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.

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Classic rock

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

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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. 😉

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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