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The 14 best budget guitar amps under $/£500 2021: top cheap amps for smaller budgets

The 14 best budget guitar amps under $/£500 2021: top cheap amps for smaller budgets
(Image credit: Future)

With the advances that we’ve seen in technology over the last few years, budget guitar amps have gotten better and better. Digital modellers are now packing in more sounds than ever, giving players a huge range of tones for not a lot of money. Some players however, prefer the raw, organic tone of a tube amp. Whatever your preference, if you're looking for the best budget guitar amps under $/£500, then you’re in the right place!

Price, however, is only one thing to think about. How the amp sounds is of course incredibly important - as are the features on board, like size, volume and functionality. We’ve considered all of these points and put together a list of the budget guitar amps under $/£500 available today.

All the amps in this round-up offer incredible value for money, so whether you’re a beginner looking for the best bedroom practice amp, a gigging guitarist seeking a great deal, or anything in between, then this list of budget guitar amps should help you choose one that’s right for you.

Best budget guitar amps: Our top picks

When you get to the $/£500 mark, things get a little more serious - you’ll find amps that are built to last and that sound amazing. However, there are some incredible amps under $/£500 too. One particularly note-worthy budget amp is the Boss Katana 100 MKII. Its predecessor was excellent, boasting superb sound quality and a wide array of different tones, however the MKII with its upgrades and improvements really raised the bar. 

You’ll find a few other versatile modelling amps in this guide too, like the Blackstar Silverline Standard. However, you can get hold of some incredible valve amps under $/£500 too, including the Vox AC10, which gives you that classic, unmistakable chimey tone in a compact and affordable package.

Best budget guitar amps under $/£500: Product guide & reviews

Best budget guitar amps: Boss Katana-100 MkII

(Image credit: Boss)

1. Boss Katana-100 MKII

One of the best budget guitar amps under $/£500 just got an upgrade

Specifications
Price: $359/£325/€399
Type: Digital modelling combo
Output: 100W, switchable down to 50W, 10W and 0.5W
Number of channels: 5, plus 60+ effects
Speaker: Custom Waza 12"
Weight: 16kg
Reasons to buy
+Highly versatile+Excellent built-in effects+High-gain tones rival tube amps+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Not for anyone looking for a simple amp-Not the greatest-looking amp

Boss is an effects legend, but thanks to the digital expertise of parent company Roland, the brand now also has an amp that promises organic, valve-like tones at an impressively low price. It does this by using the same Tube Logic technology employed in the 150-watt Waza Craft head, and other Roland amps. The Katana 100 MKII doesn’t directly borrow any specific amp brands and models. Instead, there are five voices: Acoustic, Clean, Crunch, Lead and Brown, with five variations. They've been tweaked and updated from the original iteration of the Katana 100. 

You've also got Booster, Mod, FX, Delay and Reverb sections with three variations in each - so plenty of stuff to keep you going. The Katana 100 MKII, like most other modern amps, also benefits from it's switchable power modes, meaning you can get the same gig-ready tones with only 0.5W - something your neighbours will be very happy about.

Start using the Tone Studio editor and the Katana’s edge becomes sharper still, with different effects, chain presets and assignable control parameters. The Katana may look plain, but its tones are truly exceptional. The Crunch voice is responsive and dynamic, while the Brown solo sound is as good as many USA valve-powered competitors. 

The Dual Amp feature adds to the already monumental list of cool features, allowing you to operate two amps from one footswitch. Just configure the other amp how you like it, and then make the most of the onboard stereo effects like reverb, delay and chorus to create a wide, immersive sound.

Best budget guitar amps: Vox AC10 Custom

(Image credit: Vox)

2. Vox AC10 Custom

One of the best budget tube amps, packed full of the legendary Vox AC tone

Specifications
Price: $499/£429/€511
Type: Tube combo
Output: 10W
Number of channels: 1
Speaker: 10” Celestion VX10
Weight: 12.3kg
Reasons to buy
+Compact, all-tube design+Classic Vox Top Boost tone+On-board reverb
Reasons to avoid
-Only one channel

Get the legendary VOX AC sound in a smaller, more home practice-friendly package. The Vox AC10 is an all-valve, 10” combo with a single channel, based on the Top Boost channel of an AC30/15. It’s got 2 x 12AX7s in the preamp, and 2 x EL84 power amp valves and it dishes out all the chime and jangle you could ever want.

Whilst it’s incredibly easy to dial in those 60s, British Invasions style tones, the Vox AC10 is surprisingly versatile - cranking up the gain gives you a great classic rock sound and, with its built in studio-quality digital reverb, you save yourself having to buy a separate pedal. 

The AC10 is small enough to act as a practice amp, but there’s a fair amount of volume on tap too, plus you can connect an external speaker, like a 2x12, if you need to move more air, making it ideal for small jams.

Best budget guitar amps: Blackstar Silverline Standard

(Image credit: Blackstar)

3. Blackstar Silverline Standard

A digital modelling amp with a variety of valve emulations

Specifications
Price: $429/£349/€379
Type: Digital modelling combo
Output: 20W
Number of channels: 6, plus 12 studio-grade effects
Speaker: 10” Celestion V-Type Jr
Weight: 11kg
Reasons to buy
+High-fidelity sounds+Incredibly versatile+Studio-quality effects section+Easy recording functionality+Software-based editing
Reasons to avoid
-Not quite loud enough for gigging

The Blackstar Silverline series aims to capture the tone, feel and aesthetic of a range of boutique amps. Building on the success of the ID:TVP range, Blackstar have designed the Silverline range from the ground up, creating digital amps that not only sound like high-end valve amps, but that respond like them too.

The hi-fi sounds on board the Silverline Standard are largely thanks to a powerful SHARC processor. You’ve got six amp styles to choose from, covering cleans, crunch and high-gain sounds, however it’s the Response section of the amp where it gets interesting. You can choose from six different valve types - EL84, 6V6, EL34, KT66, 6L6 and KT88; each lending a slightly different response and tone. Playing around with this and the amp selection can lead to some incredible pairings and allows you to dial in tones that are pretty close to well-known, high-end tube amps. 

Add in some great-sounding studio-quality effects and you’ve got an incredible, versatile amp combo. 

Best budget guitar amps: Positive Grid Spark 40

(Image credit: Positive Grid)

4. Positive Grid Spark 40

The future of modelling amps?

Specifications
Price: $299/£225/€247
Type: Digital modelling combo with BIAS Tone Engine and app integration
Output: 40W
Number of channels: 7, with 4 programmable preset buttons
Speakers: 2x4” custom designed
Weight: 5.2kg
Reasons to buy
+More tones than you’ll ever need+Seriously massive sound+Great value+Packed with smart tech 
Reasons to avoid
-A footswitch would be great 

The Spark is a 40 watt smart practice amp, with 30 amp models from sparkly clean to crushing gain, and 40 varied effects. The Spark puts forward a compelling argument as the ultimate home amp, with 2x4” speakers allowing for stereo effects and app connectivity, which lets you tweak your tones to within an inch of their lives.

It’s packed full of innovative and genuinely useful features too. Stream songs to your amp and, using the Auto Chord feature, the Spark will transpose the songs into chords so you can play along in real-time. Like a sort of guitar karaoke, if you will. Smart Jam is, as the name suggests, pretty smart. Just pick a tempo, play your favourite chord progression or riff, pick a genre and let the Spark do the rest. It’ll create a backing track that you can jam over, so as a practice tool as well as a ridiculously cool feature, it’s pretty invaluable.

With USB connectivity to aid recording and a small compact footprint, as well as all of the above, it’s a pretty useful bit of kit. Positive Grid offers the Spark with a carry bag too - so you’re all ready to go when the world gets back to normal.

Read the full Positive Grid Spark review

Best budget guitar amps: Fender Bassbreaker 007 Combo

(Image credit: Fender)

5. Fender Bassbreaker 007 Combo

One of the best small, all-tube amps, with classic Fender cleans and blues rock crunch

Specifications
Price: $449/£419/€499
Type: Tube combo
Output: 7W
Number of channels: 1 with Footswitchable Treble Boost
Speaker: 10” Celestion Ten 30
Weight: 11.57kg
Reasons to buy
+Classic Fender clean tones+Great classic-rock style crunch+Footswitchable treble boost
Reasons to avoid
-Reverb would have been nice

The Fender Bassbreaker 007 is a surprisingly versatile amp. It’s a tube driven combo (2 x 12AX7, 1 x EL84), with a 10” Celestion Ten 30 speaker, a footswitchable treble boost and a line output for direct recording. If you’re looking for that classic tube sound to cover cleans, bluesy crunch and classic rock bite, then this could well be it.

Fender amps are known for their clean tone, and the Bassbreaker 007 doesn’t let you down there. Granted, there’s not much headroom as it’s only 7W, but it will stay nice and clean whilst practicing at home, or jamming with other guitarists. Increase the gain and you’ll be pleasantly surprised - there's not quite enough on tap for metal, but the Bassbreaker sounds great for blues and classic rock. It’s a compact amp, but, thanks to the 10” Celestion speaker, it doesn’t suffer too much from sounding boxy, like some other smaller amps. 

Best budget guitar amps: Blackstar Fly 3

(Image credit: Blackstar)

6. Blackstar Fly 3

The best cheap amp for beginners, students and guitarists on the go

Specifications
Price: $69/£49/€59
Type: Digital modelling micro amp
Output: 3W
Number of channels: 2, with delay effect
Speaker: 1x 3"
Weight: 0.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Perfect for students, travelling and desks+Excellent tones for the size/price+Great value+Built-in delay!
Reasons to avoid
-You're not going to gig with it… but that's not the point!

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. What's more, you can even buy an extension cab to create a stereo rig, which works brilliantly for playing tunes via the 3.5mm audio-in jack. 

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. Dialling in a touch of tape delay helps to enhance the size of the sound, too. Its small size and impressive sound makes the Fly 3 the best guitar amp for beginners, as well as anyone searching for an affordable desktop amp.

Read the full Blackstar Fly 3 review

Best budget guitar amps: Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 100

(Image credit: Blackstar)

7. Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 100

One of the best budget gigging amps you can buy under $400

Specifications
Price: $379/£281/€333
Type: Digital modelling combo
Output: 100W
Number of channels: 6 amp voices, with 12 effects
Speaker: 2x Blackstar 10"
Weight: 12.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Diverse range of sounds+Impressive octaver and looper+Lightweight+Ideal for gigging+Easy recording via USB
Reasons to avoid
-No app-based editing

The giggable ID:Core 100 combo uses a pair of special design Blackstar 10-inch loudspeakers to deliver 50 watts of power per channel in Super Wide Stereo. It packs six amp voices, and a multitude of effects, including a polyphonic octaver and a looper. In use, the ID:Core 100 generates plenty of volume that can easily fill small pubs and clubs; the amp voices have been enhanced for live use and easily cut through the cacophony of a live band without sounding harsh and brittle. 

The included USB recording interface means the ID:Core 100 is still just as handy for home and studio use – despite the higher power, it's still very portable, weighing in at just over 12kg. Blackstar's app builders have come as close as anyone to providing the perfect interface that's intuitive and, above all, fun. The best news of all is that this amp comes at a price that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago, and it includes a handy two-button footswitch that gets you straight into using the looper.

Read the full Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 100 review

Best budget guitar amps: Orange Micro Dark

(Image credit: Orange Amps)

8. Orange Micro Dark

The cheap, high-gain micro amp head you can gig with

Specifications
Price: $189/£149/€169
Type: Hybrid tube/solid state micro head
Output: 20W
Number of channels: 1
Tubes: 1x 12AX7 tube
Weight: 0.78kg
Reasons to buy
+Awesome high-gain sounds+Surprisingly loud+Searing high-gain sounds+Built-in CabSim output
Reasons to avoid
-No switchable channels

It may look like a toy, but the Micro Dark is every inch a real amplifier, with a very usable 20-watt solid-state power stage coupled to a preamp that uses a single 12AX7 for authentic valve-overdrive timbres. One of the reasons the Micro Dark is so small is that it relies on an external power supply: a laptop-style brick providing 15 volts.

This aside, everything else is where you'd expect to find it. The Micro Dark is a straightforward single-channel design with controls for gain and volume, together with Orange's very versatile Shape tone control, which boosts mids in one direction and scoops them in the other. There's also a very usable headphone output that features Orange's authentic CabSim speaker emulation, in addition to a speaker output, and a fully buffered effects loop. 

It's astonishing just how much great tone Orange has managed to squeeze into such a small box – with a 4x12 or 2x12, this amp is plenty loud enough for home practice, rehearsals or even small gigs. At less than the cost of many high-end overdrive pedals, here's a proper amp that's small enough to live in any gig bag, yet powerful enough to handle almost any situation. You can also get the Orange Terror Stamp, which is essentially the Micro Dark, but in a pedal format, and with an added footswitchable boost.

Read the full Orange Micro Dark review

Best budget guitar amps: Yamaha THR10II

(Image credit: Yamaha)

9. Yamaha THR10II

One of the best desktop guitar amps, now with Bluetooth connectivity

Specifications
Price: $299/£279/€309
Type: Digital modelling desktop amp
Output: 2x10W
Number of channels: 8, with 8 effects
Speaker: 2x 3"
Weight: 3kg
Reasons to buy
+Excellent tones+Three-dimensional sound+Bluetooth connectivity +Easy recording via USB+Sounds good at low volume levels
Reasons to avoid
-Only suitable for home practice

Yamaha's THR10II is a desktop amp that's designed to look good, be used at low volumes, play your music library, and enable direct recording to your DAW via USB. It's an impressive feature set. Under the hood, the THR unit uses Yamaha's Virtual Circuit Modelling (VCM) technology for core sound generation, with the control response designed to mimic the 'real thing' – valve amps. Unlike its last iteration, the THR10II now features Bluetooth connectivity allowing you to stream your music wirelessly, and control your amp settings from your smart device.

In this instance, the five amp models offer a range of Fender, Vox, Marshall and Boogie-style benchmark sounds, as well as bass, acoustic and flat response channels. These amps have been designed to sound good and retain dynamics without sounding overly processed, whatever the volume level, and Yamaha has certainly achieved that. It's refreshing to play through an amp that doesn't sound worse when you turn it down, and that's what makes this one of our favourite practice amps for use at home.

Best budget guitar amps: Marshall CODE50

(Image credit: Marshall)

10. Marshall CODE50

Versatile digital modelling from the Brit amp legend

Specifications
Price: $299/£229/€259
Type: Digital modelling combo
Output: 50W
Number of channels: 14 amp models, with 24 effects
Speaker: 1x custom 12"
Weight: 13kg
Reasons to buy
+Impressive range of classic Marshall sounds+Slick interface+Built-in effects+Giggable
Reasons to avoid
-Speakers aren't full-range, so not great for streaming music-For live use, you'll need to buy the separate footswitch

For the CODE, Marshall developed a range of modelled preamps, power amps and speaker cabinets in collaboration with software plugin supremo Softube, calling the result MST (Marshall-Softube). There's plenty of choice, too: the CODE50 comes loaded with 14 MST preamps, four MST power amps and eight MST speaker cabinets – these cover every classic Marshall tone from the past 50 years. 

It all compares favourably with amp modelling combos from the likes of Line 6 and Blackstar. Coupled with this mouth-watering choice of tone, 24 effects cover practically all vintage and modern needs, together with studio-quality reverbs.

Editing is done either from the front panel or Bluetooth, using Marshall's Gateway interface app, which updates settings in real time. Other clever features include a USB interface, used for updating firmware and recording to your PC, and there's also a built-in guitar tuner, mp3 player input and studio headphones socket. The tones are at least as good as the competition, and although streaming music into the amp via Gateway or USB sounds okay, you face the limitation that the amp speakers are for guitar, not full-range hi-fi.

Read the full Marshall CODE50 review

Best budget guitar amps: Blackstar HT5R MKII

(Image credit: Blackstar )

11. Blackstar HT5R MKII Combo

Classic all-valve tones from both sides of the pond

Specifications
Price: $499/£419/€455
Type: Tube Combo
Output: 5W
Number of Channels: Two
Speaker: 1x12” Blackstar Designed
Weight: 14.4kg
Reasons to buy
+All valve+Big sound for a small amp+ISF feature increases versatility 
Reasons to avoid
-Too quiet to compete with a drummer 

It hasn’t taken Blackstar long to find their feet in the amp world. The HT series has quickly become a favourite of guitarists all over the world, and found its way onto some of the biggest stages. Their HT5R MKII Combo is proof, however, that you don’t need walls of amps to get a great tone. 

As the name suggests, here we have a 5-watt combo amp. It’s all valve, with an ECC83 in the preamp and a 12BH7 in the power section. This pairing means you get a thick, rich tone when you need it. You’ve got the option of the full 5 watts, or 0.5 for when you want those valves to break up at a slightly lower volume.

Blackstar’s ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) control is another trademark feature. With the ability to go from USA sounds to UK and anywhere in between, you can take the time to dial in that tone you’ve always wanted to hear. 

You’ve got clean and driven footswitchable channels, along with separate ‘voicings’ for each, an XLR D.I output, an emulated output for recording and a stereo MP3 line in for when you want to jam along to tracks. With an effects loop and reverb built in too, if you want a practice amp that’ll do a bit of everything then the HT5 isn’t half bad. 

Best budget guitar amps under: Orange Crush Pro CR120H Head

(Image credit: Orange)

12. Orange Crush Pro CR120H Head

Heavy gig-ready tone for not a lot of cash

Specifications
Price: $499/£349/€499
Type: Solid-state head
Output: 120W
Number of Channels: Two
Speaker: N/A
Weight: 14.4kg
Reasons to buy
+Serious gain sounds+More volume than you’ll ever need
Reasons to avoid
-Overkill for home practice

If you’re looking for a sub-$/£500 amp that’s ideal for gigging, then you’ll likely find tube amps out of reach financially. Sure, you can mic up a smaller combo, but sometimes a wall of pure amp volume is what’s needed. Thankfully, Orange is here to help. Everyone knows about its range of high-power tube heads, from the high-gain Rockerverb series to the more vintage flavoured ORs, but with the solid-state Crush Pro line-up there is a serious contender in the best guitar amps under $/£500 bracket. 

The Orange Crush Pro CR120 is a 120-watt, two channel monster of a head, packing in more gain and volume than you could ever need, yet retaining that famous Orange tone at every volume. The clean channel is also very impressive, serving up lush, warm tones that respond nicely to your playing dynamics. There are even three types of reverb on board too - Spring Hall and Plate, each with its own distinctive flavour. For players of heavier styles, the Crush Pro range is well worth your attention, plus those that favour clean or slightly crunchy tones will also be pleasantly surprised.

Read the full Orange Crush Pro CR120H review

Best budget guitar amps: Line 6 Spider V 60 MKII

(Image credit: Line 6)

13. Line 6 Spider V 60 MKII

A colossal array of features and sounds makes this one of the best budget guitar amps

Specifications
Price: $319/£259/€269
Type: Digital modelling combo
Output: 60W
Number of channels: 78 amp models, with 23 cabinets and 101 effects
Speaker: 1x 10" woofer, 1x hi-freq tweeter
Weight: 9.3kg
Reasons to buy
+Huge feature set+Responsive amp models+Giggable+Intuitive app+Onboard looper, metronome and drum loops
Reasons to avoid
-Built-in screen is a little small

This latest update to Line 6's best-selling budget practice amp series features over 200 high-quality amp, effects and cab models, with over 100 presets, together with a built-in tuner, metronome and even 19 real drum loops to jam along to. As if that wasn't already enough, there are Android and iOS apps and a built-in receiver for Line 6's Relay guitar wireless systems, not to mention an aux in – and a USB out that will let you record to a PC using the bundled Cubase LE software, or to your iPad or mobile phone. 

The Spider V's controls are intuitive, although the display is a little on the small side. The updated sounds are excellent; the new full-range speaker system means better quality at low volume and more balance at higher volume levels, and not just for electric guitars – your acoustic will sound just as good, too. The new Spider V range represents great fun for guitarists at all levels – the new and improved amp models are highly playable and represent a significant advance over the competition, while the built-in looper, metronome and drum loops make this a fantastic amp.

Best budget guitar amps: Fender Mustang LT25

(Image credit: Fender)

14. Fender Mustang LT25

A compact, budget modelling amp with an array of classic tones

Specifications
Price: $149/£139/€159
Type: Digital modelling combo
Output: 25W
Number of channels: 20 amp models, with 25 effects
Speaker: 8” Fender Special Design
Weight: 5.7kg
Reasons to buy
+Clever technology+Impressive range of tones+Great clean sounds+Bluetooth makes for easy music playback
Reasons to avoid
-Small screen for browsing sounds

The Fender Mustang LT25 is a compact, digital modelling practice amp, fitted with a single 8” speaker. There’s a wide range of sounds on board, and they’re really impressive (particularly the clean tones), with 20 amp models to choose from. As you might expect, they’re mostly inspired by classic Fenders from the tweed and blackface eras, but there’s a fair smattering of British sounds as well, together with dozens of delays, modulation, stompbox and reverb effects. It’s also got 30 presets built in covering any genre you can think of!

All the sounds within the amp are navigated via a small LCD screen, so there’s quite a bit of page shifting, but it’s not too tedious as the interface is generally well organised, and overall, it’s an easy amp to use. The Mustang LT25 has 25 watts of power, so there’s plenty of volume for home practicing, recording and jamming with friends, though you might struggle when it comes to gigging or playing with a drummer. 

The design is well thought-out and perfectly executed; aside from some fizziness with some high-gain models, it’s hard to put a finger on anything that’s less than excellent

Read the full Fender Mustang LT25 review

Best budget guitar amps: Buying advice

The Fender Mustang LT25 amp on a blue background

(Image credit: Future)

What kind of amp do you need?

When looking at the best budget amps, it’s worth having an idea of what you want out of it. Do you want a small, compact amp for home practice (our best practice amps guide may help here), or are you looking for something that you can take to gigs? Also, do you want something straightforward, with a couple of different sounds on board, or are you looking for an amp that has a huge variety of tonal options?

Digital amps

Digital modelling amps are good if you want a lot of different sounds. They allow you to dial in Fender-style cleans, Marshall-esque crunch, Boogie-inspired saturation, and everything else in between! Most modelling amps will have a range of effects on board too so you’ve got plenty of different sounds on demand to experiment with. This is also great if you’re playing live - you can simply take one amp to a gig to do it all. Some of the cheaper digital modellers however, can fall short when playing at higher volumes, as distorted sounds sometimes lose definition.

Tube amps

Tube, or valve amps, sound great when they’re turned up. Cranking the volume helps work the tubes a little harder, producing a slightly sweeter and musical sound with more natural harmonics. It’s worth noting that modelling amps are usually trying to replicate the sound of a tube amp - these are the real deal. The payoff is that tube amps tend to be more expensive and more delicate. Turning up the volume isn’t always practical either (though many tube amps allow you to switch down the wattage for this very reason).

Combo vs head

We’ve included combo amps and amp heads in the list; a combo is an all-in-one unit - the controls and speaker are all in one ‘box’, so you can plug in and play right away. Amp heads on the other hand, require a separate, external speaker (often referred to as a cab). Over time, many players will curate a small collection of heads that can be utilised in different musical scenarios.

Your guitar acts as the physical connection between you and the music you create, but your amp is what gives it a voice, so choosing the right one for you is important.