Top 5 Best Practice Amps 2020:
Practice makes things perfect, and playing guitar is no exception to this rule. Quite the contrary, you must practice daily if you want to improve your guitar playing skills. It is all about you and your determination, but a good guitar and a great amp can be more than helpful too.
Assuming that you have already found a guitar of your dreams, I will help you find the best practice amp to complement it. A proper amp will provide you with a great tone and inspire you to play more, thus helping you to advance your skills.
I have picked, tried out, and reviewed several practice amps that have good tone and loads of features. You are sure to find the one that will be perfect for you too! So let’s start the quest and find a practice amp that will not break your bank nor your neighbor’s ears.
How To Choose The Best Practice Amp?
There are numerous factors you need to consider when choosing your guitar amp. First off, determine your budget and decide what kind of music you want to play. You need not go for the big amp, especially if you practice and play at home as such amps take up a lot of space and need to get really loud to be driven into distortion.
So, where to start?
Here is a helpful list of things you need to consider:
There are two basic models of amplifiers:
- One-piece amps or combo amps – These amps hold both the amplifier and speakers in one box and are thus more portable and cost less. They are far more popular and best suited for practice purposes.
- Multi-piece setups or stacks – These amps feature separate boxes for your amp and speakers and are mostly used for performing in large venues when bigger, and louder sounds are needed.
- I believe that 30 watts are more than enough for any practice session, anything over that is usually overkill. I wouldn’t go below 15-watt amp, though, as that would mean sacrificing clean volume. However, if you prefer a dirty, overdriven tone, you can go for a lower wattage too.
- The general rule is that more wattage equals the higher volume. However, a 100W will not be five times louder than a 20W amp; it is not that simple of math, but this topic does not concern us much now, and we will thus move on to the next thing…
3. Type Of Configuration
There are quite a few different configurations when it comes to amplifiers, but the three most common types are:
- Tube amps – They are usually the most expensive of all the three types mentioned here and appreciated for superb tonal quality, a unique type of natural distortion they create, and long tradition. They are the loudest as well.
- Modeling amps – They are more affordable than tube amps, but they also call for less maintenance. You will also have a plethora of tonal options if you choose this type of amp.
- Solid-state mini amps – These mini amps are ultra-portable and great for all those of you who need an amp that can fit into a backpack. They are typically battery-powered and cannot be as loud as tube amps.
The number and size of the speakers on a practice amp will have a significant effect on its tone and loudness.
- You can probably assume that more speakers you have and larger they are, louder will your sound be as well. You should know though that bigger isn’t always better and that smaller speaker is actually better in reproducing high frequencies.
- A practice amp usually has a single 8″ speaker, and that is more than enough to avoid annoying your neighbors.to perform in small venus too, opt for one with one or two 10″ or 12″ speakers.
5. Cabinet Construction
Cabinet construction might not be the most important thing when speaking of practice amps, but it does affect the resulting tone and should thus be mentioned.
It is most important to choose between the open-back and closed-back amp, but you can also consider thickness and type of wood and overall craftsmanship.
- Open-back cabinet– Emphasizes high-frequency tones and provides a more ambient, non-directional sound. They are the number one choice for stage performance.
- Closed-back cabinet – Projects the sound forward, making it more focused. As a result, you get a stronger bass and midrange presence.
- Smart technology rules the world, and you have to be in tune with it. Therefore, the best practice amp should offer connectivity to the world of apps, your computer, USB, Bluetooth, iOS, and Android.
- To really finetune the selection, you can also consider the number of headphone jacks, built-in effects, and utilities like a tuner, metronome, etc.
I think that you are now educated on the topic and quite capable of applying your newfound knowledge and choosing a practice amp that suits your needs. Let’s see what your best options are…
5 Best Practice Amps In 2020: Detailed Reviews
1. VHT AV-SP1-6 – The best small & ultra-portable amp
If you are looking for a mini practice guitar amp, it would be smart to check out the VHT AV-SP1-6 Special Six. It is a rare example of hand-wired small amps at such a low price and excellent reputation, and, therefore, a screaming deal.
The Special 6 features one 10-inch speaker. It is a simple tube amp that runs on a 12AX7 preamp tube and a 6V6 output tube. You might think that six-watt combo amp will not provide loudness you desire, but it is more than suitable for practice at home.
There are volume and tone knobs, as well as the High/Low power switch to adjust the overall volume and push the tubes harder. The boost option can be controlled via foot-switch, leaving your hands free to continue playing your guitar.
There may be no advanced features, but Special 6 still manages to produce great tones and lots of them. Underneath the humble black exterior, this amp hides some clever circuitry and quite a modding potential. If you are not happy with the factory configuration, the eyelet board allows you to easily tweak this amp and make it more to your liking. It would be nice though to have some more room to add knobs on the control panel.
- Good value for money
- Hand-wired amp
- Capable of producing both clean & dirty tones
- High/low power switch
- The tone control allows you to boost or cut high frequencies
- Easy to modify eyelet board
- Good modding potential
- It lacks some room in the chassis and on the panel.
- The factory tube could be improved.
2. Boss Katana Mini Amp – Battery-powered amp to practice & play on the go
Boss Katana Mini amp stays true to the company’s reputation of providing great amps at a more than reasonable price. It is a battery-powered, ultra-compact portable amp that is still quite flexible and capable of producing big tones.
Boss Katana Mini offers 7-watts of power and runs on six AA batteries that can last for up to nine hours of continuous playing. Of course, you can use the optional AC adapter too. It measures about 9” wide and nearly 5” deep and weighs just under 3 lbs so you can carry it with you wherever you go.
The number of features packed in this compact device might surprise you. Besides boasting three different amp types (Brown, Crunch, and Clean), it also features along a multi-stage analog gain circuit, 3-band analog tone stack, the built-in tape delay, and the Aux input which allows you to connect to your smartphone and choose a backing track for your practice session.
The controls fit surprisingly well, so you have not only the EQ controls (bass, middle and treble knobs) and gain and volume control knobs, but also a section for the built-in delay (an on/off switch, time and level knobs). The sound can fill any room while the expressive tones allow you to play any music style you choose. The quality of the plastic exterior case could be better, though.
- Battery operated
- Optional AC adapter
- Aux input
- Built-in tape delay
- EQ controls for a detailed, expressive tone
- Plastic exterior
3. Fender Mustang 1 V2 Amp – Solid-state amp with a range of features
Fender Mustang 1 V2 measures mere 14.5″ x 15.5″ x 7.6″, weighs just about 17lbs, and houses a single 8″ Special Design speaker – all this makes this amp rather compact and portable as well as ideal for home practice. However, it has so much more to offer…
Namely, Mustang 1 V2 is packed with features and can rival many larger and far more expensive amps out there. It offers eight presets ranging from a ’57 Deluxe to the ‘Metal 2000’, but you can also store 16 presets of your choice. It boasts a 2-band EQ section, a multitude of onboard effects, and a practical chromatic tuner making your practice easier by eliminating the need to adjust your external devices to keep in tune.
Thanks to the USB connectivity, Fender FUSE software, a headphone jack, and an aux input, the world is your oyster. All the controls are knob-driven and tallow you to adjust volume, gain, treble, and bass. A rotary switch is used to change amp models, while individual LEDs for each model type make the selection easier.
The Mustang 1 might have a ‘practice amp’ size, but 20 watts of solid-state power provide enough loudness to fill any room. You can enjoy the clean and warm sounds or heavy metal tones- it is all up to you. The only fault is the lack of a foot-switch, but you can buy one separately.
- Superb quality and price ratio
- A plethora of features and effects
- 17 different amp models and 24 presets
- Fender FUSE software included
- Suitable for players of all styles and genres
- Aux input
- USB connectivity
- No foot-switch included
Orange amps are famous for sounding much louder than they look, and the Orange 20RT is no exception. It is one of their smaller models, which makes it ideal for practicing wherever you go. Even though both the amp and its price are rather small, the big reputation of this model makes it very popular. Is it justified, though? Let’s find out!
I guess there is not much need to discuss the design – the casing is as orange as ever! Besides the iconic look, the 20RT offers the well-known vintage high-range Orange sound too. It might be a compact unit that measures 4×12″ 16lbs, but 20-watt of power is more than enough to cover all your practice needs and a small gig once you are ready to face the audience. The Voice of the World 8” speaker, delivers plenty of punch while clean and dirty channel combined with four stages of gain guarantee detailed tones.
The 20RT also features a 3-band EQ, built-in reverb, highly-accurate chromatic tuner, and the new CabSim feature. The top panel is equipped with volume control for each channel and gain, as well as the bass, middle, and treble dials for fine tuning the sound. There is also a channel switch,1/4 inch (4mm) headphones output, and aux input. Underneath the main controls, you will find the built-in reverb dial and chromatic tuner.
The Orange Crush 20RT should suit you no matter what style you play, as it can be rather subtle or quite space-filling while maintaining the excellent quality of the sound.
- Small & lightweight amp suitable for practicing on the go
- Sturdy exterior
- Built-in reverb with various reverb types
- Excellent custom Voice of the World speaker
- CabSim feature
- Excellent tone quality
- The built-in tuner could be better
5. Fender Champion Amp – The legendary amp geared toward beginners
Fender amps are among the most popular amps in the world, for all the right reasons; their Champion amp lives up to the good reputation and aims at budget-conscious users who need a practice amp.
The features of this amp are sure to exceed your expectations. More importantly, they provide you with the freedom to finetune your sound to your liking. This amp features digital models for three tweed Fender amps, and 12 voicings (3 blackface Fender voicings, 3 ‘British’ Vox models, and 3 metal voicings). There are numerous effects to choose from too, but I would set out the Vibratone and reverb, while others feel a bit flimsy. Unfortunately, there is no option to adjust the rate or depth of the effects, but that should not surprise you at this price point.
Controls are pretty straightforward. You have one channel with volume and gain controls, bass, and treble EQ knobs. There is also a 12-way control for amp voicing selection and a light that changes color to indicate what voicing you’re on. Finally, the effects dial knob allows you to adjust the sound according to your preferences.
Fender Champion has one 8” speaker and comes with an aux and headphone inputs so that you can choose your backing track and practice without disturbing your neighbors. The sound is solid no matter what your style is, but it is not a tube model, and you can definitely feel that at moments.
- Three amp models
- 12 voicing options
- Intuitive controls
- Outstanding tones
- Aux & headphones inputs
- An opportunity to experiment with a plethora of effects without breaking the bank
- Most effects are pretty flimsy
All the reviewed amps are the best bang-for-your-buck value and perfect companions for beginner guitarists.
If you fancy being able to jam anywhere you go, then Boss Katana Mini Amp is a great buying option for you.
If you are on a low budget, you should still not give up a strong tonal performance and should thus choose the Fender Champion Amp.
The overall best practice amp in terms of sound, features, and functionality is the Orange Crush 20RT Amp.
Of course, you should choose the one that best suits your needs and playing style – just be quick about it and get down to practice! The sooner you start, the sooner you will become a good performer!