There comes a point in every guitarist’s life when they need a decent practice amp. The good news is that there are heaps of them to choose from, and here we have 10 of the best practice amps you can find.
We’ve got amps from hardy backline perennials such as Marshall, Vox and Fender, with some smart new options from Line 6, Yamaha, Boss and more. Somewhere here there is a practice amp that will fit your needs. And your budget too...
These won’t cost the earth and don’t need to be pushing air out of the speaker to sound good. After all, you don’t want the whole street hearing you messing up rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama over and over again. Hey, we’ve all been there.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look and find the best practice amp for you.
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Which are the best practice amps right now?
If you just want to get right to the point, the Line 6 Spider V 30 MkII should be somewhere near the top of your wishlist. The new and improved Spider V MkII series sees Line 6 roll out a host of newly designed presets and clever features such as Classic Speaker or Full-Range Speaker Mode, which really lets you workshop your tone. There are heaps of convincing amp models, good onboard effects, plus drum loops, a metronome and tuner to aid practice. It’s ideal.
Meanwhile, the Yamaha THR10II Wireless is a wireless desktop amp, with 15 realistic valve amp models at the touch of a dial, onboard effects, and Bluetooth and USB connectivity. This update to Yamaha’s THR10II is exceptional. Compatible with a Line 6 GT10 Relay guitar wireless system and able to be run on batteries, this could be a take-anywhere option. It sounds and looks great. Unconventional, maybe, but perfect for practice. The regular THR10II is identical minus the wireless capability, and retails for about 80 bucks cheaper.
Best practice amps: buying advice
So, let’s talk about what makes a great practice amp. First off, you want it to be compact, a portable little thing you can cart from room to room, maybe even take to the office or garden. Secondly, it has got to sound good at low volume.
This is crucial. Practice amps are an essential piece of gear for beginners, but they are similarly vital for any guitarist who plays at home and wants to remain on speaking terms with their neighbour, spouse or dog.
Many practice amps will take the form of a combo, that is a guitar amp both housed in the same cabinet as the speaker – an all-in-one solution – but guitar amplifiers are evolving all the time and the practice amp is no different.
The emergence of the desktop amp offers a potentially more attractive practice option. Amps such as Yamaha’s pioneering THR and Vox’s Adio offer credible practice options in different forms, elongating the design and incorporating home hi-fi styling and stereo speakers into the design.
These desktop amps fit the bill in terms of size and portability, and typically come loaded with a variety of onboard amp modelling technology, so you can switch between amp voicings and chase new tones on the fly, and many come with a suite of effects, too. Playing around with effects can be an invaluable experience for a beginner.
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No matter how experienced you might be on the guitar, the depth of tone you get from these desktop amps is impressive. It is amazing what a pair of 3” speakers can achieve.
Although they are practice amps in the sense that they are too small to gig, they nonetheless might feature a suite of connectivity features to facilitate home recording. Now that is one way to fast-track improvement; there is nothing quite so chastening as hearing your playing on tape. It’s like listening to a recording of your voice, except with the guitar you can do something about it and make you sound better.
Other features to look out for are headphone outputs – crucial for late-night silent practice – and the ability to store preset tones on your amp. We’ve got combos and desktop practice amps that let you do just that. We even have a headphone amp option, the Boss Waza-Air, that couldn’t be more suited to silent practice – nor more portable.
We are also looking for amplifiers that are easy to use, that no matter how many features are packed in there, the controls are intuitive. That makes for more time with the guitar in hand than the manual. No matter how accomplished, we guitarists favour simple pleasures.
Not all of our best practice amp picks will have onboard effects or modelling; some have more simple layouts, but they all have a tone that’s bigger than their size. They’ll have a tone that’ll keep you playing, and keep you woodshedding. That’s the whole idea of these great little amps.
The best practice amps available today
Line 6 refreshed its Spider V lineup in November 2019 and brought in a range of improvements. The presets were new and improved, with a host of presets designed by high-profile players including Devin Townsend, Bill Kelliher and Jeff Loomis.
The amp modelling tones were retooled, sounding that little bit more… well, more amp-like, with a more realistic response to your playing. Finding a new tone to practise in is a cinch, and the colour-coded control panel is easy to navigate. There, you will find a 3-band EQ, with controls for volume and drive, master volume, and an LED display with controls for accessing your presets.
But perhaps the coolest improvement was the full-range speaker system, where you can choose Classic Speaker mode and combine it with a cab sim for an authentic “amp” experience, or go full-range and listen back to your tone in high-fidelity as you might through a studio monitor, or plug in an acoustic, or play mp3s. There is a depth and shape to the MkII’s tone, not bad for an eight-inch speaker and tweeter, plus there is the all-important onboard tuner, plus a metronome and drum to hone your timing. The effects are pretty good, too.
Yamaha’s THR series is a modern classic in household guitar amplification, a step-change for the guitar amp. Designed to sit on your desktop or table, or up on the bookshelf, wherever, the THR blends in as a piece of home audio equipment.
It can even play music, with its stereo 3” speaker setup ideal for streaming Live After Death via Bluetooth while you cook your spaghetti bolognese. But plug your guitar cable into it and there is no doubting that this is a guitar amp of considerable potential, with a wealth of awesome amp tones that sound great at any volume.
Yamaha’s Virtual Circuit Modelling tech does an excellent job of mimicking valve-amp response. On this latest edition of the THR, there are 15 valve amp models, with three apiece for bass guitar and electro-acoustics. This is one versatile practice tool.
The control panel is reassuringly familiar. You can assign up to five favourite tone settings to a preset button. Amp models are accessed via digital rotary switch and the guitar/audio volume controls work well in playing along to your favourite songs. What’s more, there is full wireless capability. Get a Line 6 G10 Relay and you can enjoy zero cables. Take it to the park. Hey, it’s not just a modern classic household amp. It’s a modern classic anywhere amp.
Fender’s entry-level digital modelling amp is a no-brainer for those looking for a fuss-free, wallet-friendly practice amp with a lot more going on under the hood than its understated design might suggest.
Fender describes the amp tones offered here as the “greatest hits” of guitar tones. You have got 20 amp models to choose from, with 25 effects, including modulation, filters, pitch-shifting, delay and reverbs. When we think Fender we think sparkling, spanky cleans and red-hot sizzle as the gain is dialled up; the LT25 has got all that, but it can do high gain, too.
With 50 presets available, 30 preloaded from the factory, you can merrily press down the encoder and save or scrub as you wish, you can set the LT25 up how you like it. There is a USB connection for recording your playing, a guitar tuner to keep you honest, and a headphones output for silent practice. That’s all you need.
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If the Fly 3 were any cheaper Blackstar would be paying you to take it. It’s good to know you can still get a bargain now and then. But just because the Fly 3 is super-cheap, and, let’s face it, tiny, it still packs a wallop when you crank it up.
Powered by a 6.5V DC power supply or a half-dozen AA batteries, the Fly 3 can be thrown in a briefcase and taken wherever you are taking your guitar. Or leave your guitar behind and play some tunes when you get to the beach through the 1/8” auxiliary input; it’s up to you.
We love Blackstar’s ISF feature at the best of times, which is an all-in-one global EQ control that sets your amp somewhere between “British,” with the midrange all punchy, or “American,” which has a little more bottom and top to it a la classic Fender amps.
Read the full Blackstar Fly 3 review
When you have made as many classic guitar amplifiers as Marshall it makes sense to take those tones and put them to good use. This is another example of the “greatest hits” approach; why model other people’s amplifiers when you can have preamp models of the JCM800, Bluesbreaker Plexi, and Silver Jubilee. Just reading that should get fans of ‘80s metal, Eric Clapton and Slash excited already.
But wait: there’s more. There are four power amp models, too, allowing you to choose a tone that’s maybe a little more American, with a 6L6-esque power amp response, or traditionally British with the EL34s. The tweaking is intuitive and it’s fun, and for beginners it is a great way of sampling these tones which would otherwise be too costly, or too loud to play indoors.
There are onboard effects, speaker cab sims that allow you to imitate a tight and boxy 1x12 combo tone or a full-on 4x12, and there is a headphones out for silent practice or recording, and aux-in for jamming along. You can also control it remotely via USB or Bluetooth.
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The Orange Crush 35RT is a small-but-perfectly formed example of clever design and a fine amp manufacturer can do with a transistor-based 1x10 combo. Here we don’t have the bells and whistles of effects and amp modelling, but we do have a lovely sense of space thanks to an excellent digital reverb, and a truly formidable overdriven voice that is ideal for the rockers out there.
Rock is Orange’s bread and butter but the cleans are pretty sweet, too (thanks, reverb). The 4-stage preamp does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to tone, and we love that Orange has integrated its CabSim circuit to the headphones and line out, making silent practice or recording that bit easier.
The build is exceptional, the layout easy to use, with a 3-band EQ offering plenty of control over your tone. And with fully buffered effects loop, the 35RT makes an excellent pedal platform. No onboard effects can be a negative, sure, but workshopping your own signal path with stompboxes is one of the joys of electric guitar, and this little practice combo makes an excellent base camp for such tonal expeditions.
Welcome to the other side of the looking glass, folks, where the idea of the guitar amplifier is taken to its logical conclusion and finds itself magicked into a pair of technologically advanced headphones. What Boss have done here is quite remarkable, and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but those who are looking for a silent practice option with an uncannily tactile and deep range of tones will love the Waza-Air.
It’s basically Boss’s much-loved Katana amp in a set of headphones. You get a wireless adaptor, connect your phone to the bundled Tone Studio app and get going. There is lots to explore.
Once upon a time, playing through headphones was paradoxically hellish, both dull and lifeless yet harsh and too direct. The Waza-Air is nothing like that, with a rich array of tones that sound… Well, they just have that ambience about them, depth.
The Waza-Air does not come cheap but say you’ve got a much-loved valve combo but you can’t crank it in the house, at least not at all hours – this is the perfect solution. There are over 50 effects, Bluetooth audio playback, negligible latency, and the cans look cool and are super-comfortable. Silent practice just got, err, sexy.
We are all accustomed to Vox’s suite of all-valve combos having enough volume to level a city block, but you cannot accuse the British amp manufacturer of trading on past glories when you take receipt of this diamond-grilled desktop amp.
Sure, it looks kind of like a jewellery case, but you won’t find a dancing ballerina under the hood; no, just a whole lot of smart digital processing technology that endows the Adio Air GT with 11 distinct amp voices, allowing you to park yourself anywhere on the tone spectrum between gin-clear and crystal cleans to high-gain chug. Sure, we hear you; how can two 3” speakers chug? Well, as with the THR10II, the quality and depth of sound really is impressive.
With battery power, it’s ideal for taking down to the beach or to the street for some busking. Again, like the Yamaha it is a desktop amp that’s tooled for multi-functionality, listening to music, portability, and so forth. But we think it is a truly superlative practice tool, that sounds great at low volumes and has enough range to give young players invaluable experience when trying to learn different guitar styles.Oh, and we know and love Vox for the AC30 chime and hot grit, well, the Adio Air GT does a more than capable job of that, too.
The HT-1R has always been an awesome option for those looking for a domesticated valve amp combo, but since it was revamped by Blackstar, with revoiced clean and overdrive channels, a makeover with white chicken-head controls, it has never sounded or looked better.
Why choose the HT-1R over all these other more digitally advanced rivals? Well, the answer lies in its tone, not to mention its ease of use. The ISF feature (as seen above on the Fly 3) offers just enough control over your EQ to give you options, while the touch-sensitive response of a valve amp feels just that bit more authentic.
We love the cleans. The digital reverb is not going to win awards but it is more than capable of adding a bit of space to your tone. There’s a surprising amount of volume here, but crucially you can have this spitting out plenty of hot overdriven tone without taking the roof off.
The CUBE-10GX applies Roland’s COSM amp modelling technology to effectively create a three-channel practice combo, throwing in a handful of effects under a single control to make for a simple yet surprisingly tweakable performance.
Really, it could not be easier. There are three amp types, each changed by a switch: Clean, Crunch, and Lead. There is a 3-band EQ for sculpting your tone. Turn the effects control and you cycle through chorus, delay then reverb, terminating at a nice and splashy spring reverb setting.
The construction is rugged. The projection out of the 8” speaker will raise eyebrows, too. It’ll fill the room. There’s a reason why everyone who owns one of these loves it. Oh, and if you are not really feeling the preloaded COSM amp models, you can swap them out with the accompanying CUBE KIT iOS/Android app.