Intro/Blackstar ID:Core BEAM
From tiny desktop amps to do-it-all modelling machines and tasteful vintage-aping valve combos, there has never been a better choice of affordable amps available.
Of course, a low price point is nothing without a strong tonal performance, so in this gallery we've gathered every amp reviewed in the last four years (and still available) that scored at least 4.5/5 in our stringent reviews process.
We believe these amps represent the best bang-for-your-buck value in the world today - ideal starting points for beginners, those looking for a small 'at home'/studio boxes and, of course, those among us who just can't help themselves. Happy browsing...
Blackstar ID:Core BEAM
The BEAM concept is simple: it's a more compact entry in the ID:Core line, packing the same principle electric models and adding Bluetooth for wireless music playback.
It doesn't stop there, though: the BEAM is also Blackstar's first product for acoustic and bass players, with two acoustic preamps, a pair of bass voices and two acoustic sims for your electric, too.
"While the original ID:Core line provided the blueprint, we reckon Blackstar's nailed the desktop amp formula with the BEAM."
FULL REVIEW: Blackstar ID:Core BEAM review
Low output valve amps are easier to turn up to that point where you can hear the creamy, thick drive effects of power-stage distortion without risking an ASBO, which makes them ideal for recording. However, very few include built-in features to make recording easier.
Happily, Laney has spotted this and provided a proper solution for the 21st century home recordist, in the shape of the L5-Studio.
"It's another brilliant amp from Laney, which is on a roll with some innovative and highly desirable products at very affordable prices."
FULL REVIEW: Laney L5-Studio review
Vox VX II
The humble practice amp isn't so humble any more – there was a time when a practice amplifier was a bare, stripped-down, low-power version of its larger stage cousins, with little or nothing in the way of features.
Today, practice amps are taken seriously by most major manufacturers, with many offering more bells and whistles than you'd find on a modern stage rig. Vox's all-new VX range is no exception, and the VX II combo we're looking at here has 11 different amplifier models, together with digital effects, alongside traditional gain, volume and tone controls.
"A great value practice amp that could work a treat for small gigs too."
FULL REVIEW: Vox VX II review
Orange Crush 35RT
The Crush 35RT is a proper two-channel design, with separate volume controls, an overdrive gain control and a shared EQ, plus an aux input jack, and a handy headphone socket that doubles as a speaker-emulated recording/line out.
There's no excuse for not getting a great sound with this Crush combo, whatever your age or taste. The 35RT has plenty of classic and modern Orange tone on tap, sounding equally great at bedroom levels or cranked up with a band.
"An amp that's primed for the transition from the bedroom to the stage."
FULL REVIEW: Orange Crush 35RT review
Juketone Royal Blood 10
The most coveted small combos of all are the tweed amps made by Fender in the 1950s - particularly the Champ, Princeton and Deluxe, secret weapons for legions of top players and used for some of the most iconic guitar tracks ever recorded.
Not surprisingly, the simple circuits of these amps have made them favourites for DIY builders, while many boutique amp companies started with tweed replicas, many of them superbly-built, but high-priced. Now, along comes a brand that could challenge that.
Juketone Amplifiers hails from the UK, with manufacturing in China to keep the costs down. The company's Royal Blood 10 model is inspired by the late-50s narrow panel tweed Princeton, using a single 12AX7 preamp valve driving a 6V6 for around five watts' output power, with a 6Z4 rectifier valve instead of the original 5Y3.
"For the money, it's amazing value. Go tweed, go Juketone!"
FULL REVIEW: Juketone Royal Blood 10 review
An acoustic amp may seem like an unnecessary luxury for many players, but Laney's Far East-built, affordable A1+ could well force you to have a re-think.
It's an absolute value-for-money no-brainer: good sounds, versatile controls and a feature set that makes it a superb companion as electro- acoustic backline, or indeed guitar and vocals sound reinforcement for small bars and cafés.
"Compelling performance and a competitive price make this a no-brainer acoustic amp choice."
FULL REVIEW: Laney A1+ review
Blackstar Fly 3
Building on the already compact ID:Core series, the Fly 3 takes the micro amp concept and runs with it, packing three watts, two channels, digital tape delay and Blackstar's Infinite Shape Feature for British and American sounds.
It's the tone that makes the Fly 3 such a resounding success, though; it sounds as good as practice amps four times the size, with a meaty bass response, American-style cleans and hefty gain.
"A huge innovation in a tiny field."
FULL REVIEW: Blackstar Fly 3 review
Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 20
Blackstar's new ID:Core Stereo 20 combo aims to exceed the expectations of a typical practice amp. Behind the grille cloth it features two 10-watt, four-inch loudspeakers hooked up to a stereo output stage.
Even at this low price, the sounds are what matter - and the Core amp manages the trick of pulling big tones from a small box very well.
"To find such features on a starter amp 10 years ago would have been pretty incredible; today, it's seemingly the norm. Despite stiff competition, the Stereo 20 can carve its niche a little deeper."
FULL REVIEW: Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 20 review
Now available in the UK, the Russian-made Yerasov GTA15 may look a little like a 1970s catalogue practice amp, but underneath the skin, it's a serious tone tool with a pair of JJ EL84s powering a Jensen C10Q loudspeaker.
The Yerasov is a real 'stealth' boutique amp, with portability, great tone, excellent build quality and superb low-noise performance. If you think the styling is a little austere, then close your eyes, listen to the sound and reflect on the price.
"Forget the rather drab styling, this is a serious boutique tone machine."
FULL REVIEW: Yerasov GTA15J review
Line 6 AMPLIFi 150
The AMPLIFi 150 is both a feature-packed modelling amp and a stereo music player that has access to your music library wirelessly streamed via Bluetooth and reproduced through full-range speakers.
As a guitar combo, it's plenty loud for gigging and features a practical and very playable range of modelled amps. It's the combination of the two, though, that makes the AMPLIFi 150 such a potent force.
"Putting a music playback system and a versatile guitar amp in a single box is a mad/genius idea that actually works, and works well."
FULL REVIEW: Line 6 AMPLIFi 150 review
Blackstar HT Metal 5H
An all-valve amp, the HT Metal 5H boasts Blackstar's patented ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) control, which grants you access to the biggest metal tones from both sides of the Atlantic, plus a speaker-emulated output, mp3/line input, footswitchable channels and a full EQ set.
Tonally, it sounds like a supercharged version of Blackstar's HT-5R - no bad thing.
"Run this head through just about any cab in any studio, and your heavy tones are sorted - it's as simple as that."
FULL REVIEW: Blackstar HT Metal 5H review
Orange Crush Pro Series CR60C
Despite the low price, unboxing the Orange CR60 reveals a reassuringly beefy combo that feels as robust as its more expensive valve-powered stablemates.
With this amp, Orange has proven that there absolutely is a place for solid-state technology in today's amp market, especially when it punches this far above its weight, sonically.
"A brilliant first gigging amp. We wish this had existed in back 1995..."
FULL REVIEW: Orange Crush Pro Series CR60C review
Roland CUBE Lite
This addition to Roland's acclaimed CUBE range is an iOS-embracing practice amp in disguise, dubbed the CUBE Lite.
No, it won't replace your big, 'proper' amp in the rehearsal room; what it will do is provide a useful, good looking system that's tailor-made for practice and home playing. At this price, who wouldn't want that?
"Neat little practice amp that will fit nicely into the domestic environment and let you plug in and play whenever you desire."
FULL REVIEW: Roland CUBE Lite review
Laney Ironheart IRT-Studio
The IRT-Studio is an amp that squeezes a feature-packed 15-watt all-valve head into a svelte and smart 2U rackmount chassis.
There's no doubt that the IRT-Studio has the features to become an indispensable tool for home use, serious project studios and the occasional live gig.
"A cleverly designed product that looks set to find many friends in the home-recording/demo- studio market."
FULL REVIEW: Laney Ironheart IRT-Studio review
With the ID Series, Blackstar has ripped up the affordable modelling amp rulebook and delivered a performance that packs a punch on stage as well as in the bedroom.
From a distance, this 2x12 ID:260TVP combo looks traditional enough, but closer inspection reveals plenty of action on the front panel. At the preamp end, you dial in a basic tonality with the voice control, with six Blackstar flavours available, ranging from virgin snowfall clean to disgraced television presenter dirty, and many points between.
"Give the ID Series a spin with an open mind and you might not think you need those hot glass bottles after all..."
FULL REVIEW: Blackstar ID:260TVP review
Hayden Mini MoFo
First impressions are all-important and this Mini MoFo head from Hayden - the guitar offshoot of Ashdown - scores highly in the design, fit and finish departments.
Sometimes you can plug in to a new amplifier and make an instant musical connection, as well as an electrical one. It's almost as if you can get what you want from it without a struggle, while the amp responds the more you dig into it. The MoFos have that elusive blend of great tone and dynamic response, combined with good looks and well above average build quality.
"There's very little to grumble about and for grab-and-go use this head is excellent."
FULL REVIEW: Hayden Mini MoFo review
The Yamaha THR10's smart retro cosmetics bring to mind in equal parts a lunchbox amp head and a high-end DAB radio. However, there's a pair of full-range eight centimetre stereo speakers onboard so, unlike a mini valve head, you don't need an additional cabinet.
Make no mistake, it will make you play the guitar more. It's also likely to consign your existing iPod dock and laptop speakers to the attic or eBay, as the spacious, hi-fi reproduction via USB or the stereo auxiliary input is good enough to put some dedicated speaker systems to shame.
"Yamaha has reinvented the practice amp to dovetail neatly with the demands of the average guitarist's modern life. The perfect solution for playing and jamming at home."
FULL REVIEW: Yamaha THR10 review
Orange Micro Terror
Orange's smallest head yet, the impossibly cute Micro Terror isjust 16.5cm (6.5 inches) wide, weighing in at just 0.85kg (1.87lb). It would be easy to assume this is a novelty practice amp.
However, the unit is not only housed in the same tough high-tensile steel case as its larger brethren, but it can also crank out a cool 20 watts into four ohms thanks to a solid-state Class D power amp.
"For just £99/$199, this is impossible for us to not recommend."
FULL REVIEW: Orange Micro Terror review
With the HT-5R, Blackstar has tapped into two universal human truths: everyone loves bargains and everyone loves buttons.
Plugging in, you've got a choice of two channels, each with dedicated gain and volume, and both snapping at the Marshall mini combo'sheels with a tone that made us achieve 'ear-gasm'.
"It looks cool, costs relatively little, offers an MP3 socket and roars like a bear being poked by a stick - it's a true 'Star."
FULL REVIEW: Blackstar HT-5R review
Orange Dark Terror
The Orange Tiny Terror has become a modern classic since its release in 2006. The heavy-minded Dark Terror features the same switchable 15-watt/seven-watt output control as the original, but you get another ECC83 preamp valve, totalling four stages of gain.
Take a look at Orange's endorsee roster and you'll see that the company knows a thing or two about 'heavy', and the Dark Terror takes it to the next level for an amp of its stature.
"This amp is the perfect high-gain partner for recording and medium-sized gigs."
FULL REVIEW: Orange Dark Terror review