Are you looking for an amazing electric guitar amp to add to your arsenal?
You've come to the right place!
In this insider guide, you will learn the following:
- What is the difference between tube amplifiers, solid-state, and modeling amps?
- How much do electric guitar amps usually cost?
- What are the best guitar amps?
And much more!
Orange Closed-Back Speaker Cabinet Bundle
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Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb 15-Watt 1×10-Inch Guitar Combo Amp
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Vox Mini SuperBeetle
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Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amplifier
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VOX VT40X Modeling Amp 40W
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My Overall #1 Rated Pick
The first time I heard an Orange Micro Terror I was completely blown away.
How a tiny 20-watt amp head can make that kind of noise is completely beyond me!
This is a tiny little stack that brings the noise – Classic British style!
So, it’s small and loud – but what makes it good? For me, it’s all about the size-sound-output ratio.
The Micro Terror really is tiny, and for such a small unit, it has zero business sounding as good as it does cranked up to 11.
But somehow, it puts out genuinely pleasing distortion and handles clean sounds effortlessly.
The 8-inch speaker cab bundled in with the amp is a brilliant little practice unit, and of course, it’s built like a proper orange, even down to the classic tweed mesh.
Not only does it sound amazing, but it’s also ridiculously cheap.
For under $250 you’re getting an amp with a speaker suitable for most practice settings, and you’re also getting the flexibility to be able to take the same amp head and hook it up to a 4 x 12 speaker cabinet when gigging.
This way your practice sound, and your live sound remain similar.
Electric guitar amplifiers are so much more than just a way to make your instrument louder.
Much like guitars, different amps have completely different tones, in fact amps are often the defining characteristic of a guitarist’s sound.
If you’re upgrading from a kit amp, a headphone amp, or even no amp at all, these are what I consider to be some of the best home and small gig amplifiers for electric guitars available today.
We’ll get started with a quick look at the 5 best amps for electric guitar
Below is a quick list of what I consider to be the top five best intermediate electric guitars on the market today.
Top 5 Best Electric Guitar Amps
In a hurry? Check out my top 5 picks below! Keep reading to learn more about these amps!
What Is The Difference Between Valve, Solid State, And Modeling Amps?
If you’re new to amplifiers you’ve probably realized that there’s a lot of complicated terminologies thrown around in the descriptions of the models.
Generally speaking, amps are broken into three different categories – Valve (sometimes known as tube amps), Solid State, and a more recent invention, Modeling Amps.
Valve amps, or tube amps as they are sometimes referred to as were by far the most popular amplifiers available until the 70s.
The technology behind their operation is a little complex but put simply, they make use of glass vacuum tubes to increase the power of the signal coming from the guitar’s pickups.
After the invention of solid-state semiconductors (more about those later), tube amps saw a rapid decline in use, mainly due to their expense, and fragility.
So, why, might you ask, am I talking about this ancient technology in a modern guitar blog? Well, tube amps are absolutely treasured by pro musicians for their natural, warm tone.
They are true analog devices, and they sound like nothing else out there.
There are two main types of tube amp, class A and class AB. Again, and mainly because I don’t have the technical knowledge to go into massive depth about how exactly they work, I’ll keep the differences simple.
Class A Tube amplifiers are characterized by their tendency to distort proportional to the volume of the amp.
When we talk about warmth in an amp, what we’re really talking about is the level of ear-pleasing distortion the sound has.
Too much and it’s sonically all over the place (bad), not enough, and the sound is cold and digital.
Class A run into problems at low volume, where that beautiful distortion is hard to come by. On the other hand, crank them up to 11 and you’ll get flowing waves of amazingly warm overdrive.
The Vox AC30 is a classic example of a Class A tube amp.
One of the main downsides to this style of valve amp is that they go through tubes fast, and this has a lot to do with that punishing overdrive.
Some might say it’s a small price to pay, but replacement tubes are anything but a small price these days!
So, onward to Class AB.
The method of power management in a Class AB is different from that found in a Class A, and this results in is what we call headroom. A basic description for headroom would be the ability to push the volume up higher without distorting the sound. Guitar players who want to sound clean often gravitate towards AB.
Some of the classic AB-type tube amps are made by Marshall and Mesa Boogie.
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Introduced circa 1975, solid-state amps replaced fragile and expensive tubes with hard-wearing and cheap circuitry.
The resulting amp was capable of big volume in a small package. In fact, solid-state amplifier technology is directly responsible for the invention of the portable practice amp.
Solid-state amps are big with jazz guitarists who want the cleanest possible sound.
Increase of volume doesn’t bring on any distortion on this type of amp until the speaker cone stops responding properly – and that’s definitely not aurally pleasing!
Next up, a newer invention – modeling amps. This digital amp style lets you have the best parts of both solid-state and tube amps.
Thanks to clever computer electronics, modeling amps can simulate the sounds of some of the most iconic amplifiers in history.
This is essentially wizardry, and truth be told I was skeptical at first, but after hearing one, I’ve been lusting after them ever since.
You’d have to be a real audiophile to even come close to telling the difference between a modeling amp or the real thing that it’s emulating in a blind test.
The fact that one small amp can sound like so many big old tube amps makes it an attractive prospect indeed.
They offer enormous control over so many aspects of your sound in a standard solid-state amp sized package.
If you have eclectic taste and want to sound like a whole bunch of your heroes without too much effort, a modeling amp is a way to go!
Because modeling amplifiers are essentially computers, many of them can actually accept new amp profiles.
With these models, it’s possible to download new sounds from the internet that aren’t built into the unit and upload them to your amp.
Some modeling amps even come with a range of digital effects built-in, too.
So, if a pedalboard isn’t in your budget, but you need some effects, this could be a great option.
If you find the right unit, you might even get Bluetooth connectivity to connect a phone or other device wirelessly to provide backing tracks.
There are tons of great options, so, if you don’t happen to like the VOX VT40X, why not check out, the excellent, Boss Katana, Blackstar, or Fender Mustang amp models.
Last, but not least, we’ve got hybrid amps. These are amplifiers that mesh both solid-state and valve technology.
Marshall were some of the early pioneers of this design with their Valve State amps. Like the many that came after, these amps make use of tubes in the preamp stage of amplification, then solid-state for the power.
The tube side of the amp takes care of shaping the overall tone, which is, of course, the prime benefit of a valve amp.
Once the signal has passed the preamp, the main boosting of signal happens over on the solid-state circuitry.
Using tubes in the preamp stage has a much bigger influence on the sound than it would by using the tech in the opposite way.
Not only that, but it’s a much more economical way to get tube benefits, and the preamp end doesn’t generate anywhere near the same amount of heat as valves would on the power end.
This means tubes last longer, and the amp is overall more reliable.
If you think of yourself as a bit of a purist, and you’re looking for a slice of the authentic tube sound, without the full tube amp price, hybrid amps are a good place to start.
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How Much Do Electric Guitar Amps Usually Cost?
Guitar amplifiers vary massively in cost, but then again, they vary massively in quality, too.
The most popular school of thought is that it’s preferable to go with a cheaper guitar and a better quality amplifier, so, if you’re splitting your budget between an axe and an amp, bear this in mind.
There are a variety of factors that influence the overall cost of an amplifier, keep reading as I dive into some details about what separates cheap amps from expensive ones.
If you’re able to figure out which features you want, vs. those you don’t, you should have a much easier time choosing one that meets your needs exactly.
Read More >> How Do You Choose The Best Acoustic Guitar For You?
I went into great detail earlier about the different amplifier types, so I won’t repeat myself about how they work, but I will talk about why they differ in price.
Starting with the cheapest, the solid-state type amp. Solid-state rose in popularity because the tech was cheap, easy to produce, durable, and portable.
Small solid-state practice amps can be bought for as little as $30 (if you’re looking for even smaller, a headphone amp like my awesome Vox Amplug 2 Lead, might be just the thing for you!).
At this price, amps are more of a novelty than anything else, but when you see these micro-units, you’ll realize just how versatile solid-state tech is. Expect to pay between $30 and $3000.
Modeling and Hybrid amps tend to come in at around the same price point.
Modeling amps justify their price increase over solid state due to the R&D that goes into creating the algorithms that reproduce famous amp sounds.
Not only that, but the chips and components used are more expensive than the basic circuit boards on a solid-state amp.
Basic practice modeling amps start around $130, and professional level amp heads can go as high as $3000.
Hybrid amps are a further jump up in cost because of the fact that they use real tubes in either the preamp or power stage in combination with solid-state technology.
Since the 1970s, when tube amps lost popularity, the manufacture of the glass valves needed to make them work has become a niche industry, and consequently, the price has gone up.
As for pure tube amps, which are typically the most expensive of all, as they require purely vacuum tube technology (and more tubes at that), you really get into premium territory.
If you’re moving beyond basic gigging, and you’re starting to record commercially, or you’re selling out big shows, it’s definitely worth the investment.
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There are two basic amp configurations available, either combo, or separate speaker cabinet and amplifier head.
Combo, or combination type amplifiers are generally cheapest, although there are some particularly pricey examples such as the VOX AC30 combo ($2180), and my favorite, the Marshall Bluesbreaker ($3300).
The best part about combos? All you need to do is just plug in and start playing!
As for separate head and speaker cabs, the sky is the limit.
The Orange Micro Terror, as reviewed in this post is one of the best ‘cheap’ setups on the market, coming in at just $250, but because an amplifier head can be fed into as many speaker cabinets as you like, rigs can hit tens of thousands of dollars.
As with almost anything, the quality of amplifier construction will have a big impact on the price.
It starts with the materials used – thicker wood generally equals better quality – it allows for more secure fixtures, which will in turn prevent speakers or other components rattling themselves loose.
When pieces of an amp become loose, they vibrate and this contributes to breakdowns, and best-case scenario, poor sounding gear.
Anyone transporting their amp from place to place is likely to end up with knocks and dings, too.
So if you’re a gigging artist, make sure you consider build quality as well as sound quality when you’re choosing your amp.
Of course, better/thicker wood is more expensive, which does in turn justify a higher cost.
The power of your amp is one of the biggest influences in the price. More power requires beefier components, and in the case of valve amps, more tubes. FYI, guitar amplifier power is usually denoted in wattage.
In the case of combo amps, more power also means more speakers, or a larger speaker size, in order to handle the higher output.
Practice amps have anywhere between 1 and 30 watts of power (typically). They aren’t really geared up for performing live at large venues, although there’s nothing stopping you from miking a practice amp up to a PA if that’s all you’ve got!
Anything over 30 watts and you’re getting into the realm of advanced level gear.
Things start getting seriously loud, and in order to get the best sound out of these rigs, they usually have to be cranked right up.
This really puts them out of home use territory and keeps them reserved for the practice room or live gigs.
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My Reviews Of The 5 Best Electric Guitar Amplifiers
With the massive range of practice pads available out there, there can seem like an overwhelming amount of choice.
The main thing to look for in a practice pad is the quality of materials that are made of. There may be some very tempting budget options that look the same on paper as more expensive options.
However, these options often have more rigid plastic playing surfaces that are much louder and less enjoyable to play on.
Also playing drums on a hard surface for long periods of time is known to attribute to repetitive strain injuries, especially if you’re a beginner and your technique is quite there yet.
Many practice pads will also have more than one playing surface, utilizing two different rubber sides with varying amounts of rebound.
In general, hard silicone rubber has a very high rebound, which is great for percussionists and marching snare drummers to practice their chops.
However, for drum kit players wanting to get more accuracy on a loosely tuned floor tom for example, it’s more beneficial to practice on a flat surface with minimal rebound.
This is where two-sided practice pads are useful in giving you the best of both worlds in terms of rebound and feel.
If you’re looking to keep a practice pad permanently at home or practice space, then a robust 12-inch practice pad mounted on a cymbal or snare stand is perfect.
However, if you need something to use on the go, a portable 8 inch or pocket-sized slim pad is the way to go.
Often the more portable ones have knee straps making it even easier to practice when you’re out and about.
As a general rule you should be looking to spend between $20-40 on a portable, rubber headed practice pad.
Practice pads at this price range are usually robust enough to withstand years of rigorous practice and travel.
My Reviews Of The Best Drum Practice Pads
If like me, you have a limited budget and you’re a fan of the classic British rock sound, you’ll love the Orange Amps Micro Terror and PPC108 speaker cab set.
This is probably the coolest practice amp on the market (although the VOX Mini Superbeetle comes close!), so if image is as important to you as sound, you can’t go too far wrong with this.
The Micro Terror brings big-time crunch thanks to its hybrid valve and solid-state board.
It’s really a tiny little thing, but combine it with a 4x12 speaker cabinet and it can push a lot more air than you’d ever expect.
It has simple controls (volume, tone, and gain), it handles an aux input, and it’s built like a tank.
- Amazing build quality/price ratio
- Incredible tone for an amp of this size
- Powers everything from 1x8 speakers to 4x12 cabs
- Heavier than equivalent combo amps like the Orange Crush
- Requires more maintenance than beginners need to deal with
Fender have also kindly included a nice cover, too – something you won’t find too often these days.
It doesn’t scrimp on details, and faithfully replicates the original 1965 Princeton model.
It boasts the legendary Fender long spring reverb and tube vibrato, and even includes a two way footswitch for activating and deactivating these FX.
The sound is nothing short of classic, the all tube design is warm, and the overdrive is the stuff of dreams.
- Crystal clear sound
- Great for recreating the sound of countless hits
- Will last a lifetime with care and attention
- Might require an attenuator to achieve sufficient tube saturation without max volume
- Tubes have been known to rattle loose and cause issues
If you want something that looks as good as it sounds, and you’re not able to spend too much, I’d thoroughly recommend the VOX Mini Superbeetle.
Imagine someone had actually invented a shrink ray, like the ones in comics from the 50s and 60s, and fired it at one of the AC100 behemoths that The Beatles were famous for standing in front of, and you’ve got a Mini Superbeetle, a boutique practice amp that can easily stretch to live performance use.
Build quality is absolutely mega on these things. Just like their big brothers, it’s an amp head and cabinet setup, with the cab mounted on beautiful chrome rails.
The amp itself is a 25 solid state, but using some kind of electronic witchcraft (VOX Nutube), manages to sound just like an old school VOX tube.
The speaker in the bundle is a single 10 inch cone, custom designed for VOX by Celestion.
- Great range of tone control, even in the midrange
- Super compact design
- Bridges the gap between home use and stage
- No built-in FX
- Open back cabinet leave speaker susceptible to damage
There’s no way I could write a top 5 amplifiers list without including something from Marshall!
This unit is one of the loudest combo rigs around, thanks to its 40 watt amplifier and 12 inch Celestion speaker.
Believe it or not, this is actually one of my favorite amps for playing a miked up acoustic guitar through!
It has classic Marshall tube crunch, making it a solid choice for those craving the early Clapton sound on stage.
It has individual gain and volume for each of the two channels, so it also works for duets.
The Softube speaker emulation makes this a great choice for studio and recording as you’ll get the sound without the volume.
- Softube emulation gets the tube sound without the need for high volume
- Tube Emulation Output
- Great EQ setting variety
- Tubes can emit burning smell when new
- Reverb isn’t as strong as Fender Princeton
I’m not exactly a modeling amp fanboy, but I think I stand up for them more than other industry commentators, so I felt the need to include one to round out this list.
So, let’s talk about the VOX VT40X Modeling amp.
It has a 40 watt amp powering a single 10 inch speaker, and that amp uses Vox’s revolutionary Nutube technology.
Nutube is an all new triode vacuum tube that powers the pre amp stage, making this amp a sort of hybrid.
It’s cheaper to produce than traditional tubes, and far less fragile, making it a great choice for this type of combo amp.
- Beautiful looking amplifier
- Top-notch build quality
- Great built-in effects
- Difficult to use a looper pedal
- Volume spikes when changing presets
My Top Pick: Orange Closed-Back Speaker Cabinet Bundle
When I was starting out back in the 90s, I never dreamed it would be possible to own an orange stack.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents hooked my up with a 25 watt Marshall combo that I cherished for years, but had the Micro Terror bundle been available back then, you can guess what I’d have chosen for Christmas that year!
Orange Amplification have given us an absolute gem, and potential future classic in the Micro Terror.
It’s the smallest amp head they have ever built, and like the rest of Orange’s Terror range, it’s no novelty item.
I’ve always wanted an Orange stack, and I might just have to go out and buy this one. As an Englishman, I love the classic British tones, and I love the price even more!
It's such a great value for the money, check out the lowest price on Amazon right now!
Final Thoughts On The Best Electric Guitar Amps
It’s a lot easier to upgrade your guitar than it is your amplifier, so I really do recommend you save a good part of your budget for a great amp (I’m looking at all you new players planning to blow your entire budget on a Gibson Les Paul then hitting up a pawnshop for a $15 piece of junk to play it through!).
Truthfully, I wanted to name all of these amps as my number one choice.
I love all of them, but sadly my wallet and my wife, both say no to having this many.
Amps are kind of the unsung hero, they hide in the background, while your guitar takes all the glory.
Getting the right amplifier for your sound and style will make a massive difference to your live sound and the quality of any recordings you make, and remember, much like a guitar, an amp that is well looked after will last for many years, and in the case of tube amps, will only get better with age.