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Best practice amps 2021: the 10 best amps for practicing guitar and bass at home

Best practice amps 2021: the 10 best amps for practicing guitar and bass at home
(Image credit: Fender/Orange/Blackstar/Boss)

Yes, we know you all aren't daydreaming of the best practice amps. They aren't exactly the most remarkable pieces of gear we could be spending our well-earned cash on, but they are vital to your overall bass or electric guitar setup. 

Simply put, practice amps enable you to practice your guitar without worrying about the noise levels. We all love the feeling of playing through a cranked tube amp and bringing the walls down, but as we all know, we don't need that kind of volume for home practice. 

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.

Best practice amps: Guitar World’s choice

In our opinion the best practice amp needs to tick all three of these boxes: It needs to be relatively small, it needs to be simple to operate and, most importantly, it needs to sound amazing. 

The Fender Super Champ X2 meets these guidelines perfectly, and therefore, is our top pick for the best practice amp overall. 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 a fun little practice companion that will take up hardly any room in practice space. The Fly 3 offers a surprising level of control for something so small, 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)

1. Fender Super Champ X2

A versatile analog /digital hybrid amp for practice sessions

Price: $399/£399 | Watts: 15W | Type: Tube/digital | Speakers: 1 x 10" | Effects: 15 including delay, chorus, tremolo

Gorgeous clean sounds 
USB recording output
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.

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

Price: $86/£59 | Watts: 3W | Type: Solid State | Speakers: 1 x 3” | Effects: Tape delay

Portable
ISF feature is a decent EQ substitute
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: Boss Katana Air

(Image credit: Boss)

3. Boss Katana Air

This wireless mini amp is perfect for home use

Price: $399/£389 | Watts: 20W/30W | Type: Digital | Speakers: 2 x 3” | Effects: Delay, modulation, boost (plus more via app)

Tether-free playing!
Portable
Not cheap

Wireless guitar systems have long been favoured in a live setting for the simple reason that they grant the user a degree of freedom over where they can sit or stand. The Boss Katana Air now grants that same freedom to home users and, in the process, offers up a superb practice amp stuffed full of features. 

There are tonnes of innovative tricks on display here, from the way the amp automatically switches on when it detects you’ve picked up the guitar, through to the dock on the amp itself for charging the wireless module. 

Tonally the Katana Air is very high quality, with a selection of expandable effects and tones available over Bluetooth via the accompanying app. The two 3-inch speakers do an admirable job of producing stereo sounds, and we also liked the way it doubles up as a speaker for streaming regular music over.

We’ve heard it said before that new ideas are sorely lacking in the guitar world. After all, we still fetishize vacuum tubes and electromagnetism, yet with the Boss Katana Air there are plenty of modern flourishes designed to help players practice in a way that suits them.

Read the full Boss Katana Air review

Best practice amps: Blackstar ID Core 10 V3

(Image credit: Blackstar)

4. Blackstar ID Core 10 V3

The sound in your head... on a budget

Price: $129/£109 | Watts: 10W | Type: Solid state | Speaker: 2 x 3" | Effects: 12

Easy to use 
Great range of sounds
Very affordable   
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. 

Best practice amps: Vox VT20X

(Image credit: Vox)

5. Vox VT20X

Classic British tones at home

Price: $179/£169 | Watts: 20W | Type: Valve/Solid state | Speaker: 1x8" | Effects: 13

Good range of sounds
Robust build quality   
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)

6. Line 6 Spider V 20 MKII

The best practice amp for a multitude of sounds

Price: $179/£99 | Watts: 20W | Type: Solid State | Speakers: 1 x 8” | Effects: Over 100

Loads and loads of tones
Great value
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)

7. Orange Crush 20

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

Price: $169/£149 | Watts: 20W | Type: Solid State | Speakers: 1 x 8” | Effects: None

Unique tone
Simple to use
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)

8. Marshall DSL1CR

A shrunken version of the rock and metal classic

Price: $349/£299 | Watts: 1W | Type: Tube | Speakers: 1 x 8” | Effects: Digital reverb

Classic, tube tone
Iconic looks
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: Yamaha THR5

(Image credit: Yamaha)

9. Yamaha THR5

Portable package with plenty of versatility

Price: $199/£199 | Watts: 10W | Type: Solid State | Speakers: 2 x 3” | Effects: Modulation, reverb

Lots of control over parameters
Battery powered
Not much!

Originally launched in 2011, the Yamaha THR range was the first to introduce the concept of guitar amps that wouldn’t look out of place on a bookshelf or kitchen work surface. Packing in plenty in the way of tones and functionality that the practicing guitarist would find useful, and doing away with everything else, the Yamaha THR5 makes a great practice companion. 

We liked the amount of control you have on the amp itself, and this can be expanded further by using the accompanying Yamaha app. Newer models incorporate Bluetooth for further convenience, making the THR range almost perfect as your ‘lounge’ amp. 

Best practice amps: Zoom G3Xn

(Image credit: Zoom)

10. Zoom G3Xn

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

Price: $219/£199 | Watts: N/A | Type: Multi-FX | Speakers: N/A | Effects: 68 models

Perfect for silent practice
All the sounds you could ever need
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.