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

 

Related Posts:

7 Of The Best Blues Amps for Guitar (under $1000).

What makes for good blues amps? It’s a question with many answers, but  sustain, crunchy overdrive, good clean tone and a certain look are all part of the formula. It’s true that the blues can be played on just about any amp, but here are 7 amps that have what it takes to make for great blues amps – and each is under $1,000.

7 Great Guitar Amps for Blues.

Vox Amps

The most famous Vox amps, the AC15 and AC30, don’t look the part of classic blues amps, but they play the part just fine.

Sure, the Vox AC 30 is renowned for it’s jangly, Beatles vibe and searing treble tone of Brian May, but Brian Jones got plenty of dirty bluesy tone when he used his on Rolling Stones records. And Rory Gallagher paired his with a Dallas Rangemaster treble booster to craft his signature sound.

vox-valvetronix-20w

In short, the Vox AC30 delivers the blues goods, especially when you crank it. But that could be a problem at times because a cranked AC30 (or even AC15) can be LOUD.

Also, the AC30 is expensive, at around $1,200. The AC15 is more affordable, in the $600 range.

But if you’re on a budget or have to keep an eye on volume from time to time, then you should check out the Vox Valvetronix series.

I recommend either the Vox Valvetronix VT20 or Vox Valvetronix VT60. They are essentially the same amp, but the Vox Valvetronix VT20 is a 20w 1×8 combo amp and the Vox Valvetronix VT40 is the 60w, 1×10 version.

Both are solid state, modeling amps based on Vox Valve Reactor technology for true tube modeling realism.

Both come with 99 presets (33 song presets, 33 basic presets and 33 presets with effects.), and a ton of useful features like mp3/AUX in, headphone out, and each is foot-switchable and programmable.

Vox Valvetronix VT20 sells for about $179 and the Vox Valvetronix VT40 sells for $250 and have a timeless black motif to their appearance.

Demo

Fender Amps

Fender Excelsior

The Fender Excelsior is a 13w, 1×15 all-tube combo amp with a unique 1950’s vibe, sound and style all its own.

The Excelsior is powered by dual 12ZX7 tubes in the preamp and dual 6V6 tubes in the power output section and houses a 15″ Eminence Legend speaker.

The Excelsior also has onboard tremelo and a bright/dark tone switch for treble or bass emphasis. It’s one of the great and simple blues amps that takes pedals well and it’s also great for harmonica too.

The Excelsior can also drive an external speaker cabinet, if the 15″ Legend isn’t enough for you.

Oh, and they’re part of Fender’s Pawn Shop series, which means not were made, so they will be collectible.

Here’s the Excelsior amp in a blues style demo

And another:

Comes in four colors and sells for about $299-350 (depending on visual style/color)

fender-excelsior-antique-blush

fender-excelsior-brown

fender-excelsior-surf-green

fender-excelsior-sonic-blue-angled

Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40-Watt 1×12-Inch Guitar Combo Amp – Tweed

To many players, nothing says blues amp quite like a Fender Blues Deluxe, in Tweed.

Tweed is just a classic, vintage blues look – and tone.

Fender is renowned for their clean tones, and the Fender Blues Deluxe is no exception. It delivers 40 watts of tube driven tone with plenty of headroom for clean tone and great bluesy breakup when it’s driven. It also has on-board spring reverb, an essential blues effect.

The 12″ Eminence special-design speaker gives plenty of punch and offers enhanced midrange to help you break through any mix.

fender-blues-deluxe-40w

The Fender Blues Deluxe is powered by two 6L6 Groove Tubes output tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes. In addition to the spring reverb, the Fender Blues Deluxe also features an effects loop, two-button channel footswitch, classic tweed covering and chicken head knobs on a chrome control panel.

The Fender Blues Deluxe makes a great blues, rock and country amp.

Demo

Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior NOS 15W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp

The Fender Blues Junior NOS is a modern blues machine built to vintage specs and using new, old stock parts.

The Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior NOS 15W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp is an all tube (2 EL84 Groove Tube output tubes and 3 – 12AX7 preamp tubes), 15w combo featuring a single 12″ Jensen C12 speaker. It has a single channel with “Fat” Switch, reverb, and a footswitch jack so you can toggle the Fat switch on/off more easily. It’s got vintage knobs for reverb, master, middle, bass and treble control.

fender-hot-rod-blues-junior

Tweed finish with pinstripe grille cloth complete the vintage blues look.

The Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior NOS 15W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp is a great blues amp for the price, but it’s also good for jazz and classic rock.

Demo

Peavey Amps

Peavey has a reputation for metal amps, but they also make some of the best blues amps around. Just check these out..

Peavey Delta Blues 210 guitar Amplifier with Tremolo

The Peavey Delta Blues 210 is a guitar combo amp with tremolo and reverb.

Peavey-Delta-Blues-210-guitar-Amplifier-Tremolo

This is a great amp for those who dig the Fender sound, but want something a bit different in style or a bit less money. While the Peavey Delta Blues 210 is inspired by Fender, it is its own beast. It handles clean jazz and country tones all the way up to classic rock overdrive.

Packed with 2 10″ Blue Marvel speakers, three 12AX7 and four EL84 tubes and on board tremelo and reverb, the Peavey Delta Blues 210 definitely makes the killer blues amps list.

Demo

Peavey Delta Blue 115 (II) 1×15″ 30-Watt Tube Combo Amp

eavey-Delta-Blue-115-1x15-30-Watt-Tube-Combo-AmpNext in the Peavey blues amps lineup is the Delta Blue 115. It’s a 30w combo amp with a single 15″ speaker. With 3 12AX7 and 4 EL84 tubes, it’s powerful enough for gigging and built for blues with onboard spring reverb and tremolo.

The Peavey Delta Blue 115 also features an effects loop, optional footswitch, and an output for an extension cabinet.

Demo

Marshall Amps

Marshall Class5 – 1×10 Combo

One of my all time dream amps is the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker. This kind of sucks though, because at $2,499 it is well outside my budget. (That’s why it’s a still a dream)

But luckily, Marshall has a similar blues amp that fits the budget player much better, coming in at around the $400 mark.

Marshall-Class5-1x10-Combo

The Marshall Class 5 – 1×10 Combo is, as the name suggests, a 5w, 1×10 all tube combo amp that’s perfect for home, studio and small gigs. It’s got a headphone output jack, and Volume, Treble, Middle, and Bass controls.

What you get with the Marshall Class 5 is pure Marshall tone – from bluesy cleans to plexi style crunch, and everything in between. All of that without being a 200lb behemoth, stacked to blow the roof off.

With 2 ECC83 pre-amp tubes, and 1 EL84 power tube, it’s light but powerful enough to get you great tone where ever you are.

Demo

Related Posts:

The 12 Best Low Watt Tube Amps For Under $500.

Low watt tube amps have become a popular niche for players and manufacturers alike. It used to be that tube amps were reserved for the 50 – 100w range, for venues much larger than a bedroom. These tube amps were way too much power for the hobbyist to practice with at home. They were typically too damn big too.

These days, there are a host of lower wattage tube amps on the market, and many for less than $500. Some are decidedly vintage style, while others are classic or modern style. Whatever your personal taste, you should be able to find a low watt tube amp to your liking on this list of the best small tube amps available today.

Low Watt Tube Amps For Under $500

Blackstar amps

Blackstar brings 3 amps to the low watt party: the HT5R, HT1R and the HT1MC.

Blackstar HT5R 5-Watt 1×12 Combo Amp with Reverb

Blackstar-HT5R

The Blackstar HT5R is a 5 Watt, all-tube amp (1 ECC83 (12AX7), and 1 12BH7 tubes) with a single 12-Inch speaker. It’s got 2 channels (clean, and overdrive), 3-Band EQ and reverb. It also has a series effects loop, stereo MP3/Line input, headphone out and comes with a footswitch for switching channels.

Another really cool thing the Blackstar HT-5Rbrings to the party is the ability to model 1×12 or 4×12 in a line out, which is awesome for recording.

The Blackstar HT5R delivers crunch and tube breakup tones that you’d expect from a 100w amp through the use of a 12BH7 dual triode valve in push-pull configuration. The result is a big sound, from a modest, 5-watt amp.

Bottom line: the Blackstar HT5R is a great low watt practice and home studio amp, with killer tube powered metal tone, all for $499.99.

Here’s a great all-around demo

Blackstar HT1R 1×8 Series Combo Amp with Reverb

Blackstar-HT1R

The Blackstar HT1R is the “mini-me” to the Blackstar HT-5R. Instead of a 12″ speaker, the Blackstar HT1R has a single 8″ speaker, and instead of 5w, the Blackstar HT1R is 1w, powered by a single ECC83 (12AX7), and single ECC82 (12AU7) power tubes.

The Blackstar HT1R can also be plugged into an external speaker cab, and can easily drive a 4×12 cabinet. It currently sells for only $329.99.

Here’s a Demo

Blackstar HT Metal Series HT1MC 1W 1×8 Combo w/Reverb

Blackstar-HT-Metal-Series-HT1MC-1W

The Blackstar HT1MC is the low watt Metal brother to the HT1R. It’s also 1w, with a 1×8″ speaker configuration, features reverb, and speaker out emulation. It’s also a true tube amp powered by an ECC83 and ECC82 tube combo.

What sets the Blackstar HT1MC apart from other tube amps on this list however is it’s look. The Blackstar HT1MC is a “stripped-down, tube-driven metal monster” and it looks the part!

Powerful enough for great metal crunch tone, but won’t disturb the peace. The Blackstar HT1MC has excellent clarity even at high gain levels, but can also do rock and blues and sells for $379.77.

Check out the demo (More than just Metal!)

 

Low watt tube amps by VHT

VHT AV-SP1-6 Special 6 Combo Amplifier

vht_special_6The VHT Special 6 is a 6 watt, 10-inch all tube combo amp built with modders in mind, so if you’re handy with a soldering iron, the sky is the limit!

The out of the box configuration features One 12AX7 Preamp Tube, One 6V6 output tube and special high sensitivity 10″ VHT Special Design speaker. It also includes a footswitchable boost mode and 4, 8, and 16 Ohm speaker out jacks for driving larger cabs.

The VHT Special 6 also features a High/Low power switch that enhances low-volume tones with extra-smooth richness. In low power mode, you can get great distortion with a reasonable volume for home practice, and in high-power mode, it is loud enough to compete with a drummer for practice or small gigs.

The VHT Special 6 is a modders dream that excels at both clean and overdriven tones. The VHT Special 6 sells for just $249.99.

 

Low watt tube amps by Bugera

Bugera V5 Infinium

bugera_v5_infiniumThe Bugera V5 Infinium is a 5w all tube amp for less than $200.

Let that sink in for a moment.

For the price of a really good solid state amp, you can get an all tube amp. But that’s not all.

The Bugera V5 Infinium Class-A amp is driven by a single EL84 tube with a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp and a specially designed 8″ Turbosound speaker. This is a classic combination for the British crunch and buttery blues tone. Another great feature is the power attenuator, which effectively lets you decrease the headroom and get killer overdrive or distortion at a lower volume. Besides the basic Volume, Tone and Gain controls, the V5 also has a sensitive digital reverb capable of dialing in everything from subtle to downright cavernous.

Where the Bugera V5 Infinium really makes its mark is with it’s Tube Life Multiplier technology. According to Bugera, this tech ensures greater reliability and consistent tone over the lifespan of your tubes by monitoring the performance of each of the amplifier’s output tubes and maintaining them at their ideal operating point for an evenly distributed load. There’s also an LED next to each tube that lets you know when it’s about to die.

All for a startling $199.99!

 

Low watt tube amps by Vox

Vox AC4C1 1×10″ 4 Watt Tube Combo

The Vox AC4C1 is a 4w tube amp, powered by two 12AX7 tubes in the preamp, and a single EL84 in the power amp section. It sports a 10″ Celestion Speaker, and has Gain, Treble, Bass, and Volume controls.

VOX-AC4C1-BL

Like most other amps on this list, the Vox AC4C1 has external Speaker-Output terminals for driving an external speaker cab, though it lacks some of the more modern recording features of the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 5 Combo.

What the Vox AC4C1 does have plenty of is pure, tube driven Vox tone and style. The 10″ speaker gives the Vox AC4C1 a wide, dynamic range and the EL84 gives it classic British crunch. It also has the Top Boost tone, made popular in the VOX AC30.

vox-AC4C1-4W-creamThe Vox AC4C1 is available in 2 styles:

Check out this Demo here:

VOX AC10C1

vox_ac10c1Get cranked up tone without cranking up! The Vox AC10 is a 10 watt combo amp with Two 12AX7 tubes for the preamp and two EL84 tubes for the output. It’s got the classic Vox look and British crunch and chime. The controls include Volume, Grain, Bass, Treble and Reverb. It should be noted that the reverb is digital and very sensitive- great for classic rock to full out surf.

The Vox AC10 comes with a 10 inch Celestion speaker but also features a speaker out jack so you can run it to drive an external cab.

Think of the AC10 as the stripped down little brother to the AC15 – great for small gigs, studio and home playing and sells for $449.99.

 

VOX AC4TVmini 4W Tube Guitar Combo Amp

Vox-AC4TVAs the name suggests, the AC4TVmini is the smallest version of the AC4TV series. Like it’s larger brother, it ‘s powered by a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp section, and a single EL84 in the power section. But the 8″ speaker is swapped out for a smaller still 6.5″ custom Vox speaker.

You’re basically trading some volume and dynamic range for greater portability.

Demo

 

Low watt tube amps by Marshall

Marshall DSL5C 1×10 5w combo

A lot of people don’t get the Marshall DSL5C, especially Marshall fans. They just don’t see the point in low watt amps, and frankly look down on anyone who doesn’t play a 100w Marshall stack. Well, the Marshall DSL5C just isn’t for them. It’s perfect for fans of the Marshall tube tone who just want a rock solid tube amp for practicing or playing the occasional small gig.

The Marshall DSL5C is a versatile amp that truly delivers on Marshall tone – everything from Plexi-style cleans to JCM800 snarl to modern day high gain. It is powered by 3 ECC83 tubes in the pre amp, and a single 12BH7/ECC99 in the power amp section. It features 2 channels: Classic and “ultra gain”. 😀

Marshall-DSL5C

What makes the Marshall DSL5C even better is the power switch. Like the Vox AC4TV, the Marshall DSL5C can run at full wattage (5w) or lower wattage (1w), which means you get all that sweet crunch and tube saturated distortion at volumes low enough to not piss off the neighbors.

The Marshall DSL5C also features a series FX loop, and headphone out, audio in (for mp3 players) and an extension speaker for driving an external speaker cab.

The Marshall DSL5C comes with a footswitch and houses a Celestion Ten 30 10″ speaker. Controls include: volume, gain, presence, bass, middle, treble, deep switch (increases low end frequency), and toneshift (which acts like a mid scoop). $499.99

Demo

 

Low watt tube amps by Epiphone

The Epiphone “1939” Century Amplifier

The  “1939” Century amplifier takes you back to the days when amplifiers were new. Its art Deco inspired look would be at home in Epiphone’s early days in Manhattan, but totally unique nearly 80 years later. You can rest assured that while the sound and look are vintage, the electronics are modern.
epiphone_1939_century_amplifier
The Epiphone 1939 Century amplifier is an 18w, all tube Class A/B combo amp. It’s powered by two 12AX7 and two 6V6 tubes and features a 12″ Electar speaker. Controls are pretty basic with a master volume and master tone, but the master volume has a pull mode for a “boost” effect.

Where things get a bit more unique is with the inputs. There are three of them – bright, normal and dark. There is also an extension speaker out jack and internal bias adjustment for tweaking the response of the 6V6 power tubes. $373.14

 

Low watt tube amps by Fender

Fender Super Champ X2 15w 1×10

And finally, we come to the Fender Super Champ X2 15w 1×10″ combo. At first glance, the Fender Super Champ X2 appears to be a more traditional amp with its black vinyl covering and silver grille cloth front. Although it doesn’t look as boutique as the Ramparte and Excelsior or as spacy as the Vaporizer, it’s not as traditional as it looks either.

fender-super-champ-x2-angled

The Super Champ X2 is a 15w, low watt tube amp with a Fender Special 10 inch speaker, but it also blends the digital amp modeling (“voicings”) and effects found on Fender’s popular Mustang series of amplifiers.

The Super Champ X2 is a modern modeling amp in a traditional package that gives you the warmth of an all tube amp with the flexibility of more modern solid state amps.

The Super Champ X2 is powered by a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp and a pair of 6V6 tubes in the power section.

$379.99

Demo:

Low watt tube amps by Laney

Laney Cub 8 5w tube amp

laney_cub_8_5w
The first offering from Laney amps on this list is the Cub 8, a 5w class A combo amp with a focus on tone and simplicity in a small package.

The Cub 8 features an 8″ Celestion speaker, Hi & LO input (clean & overdrive) and a tone and volume knob. It’s powered by a single ECC83 pre amp tube and a single 6V6GT tube in the power section.

The Laney Cub 8 is a great low watt amp perfect for practice or home recording and really captures the classic fender tweed-like tone.

The Cub 8 is a great little tube amp for only $199.95

Laney Cub 10 10w tube amp

Next of from Laney Amplifiers is the middle child of the Cub series, the Laney Cub 10.
laney_cub_10
The cub 10 is a 10w, class A/B amp with a 10″ Celestion speaker, two E CC83 pre amp tubes and two 6V6GT output tubes. The controls and inputs are identical to the Cub 8.

Where the Cub 10 differs from its little brother is in the sound and power consumption. Being class A/B, it’s a bit more efficient than the Cub 8 and doesn’t run quite as hot. The larger speaker and double tube compliment give the Cub 10 a bigger mid-range sound. Since the natural range of the guitar is the mid-range, this is perfect for guitarists who want to cut through the mix in a band or recording setting.

The Laney Cub 10 is a nice, low watt package for expressive mid-range clean tone to Zeppelin like gain and vintage tone for only $249.95.

Laney Cub 12 15w tube amp

laney_cub_12Lastly, we have the big brother: the Laney Cub 12 – a 15w all tube class A/B amplifier, with three ECC83 tubes in the pre amp and two EL84s in the power amp stage. This gives the Cub 12 a much bigger voice than the Cub 8 and 10. And if 12″ of Celestion isn’t enough for you, there’s also an external speaker out jack.

In addition, the Cub 12 also features reverb (digital), tone and volume (as with the Cubs 8 and 10) and bass, middle treble EQ and gain control. The Cub 12 also has an FX loop.

Instead of a Hi/LO input, the Laney Cub 12 has a 15w and <1w input. Jack into the 15w input and you get the full throated roar, jack into the <1w and you get a more manageable volume for practice, with substantially less headroom. This means that you can get those dreamy, creamy British overdrive tones that EL84s are known for at a much lower volume. The Cub 12 sells for $399.00.

 

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Beatles Gear on Let it Be.

Let it Be was the first Unplugged album. It was a “Back to basics” album, so the Beatles gear they used was pretty standard stuff as well.

Even though Let It Be didn’t make it on my list of Top 3 Must Have Beatles Albums. , it still has its moments as any Beatles album does. (Incidentally, that post was featured in last month’s Beatles Carnival – Everything About the Beatles)

Gone were the instruments of psychedelia – the Sitar, the moog, wah-wah pedal and harpsichord. In fact, in the original recordings, there weren’t even orchestral sections. Those were added later by Phil Specter, prompting Lennon to say:

“He was given the shittiest load of badly-recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it.”

I have to agree that Let it Be is not the best Beatles’ effort, but I think it was an awesome idea.

Paul is credited for setting the direction of the band after the exhausting double LP known as The White Album. Let It Be was intended to be a stripped down album with no overdubs and studio wizardry. Just The Beatles and their instruments. So, enough about the album, let’s check out the Beatles gear, specifically guitars, bass and amplifiers.

Beatles-gear-let-it-be-rooftop-concert

Beatles Gear used on Let it Be

Electric Guitars

The slide solo on “For You Blue” was played by John Lennon on a Hofner Hawaiian Standard slide guitar:

Throughout the Let It Be recordings, George Harrison is often seen playing his custom-made rosewood Fender Telecaster, having given his 1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard (named “Lucy”) away. Lucy was originally given to him by Eric Clapton and was featured in the “Revolution” promo film.

For You Blue aside, Lennon is rarely seen without his Epiphone Casino throughout most of the sessions.

Acoustic Guitars

By the time of Let it Be, Harrison and Lennon usually shared Harrison’s Gibson J-200 , and McCartney played his Martin D-28 on “Two of Us.”

Bass Guitars

Since the band was trying to skip the overdubs and favor a more live sound, Harrison and Lennon would take turns on bass when McCartney was playing lead or rhythm guitar, and the bass they usually played was the Fender Bass VI, a six-string bass (Harrison uses it on “Two of Us“; Lennon can be seen playing it on “Dig It.”)

When McCartney was on bass, he used his 1963 Hofner 500/1 exclusively.

Amplifiers

In the early days, The Beatles predominantly used Vox Amplifiers. So much so, that Vox became known as “Beatles Amps.” That changed by the Let It Be sessions, and Fender was the primary Beatles gear provided.

Harrison and Lennon played through a 85-watt “silverface” Twin amps with vibrato circuits and reverb while McCartney used a 50-watt silverface Bassman head and tall Bassman cabinet (Harrison and Lennon also played through the Bassman rig when using the Fender Bass VI).

For more details, facts and back story on the Let It Be sessions and Beatles gear, check out the Guide to the Songs and Instruments Featured on The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ Album from Guitar World.

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4 Retro Style Small Portable Battery Powered Amps for Under $50.

Here are 4 small retro style portable battery powered amps for under $50 – perfect for the traveling hobbyist!

These amps are as beautiful to look at as they are to hear, and they are perfect for hobbyists on a business trip. Lightweight and compact, they pack enough power to practice and they won’t disturb the guy in the next room over during your hotel stay.

These little champs can be good for backstage tune-ups as well.

The retro style also earns these little guys a spot of prominence in your home too – they’re just great decor!

Danelectro Hodad DH-1 Mini Amp

First up is the Danelectro Hodad DH-1, battery powered mini amp. This little guy (it ways about a pound and a half) has a classic ’60s tone and the style to match.

This amp is TINY. It measures in at 6″ x 5.5″ x 3.1″, and comes in a two tone brown and cream color scheme.

Danelectro-Hodad-DH-1

The Danelectro Hodad Amp has twin 2″ speakers, echo effect and vintage tremolo, with adjustable speed. You can also get a Mini pedal for additional effects, and you can use an AC adaptor since it chews through a 9 volt battery with ease.

The slapback echo and tremolo make the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 well suited to retro country, twang, and rockabilly styles and can be a ton of fun.

In case you’re staying in a hotel and are truly paranoid about waking anyone, it has a headphone out jack, so you can keep your picking and grinning all to yourself.

Don’t expect a big sound from this little guy, but he does deliver some excellent tone.

The MSRP is $59, but Amazon both sells the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 for less than $50. Here’s a demo of the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 in action:

Danelectro Hodad II DH-2

Up next is the Danelectro Hodad II DH-2, or the “mini-me” to the Hodad DH-1.

This little guy (and I do mean LITTLE) is more of a micro amp than a mini amp. Think alarm clock instead of lunchbox.

At 5 3/4″ x 3″ x 5 1/4″ and about 1lbs, this amp definitely fits the portability criteria. It’s also battery powered, running on – you guessed it – one 9v battery, but you can buy the Danelectro DA-1 9-Volt Power Adaptor (sold separately) to get a power boost.

Danelectro-Hodad-II-DH-2

Despite its tiny size, the Hodad II DH-2 packs a bigger punch than you might think. It features twin ceramic 2″ round 4 Ohm speakers, and cranks a full watt when powered by battery. The power adapter brings this up to 1.5 w.

The Hodad II DH-2 sports a cool modern-vintage style coming in aqua-cream two tone color scheme.

In keeping with its micro design, the control set is minimal: Tone (EQ control), Gain, and Off-On / Volume. There’s also a headphone out jack, which can be used as a line-out to a recording device.

It may not seem like much, but for less than $30 it really is a good buy. And you don’t get much more portable!

 

Danelectro Honeytone N-10

The Danelectro Honeytone N-10 is the last Danelectro offering in this mini amp roundup. The Honeytone N-10 is plugged as the “little hot rod” of portable, battery powered amps and sports a retro style and vintage tone.

This amp measures 5.6″ x 5.8″ x 3″ and weighs in at 1 lbs. This is the only amp in this list with a belt clip – how’s that for portable?!

It comes in 3 variations:

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Aqua $19.95 from Amazon

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Burgundy $23.44 at Amazon

Danelectro N-10 Honey Tone Mini Amp in Black $19.95 at Amazon

Guitar Center also has the Danelectro Honeytone N-10 available in yellow and Danelectro Honeytone N-10 Guitar Mini Amp Burgundy.

Danelectro Honeytone N-10 also comes with a genuine leather handle and headphone jack. The controls are simple and straight forward: Volume, Tone, and Overdrive.

The Honeytone N-10 is a 1w amp and has a single 3 inch, 8 Ohm speaker, but you can get some very nice tones.

It does chew through batteries fairly quickly though, so you’d probably want to buy the Danelectro DA-1 AC adapter, and save the battery for when there’s no power option.

On a side note, if you’re into the DIY thing and modifying your amps, you should check out the Danelectro Honeytone Repair & Modifications page. It’s very extensive.

Here’s a demo:

Vox AC1 RhythmVOX

The Vox AC1 is easily the most expensive amp on this list. It lists for $85, but usually sells for closer to $50. As I write this, Amazon has a deal for the Vox AC1RV 1-Watt 2×3 Guitar Combo Amplifier for $44.99. Guitar Center also carries the Vox Ac1 Rhythmvox

But enough about price, here’s why it’s more than the other portable, battery powered amps on this list…

The AC1 RhythmVOX features gain, tone and volume controls, twin 3″ speakers, is battery powered with optional power cord.

There’s an overdrive switch to toggle between high gain sound, or clean.

What really makes the AC1 RhythmVOX stand out from the portable amp pack is its rhythm section. The AC1 RhythmVOX comes with 66 different rhythm patterns to play along with.

The AC1 is a great stand alone practice amp, and rhythm box.

Here’s how the rhythm feature breaks down:

10 rhythm patterns – 8 beat, 16 beat, blues, funk reggae and more complex beats with multi-measure drum backing -66 patterns in total.

Each rhythm pattern has serious sound quality and presence, providing realistic drum backing.

Tempo and volume of each pattern is easily controllable.

The rhythm patterns are a great way to keep your playing in time, and also helpful for developing your own licks and riffs. The tempo ranges from 40bpm all the way up to 240bpm.

There is also a Aux-in jack for plugging in a CD or MP3 player, a headphone jack and a dedicated E-string tuner.

This is also the only battery powered amp on the list that runs on 6 AA batteries instead of a single 9v. I’m not sure if that’s more convenient or not, but you can always get the AC adapter and skip the batteries.

The dimensions are 7″ x 2 1/2″ x 5″ and it weighs about 1 lb.

Here’s a demo:

Final thoughts on portable battery powered amps

It’s important to check your expectations here. Most of the amps in this list only have a 2-3 inch speaker, and about a watt of power. They’re small and there isn’t a lot of headroom, so cranking the overdrive and the volume to 10 with quickly produce some crappy sound.

These aren’t going to compete with a 10 or 15 watt 1×10″ amp. I can’t believe I have to say that, but a lot of people miss that point and quickly complain that the amp sounds “tinny” or breaks up badly, but those are the people who crank everything to 11.

Just find that sweet spot in the middle and you’ll do alright.

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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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