Small amps may not be as glamorous as their arena-shaking stacked up cousins but they are a daily go-to item for many guitarists. Many find them just the ticket for practice, rehearsal, small gigs, and sessions. They are easy to haul, not overly loud, and usually are pretty affordable.
Today, we’re going to be looking at what we feel are the best practice amps for home use. Home is where most of us do our practicing, right? It’s vital to have the right amp for home playing that won’t break your bank or your neighbor’s ears.
All the amps here are cool and worthy contenders to be your daily practice partner, so get two. They’re small.
The Blackstar HT1 is an absolutely killer choice for anyone looking for rock tones at home.
It delivers a single mighty watt from an ECC83 preamp and ECC82 power amp tube. This lets you get all up on those tubes, drive them hard, and find your sound, keeping the peace all the while. It even has a speaker-simulated direct output that works nicely for headphone playing and recording.
This is an amp that makes it easy to not sound like your guitar tracks were recorded at home. Like most small amps, its clean sounds aren’t its best feature but nobody expects an ankle-biter like this to have cleans like a Twin Reverb. This amp is all about drive and distortion that sounds bigger than it really is.
Blackstar is known for tone and has become the amp of choice for a lot of players. There’s a reason for that. Play one of these and your search may well be over.
- Small size, great tone!
- Actual tubes!
- Punches above its weight.
- No reverb.
- Iffy clean sounds.
- Too loud for some users.
See how it sounds:
Anyone seeking the best small guitar amp would be wise to check out the VHT AV-SP1-6 Special Six.
This is one of the few hand-wired small amps out there under $300 and that, alone, makes it a screaming deal. Factor in the legendary VHT reputation and it just makes sense to take one for a spin.
Being handwired, the Special 6 is a natural choice for all you tweakers, hot rodders, and modifiers out there. You just can’t do that stuff with a circuit board amp. Non-tweakers will be glad to know that the stock vibe of the Special 6 is plenty good for most people and it gets accordingly positive reviews just as it sits.
The Special 6 is a six-watt combo amp with a single ten-inch speaker. It runs itself on a 12AX7 preamp tube and 6V6 output tube. The Gain control has a push-pull function that is where all the overdrive emerges from. It even has a High/Low Power switch to attenuate the overall volume and to let the tubes be pushed harder.
If your house needs a mini guitar amp with a decidedly old-school flavor, this is the one.
- Good clean and dirty tones!
- Hand-wired goodness!
- High/Low Power switch!
- Factory tube choice can be improved upon.
- Build quality could be better.
See how it sounds:
Yamaha’s THR10X is an ultra-portable 10-watt amp that is aimed at those looking mostly for hard rock and metal guitar tones.
It features an unusual 2×3.15” speaker compliment and gives users access to five distinct high-gain tones modeled on rock’s most popular amps. It moves easily from punchy classic metal sounds to the bass-heavy sounds of today’s metal. It also features one bass amp model and one for acoustic guitar, making it a one-amp solution for many guitarists. It sports a three-band EQ system, Bluetooth, built-in effect processing based on Yamaha’s VCM technology, and can even run on batteries.
This one is part of Yamaha’s successful THR10 series of amplifiers and it gets tons of high ratings from the Internet’s metal players. It is said to deliver a more tube-like touch than a lot of amps in its class. You can even run your MP3 player into it when you’re not jamming. Pretty cool.
This is probably the best practice amp available for the metal scene.
- Tone, tone, and more tone!
- Two speakers!
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Very few. It’s hard to find bad reviews on these.
- Some think it could be louder.
See how it sounds:
Laney CUB 10
Laney’s CUB 10 is a super-straightforward combo amp for anyone seeking a non-boutique boutique amp.
This baby is all about its hardware and does its thing with two ECC83 preamp tubes and two 6V6GT output tubes. It is built on a Class A/B circuit that makes tones many of us have loved for decades. Controls were kept simple here on purpose and you’ll only find knobs for Gain, Volume, and Tone. Pretty tough to go wrong with that setup. It carries one ten-inch speaker and weighs a solid 18 pounds.
Overall reports on the CUB 10 are good, with many saying that it can even keep up with a drummer’s volume. It takes pedals very well and is styled with a sweet vintage look that gets lots of notice.
If you like to keep things simple, get a CUB 10 and be happy.
- Big tones and a good bit of volume!
- Built well!
- Simple to make sound great!
- No Direct Out.
- No Reverb.
- No auxiliary input.
- No Headphone Out.
See how it sounds:
Roland Micro Cube GX 3W
When the ultimate in portability is required, only a Roland Micro Cube will do!
The Roland Cube Series has become popular in recent years. They are some of the best-sounding solid-state amplifiers ever.
The Micro Cube takes this amazing sound and puts it in a package so small that it’s tough to believe. It runs on batteries or the included AC adapter. It packs eight Roland COSM amp models for classic and current players, including you metalheads, thanks to the Extreme voice available. It can even be used with a vocal microphone. It has eight DSP effects onboard plus a separate Delay and Reverb processor.
You can leave your pedals at home!
The Micro Cube is a wonderful choice for any player whose personal space is in short supply. It is also perfect for street players and buskers. It may be tiny but it doesn’t sound tiny or small, nor do any of its Cube Series family members. These have a lot of fans and are gaining more all the time. Perhaps you will be the next one!
- Ultra ultra portable!
- Eight COSM amplifier models!
- Two effects processors onboard!
- Not many. These have a great rep!
See how it sounds:
Bugera has made quite a name for itself in recent times for its affordable-but-toneful takes on classic guitar amp designs. The Bugera V5 is the company’s take on a mini British Class A practice/studio amp and it will scratch your itch for a Vox-ish tube sound in a small package.
The V5 uses a 12AX7 preamp tube and a single EL84 power tube to make its 5-watt magic happen, a tone combo heard on countless hit records. An onboard power attenuator gives users the ability to hit the tubes hard at any volume level, which makes the V5 a natural pick for any practice or studio situation.
Even better, Bugera’s proprietary Tube Life Multiplier Technology ensures longer tube life by monitors the performance of the output tube and maintains it at its ideal operating point for an evenly distributed load. This high-tech feature is a nice extra on an amp with such a vintage vibe.
Controls are basic and limited to Gain, Tone, Volume, and Reverb but what else do you really need? Sound pressure comes from a single 8-inch Turbosound speaker. The Bugera V5 is a fun amp that gets the Vox job done with ease. “Fat Bottom Girls,” anyone?
- Great Class A tone!
- Built-in power attenuator!
- Classy vintage look!
- Small, so keep your drummer calm.
- Not styled for metal players.
Line 6 Spider V 30
It’s hard to discuss amps these days without bringing up Line 6, as the company has become a force of great modeling tone over the last twenty years. Of course, there’s a Line 6 for everyone and, if you’re looking for a small modeling amp, the Line 6 Spider V 30 is the one for you.
The Spider is loaded down with over 200 models of the best amps, cabinets, and effects known to the guitar universe and can combine up to eight effects at once. This gives you an almost unlimited number of tones to work through.
The amp is constructed around an updated modeling engine that provides more quality and realism than any of its peers and really makes the Spider a blast to play. With 30 watts of power behind those models, this thing isn’t messing around and you’ll move more air than you’d have thought possible.
The Spider also features a full-range speaker system, a perk that lets you sound great running an acoustic guitar into it and can also handle pre-recorded music. This ups the versatility factor a lot.
It also has a tuner, metronome, and drum loops onboard to make the Spider a practice room dynamo. Its memory stores 128 Standard, Artist, and Rig presets to get you immediately up and going and really kills with the addition of a Line 6 FBV 3 Advanced Foot Controller, which is sold separately.
Front panel controls are the expected Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Volume knobs. The Spider V 30 is now a fifth-generation product and has evolved quite well. It’s a top contender.
- Updated modeling engine!
- Full range speaker system!
- Can play pre-recorded music for practicing!
- Some folks just don’t like Line 6.
Fender Blues Junior IV
Fender is Fender and it makes an amp for every occasion. For some players, it’s the only brand that will satisfy.
The Fender Blues Junior IV is a superb choice for anyone who just has to have that classic Fender tone in their life. Its 15 watts run through a Celestion 12-inch A-Type speaker and this gives it a much fuller sound than it would have if an eight-inch driver was employed.
This edition of the Blues Junior sports an upgraded preamp and spring reverb to let you dial in the fullest and smoothest tones one of these has ever produced. It’s still a tweed-style cabinet with the knobs on top done in black Tolex and there are controls for Volume, Treble, Bass, Middle, Reverb, and Master Volume.
All of Fender’s Hot Rod amps have been familiar sights on stages and in studios around the world due to their amazing tone, utility, and compatibility with pedals and effects. Tubes found within are three 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 power tubes and give up plenty of sound for practicing, tracking, or club gigs.
A single-button footswitch controls the Fat switch, which adds gain and mids for soloing uses. This is an amp for the person who doesn’t want a Line 6 with a million options but would rather have a couple tried-and-true tones that will handle most any scenario an amp of this size is likely to see.
If you’re a Fender head to the bone, this is your new small amp. Enjoy!
- Fender tone all day long!
- 12-inch speaker for big sounds!
- Fat Switch to boost your solos!
- Not really meant for rock and metal players.
Orange Micro Terror Stack
Orange is another old-school brand known for the type of British tone that powered Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, as well as for some of the coolest-looking amps ever made.
The Orange Micro Terror MT20 and PPC108 stack rig just the ticket for those seeking that metal mojo in a small and easily-carried setup. The MT20 is a single-channel hybrid tube and solid state head with a genuine ECC83/12AX7 preamp tube for major tonal generation.
Controls are knobs for Volume, Tone, and Gain, which makes running this little beast easy and it also features an Aux In and a Headphone Output for practice room bliss.
The PPC108 cabinet is an 8-ohm affair loaded with one eight-inch specially-designed Orange speaker capable of handling up to 20 blistering watts. As the head puts out 20 watts maximum, all should be good with this pairing.
Orange stuff is legendary and has the sound and looks needed for true rock stardom. This is one of the best small amps going at any price.
- Outstanding tube/solid state hybrid tones!
- Two-piece rig makes load-in super swift!
- Nothing looks like an Orange amp!
- The bright orange cabinet might not be for everyone’s taste.
Marshall MG15CFX MG
Marshall is amongst the most famous guitar amps in the world and we have to dig one of its offerings before we finish here today.
The Marshall MG15CFX is a tiny amp that gives rock guitar lovers a piece of the storied Marshall legacy that will work for jamming in a studio apartment. It’s a 15-watt combo amp with a single eight-inch speaker, four programmable channels, three bands of EQ, and onboard reverb, delay, and other effects.
You can store your favorite sounds and then hear them through the speaker-emulated Headphone and Line Outputs or through the speaker, itself. The MG15C also has a Line Input for playing along to your recordings.
Is this the equal of the might Marshall Plexi heads of days gone by? No, of course not. It’s a pint-sized grab-and-go amp with enough tone and power to do what it needs to and look like a million bucks while doing it.
If even your smallest amp has to be a Marshall, this one is all you.
- It’s a Marshall, so you know it kills!
- Four user-programmable channels!
- Speaker-emulated direct outs!
- Could be too small for some players.