Looking for the best guitar amp for beginners can be a daunting experience. With so many amp styles and features available it’s easy to get lost.
Please be patient for a moment though. I have a little advice for beginners before I get to the list of best guitar amps.
This is advice I’ve compiled from personal experience and discussions with other guitarists. It may seem controversial, but here goes…
Skip the modeling amps.
If you’re just beginning to learn guitar and haven’t gotten any chords down yet, then you should avoid modeling amps.
Modeling amps don’t make the best guitar amps for beginners. This is 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- and he’ll tell you that it’s much better to know how to play than to just sound like you do.
Leaning on some effect like a crutch will only limit your playing and shorten you musical horizon.
The lesson is this: traditional amps make the best choice for beginners. Modeling amps are awesome though once you know the basics and have developed good technique.
How to Choose Your First Guitar Amp
The best place to start looking for a beginner guitar amp is a small tube amp, or simple digital amp. These kinds of amps are 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.
Straightforward, no frills, easy to use amps make the best guitar amps for beginners. These kinds of amps are the best for beginners simply because they’re simple. You just need to plug in and turn it on. That’s it. You’ll be making sound and focusing on the lesson at hand.
In a nutshell: Beware the siren song of modeling amps – It’s best to stay on the path of developing your skill and technique, rather than getting lost in a wilderness of fancy effects forever tweaking your tone.
Here are some recommended amps that fill the need, and provide a solid foundation for your learning.
The Best Tube Amps for Beginners
Vox AC4TV (1×10).
The Vox AC4TV is a 4w Class A tube amp with a single 10 inch Celestion speaker. It’s a simple, easy to use tube amp with a cool vintage vibe. That makes it a great amp for a beginner or anyone who just wants to plug in and play whenever the mood strikes.
The 10 inch Celestion also makes the Vox AC4TV a great choice for a blues amp, although it’s very versatile.
- Up-to-date, Class A version of the 1961 classic AC4 – with additional 16 Ohm output
- EL84 power tube; 12AX7 preamp tube; custom-made VX10 Celestion 10″ speaker
- Retro-chic “TV” front styling shared by the 1958 AC15
- Simple but effective Volume, Tone and Power controls deliver that British top-end tone
- 4 Watt; 1 Watt; and quarter Watt attenuation delivers classic tube tone at any level
Why the AC4TV is great for beginners
The power selector switch that toggles between ¼w, 1w, or 4w is a killer feature. It lets you reduce the headroom on the amp, which gives you great crunch and overdrive tone at a lower volume. It’s a competent amp that’s plenty loud but with the attenuation you won’t have wake the neighbors.
A single EL84 power tube gives the AC4TV that classic British Vox tone, from chimey cleans to creaming overdriven crunch.
Its simple set of controls leaves you to focus on playing, but it also leaves room to grow as you master the basics.
Another great feature of 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 AC4TV is a great and versatile amp in a small package.
Very “VOX”-y sounding amp. If you want a “British invasion” sound, this is it in a small package. Not simulated, not modeled, just reduced in physical size. It doesn’t sound like a Fender, and it doesn’t sound like a Marshall, it sounds like its own thing.
The 10″ currently retails for around $249 new.
Vox AC4 1×12
The AC4 is famous for its ability to achieve classic VOX tone at low volume levels. This makes it one of the best low watt tube amps available on the market today. It’s also one of the best guitar amps for beginners because of its uncomplicated design.
The Vox AC4 is a rock steady micro version of the legendary Vox AC15 and AC30 amps. It’s perfect for home practice or recording. If you can mic it, then it’s also great for gigs.
The AC4’s 12 inch Celestion speaker gives it a nice, full bodied sound which makes it great for blues and rock styles. If you’re not happy with the Celestion 12, there’s a speaker out jack to drive your cabinet of choice.
The Vox AC4 gives you classic Vox tone and aesthetic in a package that’s perfect for the home hobbyist, beginner or recording artist.
- The All-tube Vox AC4 features at a glance:
- Speaker: 12″ Celestion VX12 custom (x1); 16Ω
- Controls: Gain, Treble, Bass, Volume
- Input/Output: Guitar Input, EXTERNAL SPEAKER Output
- Legendary Top Boost tone inherited from the VOX AC30
- Gain, Bass, Treble, and Volume controls
- 4-Watt Class A amplifier design
- 12AX7 preamp tubes (x2); EL84 power tube (x1)
“The little amp that can. In my adolescent years I bought a highly unnecessary Fender Supersonic 22 that you can’t even use / get good tone out of it’s so loud… I seriously had to keep it on 1 to keep from disturbing the neighbors. AC4 I picked up on sale… Great vox tone and I can actually turn it up halfway. Sounds great clean or with pedals. I give it an A+ “-Chris
Capture that classic Beatles and Brian May tone in the comfort of your own home!
The Vox AC4 currently sells for $389.
The Bugera V5 Infinium
Looking for a low watt amp that won’t blast a hole in your eardrums or your budget? Bugera is for you.
The Bugera V5 Infinium is a 5 watt 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.
Bugera v5 features
The Bugera V5 is a Class A amp driven by a single EL84 tube with a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp.
- Specially designed 8 inch Turbosound speaker. (This is a classic combination for the British crunch and buttery blues tone)
- Power attenuator, which effectively lets you decrease the headroom even more and get killer overdrive or distortion at a lower volume
- 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.
“Best bang for your buck tube amp. I compared this with similar amps from Vox, VHT, and Fender. The power attenuator is a nice feature as it lets you reduce the output from 5W to 1W or 0.1W. I usually keep mine on 0.1W in the bedroom which is plenty loud enough for that environment. 1W isn’t terribly louder and 5W would be enough for small gigs “
The Bugera V5 Infinium sells for an incredible $199.99
Bugera BC15 Vintage Guitar Amp
The Bugera BC15 is a 15w hybrid amp – part tube, part solid state. It’s got a single 12AX7 Tube in the preamp section and the rest of the tone stack is solid state digital.
It’s a warm, vintage tone and look in two tone cream and chocolate finish.
- Extremely versatile guitar amplifier with hand-selected 12AX7 tube
- Authentic vintage design and classic guitar sound
- Powerful 30-Watt, 8″ vintage-tuned guitar speaker
- 2-channel tube preamp and wide-range gain control for super-fat sounds with all pickup types
- Dedicated 2-band EQ plus mid-shift button for creative sound shaping
why the bugera bc15 is a great amp for beginners
The Bugera BC15 delivers the best of both tonal worlds with a tube powered preamp and reliable, always ready solid state power section. It’s a solid and versatile practice amp is a compact package.
The BC15 is a great amp for practice, recording or small gigs. The Bugera BC15 features a custom-designed 8″ speaker.
It’s simplicity of design and features make it a great beginner guitar amp but also a great amp for use with pedals.
“It is solidly constructed, portable, and capable of filling an apartment with quality sound. So far I have been able to match tones to Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rush, Spoon, Radiohead, Chet Atkins, almost Hendrix on Hey Joe, and Jack White. And it didn’t take much. And I used no effects. “-Senor Nahuali
The Bugera BC15 currently sells for only $99.
The Best Solid State Amps for Beginners
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.
Vox Pathfinder 10
From the basket-weave, leather-look to the distinctive Vox diamond grille cloth and chicken head knobs, the Pathfinder 10 has all the details of a classic Vox amp.
The Pathfinder 10 looks like the AC15’s little brother, but the Pathfinder is an all analog, solid-state design. Don’t let that worry though, it’s responsive and chimey – just like a VOX should be!
Pathfinder 10 Specification
- Circuitry: Solid-State
- Output: 10-Watts RMS
- Speakers: Vox Bulldog x 1 (6.5″, 8 ohm)
- Controls: Gain, Treble, Bass, Volume, Clean/Overdrive Switch, Power On/Off
- Input: Input Jack
- Outputs: Headphone/Line Out Jack
- Dimensions: 380mm(w) x 260mm(h) x 170mm(d) / 14.96″(w) x 10.24″(h) x 6.69″(d)
- Weight: 4.8Kg/10lbs
Why the pathfinder 10 is a great choice for beginners
The Pathfinder 10 cranks out 10 watts through a solid 6.5 inch speaker. This makes it a great practice amp. The fact that it’s uncomplicated and sells for under $90 makes it one of the best guitar amps for beginners.
Go from clean and chimey to creamy and warm to grit and crunch with the flip of a switch. It’s a great blues amp, but also does rock and classic rock with ease. It is not recommended for metal though.
Gain and Volume controls let you get just the right feel; Treble and Bass EQ knobs serve up a range of tones. The lineout/headphone jack provides a filtered signal ideal for direct recording or late-night practice.
“Just because you are looking for a lower wattage amp to play at home, doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice that big sound as a lot of other amps will do. The sound on the Pathfinder is very rich and full. It’s never going to compete with the volume of a larger amp (although, it is quite loud), but you’d have a hard time finding a better sounding one anywhere near this price range. I even plugged in my acoustic and was quickly able to dial in a great warm and natural tone for playing it. “-Fred Garvin
With the Vox Pathfinder 10, you get classic VOX look and VOX tone at a great price.
It currently sells for just $89.99
Here’s a demo:
Peavey Solo 12W Practice Amp
This member of the Solo series from Peavey is a 12w 1×8″ practice amp. It features TransTube tube emulation (for a “real tube” sound), and more:
- Master volume control
- Lead gain control
- 2 channels – Clean and lead
- 3-band EQ
- ¼” stereo input jack
- Headphone jack.
Why the peavey solo is a great choice
What makes this one of the best guitar amps for beginners is Peavey’s TransTube preamp technology. TransTube provides a realistic tube amp tone and response. It’s just like having the price and stability of a solid state amp with the sound of a tube 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.
“This amp rocks, it fits the bill as a perfectly portable practice amp with high quality parts.
From the speaker to the circuitry this thing screams quality. And for the price, it screams BUY ME!
Great clean sound. Great overdrive that gets that AC/DC sound just right, and can be chunky and perfect for metal when cranked to 10.
All in all a great buy and highly recommended!”
The Peavey Solo practice amp currently retails for $99.99.
Orange Crush PiX CR12L 12W 1×6
This little devil is a 12w guitar amp with a 6 inch speaker, but don’t let that fool you – this killer rocks!
Orange amplifiers is committed to the artist, not technology. Their focus on analogue amp circuitry ensures the lively feel and responsiveness that Orange is famous for.
The major feature that sets the Orange Crush apart from other amps is its cabinet simulation technology. The CabSim feature emulates the sound of a mic’d Orange 4×12 inch cabinet loaded with signature Orange speakers. This is especially great for home (or studio) recording.
Orange Crush PiX CR12L 12W 1×6 Features:
- 6″ speaker
- Dual gain controls
- 3-band EQ
- Master volume
The Orange Crush is all about style and portability. It’s distinctive look is due to the Orange basket weave Tolex, woven speaker grille and legendary hieroglyphs (PiX). The Crush PiX is not as feature rich as other models, but that’s the point. It’s simple, portable and just a good basic combo amp.
The overdrive is great. Very responsive. The gain control is spot on. I am able to dial in a nice mid range tone with the three different levels.
-Michael R Siegel
The Orange Crush PiX CR12L retails for around $99.
The best guitar amps for beginners are straightforward combo amps 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.