Over the last few years, we’ve seen a new type of practice amp emerge. Designed to blend seamlessly into your home whilst providing mind-blowing tone at the drop of a hat, the best desktop guitar amps augment your practice regimen, allowing you to hone your chops and get new ideas down whenever you need.
From humble beginnings just over a decade ago when the Yamaha THR series was launched, we’ve seen an explosion in manufacturers offering desktop guitar amps, with big names like Fender, Boss, Vox, Blackstar, and more offering their own version of this brilliant amplifier format. Gone are the days of low-quality practice amps with their dismal onboard distortions and questionable reverbs, we’re now firmly in the future of home practice.
If you’re looking at getting a desktop guitar amp for the first time, we recommend checking out our buying advice section before you pull the trigger to make sure you get the most out of your purchase. If you already know your stuff, then keep scrolling to see our favorites, handpicked by our expert writing team…
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.
Best desktop guitar amps: The quick list
Want to get to the good stuff minus the fluff? Here we've listed our favorite desktop guitar amps for you, with links to read more if you want.
Undoubtedly the king of desktop guitar amps, the Positive Grid Spark 40 gives you a wealth of different amp tones, a huge selection of effects, and some fantastic practice tools.
Having a load of cables cluttering your desktop is no one's idea of fun while you practice your guitar licks, so the Boss Katana-Air is a perfect choice for those looking to keep things tidy.
If you're looking for loads of different amps and effects sounds, the Fender Mustang LT40S will deliver. We loved the quality of its tones and it's got loads of great presets to get you started.
If you're short on space or looking for something to take on the road with you, the Positive Grid Spark GO is a compact desktop guitar amp with an absolutely massive sound.
Don't want to faff around with dedicated apps and other related gizmos? Well, the Orange Crush Mini is a simple, plug-and-play desktop amp that delivers great tone with no fuss.
It's been around for a while now but there's still no beating the Blackstar FLY 3 in price. For those on a budget, it's an excellent choice, delivering a great sound for relatively little cash.
Best desktop guitar amps 2023
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Here you'll find full writeups and review of all the best desktop guitar amps. The majority of these amps have been personally tested by our writing team, so you can rely on our recommendations.
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.
Read our full Positive Grid Spark review
Best wireless option
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 for versatility
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.
Read the full Fender Mustang LT40S review
Best compact option
It's one of the smallest desktop amps you can get but don't let the look fool you, Positive Grid Spark GO is incredibly loud. Despite only being rated at 5 watts, it offers a room-filling sound and handily doubles as a Bluetooth speaker.
With 33 different amp models, you'll never be short of tones whether it's Fender cleans or Soldano style high gain you're after. As a natural drawback due to its size, it's slightly lacking in the low end compared to a larger amp, but you can eke some phenomenal sounds out of it using presets or crafting your own.
As well as four preset slots available via a button push on the top panel you also get a headphone out and USB-C connector to use it as an interface. Combined with the Spark App you get some powerful practice tools too, like the Smart Jam function that reacts to your playing as well as Auto Chord that works out the chord structures of your favorite songs.
Read the full Positive Grid Spark GO review
Best for simplicity
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 budget option
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 has a built-in emulated tape delay. It's ridiculously affordable too, so a great option for guitarists on a budget.
It's louder than you'd expect, and you get Blackstar's patented ISF feature which allows you to get the best of both American and British amp tones. The emulated tape delay is surprisingly deep, and it gets even better if you get the Stereo pack or buy the separate FLY 103 extension cab.
The controls are simple and will be familiar to anyone who's used a guitar amp, which makes it easy to dial in a great sound. It can get a little fizzy at high gain settings, but considering the cost you're getting a lot for your money. It can also be battery powered so you can take it outside if you want to.
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
Another offering from PG, the Positive Grid Spark MINI takes everything that was great about the regular Spark and puts into a smaller enclosure. If you think that means a reduction in quality or utility you're totally wrong, this thing sounds absolutely immense.
We've had a Spark MINI sitting on our desk for the last year or so and it's rare that a day goes by where we don't fire it up and blast out some licks. Great for practicing that complex piece or just creating some riffs of your own, the huge variety of amp models and effects means you never get bored of playing.
The companion Spark App is absolutely brilliant as well, giving you various practice features like Smart Jam and Auto Chord, housing the built-in tuner as well as allowing you to make fine adjustments to presets. If you ever find yourself stuck for tones there's a whole user library you can easily audition and download too, making it the ultimate practice tool for guitarists short on space.
Read the full Positive Grid Spark MINI review
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.
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 mini 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.
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
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
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 the best desktop guitar amps
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.