Best modelling amps 2024: Variety is the spice of life with these awesome amplifiers

Boss Katana, Fender Tone Master, Yamaha THR, and Blackstar Silverline modelling amps on an orange background
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re the type of guitar player who wants every available tone and all the effects, then you should have a look at the best modelling amps if you want to have your cake and eat it. These powerhouse guitar amps will enable you to dial in any tone you like, from the warm saturation of classic rock right through to the tight high gain of modern metal.

The modern modelling amp is one of the most versatile money can buy. They work well as practice amps for home use, many feature direct or USB outs for recording, and there are plenty with the power to play gigs. A great modelling amp can take you from your very first chords right through to your first show, all the while providing great sound and usability.

Whether you’re looking for your first amp or something that you can practice at home with in lieu of your loud tube monster, we’ve selected the very best of the bunch to choose from. If you’re new to modelling amps, then be sure to check out our buying advice section. If you just want to get to the good stuff, then keep scrolling to see our top picks. 

Best modelling amps: MusicRadar’s Choice

It’s fast becoming a modern classic and tops many a ‘best of’ list, we’re talking about the Boss Katana 100 MKII of course. It’s got fantastic amp tones that cover everything from pristine clean to high gain metal, as well as a suite of Boss’ top-quality effects built-in, making it an amp and pedalboard all in one.

Looking for a traditional amp tone in a modelling format? Then the Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb will no doubt satiate your lust for tube tone. It’s a classic amplifier that’s been on a diet, removing its characteristic back-breaking weight whilst retaining all of the glorious guitar tones.

Best modelling amps: Product guide

Best modelling amps: Boss Katana 100/212 MkII

(Image credit: Boss)

1. Boss Katana 100/212 MkII

The most versatile and user-friendly modelling amp money can buy

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 100W, switchable to 50W, 0.5W
Speakers: 2 x 12”
Channels: 4
Effects: Booster, Mod, FX, Delay, and Reverb each with 3 variations
Weight: 19.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
Huge tone selection
+
Plenty of power for gigging

Reasons to avoid

-
No included footswitch
-
Not much at this price!

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.

Best modelling amps: Fender Tonemaster Twin Reverb

(Image credit: Fender)

2. Fender Tonemaster Twin Reverb

Glorious tube amp tone without the visit to the chiropractor

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 200W
Speakers: 2 x 12”
Channels: 2
Effects: Reverb, Tremolo
Weight: 15kg

Reasons to buy

+
Accurate Fender tube tone
+
Incredibly lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Only does one sound
-
No headphone out

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.

Best modelling amps: Blackstar Silverline Standard

(Image credit: Blackstar)

3. Blackstar Silverline Standard

Blackstar’s modelling amp offers boutique styling with realistic tube tones to match

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 20W
Speakers: 1 x 10”
Channels: 4
Effects: Delay, Modulation, Reverb
Weight: 11kg

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible value
+
Accurate amp tones

Reasons to avoid

-
Only for small gigs
-
Footswitch sold separately

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.

Best modelling amps: Line 6 Catalyst 100

(Image credit: Line 6)

4. Line 6 Catalyst 100

The OG of modelling amps delivers a versatile solution for modern players

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 100W, switchable to 50W, 0.5W
Speakers: 1 x 12”
Channels: 2
Effects: 18
Weight: 11kg

Reasons to buy

+
High-quality effects
+
Great for home or gigs

Reasons to avoid

-
Footswitch is extra
-
Gets ‘woofy’ at higher volumes

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 6 Catalyst 100 

Best modelling amps: Yamaha THR30II

(Image credit: Yamaha)

5. Yamaha THR30II

A great sounding modelling amp that helps you save on space

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 30W, 15W on battery power
Speakers: 2 x 3.5”
Channels: 5
Effects: 11
Weight: 4.3kg

Reasons to buy

+
Compact footprint
+
Awesome amp sounds

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively pricey
-
No effects loop

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

Best modelling amps: Positive Grid Spark 40

(Image credit: Positive Grid)

6. Positive Grid Spark 40

A futuristic desktop amp with an incredible range of tones

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 40W
Speakers: 2 x 4”
Channels: 1
Effects: 40
Weight: 5.2kg

Reasons to buy

+
Convincing tube tones
+
Outstanding value

Reasons to avoid

-
Could be intimidating for beginners
-
Not enough power for gigging

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

Best modelling amps: Fender Mustang GTX100

(Image credit: Fender)

7. Fender Mustang GTX100

A lightweight yet loud combo with an excellent tone selection

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 100W
Speakers: 1 x 12”
Channels: 1
Effects: 73
Weight: 10kg

Reasons to buy

+
Convincing amp emulations
+
Powerful enough for gigging

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly awkward interface
-
Needs an app for deep editing

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

Best modelling amps: Marshall Code 50

(Image credit: Marshall)

8. Marshall Code 50

Classic Marshall amp tones for the modern age

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 50W
Speakers: 1 x 12”
Channels: 1
Effects: 24
Weight: 13kg

Reasons to buy

+
Accurate amp tones
+
Intuitive app

Reasons to avoid

-
Emphasis on Marshall tones
-
Extra for footswitch

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

Best modelling amps: Vox Valvetronix VT40X

(Image credit: Vox)

9. Vox Valvetronix VT40X

A classic modelling amp that can still hang with the kids

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 40W
Speakers: 1 x 10”
Channels: 1
Effects: 12
Weight: 9.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Reacts like the real thing
+
Great editing app

Reasons to avoid

-
Footswitch costs extra
-
Some may find it too complicated

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

Best modelling amps: Line 6 Spider V 30 MKII

(Image credit: Line 6)

10. Line 6 Spider V 30 MKII

A playable and, more importantly, fun modelling amplifier

Specifications

Type: Modelling combo
Output: 30W
Speakers: 1 x 8”
Channels: 1
Effects: 101
Weight: 8.3kg

Reasons to buy

+
Great sound selection
+
Top-notch effects

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the loudest
-
Small display

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

Close up of Blackstar Silverline

(Image credit: Future)

You'll be really spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting the best modelling amps and the myriad features of each may find you struggling to settle on the perfect amp for you. Here, we've answered some of the most common questions when it comes to modelling amps, to further your own knowledge and help you make an informed decision.

How do modelling amps work?

The purpose of a modelling amp is to replicate the signature sound of some of the world’s most famous, usually valve-powered, guitar amps. Modelling amps replicate the complex clipping and bias-shifting sounds of a tube amp through the use of digital signal processing or DSP. DSP is a conversion process that learns the sound of an amp and converts it into binary signals using some incredibly complicated algorithms. 

In much the same way a good reverb pedal simulates a physical space for your guitar tone to occupy, a modelling amp simulates the physical way a tube or solid-state amplifier affects your tone to replicate the sound. The first attempts to do this were well off the mark, but the modern modelling amp is scarily close to the real deal nowadays, and with none of the trade-offs in terms of reliability and weight of a proper tube amp, it seems only a matter of time before they are indistinguishable from the real thing. 

Are modelling amps good for gigs?

A lot of guitarists and even some professional players are now using modelling amps and floor modelers on tour. Whilst most guitarists would prefer to record with a proper tube amp, for playing live shows the advantage of modelling amps means they are often preferred to their valve counterparts. Modelling amps are less likely to fail, you won’t need to replace tubes, they don’t weigh as much, and in the unlikely event that there is a failure, they’re usually much cheaper to replace.

The idea that you need a lot of power to play gigs is pretty outdated, as even small venues mic up amplifiers nowadays. It’s far more convenient for the sound engineer to have complete control over all the levels, and stops pesky guitarists from cheekily turning up their amplifiers and drowning out the rest of the band. You’ll still want a decent amount of power in the rare case that a venue doesn’t have it’s own microphones, but we’d say anything over 50 watts will be plenty to play a gig. 

Control panel of a Boss Katana modelling amp

(Image credit: Future)

Do modelling amps work well with pedals?

As a modelling amp simulates a valve amp, they do work well with pedals. You’ll need to find the right setting, but any modelling amp that simulates a great pedal platform amplifier should respond in the same way. Amps for pedals are typically clean channel amps that provide a great base tone to build your sound upon, so any model based on a classic Fender or Orange clean channel, or the classic Roland Jazz Chorus solid state amp should respond similarly to the real thing. 

What’s the difference between a modelling amp and a solid-state amp?

There’s a bit of blurring between the terms modelling amp and solid-state amp. To understand the differences between the two, we need to go back to the start with the trusty tube amp. In a tube amp, vacuum tubes are used in both the preamp and power amp sections to boost your signal. When more signal is sent to the amp via the gain or volume knobs, the tubes will be pushed harder and more electrons will flow through the tubes, resulting in harmonic distortion.

Tube amps also require a transformer to help drive the speaker. In a solid-state amp, these tubes are replaced with electronic transistors that create the harmonic distortion of a driven amp. The way the transistors work means that they don’t have to be driven as hard to generate the same amount of distortion, but they don’t quite have the same richness of tone. Finally, in modelling amps, digital processors are used to imitate the function and response of tubes using digital signal processing. 

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Matt McCracken
Junior Deals Writer

Matt is a Junior Deals Writer at Guitar World and has been playing guitar as his main instrument for well over 20 years. He also plays drums, bass, and keys – producing out of his home studio in Manchester, UK. He has previously worked for Dawsons Music, Northwest Guitars, and freelanced for various magazines and blogs, writing reviews, how-to's, and features. When he's not downloading the latest VSTs or justifying yet another guitar pedal purchase, you'll find him making a racket with Northern noise hounds JACKALS.