The Best College Dorm Room Amps – Under $120

Whether you’re looking for a quiet practice amp to bring to your college dorm, or just something that won’t wake the kids at night you’ve come to the right place. This list has everything from silent pocket amps to small, portable practice amps and everything in between – and all for under $120! (most things are well under $100).

Silent amps

I know what you’re thinking: Silent amps? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of an amp?

Well, the amps on this part of the list are silent to everyone but you!

VOX amPlug headphone only amps

The VOX amPlug headphone amps have been around since 2007, but they’ve recently gotten an overhaul. The new G2 versions feature an improved analog circuit, 9 effects (3 chorus, 3 delay and 3 reverb) and a fold-able plug to make it stow more easily in the pocket.

AC30

vox_amplug_ac30The VOX AC30 amPlug models the vintage AC30 top boost sound used by so many British bands in the 70’s.

Click to check the current price

Classic rock

vox_amplug_classicrockThe VOX Classic Rock amPlug models the classic UK 100 w amp sound. (think Marshall stack)

Click to check the current price

 

Metal

vox_amplug_metalLastly, the VOX Metal amPlug models the high gain US amp sound. (Think Fender Supersonic, Mesa Boogie and Peavey).

Great for lead tone, not so great for clean. 😉

Click to check the current price

CONCLUSION

PROS:

  • 2AAA batteries (Can use rechargeable).
  • Small enough to fit in your pocket.
  • 3.5mm input AUX jack so you can pipe music into the amPlug to play along to.
  • Surprisingly true tonal rendering for the style (i.e. AC30 sounds like a vintage AC30…).
  • Built in effects (chorus, delay and reverb).
  • Less than $40.
  • It’s an amp that can fit comfortably in your gig bag, making storage a non-issue.
  • Dead simple to use.

CONS:

  • No external output beyond headphone jack (difficult to record or play back for others).
  • Limited styles. (Compared to the digital modelers on this list which have 100’s of tonal possibilities).
  • No rhythm tracks.
  • Limited effects.

iRig

irigiRig is the ultimate in portable amp modeling and recording. About the size of an iPhone, the iRig sits between your guitar and your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac and select Android devices as well. Using IK Media’s AmpliTube multi-effects processor, you get:

• An integrated music player
• A dedicated recorder
• A tuner
• Large collection of digital models of amplifiers and stompboxes – vintage and new.

PROS:

  • Tons of realistic amp and effects modeling.
  • Easy to record what you play.
  • Send your output (raw or modeled) to an external amplifier.
  • Completely silent when using headphones, so you won’t wake your dorm mates (or the kids!).

CONS:

Requires a smart phone or tablet, so this is an awesome add-on but not the complete package.

Click to check the current price

Digitech Element XP

digitech_element_xpThe Digitech Element XP is a stompbox on steroids. Not as portable as the VOX amPlugs or iRig, but smaller than most practice amps (except those on this list below).

The Element XP at a glance:

• 58 effects (12 amps, 9 cabinets, 37 stomp boxes)
• 100 factory presets
• room for 100 user presets (edits to the factory presets)
• 20 tone/fx bank combinations
• Built-in chromatic tuner
• Built-in expression pedal – for Wah effect, volume swell, overdrive boost, etc..
• Power supply included
• 45 High quality drum patterns
• 1/4″ a guitar input along
• Stereo 1/4″ output jack
• Aux In to jam along with your favorite songs

PROS:

  • You get a ton of features and modeling capability in a relatively small and inexpensive package.
  • Recording is easy since the stereo line out can be run into another amplifier or mixer for direct recording.

CONS:

  • Not quite as portable as the iRig and amPlug.
  • Can be easy to get lost in effects and amp tweaking for the novice.

Click to check the current price

VOX stomplab IIG

vox_stomplab_iigThe Vox StompLab IIG (A.K.A. Vox StompLab 2G) is much like the Digitech Element XP, except perhaps a bit easier to use and built with metal housing.

Features include:

• 100 presets categorized into styles such as rock, blues, metal, and pop.
• Easy to use and intuitive interface.
• 103 types of modeling effects.
• Edit and save 20 of your own user models.
• Battery (4 AA) or AC adapter powered.
• Tuner.
• Headphone out line.

PROS:

  • Easy to use, despite the large array of models and effects.
  • Solid, yet compact build.

CONS:

  • Not as complex or versatile as the Digitech Element XP
    Not as simple to record as the iRig
  • No looper or rhythm samples

Click to check the current price

Zoom G1Xon

zoom_g1xonThe Zoom G1Xon Guitar Effects With Expression Pedal.

• 75 effects, including distortion, compression, modulation, delay, reverb, and 14 realistic amp models
• Built-in expression pedal for overdrive, volume control, wah-wah, or filtering
• Onboard chromatic tuner and Looper
• 68 rhythm patterns
• Separate input jacks for connection of guitar and personal music player, plus an output jack that can be used with amplifier or headphones
• Runs on 4 AA batteries or optional AC adapter, with alkaline battery life of 20 hours

PROS:

  • Has rhythm generator and looper, making it fun and easy to creating your own backing tracks to jam over.

CONS:

  • Not as solid looking as the Vox Stompbox IIG.
  • Looper only has a 30 second buffer.

Click to check the current price

QUIET COMBO AMPS

You may be surprised to learn that many major amp manufacturers today have a battery powered, mini version of their amps available. Most run on a single 9-volt battery, others on the standard AA size.

Marshall MS-4 Micro Stack Amp

Marshall-MS-4-Micro-Stack-AmpThe Marshall MS-4 Micro stack is what it sounds like – a miniaturized Marshall Stack.
At a glance:

  • 1w battery powered guitar amplifier
  • 2 independent speaker cabs – each with a single 3? speaker
  • Amp head with Gain, Volume and Tone controls.
  • Powered by a single 9v battery or optional AC power adapter
  • Headphone jack

The Marshall MS-4 Micro stack is small and stands only 9 3/4? tall, and is switchable between Clean and Overdrive modes.

Click to check the current price

Fender Mini Tone-Master

Fender-Mini-Tone-MasterThis is a miniaturized version of the classic Tone-Master and Fender does a great job of keeping true to the authentic Fender details here – cab corners, retro grille cloth, and vintage white control knobs.

At a glance:

  • 1w battery powered amplifier that features two 2? speakers.
  • Gain, Volume, Tone and Power controls.
  • Powered by single 9V battery (included), or AC adapter

Click to check the current price

Fender-Mini-57-Twin

This is quite simply a battery powered, highly portable version of the original Fender ’57 Twin Amp.

Fender-Mini-57-Twin

At a glance:

  • Completely captures the vintage 50’s look with its miniature chicken head knobs, down to its tweed covering and brown grille.
  • Made of real wood and not plastic.
  • 1w battery powered guitar amplifier with twin 2? speakers.
  • Built-in distortion, Power, volume, and tone controls.
  • Runs on a single 9V battery or power adapter.

Click to check the current price

The VOX MINI3 G2.

The Mini3 might just be the ultimate battery powered modeling amp – It’s powerful enough for street performances or picnics with the family or wherever, and check out the features:

VOX_MINI3_G2_ivory

  • Based on the VOX Valvetronix family of amps and includes a new Bassilator circuit that provides richer low-end frequencies.
  • 8 editable effects.
  • 11 amp models.
  • A direct line connection for ultimate clean tone, or portable PA!
  • powered by 6-AA batteries or AC adapter.

Click to check the current price

Vox-AC1-RhythmVOX

The AC1 RhythmVOX is a great battery powered practice amp AND also a rhythm box too!

At a glance:

  • 66 Rhythm/Song Patterns for rhythm practice and experimentation.
  • A host of song style beats.
  • Configurable beat patterns, tempo and volume.
  • Gain, tone, and volume controls.
  • Headphone jack.
  • Aux In jack – to jam along with your CD or MP3 player.
  • A pair of 3? speakers.

Click to check the current price

Orange Micro Crush

The Orange Micro Crush CR3 is all Orange, from the woven grill to rubber footstools and trademark Orange finish. it’s also wood, and not plastic.

Orange-Micro-Crush-CR3

At a glance:

  • 3w battery powered amp.
  • Single 4? speaker.
  • Clean and Overdrive channels.
  • Tone control.
  • Chromatic tuner.
  • Headphone jack
  • Runs on a single 9v battery or AC adapter.

Click to check the current price

CONCLUSION

PROS:

  • Each has a headphone jack, so you can practice without waking the neighbors but also has a speaker (or 2) so you can play without headphones.
  • The run on batteries, so you don’t need to worry about an outlet or power strip and can take it anywhere.
  • Very portable

CONS:

  • Not as fully featured as some of the modeling boxes on the list (eg: iRig, Digitech, Stomplab and Zoom)

THE LEGENDARY PIGNOSE 7-100

The Pignose 7-100 is a unique looking and playing amplifier. It’s genius is its simplicity. It has a single knob that looks like a pig’s nose and is located on the front. That one knob controls the power, volume and distortion. It works with your guitar’s volume knob too, so the tonal possibilities are surprisingly diverse.

pignose-7-100

At a glance:

  • 5w amp with 5″ speaker.
  • Runs on 6 AA batteries or an optional AC adapter.
  • About the size of a shoe box and weighs around 5lbs.
  • Hinged design and can be played either fully closed, wide open or at any point in between.
  • It also has an open space inside that can be used to store the AC adapter or guitar cable when not in use.
  • A preamp out jack which makes it possible to play the Pignose through a larger and more powerful amplifier (or PA) or straight into a mixing board.

The Pignose 7-100 has a distinctive look and sound that is like no other. It’s stylish and funky, and is definitely a conversation starter.

Read the full review here

Click to check the current price

 

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Orange Micro Crush PiX: CR3 vs CR6

The Orange Micro Crush PiX line of amps is Orange Amplifiers’ entry into the portable battery powered amplifier market and They are a worthy addition.

The Orange Micro Crush CR3 and CR6 are both decked out with with a woven grill, tiny rubber footstools and the trademark Orange finish, just like their big brothers in the Orange Amps family.

What sets the Orange Micro Crush PiX amps apart from other battery powered amplifiers is that they are not plastic – their wood and metal construction makes it a bit more durable than some other mini-amps.

Orange Micro Crush PiX CR3

Orange-Micro-Crush-CR3The Orange Micro Crush CR3 Amp is a 3w solid-state amp and features a single 4″ speaker. It has no on-board sound effects (most portable battery powered amplifiers don’t), but features an overdrive channel and tone and volume controls.

The clean tone is a bit on the light side, which may make it a bad out-of-the box pairing with a telecaster (though you could always roll the tone knob back on the guitar itself to even it out). But the overdrive channel is where the Micro Crush CR3 shines – it’s just incredible for such a little thing. I’d call it a Tiny Terror, except that name is already taken. Let’s say it’s a Micro Terror, or Tiny Beast. 😉

I already reviewed the CR3 a while back, so you can read the full review here.

Orange Micro Crush PiX CR6

Orange-Micro-Crush-CR6The CR6 is like the Micro Crush CR3’s big brother. Like the CR3, the CR6 is also a battery powered amplifier, so it’s totally portable and you can play it without disturbing the neighbors (unless you really crank it and live in an apartment..)

The features at a glance of the cr6:

  • Controls: Gain, volume, tone
  • Inputs/Outputs: Headphone line out; auxiliary line in
  • Output: Stereo, 6 watts
  • Speakers: 2 x 4″
  • Built-in Tuner
  • Wood cabinet construction
  • Battery power (18V AC power supply sold separately)

The Micro Crush CR6 lets you play with headphones, so as not to annoy the neighbors (or any co-habitants), but the twin 4″ speakers can put out plenty of decibels for their size. Meaning, you can still rock out when you want to.

The Micro Crush CR6 has decent clean tone and great Orange amp crunch tones.

Watch the Demo:

CR3 vs CR6

OK, so the CR3 and the CR6 are very similar, but how are they different?

Differences between the Micro Crush CR3 and CR6:

SPEAKERS:

  • CR6 has twin stereo 4″ speakers
  • CR3 has a single 4″ speaker

INPUTS:

  •  CR3 has only an instrument input
  •  CR6 also has an aux input, so you can plug in your
    favorite mp3 player and jam along

WATTAGE:

  •  CR3 is 3W
  •  CR6 is 6W

SIZE:

  •  CR3 measures about 6″ x 6″ x 3″ and weighs 1.87 lbs
  •  CR6 measures 10.5″ x 8″ x 5.5″ and weighs 4.5 lbs

Both the Orange Micro Crush CR6 and Orange Micro Crush CR3 are made of solid wood and feature the same Orange grill covering as the larger Orange amplifiers. Both are battery powered amplifiers that are completely portable and compact and both are excellent practice amps.

Neither one is appropriate for gigs, and they likely won’t keep up with a full band in practice. But that’s not what they’re for anyway. These little guys ooze Orange tone and vibe, and they’re small enough to leave in the living room without attracting too much undue attention from significant others.

Price:
The Orange Micro Crush CR3 Amp sells for around $80 (with power adapter!), while the Orange Micro Crush CR6 is currently only available through certain 3rd party sellers and can be found for around $150 at the time of this review. Yes, the CR6 is quite a bit more money, but it’s also getting harder to come by so it’s a bit of a collector’s item too so it should hold more of its value.

Conclusion:

You don’t get any effects, but that’s common with this size amplifier. What you do get is a very portable little practice amp and a good taste of Orange tone.

These are excellent amps for rock and metal, and each Orange Micro Crush makes a great addition to the office or living room for those times when you just want to plug in an play, but don’t want to (or can’t) rattle the windows.

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Orange Micro Crush CR3 Amp Review

The Orange Micro Crush CR3 is Orange Amplifiers entry into the portable battery powered amplifier market and it’s a worthy addition.

The Orange Micro Crush CR3 Amp is a 3w solid-state amp and features a single 4″ speaker.

Like its big brothers, the Orange Micro Crush is decked out with with a woven grill, tiny rubber footstools and the trademark Orange finish.

Orange Micro Crush CR3 Features at a glance

orange-micro-crush-amp

The Orange Micro Crush CR3 is a pretty basic combo amp. You won’t find any bells and whistles (ie: effects like tremolo and reverb) on portable battery powered amplifiers, but the Orange Micro Crush has the following features:

  • An integrated chromatic tuner with a row of LED’s for every note (including sharps).
  • 1/4″ headphone jack
  • Overdrive channel
  • Standard tone and volume controls.
  • 4″ speaker
  • 3w of power
  • 9v battery, or AC adapter

The Orange Micro Crush is not plastic – it’s wood and metal construction makes it a bit more durable than some other mini-amps.

Conclusion

The Orange Micro Crush CR3 Amp is a solid entry into the portable battery powered amplifier market and sells for $79 (with power adapter!).

You don’t get any effects, but that’s common with this size amplifier. What you do get is a very portable little practice amp and a good taste of Orange tone.

The clean tone is a bit on the light side, but the overdrive is incredible for such a little thing. I’d call it a Tiny Terror, except that name is already taken. Let’s say it’s a Micro Terror, or Tiny Beast. 😉

It’s an excellent amp for rock and metal, but you will probably want to pass on it if you’re looking for a good clean tone in such a small package. If you’re looking for good clean tone in a mini-amp, check out the Fender Mini Deluxe.

The Orange Micro Crush makes a great addition to the office or living room for those times when you just want to plug in an play, but don’t want to (or can’t) rattle the windows.

Orange Micro Crush Demo:

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Best electric guitar amp for beginners

Looking for the best electric guitar amp for beginners can be a daunting experience. With so many amps styles and features available it’s easy to get lost. Here’s a little advice I’ve compiled from personal experience and discussions with other guitarists about the best electric guitar amp for beginners.

Skip the modeling amps.

The first piece of advice about finding the best electric guitar amp for beginners is this:

If you’re just starting out and haven’t played a lick of guitar, then you should avoid modeling amps.

Modeling amps don’t make the best electric guitar amp for beginners, because it’s far too easy for an aspiring guitarist to get lost in the effects before learning proper technique. In fact, many of the standard effects on modeling amps today can make a person sound better than than actually are.

To some, this may seem like a great selling point, but ask any guitarist – hobbyist to pro- who’s played around and he’ll tell you that it’s much better to know how to play than to just sound like you know how to play.

Leaning on some effect like a crutch will only limit your playing and shorten you musical horizon.

When looking for the best electric guitar amp for beginners, look at straight, traditional amps and skip the modeling. Modeling amps a awesome though once you know the basics and have developed good technique.

How to Choose Your First Guitar Amp

The best place to start is with a small tube amp. This kind of amp is far less forgiving, leaving you nowhere to hide. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. You’re looking for the best choice and here I am telling you one that will make things more difficult. But think of it as tough love – forcing you to confront your technique and learn the right way to play a chord or scale progression.

Once you get that down, the sky is the limit and your horizon will open up to a whole new world of effects and styles.

Beside learning the basics, avoiding modeling amps and multi-effect pedals in the beginning will allow you to focus on the few basic effects every guitarist needs along the way – Reverb, Chorus, Delay and Compressor. Reverb is a must, and most amps have onboard reverb effects. Once you begin to get the hang of playing guitar and wrap your head around those basic effects you can branch out to other effects and modeling amps.

I acknowledge the allure of modeling amps is great – they offer a plethora of effects and amp simulation at a great price (often cheaper than a basic tube amp), but that temptation can end up holding you back as you learn to play.

It’s best to stay on the path of developing your skill and technique, rather than getting lost in a wilderness of fancy effects.

Best Electric Guitar Amp for Beginners

Here are some recommended amps that fill the need, and provide a solid foundation for your learning.

Tube Amps.

Vox AC4TV.

The Vox AC4TV is a 4W tube amp available in 2 sizes: ‘Mini’ with a 6.5″ speaker and a 1×10″ speaker version. Each is simple to operate and has a control for tone and volume, as well as a power selector switch that toggles between ¼w, 1w, or 4w. It’s a competent amp that’s plenty loud but not so loud you’ll wake the neighbors.

Vox-AC4TV

Its simple set of controls leaves you to focus on playing, but it also leaves room to grow as you master the basics.

One of the great things about the AC4TV is that it has an external cab out connector so you can hook this little bad boy up to external cabinets. Trust me – 4 watts can sound pretty loud when it’s driving a 2×12 cab!

The 10″ currently retails for around $249 new, 6.5″ is $199.

What makes the AC4TV one of the best electric guitar amp for beginners is its versatility. Here are a few demo vids, to give you an idea of the different tones available and the different styles they fit…

 

Rock demo

 

Pop/Jazz demo:

 

Clean demo:

 

And one last all around demo:

 

Blackstar HT Series HT-1 1W 1×8.

Blackstar-HT-Series-HT-1

Another great practice amp in the running for best electric guitar amp for beginners is the Blackstar HT Series HT-1. It’s a 1W tube amp with a single 8″ speaker. It features 2 channels (clean and overdrive), stereo MP3 / line input and external speaker output. It’s use of dual-triode ECC82 tubes provides the crunch and break-up characteristics of a traditional 100w amp at a much lower volume. It also has EQ, Gain and Reverb settings.

It provides a bit more in the way of controls than the Vox AC4TV and retails for $269.

Here’s a demo of the Blackstar HT-1 in action:

Solid State Amps.

If the tubes are out of your price range, here are a couple of great solid state practice amps without the extra bells and whistles to distract you. 😉

Peavey Solo 12w 1×8 Practice Amp.

Peavey-Solo-12W

This member of the Solo series from Peavey is a 12w 1×8″ practice amp and it features TransTube tube emulation (for a “real tube” sound), Master volume control, Lead gain control, 2 channels – Clean and lead, 3-band EQ, ¼” stereo input jack and a Headphone jack.

What makes this one of the best electric guitar amp for beginners is Peavey’s TransTube preamp technology which provides a realistic tube amp tone and response, with the price and stability of a solid state amp – the best of both amp styles. Loud enough to rock, yet the headphone jack allows you to rock in isolation without disturbing others. The line in lets you plug in a CD player or mp3 player to jam with your favorite bands. It currently retails for $79.99.

Orange Amplifiers Crush PiX Series CR12L 12W 1×6.

Orange-Amplifiers-Crush-PiX-Series-CR12L

This little devil is a 12w amp with a 6″ speaker and is the smallest on this best electric guitar amp for beginners list. It features dual gain controls, 3-band EQ, Master volume and Headphone out jack.

The Orange Crush is all about style and portability. It’s distictive look is due to the Orange basket weave Tolex, woven speaker grille, beading and legendary hieroglyphs (PiX) and of course the Orange signature ‘picture frame’ edging. It’s not as feature rich as other models, but that’s the point. It’s simple, portable and just a good basic combo amp. It’s also available in black (why?) and retails for around $99.

Here’s the promotional video of the Orange PiX line of amps, including the stripped down and portable CR12L:

Conclusion.

I believe that the best electric guitar amp for beginners is a straightforward combo amp, represented by the amps on this list. Avoid the bells and whistles of the fancier, feature-rich combo amps until you’re confident you have a solid set of playing chops. Then you can either move up to a modeling amp, or start adding effects pedals to your rig. The great thing about all the amps profiled above is that they provide a solid base for what ever effects you want to add to the mix later on down the road.

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