It’s a well-worn cliché, but there genuinely has never been a better time to buy one of the best budget guitar amps, especially if you’re a beginner looking for a practice amp that won’t break the bank.
Whether you’re looking for a recording head, giggable combo or desktop practice amp, today’s budget amps not only offer better tones than ever before, but many deliver them in lighter, smaller formats, too. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up today’s best budget guitar amps under $500.
The combos gathered here run the gamut from tiny tube terrors to solid-state digital modeling wonders, and range in output from 120 watts all the way down to 0.5. But they all pack tons of power and punch, with top-notch tones, features and functionality – and all for under $500 to boot. Now that's value for money.
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If you'd like to read more in-depth buying advice, please click the 'buying advice' button above. Keep scrolling if you'd rather get straight to the products.
Best budget guitar amps: Guitar World's choice
Highly praised among guitarists of all abilities, the Boss Katana-100 MKII series offers the best tone-for-buck ratio of any guitar amp on the market right now. The Katana’s five amp characters (Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown and Acoustic) span just about any genre, while Boss’s industry-standard effects are also included, with 15 varieties covering your boost, mod, FX, delay and reverb needs.
All the amp’s parameters can be adjusted via Boss’s Tone Studio software, and line-outs and USB recording mean it’s as home studio friendly as they come - but packing 100W of power, it’ll hold its own on any stage too. All things considered, it’s the best budget guitar amp under $500 right now.
Best budget guitar amps under $500: Product guide
Even ignoring their affordable price tags, Boss’s Katana amps have earned a reputation as some of the best guitar amps you can buy today, and the MkII line-up only bolsters that reputation.
This solid-state 100W model is gig-ready, and like the rest of the range, boasts five amp characters (Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown and Acoustic), plus variations for each. This being a Boss amp, you also get five independent digital effects sections thrown in (Booster, Mod, FX, Delay and Reverb), all of which are savable across eight tone setting memories.
It’s the tonal control that really makes the Katana a top buy, however, with adjustable cab resonance options, Power Control and easily recordable mic’d cab-emulated outputs.
It's worth noting the prices we've listed are for the 2x12" combo, but a 1x12" is also available for a little less.
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Yamaha’s stylish THR combos pioneered the desktop amp format, and now its second iteration may have perfected it, with the THR30II standing proud as the cream of the crop.
15 new amp tones are onboard, with Yamaha’s Virtual Circuitry Modeling promising utterly authentic sounds, while acoustic and bass players are catered for, too, with three voices each.
There are also built-in modulation and delay/reverb effects, as well as Bluetooth and built-in wireless compatibility with Line 6’s Relay G10T transmitter, plus an onboard rechargeable battery for fully wireless playability.
These amps sound killer when recorded, too, with this 30W version packing a pair of 1/4" line outputs for mix-ready tones.
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Possibly the world’s only bona fide metal amp that can fit inside a guitar case, the Micro Dark is nevertheless packed with features that include volume, gain and shape controls, a 1/4-inch headphone output, speaker output (minimum 8-ohm load) and an effect loop.
The tiny unit boasts a preamp driven by a single 12AX7 tube and a 20-watt solid-state power amplifier that pumps out impressively loud volume levels, with mammoth bass thump and harmonically rich grind.
The shape control produces a variety of tones by sweeping across a wide midrange sweet spot that can also enhance treble and bass as desired.
The effect loop, meanwhile, enables guitarists to patch a studio multi-effects unit, reverb, delay or modulation pedal in between the preamp and power amp sections to produce truly professional-quality tones with low noise and impressive definition and articulation that sound particularly huge when recorded.
A surprisingly versatile and powerful “secret” weapon for metal guitarists who love highly saturated grind but are tired of grinding their spinal discs lifting heavy equipment.
Watch the Orange Micro Dark review video
Positive Grid is a relatively new kid on the block, but don’t let that put you off. They’ve taken the guitar amp world by storm of late with their incredible BIAS tone engine, and the Spark is a neighbor-friendly, wallet-friendly vehicle for that fantastic software to shine.
With access to over 10,000 tones with the companion app, as well as 30 amp models and 40 effects already onboard, the Spark is more than capable of covering any genre you can think of. USB inputs and outputs are standard, allowing you to turn your Spark into a guitar audio interface for easy recording, and Bluetooth is included to make streaming music easy as pie.
The Spark’s ace-up-the-sleeve is definitely the learning tools it offers. ‘Auto Chords’ will find chord charts for any song you choose and send them straight to the app for you, and ‘Smart Jam’ will learn your style of playing, and generate an accompanying backing track that will play along to you.
Read the full Positive Grid Spark review
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Fender is no noob when it comes to amp modeling and its Mustang series has always been impressive in terms of features, sound quality and ease of use. The LT25 is a portable modeling combo featuring an eight-inch speaker, 20 amp models, 25 effects, USB connectivity and an auxiliary input.
You’ll find 30 presets on-board presets, easily selectable using the large encoder to the right of the amp’s screen. These presets can be tweaked and your custom profile saved with ease.
There are plenty of Fender’s typically smooth, bright and clean sounds on offer here, but there are some chunkier high gain emulations in the box too.
In terms of effects, you get everything from compression and gates, through to octave, auto-wah, delays and reverbs. If you’re a beginner or a student, for this price, you can’t go wrong.
Read the full Fender Mustang LT25 review
Part of Marshall’s CODE Series, the company’s first foray into the world of digital modeling amps, the CODE50 is a 50-watt combo with a single custom 12-inch speaker that provides four power amp models, 14 preamp models, eight speaker models and 24 effects (up to five effects can be used simultaneously), and can store 100 presets. Standard front panel controls include Volume, Gain, Master and Bass, Middle and Treble EQ.
Whereas most digital modeling amps try to be everything to everybody, the CODE50 mainly focuses on the company’s greatest strength - genuine Marshall tones.
The preamp and power amp models are comprised mostly of Marshall’s most popular designs, including JTM45, Bluesbreaker, Plexi, JCM800, Silver Jubilee, DSL and JVM models. American clean and overdrive models and an acoustic simulator provide just the right amount of tonal contrast and variety.
Effects consist of all the essentials like compression, overdrive, modulation, reverb and delay, and up to five effects can be used at once. The free Marshall Gateway app allows users to control all functions with an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth.
A great choice if you love Marshall tones but also desire the convenience, versatility and power of a modern digital modeling amp.
Read the Marshall CODE50 review
The Spider has become something of a beginner guitar amp staple owing to its exhaustive array of amp and effects models, and with the Spider V MkII series, it’s never sounded better.
This 120W version is perhaps the standout of the series, with over 200, amps, cabs and effects, spread across 128 presets, and newly revoiced for this range. These are ideal for beginners as a way of getting quick and easy access to a host of classic guitar tones.
You also get a ton of practice aids thrown in, including a tuner, metronome, drum loops and a 60-second looper, plus direct recording via XLR and USB, and even built-in wireless capability. It’s all controlled via an easy-to-use interface and Line 6’s free Spider V Remote app, which all combines to make this the best budget guitar amp for beginners.
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The heart of this solid-state amp lies in Roland’s Tube Logic technology, which utilizes a mix of digital and analog circuits to duplicate the sounds of famous fine-tuned vintage tube amps, including preamp and output tube saturation characteristics, power supply compression and much more. The result is great tone and dynamic, “squashy” valve-like response.
The 30-watt Blues Cube Hot boasts a 12-inch custom speaker and footswitchable boost and EQ, as well as four output levels, from 30 watts down to around 0.5 watts, to properly reproduce the sound of a valve power stage driven into cut-off at any volume level.
There’s also a single input jack, with knobs for volume, bass, mid and treble, reverb and master output level. Two small illuminated buttons control the Cube's boost and tone features.
At full power, the Blues Cube Hot is loud enough for small gigs, while the 0.5-watt setting is ideal for recording and practice. Excellent quality, value and reliability wrapped in a compact, portable and great-sounding package.
The Fly 3 takes the micro amp concept to the extreme, with three watts, two channels, digital “tape” delay and Blackstar's Infinite Shape Feature for British and American sounds. Furthermore, an MP3/Line In socket allows the FLY 3 to be connected to an MP3 player, mobile phone, laptop or tablet.
When connected to a FLY 103 extension cabinet (sold separately or as part of the Fly Stereo Pack), it becomes a 6-watt stereo amp for guitar or music playback.
For all its features, it’s the tone that really makes the Fly 3 soar. The unit sounds as good as practice amps four times the size, with thick bass, ringing cleans and substantial gain. Overall, a huge success in a tiny box.
This miniature amp stack, a recreation of the iconic Super Beatle, stands nearly two feet tall. But don’t be fooled by its diminutive stature - the amp is more than loud enough.
The Superbeetle can pump out 50 watts of output at four ohms, 25 watts at eight ohms and 12.5 watts at 16 ohms. The head is powered by analog Nutube circuitry, which employs a VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) tube that captures the same sound and response of vacuum tubes without any of the inconsistent elements.
Controls include volume, bass, treble and gain and a mini-toggle standby switch. The digital spring reverb and tremolo each have their own singular control, with the tremolo being driven by Nutube technology.
On the rear panel, there’s a flat/deep EQ switch, impedance switch, ECO switch, dual speaker output jacks and a headphones/line out jack. The Mini Superbeetle’s vertical open-backed cabinet with chrome stand (and no, it doesn’t tilt) houses a single custom Celestion 10-inch speaker.
The result is classic looks combined with sweet jangly tone in a miniature amp stack that will sit well onstage - or anywhere.
Read the Vox Mini Superbeetle review
Best guitar amps under $500: Buying advice
What to look for in the best budget guitar amps
There are some incredible budget amps available right now, but it’s important to find the one that’s right for you. The best budget guitar amps should deliver great tone, be easy for you to use and knock out the right amount of volume for the various scenarios that you might find yourself in.
What size amp do you need?
A big thing to consider is the size of the amp. Are you looking for a budget guitar amp to play gigs with, or is it just for home practice? Something like the Blackstar Fly 3 is great if you want something compact and portable, but you’d struggle to be heard playing in a band. Amps like the Spider V 120 and Katana 100 will deliver enough volume when it comes to playing gigs, but you sacrifice portability. Despite its size, the Orange Micro Dark will get you through most gigs, but remember that if you’re going for a head, you’ll need to pair it with a speaker cab too.
What tone are you looking for?
Think about the sort of sound(s) that you’ll want out of it too. If you just want a clean sound, with maybe an overdrive too, then you might be better with something simple and straight forward. If you want a wide variety of sounds, then there are some fantastic budget modelling amps that give you everything from shimmery and sparkly cleans, through classic crunchy sounds, all the way up to high-gain tones. If you’re wanting to switch between these sounds on the fly, then the ability to save and recall presets will be really handy - a lot of the time, you can switch between these with an additional footswitch.
Different amps will offer different amounts of gain. The Roland Blues Cube Hot and the Vox Mini Superbeetle both replicate the sound of an overdriven tube amp really nicely, making them a great choice for blues and old-school rock. If you’re into hard rock and heavy metal, then it’s worth looking at a budget amp with a little more distortion on tap - most modelling amps will have some sort of digital replication of a bunch of classic metal amps.
Many great budget guitar amps even have effects built in, so you can expand your sounds even further. Adding a touch of reverb or delay can really help add some texture to an otherwise dry guitar sound, so an effects section is definitely worth checking out. You can of course, opt for an amp without any effects and use separate pedals, if that’s how you want to do it.
Nowadays, guitar amps can be operated in different ways. Some, like the Katana and Micro Dark have a fairly traditional layout, and all you have to do is tweak the knobs on the amp until you get your desired sound. Other amps, like the Line 6 Spider and the Marshall CODE allow you to navigate lots of presets via an LCD screen - from there you can then tweak using the knobs on the amp. Some amps, like the Positive Grid Spark allow you to delve even deeper via an app on your smartphone. Which style is right for you boils down to personal preference, so have a think about how you’d like to dial in your sound.
What can you expect to pay for a budget guitar amp?
Some of the best budget guitar amps are just a few hundred dollars or pounds - you can get something with a really wide range of sounds and effects on board for around the $/£250 mark. If you’re looking for a giggable amp, then you’ll probably be looking more around $/£300-500. However, the Blackstar Fly 3 which makes for a superb home practice amp comes in at well under $/£100.
Which brands make the best budget guitar amps?
Boss and Roland are owned by the same company and continue to release superb products, including some incredible budget guitar amps. Classic brands like Orange, Vox and Marshall also impress with their signature sounds without breaking the bank, and digital pioneers Line 6 carry on their legendary Spider series catering for every type of player out there.