Our top guitar amp reviews for 2020
by WHABBY! Music September 03, 2020
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-100Price: $795 USD
Best acoustic guitar amp: Fender Acoustatonic 15Price: $110 USD for used “like new”
Best practice amp: Line 6 Spider V 30 MKIIPrice: $220 USD
Best mini guitar amp on a budget: Orange Micro TerrorPrice: $150 USD
Best pedal platform amps: Fender Super Champ X2Price: $400 USD
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