The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Small Amps, Big Sound
If you’re trying to find the best guitar amp for home use and practice, there are a lot of choices out there. Unfortunately, as beginners soon find out, many small amps sound buzzy and thin, but there are a few that really stand out above the rest.
It’s a lot easier to practice the guitar when you sound good, and choosing a great amp can make all that time spent burning the midnight oil much more enjoyable.
I’ve whittled the choices down to my three favorite small amps. One is a ground-breaking modeling amp unlike anything that’s ever existed before, which incorporates awesome digital effects alongside patented solid-state distortion.
Another is a digital amp that has taken the guitar world by storm in recent years, and combines incredible tone with flexibility and ease of use. The third is a bare-bones rock monster, focused on classic tones and made by the best guitar amp manufacture in the world.
These amps have a lot in common. All three are in the 15-20 watt range, so you’re not going to crumble any walls here. But they are loud enough to jam with friends, practice on your own, or even record.
They each have an 8-inch speaker, which is something that used to signify wimpy tone when it came to practice amps. Those days are gone, and these amps really sound incredible for their size. And, they are all comparable in price.
Most importantly, they are made by three of the best guitar amp builders in the world. You know you can count on them for quality gear that sounds great and lasts.
But there are many differences between these amps as well, and those differences will help you decide which best meets your needs. By the end of this article you should know which amp amp is right for you, based on your style, experience and goals.
Let's look at some amps!
Peavey Vypyr VIP 1
My personal choice for the best guitar practice amp would have been the Peavey Vypyr 15. In fact, that's the amp I use for practice. But the old Vypyrs were discontinued by Peavey a little while ago, to make room for something new. My Vypyr 15 is an awesome little amp, but Peavey decided to make it even more awesomer with the new VIP 1.
Technically, the amps of the innovative Vypyr VIP Series aren't direct replacements for the old Vypyrs, since they do a whole lot of things their predecessors did not. Where the Vypyr 15 was simply a guitar amp with a lot of different models and effects, the VIP 1 goes far beyond the average modeling amp standard.
The VIP 1 can be used not only as a guitar amp, but also as a bass amp, or an acoustic guitar amp. Now that’s interesting, and as a musician who plays electric guitar, bass and acoustic guitar I can see huge benefits here.
But even if you don’t care about anything but electric guitar, the VIP will do some pretty impressive things for you.
The VIP instrument has instrument simulation settings for sitar, 12-string, violin, mandolin and a bunch of others, meaning you can plug in your guitar and get some cool emulation effects beyond what you’d expect from a guitar processor.
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Of course it still has many of the great electric guitar emulations that the Vypyr 15 did, such as the Peavey 6505, Twin, and British sounds. And, there’s a huge array of programmable effects to choose from.
Everything is controlled by Peavey’s WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) interface, which basically mean you turn the knobs where you want them and the amp responds. There are no digital processors to figure out, no funky buttons to decipher and no bizarre names for the different presets. You simply turn the knobs where you want them, and you play.
I was pretty impressed with this amp when I had the chance to check it out back when it first came out. I love my Vypyr 15, but I’ve been seriously contemplating the upgrade to the new Vypyr VIP 1.
The Peavey Vypyr VIP Series
Fender Mustang I
Fender Mustang modeling amps have blown a lot of people away since they first hit the scene, and it’s easy to see why. They sound incredible, are super-easy to use, and they reek of that cool Fender vibe. The first wave made a huge mark in the guitar world, but now the V.2s are here and they’re even better.
The new Mustangs feature 17 amp models, more effects than ever, and USB compatibility in case you want to hook up with your PC and use Fender’s FUSE software.
FUSE allows you to customize your amp with special setting, tweak amp models, and gives you access to a unique Fender media library.
If the idea of patching a guitar amp into your computer makes your head spin, no worries. You can just use the Mustang as, you know, a guitar amp. Traditional players will feel comfortable with the easy layout of the amp controls, and the rack-like feel of the effects processor.
This amp shines exactly where you’d expect a Fender to shine: sweet, tubey overdrive, and incredible clean tones. I’ve been critical of Fender high-gain sounds in the past and had a few people tell me I was bonkers.
So, I went back and listened to some recordings done with different Mustang models and, while it has some very good sounds for rock and even heavier rock styles, I still don’t think this amp has the best high-gain distortion out there.
I’ll admit it’s not bad, and unless you play detuned extreme metal you’d likely be pretty happy with the sound here. Especially for a bedroom practice amp, this thing does sound good.
Consensus opinion seems to be the Fender Mustang I is the best small guitar amp you’re going to find. While I’m not 100% convinced that it beats the Peavey, it is an incredible amp capable of some great sounds.
The Fender Mustang Series
The Marshall MG15 is one of my favorite little amps of all time, and it’s a completely different thing than the two technological marvels above. It's part of the amazing Marshall MG series. These are more straight-on, plug-and-play amps, meant to bring that incredible Marshall tone to a very small package.
There is an MG15 model without effects, and another that simply has reverb, but for a few extra bucks the digital effects add a lot of versatility to this little gem.
This thing doesn’t have a dozen amp models, but it does have four very usable channels built around the classic Marshall sound. The controls are by far the simplest of any amp in this review, and the effects are almost as straight-forward.
There are only five: Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, Delay and Octave, and there is a separate control for reverb. If you’re tired of technology running away with the world, this might be the amp for you.
So, how does a little amp like this stack up against the Peavey or Fender when it comes to amp modeling and effects? Not very well at all. But the MG15 isn’t for players who need all those bells and whistles. It’s a straight-on rock amp, meant for players who just want to plug in and let it rip. The effects you get with the MG15CFX may be all you need, and they are certainly more than enough for a practice amp.
Marshall is the kings of guitar amplification, and this amp is a good example of why. The MG15 holds its own on pure tone, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s so easy to use. If you hate pushing buttons to get the sounds you want, and if you’re a Marshall fan, this is the way to go.
Choose Your Amp!
Peavey, Fender and Marshall are three of the top amp builders in the world. If you are a beginner with a few extra bucks in your pocket, any one of these makes an outstanding first amp. They allow you to experiment with a whole bunch of different tones, and they are high quality pieces that will last.
That means, unlike the crummy one-channel amps many beginners start out with, these amps will stick with you as you progress in your playing, even after you’ve moved on to a larger, more powerful amp for gigs and band rehearsals.
So how do you choose one above the others? Each amp has its unique strong points, and it’s up to you to decide which one best meets your needs.
I like the Peavey VIP for its versatility and TransTube solid-state distortion. It is really an innovative concept to be able to use an electric guitar, acoustic guitar or bass with the same amp.
Then they take it a step further by adding incredible amp models and effects. Most electric guitar players experiment with acoustic guitar, so having this flexibility in one amp is really cool. And, if you decide you want to dabble in bass, you don’t need to get a new amp.
The Fender has really pushed the boundaries when it comes to what a dedicated digital modeling guitar amp can do with a small package. Fender amps always sound good, but in this case the range of tones goes further than any Fender I’ve ever heard.
From metal to country to blues, you can grab any sound you need with a few pushes of the button. I do prefer the Peavey solid-state distortion to digital, particularly for high-gain sounds, but otherwise this little Fender is an incredible amp.
The Marshall is the least complex of the lot, and best for guitar players who just want to plug in and play. You do get some very good effects here, but not nearly the same array as found in the Peavey and Fender above. Instead, you are treated to that legendary Marshall tone, shrunk down a bit so that it fits in a much smaller box.
You won’t fool yourself into thinking you are playing through a Marshall stack, but you’ll know who makes this amp as much by the sound as by the logo on the grill.
I've told you what I think, the rest is up to you. Read the reviews, do some research, think about your requirements as a guitarist, and take the plunge. Honestly, you can't go wrong whichever you choose.
Good luck finding the best guitar amp for practice and home use!
Vote for the Best Small Guitar Amp!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Joshua McNellis on October 25, 2017:
Recently purchased the Fender Mustang gt40. It's a bit more then the amps listed, which are all great, but I have to say, the Fender gts are awesome!!
Guitar Gopher (author) on December 05, 2016:
Hi Andrew. I agree the Peavey would be a good choice. I like the solid-state distortion and those little cabinets are solid. I don't think the Marshall MG would be bad either.
Andrew on December 04, 2016:
I am looking for a combo amp that will deal as best as possible with detuned 8 string guitars. Do you think the Peavey may be best for this due to distortion and that it is also made for bass guitar. Cheers.
Herb on October 04, 2016:
Blackstar HT-1R is missing from this list.
Guitar Gopher (author) on September 24, 2016:
Hi Dan. I'd look to the Marshall MGs without the effects. Of course I always recommend the Peavey Bandit as a solid, basic amp. It's loud and has a great clean sound to work with.
Dan Marois on September 24, 2016:
Does anyone know of any small amps that don't have built-in effects but have a great clean sound and take pedals well.
Guitar Gopher (author) on September 08, 2015:
Hi jacques. Sorry about your amp. I personally like Peavey amps for metal, but there are a lot of other great choices out there too. Check out Randall and Marshall as well. Some of the little digital modeling amps can get very good metal sounds too.
jacques on September 06, 2015:
I don't know if you can help me but I recently blew my amp so it's time for a knew one but im looking for something i can really play metal on.
it's just for home use so it doesnt need to be big.
Guitar Gopher (author) on June 30, 2015:
Hi Rodrigo. In that case, I'd think about something loud, solid-state and basic. The Peavey TransTube combos are fairly inexpensive and I've always liked them a lot. The Bandit is plenty loud enough for gigs, but a bit more expensive than the amps in this article. The Rage 258 is similar in price, but a much smaller amp and the Envoy is somewhere between the Bandit and the Rage . The Fender Champion and Marshall MG Series do have some basic effects, but are otherwise pretty straight-forward amps.
Rodrigo on June 30, 2015:
How about beginners who happen to have top tier multi effects like me with my Boss GT-100? I certainly do not need effects nor (maybe) amp modelling beyond what the GT-100 can offer? Which one would you choose on that case?
Frank on November 23, 2014:
The Fender by miles
Guitar Gopher (author) on April 09, 2014:
I'd think you're on the mark, Old Dreg. Personally, I'd probably mic them all.
Old Dreg on April 08, 2014:
Great article. Not too much about recording from amp though. I guess u'd need to mic the Marshal. With the Fender I believe u can record from it to your laptop (via USB) while listening to u'r playing on the amp. The Peavey on the other hand mutes the speaker when USB connect so needs headphones plugged into amp to monitor.
Sound clarity at low volume
While you can use an amp of any wattage during your practice sessions, if you ask any guitar expert, they'll recommend mini amps will lower wattage. The reason for this is that lower-watt mini amps sound much better at lower volumes. Yes, that's true.
The best tube amplifiers to buy in 2022 at a glance:
Fender 68 Custom Pro Reverb. Fender 68 Custom Vibro Champ. Tone King Gremlin Head. Carr Super Bee.
Practice Both Plugged And Unplugged
The long answer to the question of whether or not you should practice your guitar with an amplifier is this; you should be practicing both with and without an amplifier. If you're a beginner, you should almost certainly spend most of your time unplugged.
20 to 45 Watts
A solid-state amplifier in this range is best used as a practice amplifier, much like a 5- to 10-watt tube amp.
Consider the Amp Volume and Wattage
Rather, when it comes to choosing an amp for your guitar, you'll want to keep in mind just how “big” a sound you'll need from your amp to fill a space. Smaller practice amps offer between 10 and 40 watts of power and are great for practicing at home or in a small space by yourself.
We'll answer all these questions and more. Due to the nature of the electronics, a 10-watt tube amp will likely keep up with a blues or rock drummer just fine. However, a solid state amp that's 10 watts will go completely unheard.What amp should a beginner get? ›
In this article. Roland CUBE Street EX 2x8" 50-watt Battery Powered Combo Amp. Marshall Code 50 1x12" 50-watt Digital Combo Amp. Yamaha THR5 2x3" 10-watt Modeling Combo Amp.What's a good size amp for a beginner? ›
If you're looking for an amp to practice with, you'll want to get a smaller amp (8-10”) that's low power 10-30 watts. Speakers of this size enable you to produce a higher frequency than you'd be able to with larger sizes.What is the average amp for a house? ›
Most homes have an electrical service of between 100 to 200 amps. Amperage is a measurement of the volume of electricity flowing through wires, and this measurement can vary between 30 amps in very old homes that have not been updated to as much as 400 amps in a very large home with extensive electric heating systems.What is the most common amperage in a house? ›
The standard size electrical service for residential is 200 amps 120/240 volts single phase. This is a common size 200 amp electrical entrance with a breaker panel and service. It will supply sufficient amperage for most heating sources, appliances and lighting.
What exactly is a practice amp? A practice amp is basically a low powered compact and lightweight combination amplifier that is perfect for practicing with at home, or for use at small venues. They usually range in power from around 5 to 40 watts (can be higher) and come with a speaker of about 6 to 10 inches in size.What should you not do with an amp? ›
Never, never, never run the amp with no speaker plugged in. This can cause major damage. Do not flip the power switch off, then back on rapidly. This can cause power supply damage.How many hours a day should I practice my guitar? ›
For most people, 30–90 minutes per day seems to be a good goal. Total beginners may see good results in just 15 minutes per day.How can I practice guitar at home? ›
- Practice Electric Guitar With Headphones.
- Practice Electric Guitar Without an Amp.
- Dampen Your Acoustic Guitar With a T-Shirt.
- Use an Acoustic Guitar Feedback Dampener.
- Use an Acoustic Guitar Silencer.
- Buy a Silent Travel Guitar.
- Use Palm Muting.
So can a 5-watt tube amp be loud enough for gigs or rehearsing with a band? A 5-watt combo with a typical 1 x 12 speaker cannot achieve volumes to play alongside a drummer for rehearsals or gigs without any PA support. As they are designed for optimal volume levels for home and bedroom practice.Can I gig with a 20 watt amp? ›
For home use your amp should be around 20W. For most gigs and live performances in venues that hold around 100 people, you should have either a 20W tube amp, or a 40W solid state amp if you're playing without a band. If you're playing with a drummer, you'll likely need a 100W solid state amp, or a 50W valve amp.Can you gig with a 1 watt amp? ›
Not enough loud without a mic and a decent PA. Unless you have a decent PA and can mic your amp you'll be lost under drums and your bass players Ampeg SVT or similar rig. I agree with Acousticmirror that if you plan on having any clean sounds on a gig your 1 watt amp just won't project a usable clean sound.Why small amps are better? ›
The benefit of small guitar amps
They are just too loud to be played at home or in a small studio. Conversely, with a small guitar amp you can get a better tone at a lower volume. Lower watt amps are less powerful, so you can overload the tubes within them more easily.
Nearly all guitar pedals can be used for any amplifier regardless if it's valve, modeling, or a hybrid amp. You can run guitar pedals through the primary input of the amp or individual pedals into the 'effects loop' (usually reverb, delays, modulation) depending on the effect and the player's preference.How do I match my guitar amp to my speakers? ›
You always want to match your amp ohms to the speaker ohms or keep your amp's ohm output at a lower setting than the ohm of your speakers. If you have an 8-ohm speaker, and your amp is set at 4 ohms, you'll be okay since your 8-ohm speaker would be able to handle the weaker signal from the amp.
15 watts is probably loud enough to be heard over most drummers, but it will be too quiet in a full band. 25W ad up will get you loud enough while still having some headroom for cleaner tones. As previously stated 15-20 works but not much cleans.Is 100 watt amp too loud for home? ›
100 watts solid state = The potential to be rather loud, but there's always the volume knob. Solid states don't need to be cranked up to sound their best. In fact, many would say the louder you turn one up, the worse it sounds. 100 watts tube = Get ready for the cops to show up!What's the difference between a 10W amp and a 15W amp? ›
So, between a 10W and 15W amp, you have had a 50% increase in theoretical output. This would represent an increase of somewhere between 1 and 3 dB which on the grand scale of things is nothing. But hey, if you want louder, then go for the larger watts.How much should I spend on a beginner amp? ›
In a Nutshell
Beginners usually get the most out of their rig if they spend around $100-150 on an amp and $250-300 on a guitar. If you need more volume, then it's best to upgrade your amp instead.
Beginner guitar amps usually cost between $40-200. Low wattage amps produced by lesser-known brands typically will cost under $100. For well-known brands, or wattage in the 15-30W range, amps will usually cost between $100-200. All amps in this price range will very likely be solid-state models.What is considered a small amp? ›
Power and Speaker Size
Practice amps are usually solid state or modeling combo units featuring low power (10-30 watts) and small (8″ or 10″) speakers, although there are some small tube amps to be found.
Death is possible. 1.0 to 4.3 Amps Rhythmic pumping action of the heart ceases. Muscular contraction and nerve damage occur; death is likely. 10 Amps Cardiac arrest, severe burns, death is probable.How many amps does a small house need? ›
Today, 100 Amps is considered okay for a smaller house, unless there are large electrical draw appliances, such as air conditioning systems, swimming pools, hot tubs, electric dryers, and electric stoves. Often, 100 Amp electrical services get updated to 150 or 200 Amps.How many amps do old houses have? ›
Houses built in the '40s and '50s had 60-amp service, which would be very low by today's standards. In the '60s and '70s, 100-amp service became more common – better than earlier service, but still low by modern standards.What will 30 amps run in a house? ›
You can run a microwave, coffee maker, toaster and hair dryer on 30 amps. You can also use the TV if it's not a large one. With an air conditioner you'll need to make sure there is enough power for your air conditioner plus other appliances.
Using speakers with average sensitivity, a rock band playing in a medium-sized club will need around 1,500 watts total power at a minimum, whereas a pop or jazz group might need between 250-750 watts. For simple folk music in the same venue, that requirement can come down to as little as 60 watts.What practice amps do pros use? ›
- Boss Katana MKII 50. One of the best practice amps in the world. ...
- Blackstar HT-1R Combo. The perfect practice amp for those who can't do without tubes. ...
- Strymon Iridium. ...
- Marshall CODE 50. ...
- Orange Crush 20. ...
- Yamaha THR10II Wireless. ...
- Fender Mustang Micro. ...
- Positive Grid Spark Mini.
Peavey 6505 Guitar Amp Head
Today, Ted Nugent uses Peavey 6505 heads onstage. According to Nugent at (15:40), he experimented with Peavy 5150s while playing with his band the Damn Yankees, “just as an experiment… It sounded awesome. And so I stuck with it and today I'm using 6505s.”
1) It does no harm to the connector in the guitar, or amp, or the connectors on the cord, to leave them plugged in.Should I unplug my amp when not in use? ›
Amplifiers are usually made to last for quite a long time, so the chances of anything happening to them are close to none. Naturally, the best way to do everything is to unplug it after you're done playing. But with a good quality surge protector, there is almost nothing that can happen if you leave everything on.Can an amp ruin a guitar? ›
No. Pickups are basically just magnets and wire. Putting it next to your amp to get feedback is a classic technique that has existed since the beginning of guitar amplification. There is nothing your amp can do that will hurt them.Is 60 too old to learn guitar? ›
You are never too old to learn guitar. You can start learning guitar at any age. While younger people tend to learn faster, you are still capable of learning guitar as a beginner whether you are 30, 40, 60, or even 70.How long does it take the average person to learn guitar? ›
|Level||Hours Needed||Daily Practice Investment|
If you're feeling tired or can't concentrate, then only practice guitar for a very short time. If you're full of energy, by all means, have a longer practice session. The length of your practice session needs to stay short enough for you to stay focused the entire time. If you lose your focus, you're wasting your time.Is 30 minutes a day enough guitar practice? ›
If playing guitar is your hobby, then 20-30 minutes of practice is enough for you. On the other side, if you want to be on a bit higher level, and maybe if you need one hour of practice per day. If you want to play in a professional sense or be in a band, then one to two hours a day is enough.
- Pick out the chords to a song by ear.
- Learn a riff from a recording.
- Transcribe a solo by ear from your favorite player.
- Sing intervals, scales, arpeggios, or other musical devices.
Consistency is key – try to practice guitar for at least 15 minutes per day, five days a week, but also follow these tips: Avoid long and unbroken sessions. Don't practice for more than an hour at a time. Set short breaks if you plan on practicing for more than 20 minutes.What are mini amplifiers used for? ›
The basic purpose for a pocket amplifier is to provide listeners with improved audio performance or sound through a very small device. These amps are not always necessarily small enough to fit into a pocket, but are of much smaller size than many other models of amplifiers.Can you gig with a small amp? ›
Yes, you can gig with a small amp. The only thing you need to take into consideration is stage volume. Some venues do not have their own monitors set up, and just use amps for that purpose. This is really the only scenario I've encountered where a small amp is a liability, and it is a pretty uncommon one these days.What does a mini amplifier do? ›
A mini amplifier may be used to amplify mp3 player music. The mini amplifier is not limited to musical use. It can be used in conjunction with an mp3 player or digital recorder, allowing the user to amplify songs or voice recordings.Are mini guitars harder to play? ›
1- Easier to play / Great for beginners
Small guitars solve this problem and that makes them a great beginner guitar. A guitar like the Baby Taylor is ¾ the size of a traditional acoustic guitar. This means it's a lot easier to hold for someone that is not used to the shape and feel of a guitar.
Classification of the amplifier can be done in 3 different ways. Voltage amplifiers. Current amplifiers. Power amplifiers.Can I use a pedal on a mini amp? ›
Yeah, but I would buy the amp with the most watts. Cause if you want to start adding more pedals to your chain, well, it will screw up your tone.What is the difference between a power amplifier and a small-signal amplifier? ›
An amplifier which is designed to increase the level of input signal is called a voltage amplifier. A type of amplifier which is designed to boost the power level of the input signal is called a power amplifier. Voltage amplifier is also called small signal amplifier.Why does Ed Sheeran use a small guitar? ›
Why is Ed Sheeran's Guitar So Small? Ed Sheeran's guitars are so small because he prefers the feel and sound of 3/4 size guitars compared to full-size guitars. The smaller body creates a different type of guitar tone which suits Ed Sheeran's style of music.
Although a ¾ guitar is significantly larger than a ukulele it is still small enough so that children or grown-ups that don't have long fingers can play them without struggling to reach low notes.Do any professional guitarists play a smaller scale guitar? ›
Eric Clapton is known for playing 000 size acoustics, which have shorter scale necks than most guitars.