
Wattage: 100 watts
Type: Tube head (an Ampeg V4-B cabinet is available as a separate purchase)
Knob functions: Treble, Midrange and Bass EQ, as well as a 0dB and -15dB input to adjust volume output.
Headphones?: No, but there is an external speaker/DI out
Ampeg aren’t the most well-known brand for casual guitarists, but bassists that have been in the industry for a while will very likely know exactly who they are. While Fender products are probably the more popular amps for professionals, the Ampeg V4-B is just as revered among those who’ve picked one up.
Based off the classic bass tone of the 70s (Ampeg SVT), the V4-B is instantly recognizable. It perfectly flirts between clean, pure tones associated with pop, jazz to the grit and grind you can hear in metal and punk music.
On top of all that, it’s about half the weight of traditional, older bass heads, making it a delight to carry around. It has a pretty simple, plug-and-play interface that can easily be paired with a speaker cabinet for powerful live performances.
Well, with a name like that, how could it not be good for bass? This is a vintage bass amp in design, sound and appeal.
As with many modern amps, Markbass are trying to bridge the gap between the sonically revered vintage bass tones of the 60s-70s with modern design and functionality.
For those looking for a versatile, customizable bass sound with newer features, the CASA is a great option.
Wattage: 60 watts
Type: Twin-channel acoustic amplifier
Knob functions: High/low switch, Colour switch, Treble, Midrange and Bass eq, panning, 4-fx options, fx volume level, and a mic input.
Additional features: Tuner input, send-return input, footswitch
As its name suggests, the AER Compact 60 is a compact acoustic guitar amp that proves size doesn’t always matter. Considering its lightweight build, this thing is loud.
Acoustic guitar players are typically looking for two things — clean yet powerful reproduction of their acoustic tone, and a suite of effects. Well, the Compact 60 does both of these extremely well.
Though some stage guitarists will probably want to look elsewhere if they’re planning on performing on the moon (or some other large venue), the Compact 60 is definitely viable for the vast majority of acoustic shows.
It performs faithfully in the studio, and given its compressed nature can even be used as a practice or jamming amp.
Wow, what a whirlwind that was. While we certainly have many issues with our society, if there’s one thing to be grateful for in modern times, it’s the huge range of fantastic, affordable musical products at our disposal.
Trawling through amp after amp can become a tiresome and stressful exercise, so hopefully this article has helped take some of the anxiety away from choosing your first, second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) amplifier.
There are just so many splendid options available on the market that can completely revolutionize the way you enjoy playing guitar.
New tones, insane amp modeling effects and LOUD speakers are all ways that you, the budding musician you are, can explore your musical identity and cement yourself as a legend of the industry in your own right.