The best modelling amps really do allow guitar players to have their cake and eat it. Jam-packed with different amplifier sounds, effects, and many more handy features, these powerhouses come in many shapes and sizes, with something for every type of guitar player.
Whether you need an amp to practise at home with, or something to bring the house down at your local venue, you’re well covered here. The best modelling amps even make great recording companions, with many featuring USB outs and Bluetooth to boot. If your sound and play style change regularly, then read on to find your perfect match.
Best modelling amps: MusicRadar’s Choice
Topping countless best-of lists, the Boss Katana MkII (opens in new tab) is simply one of the greatest modelling amps ever made. It’s easy to use with a wide variety of sounds, plus it has a huge range of studio-grade Boss effects chucked into the mix. The Katana is your one-stop shop for practising, gigging, or recording.
If you’re more of a traditionalist, then you’ll love the Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb (opens in new tab). It has all the tonal characteristics of the classic valve amp, with none of the back-breaking weight. Fender spent a long time painstakingly recreating this classic amp’s tone so you can enjoy it for less money and fewer visits to the chiropractor.
Best modelling amps: Product guide
We hate to be predictable, but there’s just no getting around the fact that the Boss Katana range is one of the best modern guitar amps, period. This version gives you 100 watts of power and two 12-inch speakers for incredible power and tone.
Every possible amp sound you could hope for is covered here, from Fender-type cleans to AC30-esque chime, all the way to Orange crunch sounds and Soldano-inspired leads. Whether you play Delta blues or djent, the Katana can do it all.
Also included is a suite of Boss’ studio-grade effects that include raucous reverbs and dynamic delays aplenty. You can run five of these effects simultaneously, essentially putting a full pedalboard at your disposal. Recording and headphone outs round out this amplifier's immense feature set.
Where the Katana aims to do many things, the Fender Tonemaster Twin Reverb opts to do one thing really well. The Deluxe Reverb is one of the most sought-after sounds in the world of guitar, and now you can get it at a lower cost and a 50% weight reduction.
This amp features all the rich bass and sparkly treble you’d expect from a proper Twin Reverb amp, and when you crank it the tube breakup emulation is uncanny. The spread of the two 12-inch speakers when paired with the onboard reverb and tremolo is delicious.
Power attenuation options mean you can enjoy vintage Fender tube tone at manageable levels, whilst the IR outputs are impeccably voiced. Whether recording, practising or gigging, this amp is one of the best tube amp emulations we’ve ever heard.
Despite the Blackstar Silverline Standard’s small size, it’s got a deceptively loud bark. Featuring six accurate recreations of famous tube amps, no matter which side of the pond you like your guitar tone from, there’s a sound for you here.
With the classic British sounds of EL34 and EL84 tube amps to match the American 6L6 and 6V6 tones, you’ve got everything you could possibly need, and all painstakingly recreated. Don’t let the small speaker size fool you either, this amp has some hefty low-end considering it’s only a 1 x 10”.
The built-in modulation, delay, and reverb effects sound phenomenal whilst USB connectivity allows you to use these great tones in your favourite DAW, great for recording your riffs. If you need to practise quietly there’s a headphone out too.
The Line 6 Catalyst 100 comes from one of the original modelling amp manufacturers, so it’s got serious heritage. With an easy-to-use layout and great quality effects, this powerful amp is great for recording or gigging.
If you know Line 6 you might be surprised to find there’s only one real high gain sound here as the majority of the amp models are in fact clean or clean-ish tones. We found the Boutique setting to be particularly delicious, but there's a huge array of British and American flavoured sounds here.
A full suite of Line 6’s renowned HX effects gives you luscious delays, cavernous reverbs, and shifting modulation effects, giving you plenty of inspiration for new ideas. USB connectivity allows you to deep edit or record straight to your computer.
Read our review of the Line 5 Catalyst 100
Yamaha’s THR30II is the latest iteration of the amp range that spawned a whole new genre, the desktop amp. It’s a combination of great sound and good looks that gives guitar players the option to jam in their living room without upsetting the feng shui.
Utilising something called ‘Virtual Circuit Modelling’, the THR30II gives you a range of classic amp sounds at bedroom volumes. Fender clean tone, Marshall crunch, and high gain Mesa-mayhem, it’s all present and accounted for.
A huge selection of top-quality effects lets you augment your sound, and with five presets to save to you can instantly recall your favourite tones at the push of a button. An internal, rechargeable battery lets you play your guitar anywhere, with a battery life of up to five hours!
Read the review of the Yamaha THR30II
Positive Grid is well known for its BIAS amp plugin that gave guitar players a lifelike tube tone at their desks. So when it announced a real-life amplifier, it wasn’t too surprising to see it get tens of thousands of preorders.
The Spark gives you a range of 30 amp tones to choose from, covering all the classic amp tones you could ever ask for. It also features acoustic and bass guitar models, giving players the option to cover different instruments too.
The Auto Chord option works out the chords for any of your favourite tracks, allowing you to play along to anything with scary accuracy. A USB connection lets you harness the power of these amazing tones in your own recordings too, making this one of the most powerful desktop amps on the market.
Read our review of the Positive Grid Spark 40
The world of modelling amps is a competitive one, and the Mustang range is Fender’s finest foray with an incredible selection of amps and effects that will please even the most discerning of guitar players.
As you might expect, the opening salvo features the omnipresent Twin Reverb sound, but from then on it’s a rollercoaster ride through Orange, Marshall, and Vox emulations as you scroll through a whopping 189 presets.
An FX loop allows you to add your own effects whilst stereo recording outs make this great for the home studio. The included footswitch is great for using the onboard looper, as well as allowing you to switch presets on the fly.
Read our review of the Fender Mustang GTX100
Despite the popularity of modelling amps, Marshall took its time in developing its take on the genre. Thankfully, its patience has paid off because the tones available here are about as close to classic Marshall as you can get.
You’ve got a whole range of vintage Marshall tones here, with the Plexi, JTM45, and JCM800 all making an appearance alongside various others. A few American-clean options plus some acoustic models help counterbalance the British bias.
The Gateway App works really well, allowing you to connect via Bluetooth and deep-edit your sounds. It also lets you jam along to songs, looping sections to really nail your favourite licks. With enough power to gig, this amp is incredibly versatile.
Read our review of the Marshall Code 50
The Vox Valvetronix range of amps has been going for a while now, outlasting many older modelling amps. This is largely due to the Valve Reactor circuit, which uses a real 12AX7 valve to deliver ultra-realistic tones.
As you’d expect, all the classic Vox tones are present here and the notoriously difficult-to-emulate AC30 sound is spot on. There are plenty of other amp models that go from country twang to high gain metal distortion, delivering plenty of versatility.
The built-in effects are all very usable too, with some great overdrive sounds, Brian May’s famous Treble Booster, and some very usable pitch-shifting effects. Vox’s Tone Room software is super easy to use, allowing for easy tweaking to find your perfect sound.
Read our review of the Vox Valvetronix VT40X
This latest iteration of the every-popular Spider series sees Line 6 deliver a huge array of sounds in a tasteful-looking cabinet. With a whopping 100 presets to choose from and over 200 amps, cabinets and effects, you’ll be spoiled for choice with this amp.
The Spider V 30 MKII has all the classic amp models from AC30 to Plexi, accurately modelled with great responsiveness to your picking dynamics. The sound quality from the full-range speaker works exceptionally well at a low volume too.
The app feels really intuitive when editing your patches, as well as allowing you to upload your creations to the Line 6 CustomTone website for others to use. A metronome, looper and selection of drum loops round off the excellent features of this modelling amp.
Best modelling amps: Buying advice
Choosing the best modelling amps
When selecting the best modelling amps you’ll be really spoilt for choice, and it’s this plurality of features that may find you struggling to settle on something. Most modelling amps will have a variety of amp tones, effects, and connectivity options built in, so we’re here to help you narrow things down. When choosing your amp you’ll want to think about three things: practising, recording and gigging.
If you’re just using your amp to practise, you’ll still need a vast array of guitar tones at your disposal, but there’s probably not too much point shelling out on a 100-watt 2 x12 beast as you’ll never really get to use it. Smaller wattage amps are much better for home practice, as you won’t always want to use headphones, and you may even want to start jamming with some friends. If practising and getting better at the guitar is your main goal, then anything up to 30 watts of power will be plenty to get your foot in the door, and prevent your parents, partners or housemates kicking you out of it!
If you’re a gigging player then more power is what you’ll need. Anything from 60 watts up should be more than capable of dealing with small to medium-sized stages, ensuring that both you and your audience can hear your guitar playing clearly. It’s not just power you’ll need either, an amp with an included footswitch will enable you to quickly change your sound on the fly without putting your guitar down, vital to the smooth running of any show. Some of these amps have them included, whereas for others you’ll need to shell out extra so be sure to make a note of that when purchasing.
If you’re wanting a modelling amp for recording, then connectivity is going to be the main factor for you. Many modelling amps come with direct or USB outs, allowing you to send your signal straight to your interface, or even straight to your DAW by using the amp as the interface itself. A lot of modelling amps come with native software that allows you to tweak your settings, something that you’ll need if you’re wanting to put down a variety of tones, layering those guitars to get them sounding as good as your favourite recordings. As well as having their own software built in, some of these amps even come with free DAW software, giving you everything you need to start recording your rocking, so be sure to pay extra attention to the included extras and make sure you get the right rig for your recording.