When beginning to learn to play the electric guitar, it is often a good idea to have a musical instrument amplifier that your guitar plugs right into. The electric guitar amplifier is a highly debatable point and one that aficionados argue over continually. To avoid such circular discussions, we have selected what we feel are five of the best amps.
Whether looking for the best practice amp or best tube amp, it is important to choose a product with the proper range of features for your requirements. The right number of watts’ output is clearly a key factor, but other features like voice sampling and amp preset tuned for different types of music are equally useful too.
Cheap guitar amps are easy to find. But locating a good one for the money is a different matter. Often the brand name really matters. Marshall has been making speakers seemingly since forever; Fender too. These sorts of brands are trusted by the most famous musicians in the world and justifiably so. Perhaps because of this, new budding amateur players and those just learning to play the electric guitar for the first time will find a good selection of smaller electric guitar amps here.
Top 5 Electric Guitar Amp Reviews
The Fender Champion 20 is a stylish model that is essentially a home amp combo which includes a 20-watt speaker at the front. The model is offered with a choice of 20-watt, 40-watt or 100-watt speaker output. There is also the option of purchasing the combo or the combo package which includes the guitar amp & speaker, 10-foot Pro-level guitar cable and a Clayton Picks to strum the guitar strings accurately and powerfully. The Champion is not the amp with the smallest output (there is a 10-watt Fender too), so it’s more of a mid-level amp for home use or a basic one for the smallest of contained gigs.
The Champion 20 has an 8-inch speaker with Impedance of 8 ohms. It sports a unique design on the front. The familiar speaker grill design with black surround is traditional and comfortable for guitar players. For beginner guitarists, it is possible to plug an MP3 player directly into the Auxiliary port at the top-front of the unit. Once this is accomplished, the output feeds into the amplifier with the musician able to lay over their own guitar playing to jam along with pre-existing recordings. Depending on whether it’s desirable to output the resulting jam session publicly, the speaker is mutable by utilizing the 1/8 headphone socket.
The power socket which sucks down 70-watts of power is located at the back in the top-left of the unit, with the power button to the right of it. At the front is a panel near the top with the aforementioned Auxilliary port, control dials for gain, volume, voice, treble, bass, fx level, and fx select switch, plus tap, Aux, and the headphones port.
The product has 1-channel amp voices to change how the amp responds. These include metal, blues, jazz and country voices. The fx effects include delay, reverb, chorus, and other attractive options to add new dimensions to playback and output.
There is a plastic strap at the top of the unit. It has caps that are nickel-plated for improved durability. The strap sits flat when not needed and makes it easier to carry or lift this 12-lb guitar amp up into an SUV or van.
The Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier is the best beginner electric guitar amp for anyone who wants a respected name and limited output for home use. The solid state 6-inch combo amp has a 10-watt speaker at the front of the unit with a pleasingly understated silver cloth Blackface look to the grille. There are also metal protectors around the bottom corners and tiny feet to keep the amp elevated slightly off the floor. Whether one is a student or a teacher, this unit is only 8.5 lbs. which make it lighter than more compelling alternatives and easier to lug around to meet students at their homes or for beginner students to bring over to a practice session with their friends in their basement.
The top-front area of the combo unit houses the guitar amplifier’s control panel. From left to right: a ¼-inch input, over-drive switch, gain, volume, 2-band equalizer (treble and bass skirted amp adjustment knobs), Auxiliary Input, and a 1/8-inch headphone output. The Auxiliary input supports hooking up a media player to combine an existing track with a new live guitar track.
The inclusion of the gain knob adjuster lets the guitar player switch between a distorted guitar sound to fully powered to tube-like old school amplifier sound.
This single channel amp lacks the features of more powerful models, like the amp reviewed above. Namely, the amp voice option and fx effects are distinctly lacking here. Don’t get us wrong, the sound coming from the Frontman 10G is certainly up to the regular Fender’s standards for audio quality and won’t disappoint; one just has fewer adjustment options than a pricier model affords the guitar player.
Whether this is the best, electric guitar amplifier really depends on what you’re looking for. It is the lowest output and most affordable combo amp/speaker model in the Fender range. The product has many fans and we’re certainly one of them. As a starter amp for anyone just learning for the first time and who’s on a tight budget, it’s hard to go wrong here. There is also a bundled model occasionally available that includes a 1-foot instrument cable and guitar pick.
The Fender Mustang I V2 20-Watt 1×8-Inch Combo Electric Guitar Amplifier is designed a little bit more for travel to a gig. It has a sturdy, wide plastic carry strap that lifts up and folds down when not in use. Rather than the guitar amp’s control panel being front-facing, it is situated at the top, facing upwards, rather than outwards towards the direction that the speaker grille is directed towards. The orientation of the control panel is distinctly different to that of the Fender Frontman 10G and Fender Campion 20 models.
The unit is a strong-looking one with a traditional Blackface grille design, wide borders and a vinyl covering (black). The Fender logo is clearly evident on the speaker grille leaving no surprises which company made the model. The 8-inch amp/speaker combo model is available in a 20-watt or 40-watt configuration with the option of the standard pack or the amp bundle with its included 10-foot cable and guitar pick.
The single channel amp has 24 presets to make it easier to switch up quickly. Along the control panel from left to right: FTSW and input jacks, 1-8 level selectable gain and volume knobs, 1-8 level treble, bass and master knobs, a selector with 8 pre-defined listed amp models (with illumination of the currently selected one), selectable A-D Mod switch dial, Auxiliary and headphones jacks, save buttons to retain selected pre-set, delay and reverb dial, and a USB mini input jack too.
Fender FUSA software (Ableton Live Lite 8 Fender Edition) is available for PC and Mac to edit the digital amp models away from the presets to make them more usable. Record guitar playing with this software too. Musicians who are just beginning to get the hang of recording digitally will find the digital recording and amp voice editing options quite appealing.
The Mustang I version 2.0 is also compatible with the Fender 1-button Footswitch pedal too. It is not necessary to control the amp and does not come as part of the package.
The Marshall MG15CF MG Series 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp is an 8 Ohm, 8-inch speaker that packs an auditory punch. The solid-state amp has two channels and weighs in a 16-lbs. There is a strap at the top that lifts up (and tucks down when not in use) to carry this combo amp between gigs or a jamming session at a friend’s house. The front grille has a carbon fiber appearance and displays the classic Marshall logo at the top of the speaker, just below the control panel.
Both the Clean and Over-Drive channels use the three-band equalizer. The Line In/MP3 input allows the feeding of an existing track through the amp to layer a live guitar over the top of it (ideal for practice sessions). The control panel sits just above the speaker grille at the front of the unit.
The control panel from left to right includes Input jack, Clean volume knob, Overdrive Gain and Volume independent knobs, base, middle and treble knobs, a headphone jack, audio in MP3 player jack, and the power button. All dial selectors offer a range of 0-10 which is wider select-ability that some other guitar amp combos. It is necessary to use a 3.5mm headphone adapter for the standard headphone jack to plug an MP3 player into this MG Series 15-watt amp.
The model doesn’t have many frills to it. It lacks amp voices and fx effects to jazz up the sound coming from through the amplifier making this either a good one for home practices or a basic model for early public gigs in small places before moving up to a larger model. It is possible to plug in a foot pedal to add greater control of the amplifier from an arm’s (or foot’s) length.
The Fender Mini Deluxe Electric Guitar Amp is an ideal portable amplifier for limited practice sessions away from a dedicated power outlet. The amp itself is as small as a lunch box, so one shouldn’t expect too much from this little unit. The Fender tone is present with this 8 Ohm, 2-inch speaker that produces 1-watt of quality sound output. A single 9-volt battery powers the amp and speaker.
The model has a dogbone-style strap that makes it easier to carry around. The Mini-Deluxe front grille looks every bit the Fender amp, with a chrome-colored control panel situated at the top of the unit, behind the dogbone carry strap.
The top-placed control panel has an Input jack, with volume, tone and drive “chicken head” knobs offering selectable settings from 1 to 12. There is an on/off switch to the right of the controls, and a red LED light confirming when the power is turned on.
There is a 1/8-inch headphone socket to practice playing electric guitar in silence rather than waking the neighbors late into the night. Tones are adjustable from Clean over to Crunch, with guitar sounds modifiable using the gain and tone adjustments. Make the guitar sound entirely different and match the type of music being playing. The Drive will start to exhibit distortion when pushing the levels up too high. One shouldn’t expect too much performance from the Fender Mini Deluxe, but when setting reasonable expectations, it has a surprisingly good Fender-like sound. Quite amazing for such a small, portable model too.
Given how tiny this amp is, moving it from room to room is no problem at all. It is also the perfect travel amp for anyone dreading the idea of taking their heavy amp on vacation with them. It’s hard to find another model that’s this good and suitable for electric guitar playing. For someone wanting quality sound and portability, then this may well be the electric guitar amplifier for them.
How To Select The Best Electric Guitar Amplifier
The choice of an electric guitar amplifier begins, perhaps, with the amount of wattage sound output required. It’s pointless shopping for a 100-watt speaker in the 20-watt product category. The higher wattage models are usually in the professional category at far higher price points and come with an extensive list of accessible features.
Whether amp voices are required, how many, and their quality is a good next place to look. Running an electric guitar through a specialized amp provides the opportunity to modify the guitar sound in some interesting ways. For experienced musicians and new players alike, tweaking the sound is an enjoyable part of the process of setting up their amp.
Along with amp voices, fx effects to apply reverb, delay, and other changes to the output adds a new dimension too.
Pretty much all electric guitar amps have a headphone jack to plug in a set of headphones. Anyone using a 3.55mm headphone will need an adapter to plug into the 1/8-inch jack on an amp (which must be purchased separately). Some combo amps also have a USB input (the less popular mini USB type) to enable the musician to plug their MP3 player into the amp and then play the guitar over the top of the music running through it. With the use of the headphone jack, both the MP3 audio and guitar playing run through the amp and output to a set of headphones.
A few models offer the ability to plug in a foot pedal switch to make controlling the features of the amp easier during live guitar playing. The pedals usually connect via the headphone socket (available separately).
Benefits of Good Electric Guitar Amplifier
With an acoustic guitar, no amplifier is required because the guitar doesn’t need one. With an electric guitar, the instrument needs at least a speaker setup and usually either an amp (aka “a head”) and a speaker, or an electric guitar combo amp. Several electrical guitar combo products are reviewed above.
Each combo guitar amp offers a different number of watts of sound output. It is important not to try to exceed or maximize this level to avoid sound distortion. As such, when wanting a 15-watt output level, purchasing a 20-watt or 30-watt combo amp is a good idea to avoid overexerting the unit.
A combo amplifier includes the control panel, the amplification, and the speaker system in a single unit. The control panel allows the musician to make adjustments to the tone, bass and treble levels, for instance. Other sound tweaks are also possible too. The way that the guitar playing sounds is also adjustable through digital voice amplification to make it suitable for the type of music being performed.
Furthermore, special effects are sometimes available to add reverb, delays, and other modifications to the existing sound to lend it more depth. The inclusion of digital voice amplification and fx effects helps the guitar player better match a previously recorded live track from the studio.
The selection of the electric guitar amplifier is a personal thing for most musicians. The longer one has been playing guitar, but more accurate one becomes in its selection because in many ways the amp determines how the guitar will ultimately sound to the listener. Beyond this, choosing the right amp for current and future needs is also important to avoid buying too little or too much amp for the task.