Tube, solid-state, hybrid, modeling – what kind of amp is right for me!? As a beginner, it can be hard to choose. Don’t worry! We’re here to make sense of it all.
Despite what you might think, a beginner’s amp doesn’t have to suck! In 2018, regardless of your budget, you can buy an amp that sounds great and can serve you well. When starting out, you probably don’t need a super powerful amp, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t need a more power in the future. You never know what might happen in a year or two. You might join a band or start playing solo gigs around town! We’ll help you choose the right amp that will serve you for a long time to come. Below you’ll find our recommendations for the best beginner amps for under $500.
If you prefer to buy new, then we have links to Amazon, Guitar Center, and more for each amp linked below. However, if you want to stretch your dollar as far as possible, it can be a good idea to buy used. A well-maintained used amp is like a well-maintained used guitar – it will last for ages. You can find some great deals for high-quality, gently used amps over at Reverb.
Note that the prices in parentheses are estimates. Different retailers can sell the same amp for more or less. The price may fluctuate slightly from day to day and may even go on sale. To get the most current price, click the link for your favorite retailer (under the image of the guitar) to be taken to their website.
Orange Amplifiers Crush12 12w Combo Amp (~$100)
The Orange Crush12 is the archetypal beginner amp from one of the most famous names in amplification. It’s the perfect amp for the bedroom guitarist who can see themselves eventually playing small solo gigs for their friends or family. It’s the minimalist’s dream amp. A total of 6 knobs are found on the Crush12: the familiar EQ controls, a volume and gain knob, and, finally, an overdrive knob that will kick your distortion up to the next level.
With only 12 watts of power and a fairly small 6″ speaker, this solid-state amp won’t cause any earthquakes, but it will rock your living room or bedroom. If you envision yourself eventually joining a band and playing with a drummer, you’ll definitely need something with a bit more oomph. However, even if you upgrade to a more powerful amp in the future, the Crush12 will still serve you loyally as an awesome bedroom practice amp.
For more information, check out our full review of the Orange Crush 12 amp.
Vox Valvetronix VT20X Hybrid Combo Amp (~$179)
This excellent hybrid amp stands out at its price point thanks to a tube-based preamp, giving you authentic tube distortion. With 20 watts of power, this amp is perfect for small gigs and at-home practice. It even comes with headphone input for when you need to be extra quiet. It also comes with a built-in attenuator, allowing you to push your amp to the limits and achieve coveted power amp distortion – even at low volumes!
With 11 amp models, 13 built-in effects, and a 3-band EQ, you’ll be able to play anything from jazz to metal. By connecting to your computer with USB, you can unlock even more amp models and effects using Vox Tone Room software. This amp even comes with a built-in tuner, so you can save some space on your pedalboard and avoid having to hassle with an external tuner. The Vox Valvetronix VT20X is the perfect beginner amp for an amazing price.
Check out our full review of the Vox Valvetronix VT20X.
Boss Katana KTN-50 Combo Amp (~$225)
This modern beast of an amp is from one of the most trusted names in guitar gear. The Boss Katana is solid-state, so tube-enthusiasts may roll their eyes. But don’t let that fool you – this amp sounds killer! Combined with 3 different overdrive and distortion circuits, along with 5 amp voicings, you can get almost any sound you dream of. You can even use it with an acoustic-electric guitar!
Boss, well-known for their quality effects pedals, have included a whopping 58 effects for you to mess around with, though ‘only’ 15 at a time can be configured to run by using the included software. Finally, 50 watts can be too much power for playing at home. Luckily, the Katana includes a built-in attenuator, allowing you to chop the power in half to 25 watts, and even further down to just half a watt – perfect for bedroom practice. It also comes with a headphone jack for when you need to be completely silent. This is one of our top choices and probably the best beginner amp you can buy for the price.
For a full examination of the Katana, check out our full Boss Katana KTN-50 review.
Yamaha THR10 Portable Combo Amp (~$299)
This lightweight Yamaha is the ultimate in portability. At only 6 and a quarter pounds, you can take it anywhere. It’s the perfect amp for the guitarist who’s always on the move. You can choose to run it with an AC adapter or, if you’re nowhere near an outlet, you can get up to 6 hours of play time by using AA batteries! It comes with two built-in 3″ speakers, as well as 5 different tube amp models to choose from. Also, 8 onboard effects give you even more versatility without having to carry around any extra equipment.
This amp won’t be good for gigging or playing in a band because of its tiny 3″ speakers, but it’s great for small gatherings or bedroom practicing. You’ll love the versatility provided by the Yamaha THR Editor software, which allows you to create your own custom presets using the built-in models and effects! Recording is also a breeze thanks to the built-in USB jack! If you don’t see yourself joining a band and will only need an amp for bedroom practice/recording, then this amp is perfect for you. For gigging musicians, you might want something more powerful. However, if you need more volume, you always have the option of miking this amp up at a venue. For the musician who plays gigs occasionally, you’ll enjoy not having to lug around a 30-pound combo amp.
For an in-depth look at the THR10, go to our Yamaha THR10 Modeling Combo Amp full review.
Fender Super Champ X2 15 Watt Combo Amp (~$399)
The Super Champ X2 is one of the best choices for a beginner who wants the ultimate in versatility. 16 different voicings allow you to sound like anything or anyone you dream of. From famous Fender cleans to crunchy blues to modern heavy metal, this two-channel hybrid monster can do it all. A 2-band EQ gives you decent control over your tone. As if all of this wasn’t enough, the Super Champ gives you a choice of 15 built-in effects! This amp is one of our absolute favorites of all time. A limited edition $500 version with an upgraded Celestion speaker and leather trimming at Sweetwater if you want even sweeter tones! This is one beginner amp you don’t want to overlook!
Check out sound samples and more at our full review of the Fender Super Champ X2.