Do you have a stunning, awe inspiring guitar that you can’t wait to start playing? Well your guitar is only half of the equation. A good practice amp for beginners can not only make you a better player, faster. It’s also essential for shaping your personal sound. Today we check out the best practice amps for beginners.
What Makes A Great Practice Amp For Beginners?
Every piece of gear you choose on your journey to becoming a skilled guitarist is an important puzzle piece of your overall enjoyment in the world of guitar. If you’re reading this, then you must have an electric guitar picked out. If you don’t, then check out our Guitar Guide for Beginners.
Practice amps have come a long way in the past 15 years. There is an option for everyone made by popular, familiar brands. This is mainly due to the huge influx of new guitarists out there. The guitar is more popular than ever!
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Some have more features than others, while some are bare bones simple. In the end, this is a personal choice and only the player can decide what fits them best. In the end, the best practice amps for beginners is debatable.
Choosing The Best Practice Amps For Beginners: The Basics…
The best way to find an amp that you like, is to go out and try it! However, it may not be that easy for some people. Maybe you don’t have access to a local guitar shop.
If that’s the case, no need to worry! We have you covered!
You might not know how an amp sounds exactly, but I am sure you know what kind of sound you are after. That’s why we are going to look at a wide variety of amps today to help you choose the one that suits your needs.
You should also consider looking at digital amp software too; often this is cheaper and more useful than an actual amp. Our preferred choice at the moment is BIAS FX 2 – it is cheap and it is bloody brilliant.
Personally, I am a simple person. I see an amplifier, and I immediately want to plug in and try it out! But different amps all do different things. They have strengths and weaknesses.
Today we are going to look at the 5 “best practice amps for beginners”, or for any application! For this list I have set a few strict parameters:
- The amplifier must be affordable.
- It has to be easy to use, and user friendly.
- They must be reliable.
- Each amp has a headphone option, for quiet practice.
- Every choice can be found on the used market for people on a budget.
- All choices have to be made by well-know, reputable brands.
- No tube amps. Is this blasphemy? No, it’s about the best practice amps for beginners, that need no regular maintenance or knowledge.
- These are amps for Metal and Rock! So they need a good distortion channel.
I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone buying their first practice amp, and my parameters are there to keep my choices grounded, and fair. The perfect choice for almost any new metal guitarist is probably on this list.
The Best Practice Amps For Beginners (That Want To Play Metal and/or Rock)…
Lets start with the one of the most simple and ready-to-go amps on planet Earth, and maybe even the whole Galaxy:
#5 Peavey Transtube RAGE 258
First up we have the affordable Peavey RAGE. I actually own this little guy and I have quite a personal history with Peavey amplifiers. This is their smallest, least expensive model… but that doesnt mean it’s a bad choice in the least!
Peavey has been around since the 70’s and is known as the “working man’s” amplifier. This is because they have so many models that span tons of different genres. Whether you play Country music, or Deathcore…there’s a Peavey amp that fits your needs.
The Peavey RAGE at first glance seems like it is lacking a lot of features, like built in effects. Where it lacks in glitz and glitter, it makes up for with an absolutely awesome distortion tone. This is because it emulates much more expensive tube amps.
Let’s take a look at all of the specs:
- 25 Watts of power
- Transtube Technology
- 8 inch Blue Marvel Speaker
- Full EQ system
- Mp3 player input
- Headphone jack
- Two distortion channels: Modern and Vintage
- Weighs only 17 lbs
- Rugged construction
The Peavey RAGE has two different distortion voicings. One is a more traditional “crunch” sound that does classic rock really well. But where this amp really shines is the high gain “Modern” setting.
The modern sound is clearly modeled after Peavey’s top of the line Metal monster, the 5150. What is the 5150? It’s only the most widely used metal guitar amplifier in the world! The Transtube Technology emulates it well.
This modern distortion channel (Based on the 5150) makes up for anything that you may think the RAGE lacks. It has deep bass and rich mid-range that is begging for you to chug.
The Transtube Technology is the star of the show. This makes the amp act like a tube amp in response to your guitar volume. It creates all of the dynamics and nuances that usually only a tube amp can provide. It sounds particularly good when it is played LOUD.
The peavey Rage is a great “all around” performer. But maybe you’re looking for something with more features?
#4 Fender Mustang 20
A lot of players, old and new, swear by their Vox practice amp – and they have a point. Vox makes some great practice amps. But for me, and the style of music I like to play – spoiler: it’s metal – I find the Fender Mustang 20 infinitely preferable.
The Fender Mustang is yet another amp I own. I know, I know…I have a serious problem with gear! It’s an obsession and I make zero apologies. You’ll be there one day as well.
The Fender Mustang 20 has just about everything you could want in any amp. It has built in effects that sound great, and you can also customize the amp with your computer to do anything you want!
The Fender Mustang was one of the first digital amps that let you customize all of your settings with an easy visual editor on your PC. This lets you save all of your favorite tone settings and saves a lot of time when tone seeking.
Lets see whats under the hood of the Mustang:
- 20 Watts of power
- 8 inch Fender Speaker
- 24 preset banks for custom sounds
- 17 amp models
- 24 customized effects
- USB port for computer connectivity
- Built in tuner
- Headphone jack
The Fender Mustang is easy to program without your computer. The top-mounted knobs control all of the main sounds. But the first thing I did when I got mine? I downloaded the free software and started making my own sounds.
It does all of the classic Fender amp sounds really well. But it also does some great distortion tones with their take on high gain giants like Mesa Boogie, and Marshall.
The editing software is very visual and acts as a virtual “amp room” where you can choose exactly what sound you’re chasing. It is very easy and intuitive, taking zero knowledge to get up and running.
The effects are really good also and they are far from a tacked-on afterthought. The delay and reverb settings are more than usable, they are great! I used the Mustang more than once to record with in a professional setting, since it can achieve a solid lead tone with minimal effort.
Like most of the amps on this list, you have an integrated MP3/Aux line-in so you can jam along with your favorite songs. Fender also offers a free trial for their other software that will help get you going!
Fender isn’t usually known for being a Metal amp, but the Mustang flips the stereotype that Fender usually has for being a “clean only” amp. There are certainly better “metal” amps out there. What about a classic in the world of Metal?
#3 Marshall MG30 FX
While I no longer own the Marshall MG30, I spent a lot of time with it when it first came out. This Marshall practice amp is a little bit of a wildcard , because it definitely isn’t for everyone.
It isn’t for everyone for a few reasons. This is a simple amp and the built in effects are definitely not it’s best quality. So if you’re looking for an amp that does a little bit of everything, the Marshall is not for you.
But if you are looking for a seriously versatile distortion channel? This is your amp! The MG30 does the classic Marshall distortion sound astonishingly well, spanning everywhere from basic crunch tones to all out Death Metal saturation.
Lets check out the basic specs for this beast:
- 30 Watts of power
- Custom 10 inch speaker
- Emulated headphone output
- Reverb and delay effects
- Mp3/Aux input to jam along
- Clean, Crunch, and 2 different “metal” channels
While this is far from an amp that can do everything, it does what the Marshall name is known for. The distortion is rich for a small practice amp and that is mainly due to having such a huge speaker. The bass response is off the charts heavy!
I can appreciate an amp that is function over fashion, so to speak. It does one thing really well; absolutely crushing distortion tones. For some people, that’s all they want out of a beginner practice amp!
We are getting pretty close to the top choice now, so the stakes are a little higher. I had a tough time choosing between the top two, because they are both great at what they do.
This next one is also a personal favorite.
#2 Orange Crush 35RT
Orange is a legendary company when it comes to metal amplifiers. They have a long history of mixing vintage tones with modern ones and creating a wave of distorted magic.
For a while, Orange only made boutique style amps that were way out of the reach of beginners when it came to price tag. Nowadays, they make the “Crush” line for people on a budget that still want killer tone.
Like the Marshall MG Series above, the Orange Crush doesn’t have a ton of built in effects or fancy computer interfaces. The Orange Crush makes up for all of that by focusing on design:
- 35 watts of power
- High gain, 4 stage pre-amp
- Simulated cab output headphone jack
- Fully analog signal path
- 10 inch speaker
So all of those features sound really cool…but what do they mean? What it means is there are tons of distortion tones to be had with the Orange Crush.
Without a doubt, of all the amps on this list, this is the closest thing to a tube amp you can get. The gain stage of the amp is built for Rock and Metal. The EQ section lets you dial in just about any classic distortion sound you can think of.
I would go as far to say that you could do a blindfold test on any experienced guitarist and ask whether this is a tube amp or not. My money is on that guitarist guessing that it is a tube amp. It’s scary close.
This is a really well thought-out design. The Orange Crush is an amplifier that you will probably never “grow out of” because there are so many good sounds you can achieve.
It helps that this amp also takes pedals really well. So you can always buy delay or chorus, etc…and make your own custom sound. You can even add a layer of distortion with an extra pedal or boost your distortion. It’s all up to you!
As far as built in effects go, you get a digital reverb. That’s it. For some people the Orange Crush is all they will need. But if you’re looking for a built in effects MONSTER, there is one amp to rule them all.
But before we get to that….
Honorable Mentions: Just Barely Missed The Mark
Not every amp can be the best. But some of them can still make a great first amp, or an amp you can use while you save up some cash. There isn’t anything bad about the following amps. They simply lacked the versatility I was targeting.
I set the strict parameters at the beginning to force myself to make the best choices for you. Without any brand bias, and without going out of “budget territory”.
That being said, I wanted to mention these two because they still fit some most of the criteria. They only fell short in a couple of categories.
In the end, my parameters were for me as much as they were for you. That being said, there is nothing wrong with these choices. It’s up to you to set your budget and needs/wants.
Fender Champion Series
There is absolutely nothing wrong with these little guys. They work fine for what they are, and can often be found for under $100! Unfortunately, they just didn’t fit all of my criteria for a perfect starter amp.
This is Fender’s “basic” line of amps. The small 10 watt version can usually be found in the Squire “Guitar Starter Pack”. They don’t usually have any effects or programmable options.
They are actually a great bang for the buck and the most expensive model has 100 watts of power for very little money. But as far as shaping your tone, and dialling in a good sound…The Champion would require work and some good pedal knowledge.
Blackstar ID:Core Series
At first glance, Blackstar seems to meet all of my criteria! They are easy to use, versatile, and they sound outstanding. With all of that being said, they did not make this list for one reason:
These amps are VERY expensive.
Look, I play Blackstar. I have a very nice tube amp made by the company and it has seen a metric ton of gigs. At home, I use an ID:Core amp for jamming. I adore the products Blackstar makes.
Not that they are “boutique level” expensive, or a rich rock star amp, or anything of the sort. They are definitely a good value for the money. If you can afford one, then by all means get one! But Blackstar just simply missed the mark with price point.
They have less options than some of the other amps on the list. But The ID:Core series makes up for the lack of options with amazing tones and stereo delay effects. Most units have two speakers to make the stereo effect.
Blackstar is still a great choice if you have a bigger budget. But their comparable models were just over the price tier that I wanted to stick to. It is not only one of the best practice amps for beginners, but also for the pros.
So who is the king? The most versatile? The best bang for your buck?
#1 The Boss Katana MKII 50
Boss has primarily been known as a guitar pedal manufacturer for the past 40 years. They make every guitar effect you could possibly imagine, and probably some you can’t!
A few years ago they tried their hand at making the ultimate amp, taking from existing technology of other modeling amps. They definitely succeeded. Try to find a bad review of the Katana….I’ll wait.
Couldn’t find one? You won’t! Even big name artists are endorsing the Katana and promoting just how awesome it is. One of the best practice amps for beginners? Yes! And the pros too!
What Boss managed to do is not only replicate all of their most popular pedals, but also create an amplifier that you can tailor to your own preferences.
This is also an amp that can be used at home for practice or on the stage. The Katana 50 watt is LOUD. This can easily keep up in a jam session with a drummer.
Just like the Fender Mustang before it, The Katana can be operated all on it’s own with the built in controls. But if you want to take a deep dive into your sound, you can plug the Boss Katana up to your computer.
This feature allows you to basically do anything you want when it comes to amp models, effects, signal chain, speaker type. Your imagination is the only limitation you have.
Let’s check out the specs on this monster:
- Stage ready 50 watts of simulated tube power
- Custom 12 inch speaker
- 5 unique amp models from Clean to Metal
- Over 100 effects, boosters, and drive pedals built in
- 5 effects patches can be run simultaneously
- New Boss Tone Studio for computer editing
- 4 tone memory settings
- Foot switch compatible
- 3 speaker resonance options/settings
- Downloadable tone settings
- Works with Boss wireless headphones
Even though the Katana falls into the “budget” category when it comes to price, this amp would be a great value at a higher price point. This amp doesn’t do one thing well…it does it all.
While it’s easy to dial in any sound you want using the face plate controls, it is even easier to just plug it into your computer and edit away! The Boss Tone Studio software makes it easy to make your sound whatever you want it to be.
There is a reason why so much hype is built around the Katana series. They are a dream for anyone that is trying to sound great on a budget, or just wants a killer amp sound right out of the box.
The amp can even connect to the Boss WAZA Bluetooth headphones for quiet practice. Not feeling fancy? You can also use the regular old headphone jack. You can even use the software to customize the headphone settings!
But if you want to go digging even further in the software, you can change just about anything about the amp or your effects chain. You can dial in popular pedals, set the EQ curve, and even go into an “advanced options” mode that lets you fine tune everything.
Boss it totally not paying me. It is everything you’re imagining…and more.
To be frank with you, it gives me “option paralysis”. There are so many options that I can’t even decide what I want to do half of the time. There are so many ways you can customize your sound and tweak the settings. It’s nearly infinite.
And that is exactly why I picked the Boss Katana as the #1 amp for beginners. It’s an amp that you can really grow with. You won’t get bored with it, or tired of it. It’s an excellent choice for beginners and veterans alike.
I’ve been playing with the Katana off and on for over two years, and I still haven’t found all the different settings. Most of the Katana series may be for practice, but they have bigger models as well. Check them all out on the Official Boss Site.
Are You Amped Up?
You also have more modern-style practice amps like Positive Grid’s Spark Amp to think about as well. The Spark Amp is basically a “smart amp” in that it connects via Bluetooth to your phone. From here, you can pick and choose from thousands of tube amp simulators and pedals.
You can create your own, custom digital amp stacks and share them with other Spark Amp users in Positive Grid’s ToneCloud. And if that wasn’t enough to pique your interest, the Spark Amp will also play along with your riffing, thanks to its built in AI system – it’ll do bass and drums.
The Spark Amp also doubles as a smart-speaker, and with 40W of power, it is freakin’ loud. You can also use it for recording – it’ll double as a DAW – on both your iPhone/iPad/Android phone and your PC. And the whole damn thing will only cost you around 200 bucks.
If you want access to literally thousands of virtual tube amps, heads, and pedals then the Spark Amp is well worth a look. It is perhaps the coolest piece of gear I’ve bought in a long time. And I use it for hours on end every day. I’ve even used it to demo guitar parts inside Ableton and Pro Tools.
If all that sounds like it is too good to be true, it ain’t – this amp didn’t blow the roof of NAMM 2019 for no reason.
No matter what your style, genre, or effects needs; there is an amp option out there for you. I suppose you just need to decide what is important to you as an individual.
Because we are all looking for our individual, unique sound. Some people can attain that easily with just the most basic amp. Some people rely on certain effects to get their signature sound. There are no wrong answers when it comes to preference.
The only thing that matters is capturing the sounds you have in your own mind.
Can I use Headphones with my practice amp?
Most modern practice amps have a headphone jack.
Do I have to do anything to maintain my practice amp?
Most practice amps are solid state, and do not require maintenance.
Can I use my practice amp for gigs?
Of course! You can use just about any amp as long as it is loud enough!