Before we start, we'd like to tell you that we know. We know that you dream about playing through endless Marshall stacks rather than any of the best practice amps – but a good practice amp is a crucially important and underrated piece of gear. They're vital to your progression as a player.
The feeling of playing through a cranked tube amp is one that we all wish to experience, but as we all know, we don't need that kind of volume for home practice - and we could do without the noise complaints, too. Practice amps, simply put, can enable you to practice your guitar without worrying about the noise levels.
Unlike other guitar amps, including budget amps, the best practice amps don't have to be large, they don't need a myriad of features, and best of all, they don't have to be costly.
We've included some expert buying advice from our team of experts at the bottom of this guide, so if you'd like to read it, click the link. If you'd rather get to the products, keep scrolling.
Best practice amps: Guitar World’s choice
In our opinion the best practice amp needs to be relatively small, it needs to be simple to operate and, most importantly, it needs to sound amazing. It’s these three boxes that need to be ticked, for us.
Our favorite practice amp on this list is the Yamaha THR30II Wireless (opens in new tab). Granted, it doesn't look quite as pretty as the other practice amps on this list, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for wholeheartedly in tone and functionality. You've got 15 amp tones at your disposal, as well as loads of effects and Bluetooth connectivity.
Alternatively, the Blackstar Fly 3 (opens in new tab) makes for an impressively powerful battery-powered practice amp that should be taken seriously . The Fly 3 offers clean and overdriven channels, and when it costs less than most pedals, it really is a no-brainer to pick one up.
Best practice amps: Product guide & reviews
Although the Yamaha THR30II doesn’t look an awful lot like a guitar amplifier, that’s kind of the whole idea. It can sit anywhere in the home due to its ‘home-audio’ look - keeping guitarists and non-guitarists happy all the same. The latter can even use the THR30II to stream audio via Bluetooth.
The guitarists, however, are in for a treat, as we found this offering from Yamaha to be a serious piece of kit. With 15 amp tones courtesy of Yamaha’s Virtual Circuitry Modeling, reverb and delay effects and natural-sounding onboard modulation, there is a whole lotta tone here in this killer modeling amp.
The THR30II even includes a pair of 1/4" line outputs, which make it a great option for home recording, and an all round versatile piece of gear. Yeah, it’s not the prettiest amp in the world, but it surely makes up for it with what it can do.
Read the full Yamaha THR30II Wireless review
As the smallest amp on this list, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Blackstar Fly 3 is little more than a toy. If you’ve ever seen one up close, you’ll know exactly how small they are. Yet plug into one, and you’ll soon realize this little amp is almost the perfect practice amp.
Battery operated, small enough to pack into a backpack, yet packed with enough features to make it useful, the Fly 3 is a great option as a dedicated practice amp.
We particularly liked the Infinite Shape Feature, taken from some of Blackstar’s better known ‘big’ amps, which gives the user control over the EQ of a given tone.
We also liked the tape delay effect, which nicely rounded out our sound to make it less thin. Pair a couple of them together in stereo and you’ve got yourself a fun little practice setup.
If you're familiar with amp and effects manufacturers, you'll know all about Line 6. Famous for its Spider and POD amps, and more recently its Helix and HX floorboards, Line 6 has upped the ante in the amp-modeling game and in turn, created some of the most highly sought after products on the market.
The Catalyst series offers a more simplistic, traditional take on the ever-popular modeling amp, reminiscent of the Boss Katana series. The Catalyst's amp tones sound spectacular – which is all down to the HX technology that this amp borrows from the Helix range. There are six separate amp models which span from super clean to ultra-dirty, which makes the Catalyst an impressively versatile piece of kit. The 18 other effects, as well as six separate types of reverb, help to bring these tones to life even further – and for the money, the amount of choice you have is incredible.
Granted, 100 watts is a lot of power – but when it comes to a digital modeling amp, you needn't worry. Seeing as there are no tubes in your amp, your tones won't change a bit when you take the master volume down. There's also an output power selector on the panel which lets you select either half power or 0.5W, as well as a mute option for when you want to record – which can be done using the Catalyst's USB 'B' connector. This also enables editing of patches through the Catalyst editor app. More features than you can shake a stick at, right?
Read the full Line 6 Catalyst 100 review
Integrating the already highly respected BIAS tone engine with some pretty incredible smart technology, the Positive Grid Spark has taken the world of the best practice amps by storm - and we can definitely see why.
With 30 amp models and 40 effects onboard, the Spark is a catalog of great tones - and with 10,000+ more tones on the online library, you’ve got plenty of options. There’s Bluetooth connectivity to stream music, as well as ⅛” Aux and headphone inputs. You’ve got USB inputs and outputs too, which enable you to use your Spark as an audio interface for when you need to capture that next great idea.
If you want learning tools to help you develop your talent, then the Spark is the amp for you. Those features include ‘Auto Chords’ - which will find chord charts for any song you choose - and ‘Smart Jam’ - which will generate an authentic backing track to accompany you, whatever you play.
Read the full Positive Grid Spark review
There's a reason why the Boss Katana 50 MKII is one of the most popular practice amps to be released in recent years - it sounds fantastic. Digital modeling amps sound better now than they ever have done before with advancements in technology, and Boss proves this with the Katana.
In our experience, the five channels - Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, and Acoustic provide killer tones that are sure to satisfy the fussiest of guitarists. The effects are great too, as you’d expect from Boss. All sounds are taken from Bosses famous stomp-boxes, whether it’s chorus, delay, reverb - or something a bit weirder. If you’re looking for some new and exciting tones, connect the Katana to your PC, and you'll be able to gain access to 60 different additional effects via the Boss Tone Lab.
Read the full Boss Katana 50 MKII review
It may be a practice amp, but that doesn't mean the Blackstar ID: Core 10 is boring. This incredibly versatile amp is jam-packed with tonal possibilities. It is almost impossible to get a bad sound from its six channels and twelve effects - trust us we tried! From boutique clean tones to face-melting rock tones, this little amp can do it all.
The ID: Core 10 impresses us most with its studio-quality effects. These newly re-voiced in-built effects range from classic reverbs, wide stereo delays and vintage sounding modulation. If that wasn't enough, Blackstar's Architect software allows you to edit and manage patches and gives you access to Cab Rig Lite via the USB port located on the amp's top panel. This port can also be used to turn the ID Core 10 into an audio interface, making it the perfect amp if you want to record your electric guitar.
Purely on value for money, the Blackstar ID: Core 10 is hard to beat. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, you'll find something to love about this amazingly versatile amp.
Read the full Blackstar ID Core 10 V3 review
The Valvetronix has been a staple of many guitar player’s practice rigs since it was introduced in 2001, and it's easy to see why.
Seamlessly blending a modeling engine with a single valve pre-amp, Vox manages to deliver an amp that outperforms more expensive entries on this list. Featuring 11 authentic amp models - 20 when using the librarian software - and 13 studio-quality effects, the tone possibilities are endless.
If you’re looking for an easy to use amplifier that combines the functionality of a digital modeling amp and the warmth of a valve pre-amp - but you don't want to break the bank - then this might be the amp for you.
Owning a Line 6 practice amp is almost a rite of passage for many guitarists. The brand has been pumping out cost-effective, feature-filled practice amps for years now, each time with incremental improvements to make them more suited to the trends of the day. With the Line 6 Spider V, that means the inclusion of mobile device connectivity for the deep editing of parameters.
Despite their budget reputation, the Spider range actually offers superb value for guitarists who like to try a little bit of everything. And, with over 200 preset amps, models and variations included, you’re bound to find something here you can use for practice.
Orange amplifiers are something of a connoisseur’s choice in the amp world. Beyond the garish colour scheme, the British brand’s most signature element is the unique gain sound they offer.
Thick, chewy, and heavy on the mid-range, Orange amps have one of the most distinctive and recognisable overdriven tones on the market. Its traditional tube models can be at the more expensive end of the ladder, yet with the Orange Crush 20 you can access amazing tone for a fraction of the cost.
Where other amps in this list have more in the way of bells and whistles, the Orange Crush 20 favours simplicity. Two channels, basic EQ and a meaty four-stage gain preamp make this something of a one-trick pony, but what a trick it is. Some reverb wouldn’t have gone amiss, but otherwise, this is a compact, efficient machine, that had a tone we couldn't get enough of.
We couldn’t have a list of the best practice amps and not include a Marshall, right? Thankfully, in the Marshall DSL1CR, there is almost the perfect home practice amp for the tone-conscious rock and metal player. The traditional Dual Super Lead amps from the 90s were synonymous with heavy music, yet their size made them nigh-on unusable outside of a stage environment.
Cleverly, Marshall has taken everything from the original DSL range and shrunk it into a highly portable 1-watt combo, meaning you can get that classic high-gain sound without shattering all the windows in your house. We found the digital reverb to be a nice touch, as is the effects loop, making this a high-quality option for the discerning player.
The Mighty Air is a wireless stereo guitar amp, and we have to say it lives up to its name, it really is capable of some pretty mighty tones. With 13 amp models (nine electric guitar, three bass and one acoustic) accessible via the companion app, this small desktop amp has a tone for every occasion. If you don’t think that’s true, then scroll through the 28 overdrive, distortion, reverb, chorus or delay options on the in-app effects menu and hear the Mighty Air deliver wholly on its stereo promise.
The most recent firmware update comes with an upgraded amp modeling algorithm, offering realistic and impressive feedback and response. Although we found doing the update pretty tricky, it was quickly proven to be worth the time spent. The highest gain tones proved to be a bit much for the small speakers, but this was made up for by the rest of the tones being highly usable and enjoyable.
On the app, there are 10 drum backing tracks and a whole host of NUX and artist-provided jam tracks to play along to, either through your phone speakers, via Bluetooth or the amp aux-in. Honestly, we’d give some of these a hard pass - although the majority were super fun to play along to, and made us realise that we need to practice our modes a little more.
As a curveball to finish this list of best practice amps, we’d like to suggest something that clearly isn’t an amp at all. Bear with us here. Many players, ourselves included, struggle to find time to play ‘plugged in’ for reasons of lifestyle, young children or time. Practice often means being hunched down with a pair of headphones in and, if that sounds familiar to you, then the Zoom G3Xn might just be the answer.
As a multi effects unit the Zoom G3Xn packs in 68 different effects, as you’d expect, but what really appealed to us was the addition of amp and cab models. Using your trusty headphones, you get access to all the tones you could ever need in a handy pedal format, without annoying those in your vicinity.
As an upside, you can even incorporate the Zoom into your regular setup, making this both versatile and cost effective. It’s crazy, but it might just work.
Best practice amps: Buying advice
How to buy the best practice amp for you
When choosing the best practice amp for you, it's worth remembering that the main job of a practice amp is to get you playing quickly and conveniently when inspiration strikes. It doesn't need to sound like a $3,000 Two-Rock – although we'd all like a practice amp to – and it definitely doesn't need to cost as much.
All you really want is an amp that sounds good to your ears, and that you can plug in to and play without too much thought. Us guitarists all have an idea of what the perfect tone sounds like, and practice amps are getting much much closer to that benchmark. Long gone are the wasps in jar sounds of the past.
The vast majority of practice amps that are available in today's market come with a huge array of effects, different amp voicings and even easy recording functionality. Some also feature remote control over parameters via a tablet, laptop or mobile device, as well as savable and shareable patch editing. Long story short, amps these days have become very smart – and very capable of recreating near enough any tone you can think of.
Do I need to consider the styles I play?
Long story short, yes. Considering the styles you play (or are learning to play) is an important process to undertake when buying yourself a practice amp.
Most practice amps – especially digital modeling amps – will be able to recreate many different tones, which means that you won't need to be quite so picky if this is the route you wish to go down.
Tube or Solid State amps don't often have this same high-gain versatility, but if you're going to be playing with mostly clean tones, then a small tube amp may just be what you need.
Take a look at the bands or artists you like for inspiration on this – most often, you'll be able to buy a more practice-friendly version of the amps they use – or at the very least, you'll get an idea for the characteristics of their amps and their sound.
The features to consider
Choosing whether to purchase a smaller-scale tube amp or a dedicated practice amp will dictate the best practice amp for you.
For example, tube amps are still much louder than the equivalent power solid-state amps, so a 20-watt tube amp will make the walls shake in your room. That said, many tube amps for practice often have built-in attenuation so that you can drop the power down to a more manageable level. In our experience, even a 1-watt all-tube amp will more than suffice for home practice. In contrast, a 10W to 20W solid-state amp will usually do the trick.
Some practice amps have built-in recording capability via a USB port. It is always a good idea to record your practice sessions and listen back later. This will help you hone in on what areas of your playing need practice.
Read more about our rating system, how we choose the gear we feature, and exactly how we test each product.
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