Whether you're dreaming of playing the centre stage at Manchester M.E.N or trying to write a top 10 hit in your spare time, you need to practice playing your instrument regularly in order to hone your craft. An amp is a vital part of your overall set up at home, but how do you know which one is going to be right for you and your electric guitar?
While fellow musicians will appreciate the auditory assault that a 100W stack amp can provide, your partner or neighbours probably won't. So, in our top 10 list, we’ll be looking at small yet powerful products with varying wattages that'll be able to provide your desired sound without disturbing others. With amps from brands like Fender, Marshall, and Blackstar on offer, you're bound to find one that brings out the best sound from your guitar.
In this section, we’ll be thinking about the different types of amplifiers and how they may benefit your playing style. Plus, we'll take into consideration other factors that make certain amps more suitable for home use than others.
First up, let's talk about the different styles of amplification. There are hundreds of different models when it comes to amps, but all of them will fit into one of these three categories.
Tube amps are the most traditional kind in the music industry - they use vacuum tubes to increase the sound. Many guitarists prefer this style of amp, describing the sound it produces as "fat" with an organic distortion.
Tube amps are generally louder than the other kinds available, regardless of their wattage. This means that if you’re living somewhere like an apartment block, a tube amp will perhaps be too loud - even when set to a lower volume. For this reason, there aren’t very many home practice amps that utilise tube circuitry.
Solid-state amps, which use transistor circuits to convert an electrical signal into an audio wave, are a popular choice for two main reasons. Firstly, they very seldomly require repairs. Secondly, they maintain the same tones regardless of how high the volume is - so you can practise quietly at home but still perfectly hone your sound.
The downside is that if there comes a time when you do want to crank the volume up, this will cause major distortion in the sound - and not the cool, shoegaze kind! If you want to achieve decent distortion, then we recommend looking into the world of pedals when choosing a solid-state amp.
The newest of all types of amps, digital modelling amps use digital processors to recreate the iconic sounds of a tube amp. They do this by using software that imitates the sound of certain tube amplifiers and cabinets. So, with these amps, you can expect to find a lot more versatility as manufacturers usually pack a whole bunch of pre-sets into one package.
Furthermore, this kind of amp tends to be stacked full of different effects, allowing for a much greater exploration of the different sounds that a guitar can produce - without the need to buy loads of expensive pedals! The problem is that this style can be seen as a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Perfect for exploring, but not great if you’re looking to nail a distinct tone.
Next up, you should consider the power. The wattage will depend on the type of amp you want - as we mentioned, a 25W tube amp will be much louder than a 25W solid-state or digital modelling amp.
So, bearing that in mind, we'd say that with a solid-state or digital amp, you can opt for anything up to 20W. You could go even higher though as the sound will still remain consistent at a lower volume - the amp just might be more expensive.
When it comes to a tube amp, however, we'd suggest reigning it in a little. You should probably stick to something that uses around 1-5W as this will be loud enough for your home space but not so noisy that you drive your neighbours up the wall!
Two of the most popular features when it comes to practice amps are headphone jacks and aux inputs. Headphone jacks will allow you to minimise noise and avoid upsetting anyone at all when playing, except maybe your partner who might have been calling your phone for the past 10 minutes!
Likewise, aux input is incredibly convenient as it means you can play songs straight through the amp and jam along to them. This is a perfect feature for practising that will see you strumming away for hours in your own little world.
Additional effects (think delay, reverb, chorus, etc) are not necessarily a feature that every guitar player is interested in. For example, some renowned players such as Keith Richards avoid them, as he states that he can get everything he needs with a nice guitar and amp. However, others such as Johnny Marr and Jonny Greenwood have built their careers using them.
If you’d like the option of exploring these different modulations, then we recommend looking for a practice amp that has at least a few built-in. You’re most likely to find them in digital modelling amps, but you can also find solid-state amps that will have a few loaded into them.
The one place you’re unlikely to find additional effects is on a tube amp. If you opt for this style of amp but still want to explore different effects, you’ll need to dabble in the world of guitar pedals instead - which, we must say, can be pretty exciting in itself!
A final consideration is the speaker size. Practice amps generally range from 3-10” so there's plenty of scope. Of course, the size you prefer will all depend on what kind of space you’re working with at home and whether you need your purchase to be portable, but it’s worth remembering that it will also affect the sound.
While smaller amps are more convenient to store at home and are easy to transport, they lose a bit of the low-end when it comes to the audio. Larger amps of around 8-10”, on the other hand, aren't as convenient to carry around but will have a better sound across the board.
Now that you’re all clued up on what to look for from a practice amp, let’s take a look at some of our favourites. We have models from all of the big hitters, from Fender to Orange, so we’re sure you’ll be able to find something that can help you get your signature sound.
|Additional Effects||Yes - over 100|
|Speaker Size||1 x 8"|
|Additional Effects||Yes - delay and reverb|
|Speaker Size||1 x 4"|
|Additional Effects||Yes - 8|
|Speaker Size||2 x 3"|
|Additional Effects||Yes - reverb|
|Speaker Size||1 x 8"|
|Type||Tube and digital modelling|
|Additional Effects||Yes - 15|
|Speaker Size||1 x 10"|
|Additional Effects||Yes - delay|
|Speaker Size||1 x 3"|
|Additional Effects||Yes - 24|
|Speaker Size||1 x 10"|
|Additional Effects||Yes - 25|
|Speaker Size||1 x 8"|
|Speaker Size||1 x 6"|
|Additional Effects||Yes - over 50|
|Speaker Size||1 x 12"|
Katana 50 MkII
Fly 3 Mini Amp
Super Champ X2
Katana Mini Ultra-Compact Guitar Amp
Spider V 20 MkII
Probably the Most Versatile Amp Around
Get the Classic Dirty Orange Tone for the Home
The Greatest Hits of Fender Tones
Offers A Crazy Amount of Tonal Variety
Don't Let the Small Size Fool You
Combines Both Old School and New Age Tech
Produces an Iconic 90s Rock Sound
A Practice Amp That Looks as Good as It Sounds
Take Your Music Anywhere You Want
Ideal for Trying Out a Variety of Sounds
|Type||Digital modelling||Solid-state||Digital modelling||Digital modelling||Solid-state||Tube and digital modelling||Tube||Digital modelling||Solid-state||Solid-state|
|Power||50 W||12 W||25 W||25 W||3 W||15 W||1W||20 W||7 W||20 W|
|Additional Effects||Yes - over 50||-||Yes - 25||Yes - 24||Yes - delay||Yes - 15||Yes - reverb||Yes - 8||Yes - delay and reverb||Yes - over 100|
|Speaker Size||1 x 12"||1 x 6"||1 x 8"||1 x 10"||1 x 3"||1 x 10"||1 x 8"||2 x 3"||1 x 4"||1 x 8"|
Once you've got your amp set up, why not invest in some more accessories for your guitar? Delay and looper pedals can help you to achieve all kinds of cool sounds at your next jam session!
So there it is - our comprehensive guide to finding the perfect guitar amp for home use. We believe that if you follow the advice given in the buying guide and match it to your desired sound, then you're going to easily find the right product. All that's left to do now is find the time to practise!
Author: Lewis Clark
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