If you are new to the thrilling world of electric guitar, then you may be looking at the multitude of black boxes on the market with an air of confusion. The sheer amount on offer can leave you scratching your head, wondering which of these mysterious units is the best beginner guitar amp for you. Well, you needn't worry, as we are here to help put you right. And when it comes to features and value, there's never been a better time to buy.
Here at MusicRadar, we've been fanatical about all things guitar related for decades, so we feel we are best placed to steer you in the right direction when it comes to choosing your first-ever amp for practice. We've decided to primarily focus on small desktop to medium-size amps that won't take up too much space – and as an added bonus, they happen to be easy on the wallet as well. We have quality, affordable options from the biggest names in amplification, with clever amps from Positive Grid and Boss, killer-sounding combos from Fender and Orange and even a wireless option from Harley Benton.
If you are completely new to electric guitar and all the accompanying accessories, then we've even included in-depth buying advice at the end of this piece to help you make an informed decision when purchasing your first amplifier. Better yet, our intelligent price widgets have scoured the internet for the best prices out there to ensure you bag yourself a bargain.
Best beginner guitar amps: MusicRadar's choice
In terms of the guitar amp that offers the most bang for your buck on this list, it has to be the Positive Grid Spark Mini. This pint-sized amp may be the little brother of the Spark 40, but don't let that fool you, this little guy sounds enormous! As well as coming fully loaded with thousands of amp models and effects it also features clever learning aids such as an auto chord function, backing tracks and smart jam option that are a beginner's dream - couple all that with a very attractive price, and you have one of the best beginner guitar amps for sure.
For those looking for something a little bigger, that can also keep pace with you as you progress on your guitar-playing journey, then the Boss Katana 50 is arguably the best option. Brimming with legendary Boss effects, very usable amp models and a simple user interface, this amp is perfect for newbies looking for killer guitar tones in any genre.
Purchase the Positive Grid Spark Mini
The Spark Mini - along with accessories such as a wireless footswitch, carry bag and headphones - are available to purchase directly from Positive Grid. Click the link above to go straight there and see the latest offers.
Best beginner guitar amps: Product guide
In a relatively short time, Positive Grid has established itself as one of the most innovative brands in the guitar space. Their powerful guitar VST, BIAS FX 2 and Positive Grid Spark 40 practice amp were complete game-changers upon their release and the new Positive Grid Spark Mini is continuing that trend.
Much like its big brother, the Spark Mini is an insanely clever little amp that is sure to revolutionise your practice routine. Once paired to the accompanying app, you'll gain access to thousands of tones and effects, and better yet, the intelligent auto-chord feature will display the chord changes to any song you feed it.
The Spark Mini is also battery-operated and lightweight, meaning it's extremely portable, so it's perfect for taking to guitar lessons or your mate's house for a jam.
Read our full Positive Grid Spark Mini review
Okay, there's a reason the Boss Katana features on so many "best amplifier" lists, it's simply brilliant. Boss is a powerhouse in the world of guitar effects pedals and the Katana series puts these renowned stompboxes into a humble practice amp.
With five core amp sounds - Acoustic, Clean, Crunch, Lead and Brown - the Katana manages to cover a wide range of genres. From metal to blues, indie to hard rock, you'll be sure to find a tone in this amp to get the job done.
As we said, you also gain access to the legendary effects Boss is known for, with everything from light overdrives and boosts, to full-on distortion, delay, chorus and even pitch shifters included as standard. If you want to delve deeper, then you can hook up your new amp to your laptop and use the Boss Tone Studio to edit the sounds and create presets.
If you find the assault of amp models and effects thrown at you from the Boss Katana and Positive Grid Spark to be a little too much to take in, then the Orange Crush 20 may be a welcome change of pace.
Instead of focusing on producing as many effects as possible, the Orange instead features all analogue circuitry - something not often seen in this digital age - and focuses on producing two sounds to the best of its ability.
Now, don't get us wrong, the Crush is still a fairly versatile combo amp, with the dual channels - Clean and Dirty - able to produce everything from sparkling cleans to over-the-top filthy rock tones. So if you are looking for simple yet effective, then the Orange Crush 20 may be the best beginner guitar amp for you.
Blackstar's ID:Core range follows a very similar approach to the problem of a beginner-friendly guitar amp as the Boss Katana and Positive Grid Spark by giving budding guitarists a simplistic user interface, easy-to-dial-in effects and a stellar group of core sounds.
Now at this price point, that would be more than enough to satisfy us, but Blackstar has another trick up its sleeve - a built-in audio interface. Okay, as a beginner, you may not be quite ready to commit your playing to "tape" just yet, but when you are, your ID:Core 20 will be waiting. To use your amp as a recording interface, simply plug the amp directly into your laptop via the USB connector located at the rear and open your preferred DAW.
So if you are looking for one of the best small amps on the market that punches well above its weight, then it's worth giving the Blackstar ID:Core 20 a try.
Read our full Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 20 review
The Fender Mustang amps have been a staple of guitar stores and beginner guitarist's bedrooms since they launched in 2010, and it's not surprising why. The original Mustang amps offered players access to scores of classic tones in a neat and inexpensive package - and the new Mustang GTX50 continues Fender's winning streak with an amp that pushes the boundaries of the GT series without losing the features players loved.
It's not just a sleek new look that the Mustang has received, there's also a little more going on under the hood. There are new models, such as the iconic Blues Jr and Vibro King, as well as other non-Fender units such as the Jazz Chorus and Marshall Silver Jubilee. Pair this with the Fender's TONE 3.0 app and you'll gain the ability to remotely change settings and download presets via the Fender Tone community.
Now, it has to be said that the GTX50 is a 50W combo and therefore, it can get a little loud for some situations that said the extra power does mean the amp has some room to grow as you transition from the bedroom to the rehearsal space and even to the stage.
This pint-sized beginner amp from Harley Benton proves why the Thomann-owned brand is the king of budget gear. Combining a portable modelling amp, Bluetooth speaker and a plug-and-play wireless system, this clever little device is not only a fantastic home practice amp but also a useful home entertainment system - all at a crazy low price!
The AirBorne Go comes loaded with a trio of amp tones such as a pristine clean sound perfect for fingerpicking and chords, a medium overdrive that ranges from subtle blues to AC/DC-inspired rock and a face-melting distortion mode that will get things cooking.
Don't worry, that's not all, you also get access to twelve studio-quality effects ranging from phaser to chorus, tremolo, uni-vibe and delay - come on, what more do you need?
We are big fans of Vox amps here at MusicRadar, and while the fabled AC30 could top just about any list we make, the simple fact is a 30-watt all-valve monster is not practical for most players. Instead, we've opted for the far more house-friendly Valvetronix VT20X.
We admit this amp doesn't quite compare with the timeless aesthetic of the classic Vox amps of yesteryear, but we can confirm that it most certainly delivers where it counts - the tone. Vox's Virtual Element Technology, coupled with the valve preamp, delivers an authentic tone that frankly is fun to play.
There are a total of 11 amp models on offer, but a few of our highlights are the Deluxe Clean, AC30TB and Boutique Clean, which all offer their own unique sonic characteristics - and to be perfectly honest, if this was the only tones on offer, we'd still be happy.
As you'd expect, there is a slew of stompbox-style effects to get stuck into as well, from a straightforward compressor to lush chorus, fierce overdrive and out-of-this-world flanger, there's a sound for everyone in this affordable little amp.
For all the effects and options the best modelling amps offer players, there's a lot to be said for the headroom with real-deal feel and response of good tube combos. And when it comes to value, portability and reputation, Fender's Junior range has always been a go-to for players. Here players have the piece of mind of 12AX7s in the preamp section, and a pair of Groove Tubes EL84s for a classic combination.
As it's only a one-channel amp, the volume control is vital. The great news is this latest model revoices it for improved bass control and range. The much-coveted break-up into overdrive can be found after about six o'clock but this a superb amp for overdrive pedals too with its Fender 10" driver holding definition.
While the Junior is a great beginner tube amp, it's an excellent option for pros too for a small dependable option at small gigs and recording session (there's a lot to be said for recording with small amps). It's the little valve amp that can be all things to all players.
Best beginner guitar amps: Buying advice
What should I consider when buying a beginner guitar amp?
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When it comes to choosing the best beginner guitar amp for your needs, there are a few things you want to keep in mind. Really you want to balance your budget with features and wattage.
Of course, you want to get the most bang for your buck, finding an amp that will not only give you all the sounds you need but also grow with you as you get more proficient on the instrument.
Now to do this, we actually recommend sticking to the big brands such as Boss, Positive Grid, Orange, Blackstar and Vox, as they all offer superb value for money and pack their beginner-friendly amps full of useful features that once you try them, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them.
How loud does my beginner guitar amp need to be?
Really there is no need to have an extremely loud 100-watt amp at home as you'll never get the use out of it - and even if you do push the volume, you risk a visit from the local authorities. A far more sensible wattage is around 10 to 20 watts, which is more than loud enough to let you hear what you are up to as you fumble your way through Smoke on the Water for the 100th time.
We have included a few amps that are a little louder at 50 watts, as these are perfect if you are playing with friends or if you want an amp that can hold its own in a rehearsal studio. In the case of the Katana 50, you can actually run the amp at three different levels - 50, 25 and 0.5W - meaning it will never be too loud for the house, but you have the power available if you need it.
What other features does my beginner amp need?
As you can see from this list, most practice amps these days come fully loaded with features, but which do you actually need?
Well, for us, unless you're bringing your own pedalboard it's important to have a handful of core sounds that are sure to cover a lot of ground. For example, you'll want to have access to a smooth, clean channel for practicing chords and fingerpicking, you'll want a robust overdrive setting for when things get rocky and a boosted sound for when you eventually tackle solos and lead work.
Now, as well as this group of essential tones, it's also beneficial to have at least a few effects to play around with. Reverb and delay will have a sense of space to the tone, chorus and phaser will add movement, while distortion and fuzz will send your electric guitar tone into the stratosphere.
We also think a headphone output is a mandatory feature as in the early stages of your development, you'll want to practice in peace while you slowly work on your technique (check out our round-up of the best guitar amp headphones for that).
Other features that we categorise as "nice to have, but not essential" are the likes of Bluetooth connectivity, a USB audio interface and an integrated footswitch.
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