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Best practice amps 2021: 12 options for honing your guitar and bass chops at home

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Best practice amps 2021: the 12 best amps for practicing guitar and bass at home
(Image credit: Future)

Before you say anything, we know that nobody dreams about walls of the best practice amps the same way they dream about walls of Marshall cabs. They’re not the most awe-inspiring piece of gear you could be spending your cash on, but they are vital to your overall bass guitar or electric guitar setup - as well as your progression on your instrument. 

Practice amps, simply put, can enable you to practice your guitar without worrying about the noise levels. 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.

That said, we need to keep ourselves sharp and our techniques precise, so having a smaller setup you can use at home without disturbing anyone is a good investment. 

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. Our round-up of the best amps for practice has some excellent choices to get you started. 

We've included buying advice from our team of experts at the bottom of this guide, so if you'd like to read it, click the 'buying advice' tab above. Keep scrolling to get straight to the products.

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.

The Fender Super Champ X2 is our top pick for the best practice amp overall, as it meets our guidelines perfectly. It will easily provide those classic Fender 'silverface' tones, thanks to its tube pre and power amp sections, and with a host of digital effects, it will also broaden your tonal horizons. If that isn't enough, recording over USB also adds a degree of utility to the amp, making the Super Champ X2 perfect for your home studio.

Alternatively, the Blackstar Fly 3 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

Best practice amps: Fender Super Champ X2

(Image credit: Fender)

A versatile analog /digital hybrid amp for practice sessions

Launch price: $399/£399
Watts: 15W
Type: Tube/digital
Speakers: 1 x 10"
Effects: 15 including delay, chorus, tremolo
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous clean sounds +USB recording output
Reasons to avoid
-High gain sounds not great

While a proper, bona-fide high-end Fender tube amp offers the pinnacle of rich, warm clean sounds, it’s fair to say that greatness doesn’t come cheap. The Fender Super Champ X2, on the other hand, offers tube-driven tone and selection of well-considered effects at a price much more in the ‘practice amp’ realm. 

It does this by employing digital elements to the tube signal chain, allowing for the use of different voices which make this an extremely versatile amp for practicing different styles. 

A USB connection to the rear of the amp enables recording via a laptop or PC, making the Fender Super Champ X2 a superb choice for practicing within a home studio environment. All told, while this sits at the higher end of the practice amp spectrum, the quality and versatility on display make for a pretty compelling package, and a standout model in our best practice amps guide.

Read the full Fender Super Champ X2 review

Best practice amps: Blackstar Fly 3

(Image credit: Blackstar)

2. Blackstar Fly 3

The best practice amp if you want big sound from a small package

Launch price: $86/£59
Watts: 3W
Type: Solid State
Speakers: 1 x 3”
Effects: Tape delay
Reasons to buy
+Portable+ISF feature is a decent EQ substitute
Reasons to avoid
-Hard to find fault

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 realise 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 them 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.

Best practice amps: Yamaha THR30II

(Image credit: Yamaha)

A great practice amp from the company that does everything

Launch price: $499/£429
Watts: 30
Type: Digital modeling
Speakers: 2x3.5” full range
Effects: 8
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Wide range of super-usable tones+Built-in wireless receiver 
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn’t look as nice as other amps 

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 this offering from Yamaha is a serious piece of gear from one of the most iconic and innovative music-tech pioneers. 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. 

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 

Best practice amps: Positive Grid Spark

(Image credit: Positive Grid)

4. Positive Grid Spark

The smartest amp around

Launch price: $269/£194
Watts: 40
Type: Modeling
Speakers: 2x4” custom designed speakers
Effects: 40
Reasons to buy
+Impressive smart features +Bluetooth compatible for streaming music+Spark app unlocks even more tones 
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks a bit of bass due to small speakers 

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 

Best practice amps: Boss Katana 50 MKII

(Image credit: Boss)

A practice amp that does a little more

Launch price: $249/£249
Watts: 50W/25W/0.5W
Type: Digital
Speakers: 1x12”
Effects: 5 Amp voicings, 60 effects
Reasons to buy
+Great selection of tones +The attenuator is super useful+Boss make solid stuff 
Reasons to avoid
-Some would prefer a tube amp for this money 

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. 

Five channels - Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, and Acoustic, as well as 15 in-built effects provide the killer tones. 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

Best practice amps: Blackstar ID Core 10 V3

(Image credit: Blackstar)

6. Blackstar ID Core 10 V3

The sound in your head... on a budget

Launch price: $129/£109
Watts: 10W
Type: Solid state
Speaker: 2 x 3"
Effects: 12
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use +Great range of sounds+Very affordable   
Reasons to avoid
-None at this price 

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. 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

Best practice amps: Vox VT20X

(Image credit: Vox)

7. Vox VT20X

Classic British tones at home

Price: $179/£169
Watts: 20W
Type: Valve/Solid state
Speaker: 1x8"
Effects: 13
Reasons to buy
+Good range of sounds+Robust build quality   
Reasons to avoid
-Can be awkward to adjust effects   

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.

Best practice amps: Line 6 Spider V 20 MKII

(Image credit: Line 6)

8. Line 6 Spider V 20 MKII

The best practice amp for a multitude of sounds

Launch price: $179/£99
Watts: 20W
Type: Solid State
Speakers: 1 x 8”
Effects: Over 100
Reasons to buy
+Loads and loads of tones+Great value
Reasons to avoid
-Some presets are just plain odd-

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. 

Best practice amps: Orange Crush 20

(Image credit: Orange)

9. Orange Crush 20

The best amp for practice if you want Orange tones for way less

Launch price: $169/£149
Watts: 20W
Type: Solid State
Speakers: 1 x 8”
Effects: None
Reasons to buy
+Unique tone+Simple to use
Reasons to avoid
-Some reverb would have been nice

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 which is ready to rock. 

Best practice amps: Marshall DSL1

(Image credit: Marshall)

10. Marshall DSL1CR

A shrunken version of the rock and metal classic

Launch price: $349/£299
Watts: 1W
Type: Tube
Speakers: 1 x 8”
Effects: Digital reverb
Reasons to buy
+Classic, tube tone+Iconic looks
Reasons to avoid
-Small speaker doesn’t do bass justice

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. The digital reverb is a nice touch, as is the effects loop, making this a high-quality option for the discerning player. 

Best practice amps: NUX Mighty Air

(Image credit: NUX)

11. NUX Mighty Air

A small but mighty amp & app combination

Launch price: $189/£149
Watts: 10W
Type: Wireless stereo modeling amp
Speakers: 2x 2”
Effects: 7 channels, 13 amp models, 28 effects
Reasons to buy
+10W of power is plenty for practice+Amp has great battery life+Learning/practice tools are genuinely useful and good fun 
Reasons to avoid
-Some of the higher gain tones are a bit hit and miss

The Mighty Air is a wireless stereo guitar amp - and as the name suggests, 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.

Best practice amps: Zoom G3Xn

(Image credit: Zoom)

12. Zoom G3Xn

Ok, so this is clearly not an amp…or is it?

Launch price: $219/£199
Watts: N/A
Type: Multi-FX
Speakers: N/A
Effects: 68 models
Reasons to buy
+Perfect for silent practice+All the sounds you could ever need
Reasons to avoid
-Fails at the ‘being an amplifier’ part

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

Best practice amps: Vox VT20 on red background

(Image credit: Future)

How to buy the best practice amp for you

When choosing the best practice amp for you, it's important to remember that your new amp doesn't have to sound like a $3,000 Two-Rock, nor does it have to cost as much. Essentially, a practice amp needs to get you playing quickly, whenever inspiration strikes. 

Basically, you're looking for a way to plug in your guitar and have some control over the way it sounds. As guitarists, we all have an idea in our heads of what we perceive as the "perfect tone" and what we need an amp to do. Fortunately, modern practice amps have come a long way from the catalogue fare that was around 20 years ago - long gone are the wasps in jar sounds of the past. 

Most of the best practice amps today feature a great selection of effects, different amp voicings, the ability to record your guitar into a laptop or computer, and some even feature remote control over parameters via a tablet or mobile device. 

The style and genre of music you play, or are learning to play, will influence which practice amp you choose. Metal fans, for example, will want something that can cater for the high-gain sounds they are longing for. Alternatively, if you like playing a range of different styles, you'll need an amplifier with a suitable range of amp models. Bear in mind that choosing an amp designed for a specific music style will often yield a better result than a generic amp that is trying to reproduce every sound possible.

 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. 

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.