Best Practice Amps for Guitar

By: Dan Kopilovic
Posted under: Gear Guide

Finding the best guitar amp for practicing can be overwhelming. There are dozens of different mainstream brands to choose from. On top of that, each one of them has many different models, from solid-stage, to tube, to modeling amps.

The amps that you’ll read about below are, by and large, entry-level models. Considering that most of you are looking for something to start out with, we set this as our main criteria. If you want a more expensive, premium amp, it would be smarter to go down to a store and try them out yourself. This also means that they are not tube amps, as those come at a hefty price.

Aside from that, we focused on sound quality and features. You can’t expect amazing sound at this price, but these should be good enough. Also, a practice amp should come with extra features. These include built-in effects, headphone jack, tuners, etc.

Lastly, the main focus is on giving you the best home guitar amp. That is an amp doesn’t take much space and can be hidden away when not in use. But, it’s also an amp that can provide you with all you need for practice

* The amps are listed from most expensive to cheapest.

What are the best guitar amps for home use?

BOSS Katana

Best Premium Practice Amp

Boss Katana

Boss Katana is one of those amps that’s been featured everywhere lately. Mostly because Boss did a heavy marketing campaign, and sponsored popular YouTubers to review the amp.

The amp is very similar to the Fender Mustang, except that it’s a little bit more robust – like a serious piece of equipment. Regarding features, there are four main things to talk about.

The first is the amp modeling, which Boss calls “Amp Types”. This is basically the same exact thing that you have on most modular amps, and it’s supposed to emulate some “iconic” amp sounds. You get to choose between five sounds, acoustic, clean, crunch, lead, and brown. On top of this, each of these sounds has an additional variation (toggled on and off with the small “Variation” button), so that’s 10 different amp voicings in total.

The second is the effects. On the amp itself, the effects are separated into the Booster, Mod, FX, Delay, and Reverb section (each has its own knob). The Booster effects are your overdrive and distortion effects, mod/FX are things like Chorus and Flanger, and the Delay and Reverb are exactly what they say they are. By default, each of these comes with three variations. So thee different Booster sounds, three Delays, etc.

But, if you download the BOSS Tone Studio software, and connect the amp to your computer via USB, you get access to over 60 effects. So, let’s say you don’t like one of the Delays included by default, you can just replace it with one of 5 different ones available in the Tone Studio.

Boss Katana’s Controls

The third notable feature is the ability to use all four effects at the same time. This is made possible by the “Channel” button on the far right of the control panel. Basically, a channel is a “blank slate” so to say, to which you add your own effects and sounds. The cool thing is, you can then memorize this custom sound that you’ve made, and use whenever you want.

So let’s say you’re the only guitarist in your band. You have to play the intro and chorus sections clean, and then go into full blast mode when it’s time to solo. On the Katana, you can pre-program both of those sounds, and assign them to different channels. With the addition of a pedal (which you admittedly have to buy separately), you can then toggle between them with ease.

Lastly, you have to decide which Katana is right for you.

The 50W variant is perfect for bedroom practice, where you will mostly control everything with your hand. But, you should opt for the 100W (or better) variant if you plan to play with a band. The more expensive version of the amp obviously has more power, but also comes with more Channels for storing presets (8 vs 4 on the 50W version). Most importantly, the cheaper version does not have the GA-FC Jack input. This means you can use the GA-FC (which is a foot pedal for switching between channels) only on the more expansive Katanas.

Boss Katana Practice amp for Guitar

BOSS Katana

A bit pricy but still affordable for most.

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Fender Mustang LT

Best budget practice amp with effects

Fender Mustang LT25

Fender Mustang is a solid stage modeling amp, and it has been on the market for quite a while. In fact, the first time we published this list back in 2016, we featured the Mustang on it. Albeit, it was the old version which was a little less refined.

The modern Mustang model is branded as “LT”, and it comes in two different versions – LT25 and LT50. As the name suggests these numbers mark the variants with different wattages, 25W and 50W. The main physical difference between these is the speaker – 25W comes with an 8″ and the 50W comes with a 12″ speaker. This difference is noticeable, but so is the price. You’ll have to pay 40% more for the larger, more powerful variant. For most people, this is not worth it, especially if you plan to use it just for practice.

As for features, the Mustang LT comes with presets, built-in effects, tuner, and amp modeling. The effects include everything you’d need for practice and experimentation. You have chorus, delay, distortion, compression, and reverb – just to name a few. Also, the amp modeling feature allows you to get some unique tones by emulating Fender’s iconic guitar amps such as the ’57 Champ and 1965 Fender Twin Reverb.

Fender Mustang LT25’s controls.

You also get some built-in presets, which is Fender basically pre-programming some cool sounds for you. A presets usually consists of one of the amp modeling sounds paired with an effect. The presets are all pretty self-explanatory, as Fender labeled them descriptively – VINTAGE TREMOLO, 60S FUZZ, DREAMY, etc. You have also slots reserved to program and save your own presets.

Lastly, there’s a USB port through which you can connect the amp to your computer. This allows you to record directly using software of your choice. You can download and use Fender’s Tone app for PC and MAC, which adds firmware updates and some additional presets functionality.

Fender Mustang LT modeling amp

Fender Mustang LT

Average price for a good amp.

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Orange Crush 20RT

Best Simple Great Sounding Guitar Amp

Most of the manufacturers nowadays rely on packing features into their amps, going for the all-in-one approach. But, there are quite a few amps and companies that go for quality over quantity in that sense. The Orange Crush 20RT is simple in the sense that it only has the most basic effects and features. But, below the surface, there is a lot more going on.

As far as the effects, you only get to play with the reverb. It’s one of the most useful effects to have, but you’re limited to only that.

The inputs and controls are basic as well. You have headphones and guitar cable jacks, and aux input. There’s a toggle to go from clean to the dirty channel (also foot-switchable), separate volume controls for each channel, and a dedicated gain knob. A feature worth mentioning is the built-in tuner, which can is on and off with a dedicated switch.

The sound quality is definitely the selling point of this amp. The clean channel actually sounds good, without the need to point out “for such a small amp”. It sounds amazing – even when compared to some of the much more premium amps out there. The dirty channel is just as good, and playing around with the gain knob you can adjust the sound for different styles from light blues to heavy metal.

This is a perfect amp for anyone who wants a simple, powerful sound, and values quality over versatility. Orange focuses on one thing – sounding as good as possible for this price and size, and it doesn’t confuse itself by trying to do everything at once. This is a true no-nonsense, old-school guitar amp, and that in itself should give you an idea of whether it’s right for you or not.

Orange Crush 20RT

Orange Crush 20RT

Average price for a good amp.

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Fender Frontman 10G

Best Cheap Amp for home practice

Fender Frontman 10G

For a lot the people, $100 seems to be the amount they are fine spending on their first amp. Honestly, that amount will not get you very far in the amplifier world. But if the budget is tight, and you’re willing to compromise, the Frontman 10G could be a good choice.

Fender Frontman has to be one of the most popular amps in the $100 range. It’s the one you’d end up with you asked an average guitar shop clerk for a recommendation. It’s one of the simplest amps out there, and thus it’s very easy to recommend to someone who is starting out.

The Fender Frontman has 10W of power and a single 6″ Fender “Special Design” speaker. The amp measures 5.8 x 10.2 x 11 inches and weighs 8.5 pounds. For its compact size, it still manages to look cool and gives the impression of a well-built amp.

Controls are pretty much straightforward. You get your volume, bass, and treble knobs plus a knob that controls the gain. This knob only functions when the amp is in overdrive mode, and it allows you to decide how “dirty” you want your guitar to sound. The amp has inputs for Aux and Headphones (regular 3.5mm jack), as well as your regular 1/4″ guitar jack input.

We’d say that this amp is best suited for those of you who are picking up the guitar for the first time. The amp is simple and easy to use and requires no previous knowledge or experience when it comes to guitar gear. Due to the lack of any effects, this isn’t the best amp overall, but it’s good enough for beginners.

Fender Mustang LT modeling amp

Fender Frontman 10G

About as cheap as you can expect to get.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are mini amps any good?

Usually, the general advice is to not buy amps will less than 10W of power. These include almost any amp labeled as “mini”. Although they may look cool, in the long run, these amps will disappoint you. They are only usable in very specific scenarios and the sound quality is almost without exception terrible. If it looks like a toy, it will sound and feel like a toy.

Mini amps like the Marshall MS-2 are cool, but probably best avoided. In the long term, they are not worth it.

There are also amps in a form of headphones, and microamps like the Fender Mustang Micro. These are really just good if you travel a lot and want something portable. They can only be your second or third amp, but will never replace your main amp.

What are the most popular guitar amp brands?

The two most popular brands of amps are Marshall and Fender. However, this popularity stemmed from their iconic vintage models that came out in the 60s when Rock music was exploding in popularity. This popularity and respectability don’t necessarily translate to today. Modern amps are easier to make due to the advances in technology. This means that any remotely serious company can produce an amp comparable in quality to the best amp out there. We’re strictly talking about modern solid-state amps here.

Famous guitar players like John Frusciante, are often seen using stacks of Marshall or Fender amps.

So, you should definitely not buy an amp based solely on the brand. There are a ton of great amp brands out there, and

Is an amp with Effects better than an amp without any?

If we’re talking strictly about practice amps, built-in effects are great to have. Because you really don’t want a huge pedalboard with dozen of pedals in your room. It takes space, and it’s unpractical. So for those of us who want practicality and simplicity, an amp with effects is the way to go.

But, if you’re thinking long-term, and one day you want to perform in front of the audience, pedals are worth investing in. In that case, buy a simple amp like the Orange Crush and start building your pedalboard pedal by pedal. You can easily upgrade the amp later on, but the pedals are yours forever.

Pedals can take a lot of space and be a big hassle to set up. But, in the long-term, there’s no way around them. Photo by: Nenad Stojkovic

So it’s really on you to decide what sounds like a better option. The best case would be to have both – a practice amp, and the main setup with a power amp and a pedalboard. But, not everyone can afford that of course.

How much money should I spend on an amp?

If you’re a beginner or play just as a hobby, there’s no reason to spend more than $500 on an amp. If you get more serious, it’s easy to sell your amp and buy something professional, but do the process in steps. Start small, develop a sense of what you like and what you want in an amp, and build on from there.

When you’re buying your first amp and guitar, there’s always a dilemma concerning whether you should spend more money on the former or the latter. As a general rule, since this is your first guitar gear, you’ll probably replace both at some point. But, you’re probably more likely to replace the guitar first, so keep that in mind. It’s a good idea to invest more in your first amp, so it serves you longer.

What is the best guitar amps for beginners?

It’s simple, the best guitar amp for a beginner is an amp that is affordable, that sounds decent enough, and an amp that you’ll not get bored of. Let’s break that down.

It should be affordable because you really don’t want to spend too much money on something that you don’t know for sure will hold your interest long-term. We all start hobbies left and right, but not all of those hobbies develop into something more serious. All the amps listed here are affordable, and there’s a lot of overlap between a practice amp and a beginner amp. Both serve almost the same purpose. If you’re a beginner and you buy any of those listed here, they’ll do you good.

Second, it’s obvious that the amp should sound decent if you want to avoid beginner frustration. It’s sucks when you’re listening to a song, trying to play along with it, but your amp sounds just terrible. Some of that will be due to you personally not having enough skill yet. But it’s important to eliminate the amp being the culprit, so at least you can focus on practicing and sounding better.

Third, which kind of connects to the second point, you should buy an amp that’s good for at least a few years. This means it should sound good, but it should also have some extra features. It’s really cool when you’re a beginner and you start exploring effects, what they do, and how to use them. Therefore, buy an amp with built-in effects. You will not regret it.

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This page is part of GroundGuitar’s Official Gear Guide

Reviews, gear recommendations.