We all love blasting our favourite amplifier but sometimes it’s just not sensible to do so. Particularly when we’re at home, annoying your family or getting noise complaints from the neighbours isn’t something anybody wants. With the best practice amps, you can get great guitar tones from the comfort of your home, without irritating anyone.
Practice amps have come a long way thanks to some recent advancements in modelling technology. The amount of top-quality amplifiers that are great for home use has increased significantly, and it’s now a super competitive market with classic amp manufacturers like Fender, Marshall, and Vox getting on the act, as well as upstarts like Blackstar, Boss, and Yamaha innovating on tried and tested formulas.
These amps are all relatively low cost because by default, a practice amp should be something that supplements your main rig rather than the star of the show. That doesn’t mean the quality suffers though - there are some all-tube options here for those who can’t live without the real deal.
We've included some in-depth buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to read more then head down there. If you'd like to get straight to the products, then keep scrolling – you're nearly there.
Best practice amps: Our top picks
Our number one choice is the Yamaha THR10II Wireless. Such was its impact when it debuted to the world, that it spawned a whole genre of so-called ‘desktop amps’. Fifteen realistic amp models and onboard effects with Bluetooth and USB connectivity all add up to give you the best practice amp.
It’s compatible with the popular Line 6 GT10 Wireless relay system, and it can even be run on batteries, meaning you can take it anywhere and enjoy up to six hours of playing time. It looks unconventional but don’t let that fool you, it sounds like a proper guitar amplifier. You can get the regular THR10II minus the wireless capability for about 80 bucks cheaper too.
Our second spot goes to the Blackstar HT-1R MKII. Its all-tube tone at neighbour-friendly volumes is sure to please the purists out there, giving you warm tube saturation and impeccable response to your picking dynamics.
Best practice amps: Product guide
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 combo amp 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.
The Positive Grid Spark 40 is one of the most comprehensive practice amps on the market right now. Based around Positive Grid's BIAS Tone Engine modelling technology, there are few tones this amp can't produce.
Altogether, the Spark has 30 amp models and 40 effects onboard - an already impressive feat - but it's when you fire up the accompanying app that things get interesting. Over 10,000 guitar and bass tones are available in the quickly growing tone library, so you can download any tones that take your fancy - and share your own too.
The Spark's smart features - Smart Jam and Auto Chords - are another thing that makes this amp so perfect for practicing. Smart Jam uses the amp and app to learn your playing style and feel, which then translates into a backing track accompaniment with authentic bass and drum tones.
Auto Chords is one of the Spark's most useful features. Choose any song, and the Spark app will display the guitar chords in real time as you play. You can slow the track down and loop sections too, in order to nail your parts.
Read the full Positive Grid Spark 40 review
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.
Coming from a lineage that’s essentially royalty in modelling circles, the Line 6 Catalyst sees one of the innovators of modelling amps move firmly into the future. Taking some cues from the success of the Katana, this powerful amplifier gives you loads of great tube amp tones and studio-quality HX effects.
Despite having made its name with a distinctly high gain slant, surprisingly this amp only features one true high gain tone. The rest are made of clean, nearly clean, and low gain sounds which are handled superbly. The boutique setting in particular sounds phenomenal with its tube-like breakup and excellent dynamic range.
Some seriously high-quality HX effects give you swirling delays and cavernous reverb alongside more esoteric offerings like a guitar synth and modulation. A USB out lets you connect to Line 6’s Catalyst Edit to do some serious tone tweaking as well as allowing you to record your favourite tones straight to your DAW.
Topping many a ‘best of’ list, the Boss Katana MKII 50-watt is not just one of the best practice amps, it’s one of the best modelling amps, period. With a powerful 12-inch speaker and a feature set that leaves other amps feeling sheepish, it’s a great little tool to have at home.
There are five amp sounds on offer, each with their own variation going all the way from pristine clean to high-gain grit. The clean sounds are really inspiring, with everything from Strat-like chime to funk tones available. At the other end of the spectrum, the high-gain sounds are super powerful with plenty of low-end grunt and distortion that never sounds fizzy.
Unlike some of its modelling amp competition, the Boss Katana MKII 50 lets you run five effects simultaneously, meaning you can build your own little pedalboard to go with your favourite amp sound. Combine this with four ‘tone setting’ memories and a recording out and you get yourself one seriously powerful practice tool.
Supro's Delta King 12 is an all-valve combo perfect for those who want a compact practice setup but don't want to sacrifice on tone. With 15 watts being pumped out through a single 12" speaker, the Delta King is in an especially popular and hotly contested amp category - but this Supro lives up to the challenge.
The Delta King 12 is impressively versatile, with a very comfortable amount of clean volume for a practice scenario. The onboard boost turns the Delta King 12 into a killer dirty amp with enough volume for small gigs, and a FAT setting designed with Pigtronix gives another level of dimension to an already great sounding amp.
Available in a tasteful Tweed with black stripes, as well as Black with cream stripes, this Delta King will look great as part of your living room furniture, as well as on stage.
Read the full Supro Delta King 12 review
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
An all-tube, 15 watt, 1x12" combo for under $/£500? Laney's Cub-Super12 is one of the best tube amps available today at this price point.
With three 12AX7's and two EL84's onboard, turning up the Cub-Super 12 is a thoroughly pleasing experience. Cranking the volume on any tube amp is loads of fun, but is often off limits for those with close neighbours or housemates. This Laney, with a 1W mode and onboard boost on offer however, delivers a satisfying amount of boutique-style gain which is suitable for anything up to hard rock.
This amp isn't just for old-school players, either. The Cub-Super12, thanks to its effects loop on the rear panel, takes to pedals well. A footswitchable digital reverb adds some extra life to the tone - and with the spring reverb algorithm coming from Laney's Black Country Customs Secret Path reverb pedal, the tweed vibes are strong here.
Read the full Laney Cub-Super12 review
Fender’s opening gambit in the world of desktop amps takes the formula of its popular Mustang range of modelling amps and shrinks things down to a smaller size. Despite only having two 4-inch speakers, this little amp packs a much heftier punch than you’d expect.
If you’ve ever come across a Fender Mustang amp before then you’ll find the interface and presets very familiar. Despite some serious overuse of the compressor pedal effect, with a little tweaking you can build some great sounds from the 30 preloaded presets. Plus, you get another 30 empty slots to build upon with your own sounds.
It’s an incredibly easy-to-use amplifier that will have you up and running with no need to look at the manual. The LCD display makes it nice and easy to edit your patches whilst the headphone outs and aux input ensure you can get the best out of your practice at home. Fender’s Tone Desktop amp ensures managing your own presets is a breeze.
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.
Read the full Orange Crush 35RT review
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 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.
Best practice amps: Buying advice
When buying the best practice amp, a lot of the considerations should be the same as purchasing any guitar amp. You want great sound, a good price, and versatile connectivity. With a practice amp, you will likely want different tones for different situations, and you may also want to record your ideas from home, so it’s important to ensure the amp you choose has everything you need.
How big should my practice amp be?
It's important, first of all, to think about the size of your amp. It’s a practice amp so presumably, you’ll be using it at home. This means it will need to fit in easily to your existing storage solutions. Desktop amps are a great choice if your home is tight on space, as you can keep them on your desk or pop them away easily on those Swedish-made shelves.
If you're after an amp that sounds big, then speaker size and cabinet size are definitely things you'll need to consider. A larger speaker has better bass and low-end response, and if it's in a larger cabinet, you'll receive more resonance and bass response from that.
If it's going to be out on show all the time, then perhaps finding a tiny amp isn't such an issue - but you might want to consider how it looks for the sake of your home's aesthetic.
Should I get a head or a combo?
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. The sheer convenience of combo amps makes them the easy favourite, but head & cab setups have their place too.
While there are no out-and-out heads in this guide, amps such as the Blackstar Fly 3, Yamaha THR10II and Blackstar HT-1R MKII can all be used to drive an external speaker cabinet if you so wish. This can be super useful if you occasionally jam with friends, but more often than not, home practice doesn’t require the upscale-able features of a head and cab arrangement.
How powerful should my practice amp be?
Realistically for home practice, you won’t need more than 20 watts and even less if it’s a tube amp. There may be times when you need a little extra volume to jam with a friend, but for the most part, you’ll be playing by yourself and won’t want to interrupt those who share your home with you. Some of these amps will drive an external speaker if you really feel like you’re going to need some extra juice.
If you’re going down the valve amp route, then as little as one watt will suffice. With practice-specific valve amps, low power is key. You want to be able to turn up the volume on your valve amp in order to get the best tone, so it’s best if this can be done without blowing your eardrums out.
How much should I spend on a practice amp?
Knowing how much you want to spend on a practice amp is a pretty key factor when looking to purchase one. You’ll have thought hard about the physical size and power output of your new practice amp, but you need to make sure that your dream amp specs are affordable.
Do you want something simple and straightforward like the Blackstar Fly 3 or the Orange Crush 35RT? If so, you’ll be spending less than $/£200 - but getting less in the way of cool features and added extras.
If you want something with added extras, special features or something all-valve, then you’ll need to up your budget closer to the $/£500 mark. Your guitar tone will be better, and you’ll likely have effects or multiple channels to choose from, but you’ll be spending a fair chunk of cash.
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Are tube or solid state amps better?
No amp debate would be complete without the tube vs solid state argument. However, in this situation, solid-state amps are going to take the majority of the plaudits as they give you the same sound regardless of volume. They’re also cheaper, so you’re more likely to see additional features like onboard effects, Bluetooth, and recording outs that will help augment your practice regimen.
That said, more and more tube amps are starting to come with power attenuation options, which allow you to get that cranked tube tone at lower volumes. For tube-tone enthusiasts who can’t do without the real thing, this gives you a great option to use an amp with a similar response to that of the one in your full-size rig.
If you use effects in your regular rig, getting a practice amp with some onboard effects is a no-brainer. Adding reverb, modulation and delay will enhance your practice, inspiring you to write new music that you can then take to the rehearsal space or lay down in the home studio. More and more practice amps come with a full suite of studio-quality effects, so it’s definitely worth checking out the effects list to see if it’s got what you need.
Additionally, connectivity is worth factoring into your elimination process too. USB recording outs will allow you to record your ideas as soon as inspiration strikes, as well as create demos to send to the rest of your band mates. If you’ve already got a pedalboard you use, looking for an amp with an FX Loop will allow you to run your time-based effects into it. This helps to increase the articulation and clarity of your delays and reverbs.
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