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Best budget guitar amps under $500/£500 2022: top cheap amps for smaller budgets

Closeup of the Orange Micro Dark head on top of a flightcase
(Image credit: Future)

It seems there has never been a better time to be a guitarist. With the advances we've seen in technology over the last few years, guitar gear is not only the best it's ever been, but it's also insanely affordable - with the budget guitar amps category, specifically, going through a rather striking transformation recently. We can now have our pick of state-of-the-art digital modellers or the raw, organic tone of a tube amp without breaking the bank. So, regardless of your personal preference, if you're looking for the best budget guitar amps under $500/£500, then you're in the right place!

Price, however, is only one thing to think about. Of course, how the amp sounds is essential, but the size, volume, and extra functionality are just as important. We've considered all of these points and put together a list of our favourite cheap guitar amps under $500/£500 available today.

We believe all the amplifiers 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, this list of cut-price amps should help you choose one that's right for you.

We've included some in-depth buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to read more about the best budget guitar amps under $500/£500 and what to know when buying one, click the link.

Best budget guitar amps under $500/£500: Our top picks

When you get to the $500/£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 below this price point, too. One particularly note-worthy budget amp is the Boss Katana 100 MKII (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab). However, you can get hold of some incredible valve amps under $500/£500, with the Orange Micro Dark (opens in new tab) being one of our top choices. Delivering the classic, unmistakable British tone of Orange, in a compact and affordable package, this amp is simply outstanding. 

We should also mention, that if you are seeking a desktop companion, then you can't go wrong with the pint-sized Blackstar Fly (opens in new tab). This little amp is affordable, portable and sounds killer! 

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

Best budget guitar amps under $500/£500: Boss Katana-100 MkII

(Image credit: Boss)
One of the best budget guitar amps under $/£500 just got an upgrade

Specifications

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.

Read the full Boss Katana 100/212 combo review

Best budget guitar amps under $500/£500: Friedman BE Mini

(Image credit: Friedman)
The iconic Friedman tone on a budget

Specifications

Type: Solid state
Output: 30W
Number of channels: 1
Speaker: N/A
Weight: 4Ibs

Reasons to buy

+
Classic Friedman look 
+
Small and lightweight 
+
Sounds fantastic 

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one channel

When hunting for the best cheap guitar amp, you’d be forgiven for avoiding Friedman - their classic tube amps will cost you a significant amount of cash - but with the release of the Friedman BE-Mini, you can now get that iconic sound without breaking the bank. 

This solid-state micro head may be a departure from the big, bold valve amps they have become famous for, but we must say it doesn’t compromise on tone. Incorporating the now legendary BE preamp circuit, this pint-sized amp is capable of delivering earth-shaking hard rock tones. 

With its 30W of class D power, this amp is perfect for home practice - or relatively quiet rehearsals - and as it only weighs 4Ibs, it’s super portable, too!

Read our full Friedman BE-Mini Head review

Best budget guitar amps under $500/£500: Blackstar Silverline Standard

(Image credit: Blackstar)

3. Blackstar Silverline Standard

A digital modelling amp with a variety of valve emulations

Specifications

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

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 under $500/£500: Positive Grid Spark 40

(Image credit: Positive Grid)
The future of modelling amps?

Specifications

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
+
Packed with smart tech 

Reasons to avoid

-
The footswitch costs extra 

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 under $500/£500: Supro Delta King 8

(Image credit: Supro)

5. Supro Delta King 8

A modern day take on a vintage valve amp

Specifications

Type: Tube combo
Output: 1W
Number of channels: 1
Speaker: 8” Supro DK8
Weight: 15lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Classic Supro tones
+
Stunning look 
+
Line output 

Reasons to avoid

-
Reverb would have been nice

The Supro Delta King certainly wears its inspiration on its sleeve. Drawing from the low wattage valve combo amps of the past, this charming little amplifier perfectly delivers those vintage tones many of us are searching for - and all at a very reasonable price. 

This single-channel, 1W amp may not be packed full of features like some of the digital modellers on this list, but it makes up for it in character and tone. The small wattage allows you to really drive the preamp and achieve those bluesy break-up tones at a very manageable volume. 

The secret weapon of the Delta King is the line out, located on the rear of the amp. This addition turns the Supro into the perfect recording companion, allowing you to capture all that valve tone in your DAW

Best budget guitar amps under $500/£500: Blackstar Fly 3

(Image credit: Blackstar)
The best cheap amp for beginners, students and guitarists on the go

Specifications

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
+
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 - resulting in one of the best small guitar amps on the market. 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 under $500/£500: Orange Micro Dark

(Image credit: Orange Amps)
The cheap, high-gain micro amp head you can gig with

Specifications

Type: Hybrid tube/solid state micro head
Output: 20W
Number of channels: 1
Tubes: 1x 12AX7 tube
Weight: 0.78kg

Reasons to buy

+
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 - perfect for those seeking a quality metal amp. 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 under $500/£500: Yamaha THR10II

(Image credit: Yamaha)

8. Yamaha THR10II

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

Specifications

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 under $500/£500: Marshall CODE50

(Image credit: Marshall)
Versatile digital modelling from the Brit amp legend

Specifications

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
+
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 under $500/£500: Blackstar HT5R MKII

(Image credit: Blackstar )

10. Blackstar HT-5R MKII Combo

Classic all-valve tones from both sides of the pond

Specifications

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 $500/£500: Orange Crush Pro CR120H Head

(Image credit: Orange)
Heavy gig-ready tone for not a lot of cash

Specifications

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 under $500/£500: Line 6 Spider V 60 MKII

(Image credit: Line 6)

12. Line 6 Spider V 60 MKII

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

Specifications

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 under $500/£500: Fender Mustang LT25

(Image credit: Fender)
A compact, budget modelling amp with an array of classic tones

Specifications

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 under $500/£500: Buying advice

The Fender Mustang LT25 amp on a blue background

(Image credit: Future)

What size of amp do I need?

When looking for a new cheap guitar amp, it's worth having an idea of what you want to do with it. For example, if you require an amp for home practice - be sure to check our best practice amps guide (opens in new tab) - then you'll want to ensure you go for a low wattage option, as this will mean you get the most tone out of the amp at an appropriate volume. 

If you want to drive your valve amp at home and achieve those thick, saturated gain sounds, you're best going for a 1 - 5 watt amp, as the reduced headroom will allow you to really push the tubes. On the other hand, if you want the cleanest sound possible, then you'll want to grab a higher wattage amplifier with more headroom. 

For the gigging players, you want to ensure whichever amp you go for has enough power to at least be heard over the drummer. As you can always mic it up or use a line out - if it has one - to let the PA do all the heavy lifting for filling the venue. Again though, think about the headroom of the amplifier. You don't want to max out the headroom just getting it loud enough to get over the drummer, as you'll have no more left in the tank when you step on that boost pedal! 

What is a digital modelling amp?

The main purpose of a digital modelling amp (opens in new tab) is to recreate the sounds of many iconic amps in one box. 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 onboard, 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. However, some of the cheaper digital modellers can fall short when playing at higher volumes, as distorted sounds sometimes lose definition.

What is a tube amp?

A tube amp uses vacuum tubes to amplify the electric signals, and when pushed, they create the very natural sounding overdrive guitar players crave. 

As a result, tube - or valve - amps sound great when they’re turned up. Cranking the volume helps work the tubes harder, producing a slightly sweeter, more musical sound with more natural harmonics. It’s worth noting that modelling amps are usually trying to replicate the sound of a tube amp - but 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

Should I go for a combo or head?

The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer here - go for the option that makes sense to you. 

Some players like the convenience of an all-in-one combo, as there are fewer things to deal with. That said, some combos can be heavy and unwieldy - not great if you need to carry it to rehearsals or gigs. 

Other players opt to go down the head and cab route, as this not only allows them to drastically change their tone by switching out one of the elements, but if the venue or rehearsal room already has cabinets in place, you only need to carry the head along. 

Just remember that your guitar may be 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 essential. So take your time, think about your options and try a few out!

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

Ways to save more money on a budget guitar amp 

If you are looking to get the best deal possible on a new amplifier - or any piece of musical equipment for that matter - it pays to shop at particular times of the year. Both Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day offer fantastic opportunities to bag a bargain, with many retailers dramatically slashing the prices of well-known brands. Our Black Friday music deals (opens in new tab) hub and Prime Day music deals (opens in new tab) hub are the places to go to find our specially curated lists of the best deals around. 

Buying end-of-line amps is also a great way to ensure you get a deal. Manufacturers release updated versions of popular amplifiers all the time, and this usually means retailers are forced to sell the previous generation at a discount to clear space for the shiny new models. So keep an eye out on the latest gear being released to see if you can pick up an older variant for a little less. 

Of course, you can also go down the second-hand route, but we only recommend doing this if you know what you are doing. Many components inside an amp can go wrong, so you must thoroughly inspect the unit before purchasing, as you won't have a warranty if something goes wrong. 

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar and bass gear, to synths, microphones and music production hardware.