Best desktop guitar amps 2023: 10 amplifiers for portable practice

The best desktop amps in a pile on a blue background
(Image credit: Future)

It’s a relative newcomer in the guitar industry, but the desktop amp has taken guitarists by storm. Matching great sound with effective practice tools, the best desktop amps help augment our practice regimen, blending in seamlessly when not in use. If you’re tired of being told off for cranking your amp late or night, or you need to get those ideas down whenever inspiration strikes, you need one of these amps in your life.

Pretty much every major manufacturer now has some form of desktop guitar amp, with Fender, Marshall, Vox, Boss, Blackstar, and loads more now offering powerful tones in a compact form factor. In fact, some might say the desktop amp market is now getting a bit overcrowded, making it difficult for those who are unfamiliar to make a decision.

It used to be that amps designed for practice were the sort of low-quality items you find in guitar starter packs, great for your first few riffs and not much else. But so much has changed in the last decade that the line between practice amp and proper amp has blurred. Thanks to the improvements in modern tech, we now get great-sounding amp tones with Bluetooth, wireless, and smart apps to help us practice better.

If you're struggling to decide which desktop amp to go for, you're in the right place. We’ve pulled together all our collected expertise to give you this handy guide to the best desktop guitar amps you can buy right now. If you need to understand a little more about these amps, then head down to the bottom of the article and check out our buying advice, otherwise, keep scrolling to see the products.

Best desktop guitar amps: Our top picks

Racking up a bonkers 25,000 preorders before it even launched, the Positive Grid Spark 40 (opens in new tab) absolutely justifies its hype with its ease of use and clever companion app. It sounds amazing too, with a myriad of voices and effects that will suit any guitarist.

The original desktop guitar amp still remains one of the best, so we highly recommend the Yamaha THR30II Wireless (opens in new tab). It sounds great, it looks super cool, and it comes with its own wireless receiver so you don’t have to worry about trailing cables everywhere.

For the player looking for the smallest option available, then look no further than the  Laney Lionheart Mini (opens in new tab). This nifty little amp comes alive when using the Tonebridge app and sounds fantastic - not to mention it's cheaper than most guitar pedals!

Best desktop guitar amps: Product guide

Best desktop guitar amps: Positive Grid Spark

(Image credit: Positive Grid )
The future of home practice

Specifications

Wattage: 40W
Effects: 30 Amp Models 40 Effects
Speakers: 2x4" Custom Designed Speakers
Weight: 11.46 lbs/5.2 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Easy to use 
+
Smart Jam/Auto Chords great for practice 

Reasons to avoid

-
Supply issues can make it difficult to get your hands on one 

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you've heard of the Positive Grid Spark. This innovative smart amp took the guitar world by storm and created demand, the likes of which we've never seen before for a desktop practice amp. 

On the surface, the Spark is a 40-watt practice amp powered by the highly revered BIAS tone engine - but in reality, it's far more than that. When used in conjunction with the Spark app, we discovered that this amp transforms into the ultimate practice companion. 

Listening to a song and want to jam along? Simply use the 'auto chords' feature to figure out the chords in any song from Spotify, Apple Music, or Youtube. Perhaps you want to jam or write songs? Well, the 'smart jam' feature carefully analyses the notes you're playing and creates a backing track in a style of your choice - how cool is that?! If all of this wasn't enough for you, the app also gives you access to over 10,000 tone presets. 

This clever little amp offers incredible value for money and may just change the future of practice and modeling amps forever.

Now, it's worth mentioning that if you love the sound of the Spark but you want it to be even more compact, then the Positive Grid Spark Mini (opens in new tab) might just be the amp for you. This little amplifier takes what you know and love about the original but shrinks it down into an even more desktop-friendly format. 

Read our full Positive Grid Spark review 

Best desktop guitar amps: Yamaha THR30II

(Image credit: Future)

2. Yamaha THR30II Wireless

The original desktop amp pioneer

Specifications

Wattage: 30W
Effects: 15 Guitar Amp Models, 3 Acoustic Models, 3 Bass Models, 3 Flat Voicings, Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, Tremolo, Reverb, Delay, Compressor, and Noisegate
Speakers: 2x3.5 Full Range
Weight: 9.5 lbs/4.3kg

Reasons to buy

+
Simple to use
+
Fantastic range of sounds 
+
Built-in wireless receiver  

Reasons to avoid

-
The look might not be for everyone  

The Yamaha THR series doesn't look much like a guitar amplifier, and that's the idea. Styled after home audio equipment, the THR30II can sit anywhere in the home, and the non-guitarists can stream music to it via Bluetooth.

The guitarists, however, are in for a real treat, because this is a serious desktop amp from the pioneers of desktops amps. Our testing showed convincing onboard modulation, reverb and delay effects, 15 amp tones courtesy of Yamaha’s Virtual Circuitry Modeling, there is a whole lotta tone here. A pair of  1/4" line outputs make it a great option for home recording.

Read the full Yamaha THR30II Wireless review

Best desktop guitar amps: Blackstar ID:Core BEAM

(Image credit: Future)

3. Blackstar ID:CORE BEAM

Bass, Electric, Acoustic, and Music!

Specifications

Wattage: 10W
Effects: 6 Electric Voices, 2 Bass Voices, 2 Acoustic Voices, 2 Acoustic Simulator Voices, Modulation, Delay, Reverb and Distortion
Speakers: 2x3” Full Range
Weight: 8.6 lbs/3.9kg

Reasons to buy

+
Perfect for bass and acoustic as well as electric guitar
+
Sounds huge for its size 
+
Built-in Bluetooth for streaming music 

Reasons to avoid

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We'd like a higher wattage

Blackstar’s BEAM (Bass, Electric, Acoustic, and Music) is a popular desktop solution. It’s compact, so it’s great where space is limited, and it features the familiar range of Blackstar clean and overdrive sounds, together with studio-quality modulation, delay, and reverb effects.

You can stream music via Bluetooth, although you’ll need a USB cable to get into deep editing with Blackstar’s Insider software. What the BEAM lacks in features and models it more than makes up for by being simple, fun and great value for money to boot.

During testing, we found that the sound began to lose its way a little at higher volumes - so we'd love to see Blackstar bring out a higher-powered BEAM in the future.

Best desktop guitar amps: Boss Katana-Air

(Image credit: Boss)

4. Boss Katana-Air

The cutting-edge wireless desktop amp

Specifications

Wattage: 30W
Effects: 5 amp voices and over 50 effects
Speakers: 2x3”
Weight: 4.14lbs/2.2kg

Reasons to buy

+
Iconic Boss effects
+
Fully wireless  

Reasons to avoid

-
A little expensive compared to the standard Katana  

The Katana amps have been a big success story, with Roland adding its digital might to make them a popular choice for guitarists wanting to jump to digital. The Katana-Air’s boast is that it was the first fully wireless amp of its type, bundled with a Boss guitar transmitter.

There are just five amp models, but they’re truly awesome - and you can access over 50 Boss effects. Audio streaming and editing via Bluetooth is standard, and the Katana can run on batteries. Power output is a respectable 30 watts (2x 15 watts) when plugged into the mains adaptor.

While it's a little more expensive than we'd have expected, after playing one for a while we found the convenience and tone were too good to pass up on. 

Read the full Boss Katana Air review

Best desktop guitar amps: Fender Mustang LT40S

(Image credit: Fender)

5. Fender Mustang LT40S

The popular Mustang modeling platform gets a makeover

Specifications

Wattage: 40W
Amp Models: 20
Effects: 25
Speakers: 2x 4” full range Fender Special Design
Weight: 12.5lbs/5.6kg

Reasons to buy

+
It's deceptively loud
+
Great sounding presets
+
Easy to use software app

Reasons to avoid

-
 No USB-C connection 

Fender hasn’t rushed into making a desktop guitar amp, but the one they’ve come up with is really quite good. Taking their popular Mustang modeling amp format they’ve shrunk the size, added full-range speakers, and made a properly good desktop guitar amp.

There’s loads of classic Fender amp tones here and it’s all laid out in a fashion that’s super easy to use. The emphasis on actual knobs for tweaking your EQ is welcome, and the large rotary dial makes switching and editing presets a breeze.

Used with the Fender Tone LT App you can expand the sounds of the LT40S massively, adding everything from spanky clean tones right through to nasty, sludge and doom guitar sounds. Add a headphone out, aux in, and a footswitch input and you have one of the most complete desktop amps on the market.

Best desktop guitar amps: Laney Lionheart Mini

(Image credit: Laney )

6. Laney Lionheart Mini

A small amp with a mighty roar

Specifications

Wattage: 3W
Effects: Clean/ Overdrive (Lots more when using TONEBRIDGE app)
Speakers: 1x3"
Weight: 1.65 lbs/0.75 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Tiny size
+
More features than other mini amps  

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs subscription to Tonebridge app to fully unlock amps potential 

The market is awash with mini versions of famous amps. Although the Laney may not be the most recognizable, it may be the best. This petite 3-watt amp delivers a big sound that is more than enough for at-home practice, and the rather attractive navy exterior and blue and beige grill cloth means it looks great as well. 

What sets this amp apart from the competition is the Laney Smart Interface socket (LSI). This nifty addition allows you to connect the amp to your smart device and use third-party apps to access new and wonderful sounds. Laney recommends using your new amp with the Tonebridge app, and all Laney mini amps come with a free 3-month full subscription to get you started. 

The fact that an app subscription is needed to get the best out of the amp is a little frustrating, but if you can look beyond that, this amp is a truly killer desktop option.

Best desktop guitar amps: Vox Adio Air GT

(Image credit: Future)
Classic Vox styles with modern technology

Specifications

Wattage: 50W
Effects: 11 amp voices (23 with app), 8 effects (19 with app)
Speakers: 2x3”
Weight: 6.39lbs/2.9kg

Reasons to buy

+
Looks great
+
Great sounds  

Reasons to avoid

-
Other amps in this category have more features 

This is a strong player in the desktop amp field, helped by Vox’s partnership with another giant in the digital music field, Korg. It has a powerful 50-watt (2x 25-watt) power output, 17 amp models, and up to 19 effects. 

The Adio can do audio streaming and remote editing via Bluetooth using Vox’s Tone Room app, and it can run on alkaline or rechargeable batteries. The Adio is also bundled with the popular Jamvox app. There’s no guitar wireless, but you can buy one of several popular transmitter/receiver kits to use with the Adio Air.

Again, after using this amp for a while we felt that the list of extras, effects, and other goodies was a bit short - but all in all, we're big fans of the tones the Adio Air can produce.

Read the full Vox Adio Air GT Review

Best desktop guitar amps: Blackstar Fly

(Image credit: Blackstar)

8. Blackstar Fly 3

Practice your guitar on the fly

Specifications

Wattage: 3W
Effects: Clean/Overdrive and Delay
Speakers: 1x3”
Weight: 1.9lbs/0.9kg

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely light-weight 
+
 Affordable  

Reasons to avoid

-
A little basic  

As far as portable, battery-powered practice amps go, the Blackstar Fly may be the most popular one out there. This tiny 3W amp not only delivers two channels (clean/ overdrive) but also ‘tape delay’. 

Blackstar offers a Fly Stereo pack (or separate FLY 103 extension cab) which turns this mighty little amp into a 6W stereo rig. This sounds great for guitar but even better for music playback or even PC monitors. 

The Fly is portable, loud, and best of all extremely affordable! 

Best desktop guitar amps: Orange Crush Mini

(Image credit: Orange)

9. Orange Crush Mini

An amp that keeps things simple and focuses on good tone

Specifications

Wattage: 3W
Amp Models: 1
Effects: n/a
Speakers: 1x4” Orange Voice of the World
Weight: 1.99lbs/0.9kg

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing drive tones
+
Really easy to dial in
+
Excellent portability

Reasons to avoid

-
No effects built-in

The Orange Crush Mini takes the format of the British amp makers popular practice amp range and makes great tone smaller than you ever thought possible. If you’re not one to menu dive and just want to play, the Crush Mini makes it easy.

It’s got that characterful Orange crunch tone when you dial up the gain and whilst the clean tone is nice, it’s admittedly not the loudest. If you’ve ever used an Orange one knob EQ you’ll know it’s far more versatile than you’d first think, especially when used in conjunction with your guitar’s tone knobs.

It’s got a built-in tuner so you’ll always be rocking in the right key, as well as aux input for jamming along to your favorite tunes. Probably the best feature is the 8 ohms speaker out, which lets you use it as a miniature amp head and get that beefy Orange sound without carting around a massive amp.

Best desktop amps: Marshall MS-4 Micro Stack

(Image credit: Marshall)

10. Marshall MS-4 Micro Stack

Get the iconic Marshall look and tone from the comfort of your desk

Specifications

Wattage: 1W
Amp Models: 1
Effects: N/A
Speakers: 2x 2”
Weight: 1lbs/0.45kg

Reasons to buy

+
Looks amazing
+
Headphone out for silent practice
+
Belt clip for taking it out wirelessly

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most flexible tonally

We all love the idea of standing in front of a Marshall full-stack and letting loose on some classic rock-inspired riffs and bluesy lead guitar work. Unfortunately, a full stack is just not really compatible with modern-age living: enter the Marshall MS-4 micro stack.

It’s small in size but it packs a surprising punch with its 2x2” speaker configuration. As you might imagine it’s a typical hard rock tone, and riffs by Zeppelin and AC/DC pair perfectly with its overdriven sound.

It’s got a headphone out for silent practice, as well as a belt clip so you can wander around the house and impress your relatives with your soloing skills. Okay, so it’s not the most in-depth amplifier on this list in terms of feature set, but it is undeniably good fun.

Best desktop guitar amps: Buying advice

Best desktop guitar amps: Positive Grid Spark on blue background

(Image credit: Future)

What sound do I want from my desktop amp?

With any amplifier, the most crucial thing to think about is the sound you're going for. Granted, you probably won't be playing Madison Square Garden with your desktop amp so it needn't be the most pristine tone ever, but it's important to find the right sound for you nonetheless. 

Not all of these multi-channel or modeling amps are capable of re-creating every tone you can think of, so you'll need to put some thought into which desktop guitar amp suits you best.

Which tone do you use 90% of the time? Find an amp that can reproduce that. If you're a blues player, you may want to look for an amp with an authentic low gain sound and a nice spring reverb. For us, the Yamaha THR30II does a great job at achieving this sound. If metal is your thing, then make sure the amp you choose has a solid high-gain setting. The Blackstar BEAM, Katana-Air, and Positive Grid Spark handle the high-gain sounds very well in our opinion. 

What effects do I want on my desktop amp?

Next up, you should consider which effects you use on a daily basis. Each amp on this list comes with access to lots of guitar effects, from delay to reverb, compression to chorus, and even octave pedal effects, so take a minute to either consider which tones you use the most, or which tones you want to emulate. 

It's no problem if you can't decide though. More and more amplifiers are being designed alongside companion apps, meaning you can download extra effects and presets whenever you want to try out new sounds.

If you're after something app-less but still want to experiment with different effects, then something with a simple user interface is what you need. Something like the Fender Mustang LT40S or Yamaha THR30II is totally beginner-friendly - and as it's capable of loads of tones, it's a great option if you're not quite sure what you want.

What wattage do I need?

Each of the amps on this list has plenty of power for home practice – from around 3 watts to a hefty 40 – so consider where you're going to be using your amp most. If you're only ever playing at home, anything as small as 1W will do just fine, but if you're going to be jamming with others, then more power will be required. 

If you're going to be using this amp to potentially gig, then we'd really argue that you'd be better off with any of the best practice amps or guitar amps. The small speakers in a desktop amp will make playing larger spaces difficult, even though they’ll sound loud at home. 

How we test desktop guitar amps

Why you can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

When it comes to recommending a desktop amp, we are looking for a well-made unit that delivers a versatile tone at a manageable volume for home practice. So for that reason, we'll pay careful attention to the following factors when testing the best desktop guitar amps. 

For us, all amps should be well made and sturdy, regardless of their application. Guitar amps should feel robust and able to withstand anything you throw at them - something that's particularly important with a portable desktop amp. Of course, the controls and dials should feel smooth with just the right amount of resistance, not flimsy or unresponsive. 

As we are testing desktop amps, we expect to see a plethora of practice aids - such as a wealth of tones, Bluetooth connectivity, headphone sockets, and more. So we'll spend time navigating the added extras to see precisely what you are getting for your money. These features should be intuitive and not so complicated that setting up the amp takes away from your practice time. 

Read more about our rating system, how we choose the gear we feature, and exactly how we test each product.  

How we test desktop guitar amps

Nick Guppy has been a regular contributor to Guitarist magazine for over 20 years, mostly writing reviews on guitar amps and related products. He built his first valve amplifier at the age of 12 and has since bought, sold and restored many more, with a particular interest in Vox, Selmer, Orange and tweed-era Fenders, alongside Riveras and Mark Series Boogies. When wielding a guitar instead of soldering iron, he’s enjoyed a diverse musical career playing all over the UK, including occasional stints with theatre groups, orchestras and big bands as well as power trios and tributes. His favourite musical genres are ‘anything that’s good’.

With contributions from