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Our top guitar amp reviews for 2020

Aside from your instrument, your guitar amplifier is likely going to be the biggest purchase you make. There are literally thousands of guitar amplifiers for sale, each ranging in quality, budget, and purpose. And, like home studio microphones, there isn’t one universal best guitar amp to rule all other amps. The right amplifier for  you will depend on your budget, your experience, your instrument, and your requirements.  If you’re getting overwhelmed at all the choices, don’t worry — we’re here to help. We’ve scoured the internet, consulted our musicians, and done the heavy lifting to bring you a shortlist of the best guitar amps available today. Regardless of how much you’re looking to spend, or the type of amp you need, we’ve got you covered with these guitar amp reviews.

What should you look for in guitar amps?

Amps can cost as little as $500, and or as much as a new car. Some are better for practice, while others work best with acoustic guitars. Then there are the ones that just look downright awesome, and add that extra element of showmanship to your stage performance. In other words, because there are so many to choose from, it’s important to wrap your head around exactly what you need. Before we jump into the amp reviews themselves, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

How much do you want to spend?

There are amps out there for every price range. A small guitar amp, guitar practice amp, or electric guitar amp will run you a lot less than top-of-the-line Fender amplifiers, so it’s good to have a budget in mind to save yourself time (and money) during the process. You can get one of our best small guitar amp picks for under $200, but most budget ones sit around the $500 mark. If you’re looking for a bit of an upgrade, a budget of around $1,000 should do the trick. Of course, if you’re after a high-end option, the best amplifier can cost tens of thousands. 

What equipment will you be using it with?

In order to know what type of amp you need, you need to know what you’ll need it for. Are you hooking up multiple guitars and, if so, which one will be your main one? Will you be primarily playing acoustic guitar, or electric? Is the amp for practice, or shows? How well does the amp work with the other equipment in your DIY recording studio? All of these considerations matter when it comes time to pick the best amp for you.  Pro tip: If you’re buying an amp in store, bring your main guitar with you to test the sound.

Are you looking for a combo or an amp head?

In a head and cabinet setup, the “head” is the actual guitar amplifier, and the cabinet is only a box that houses the speakers. You can’t use an amp head without a cabinet — you need both components. So what is a combo amp? It’s exactly as it says: it combines the amplifier and speaker in one box.  This choice is all about portability. A combo amp is much easier to bring around to shows, and they’re generally more expensive. However, if you’re looking for customization, the amp head and cabinet setup is the best as it allows you to mix and match different options. Finally, if you’re looking for a bigger sound, there’s no doubt about it: The amp head and cabinet is by far the better option.

Do you want a tube, solid-state, or digital amp?

While a lot of factors go into creating an amp’s ‘sound’, one of the biggest factors is the technology behind it. Some amps use tube technology, while others use solid-state or digital tech. Tube amps have been the industry standard for decades, but they’re more expensive, harder to come by, and difficult to repair. Solid-state and digital are much cheaper and the technology has come a long way in recent years — bringing them up to a similar quality as tube amps . Although the sound isn’t quite the same, they do offer great tone at a fraction of the price (plus they’re less of a headache to maintain).  Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, and it’s worth experimenting with different types to find out which works with your playing style.

What’s the wattage?

The number of watts your amp has affects the power output of your guitar. But while it’s easy to default to “more is better,” this isn’t necessarily always the case. The last thing you need is to spend a ton of money on a 100-watt amp if you’re only playing small venues or busking on street corners.   Pick the watts based on your intended use. As a general rule of thumb, the most power you’ll need for live shows is between 30–50 watts; if you’re looking for a home amplifier, 20 watts is plenty. 

How big do you want your speakers to be?

It comes as no surprise, but speakers are an amp’s most crucial component. Different speakers offer up different tonal characteristics, but like the wattage, bigger isn’t always better. Small speakers produce a tighter sound, while bigger ones can often leave you with more bottom end. Again, this one largely boils down to preference.

Which extra features do you want?

Today’s guitar amps come with plenty of extra features, from multiple channels to built-in effects. While it’s tempting to splurge on the amp with tons of additional bells and whistles, you might end up paying money for things you just don’t end up using — ever. For example, multichannel amps are ideal if you like to use different tones. However, if you don’t play around with tones, it’s not something worth investing extra money in. The same thing goes for built-in effects: While they are simple and straightforward, they’re not as flexible as having effects pedals. The best thing to do is write down a list of your non-negotiables, as well as the features that are nice to have but not a must.

Amp review: the best amps for 2020

Best first amp: Boss Katana MKII-100

Price: $795 USD
If you’re looking for quality and value in a single amp, it’s hard to go past the Boss Katana MKII-100. This 100-watt solid-state amp is, without a doubt, one of the best amps for beginners. With a ton of digital effects and great-sounding amp models available, there are plenty of sounds to play with as you discover what works for you. The Katana can also record directly into a digital audio workstation via a USB connection — and even once you’ve upgraded, the trusty Katana can serve as a handy backup amp.

Best acoustic guitar amp: Fender Acoustatonic 15

Price: $110 USD for used “like new” 
Fender guitar amps are some of the best in the business, so it’s no surprise that they also make some of the best acoustic guitar amps. Lightweight and compact, the Fender Acoustatonic comes with a mic input which makes it the perfect pick if you’re a singer/songwriter that regularly plays gigs. Although it only has 15 watts, the 6-inch Fender speaker provides a high-frequency response — giving you the perfect sound in one incredibly portable frame.  Runner up: the Marshall Acoustic Soloist AS50D is another great choice if you want to play around the house in an acoustic setting.

Best practice amp: Line 6 Spider V 30 MKII

Price: $220 USD
Line 6 Spider V 30 MKII
Practice amps are for just that — practice — so the more features, the better. The Spider V line is renowned for its tone-shaping control, and the MkII builds upon its predecessors with a number of improvements.  On top of retooled amp modeling modes and a color-coded control panel, the Spider V 30 MkII comes with a full-range speaker system that includes Classic Speaker mode and Full-Range mode for high-fidelity playback. The MkII also boasts an onboard tuner, metronome, drum, and plenty of digital effects.

Best mini guitar amp on a budget: Orange Micro Terror

Price: $150 USD
Oragne Micro Terror Guitar Amp
With 20 watts of output, a hybrid tube preamp, and solid-state power amp, the Orange Micro Terror takes the concept of the best small tube amp to a whole new level. This is the best musical instrument amplifier if you’re looking for a cheap home audio amplifier, or an amp to take to the occasional small gig. We’ll be honest: The Orange Micro Terror definitely doesn’t deliver the rich tones you’ll get from others on this list. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find another amp that delivers the same wattage in such a tiny package — and at under $200 to boot.

Best pedal platform amps: Fender Super Champ X2

Price: $400 USD
Fender Super Champ X2 Guitar Amp
If you’re searching for a pedal platform amp for rehearsals and recordings, the Super Champ X2 is a failsafe product. This Fender tube amp houses 15 watts of dual-channel dual-amp sound and a 10-inch speaker, all of which gives the X2 a level of tonal richness that’s hard to beat. With versatile amp voicing, USB connectivity, and a wealth of digital effects, Fender’s Super Champ X2 is, simply put, a champion and one of our best integrated amplifier picks for indie artists.
Our top guitar amp reviews for 2020
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