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A brand new guitar amplifier doesn’t have to break the bank.
What should you look for when buying?
Here are the best amps you can find for under $500!
Whether you are a seasoned player or just getting started with the electric guitar, there is one essential component that all guitarists need in order to play and perform: a great amp! With the holiday season upon us and the end of the year approaching, here is a list of some of the best guitar amps under $500, for players of all styles and abilities.
An important note: While there is a thriving used market for guitar amps and there are plenty of fantastic amps that you can get for around $500 on the used market, this list is focusing instead on amps you can buy new for under $500.
What’s The Best Amp For Under $500?
The BOSS Katana is perfect for those looking for a quality solid-state amp/modeled experience for under $500. The Vox AC10 is my pick for those looking for a vintage tube amp experience, and the Fishman Loudbox Mini is my recommendation for acoustic guitarists and singer-songwriters.
But remember, due to every guitarist’s varying requirements and tastes, no one will ever have a definitive answer to this question.
With that being said, here’s the full list:
BOSS Katana 100 MKII (Our Pick!)
Vox AC10 / AC10C1 (Best Tube)
Fishman Loudbox Mini (Best For Acoustic)
Fender Bassbreaker 007
Orange Micro Terror/Micro Dark Amp Head and Cabinet
The BOSS Katana 100 is their biggest “flagship” amp of the line. It’s a 100-watt 1×12 solid state combo amp, and has a plethora of features for guitarists of all levels. The amp is also available as a bigger, 2×12 combo, or as a separate amp head and speaker cabinet.
The Katana amplifiers feature the same technology that powers BOSS effect pedals in both the “amplifier” section and the wide array of built-in effects. With the almost universal experience of BOSS‘s effects everywhere in the guitar world, it helps make the Katana an experience that both feels familiar and is easy to use.
You can also use BOSS‘s Tone Studio editor on your computer to further tweak and optimize the amp to your own needs. This allows you to create your own custom amp and effects patches for instant recall. The Tone Studio also features a wide range of artist-developed amp models and effects presets that you can use with your own amp.
On top of a great platform and versatile and extensive effects, the BOSS Katana 100 features a ton of other features. There is a built-in mode specifically designed for using acoustic guitars, which makes this guitar double as a fantastic option for singer/songwriters.
There is also an effects loop and power amp input for even more versatility. It also features a cab emulated line output, which allows you to run silently to a PA or your interface for recording, and still retains the sound of the amp as if you had a mic in front of it. The same cab emulation functions on the built-in headphone output so you can retain your tone when practicing.
All in all, the BOSS Katana 100 sets a high standard in amplifiers. Anyone after an all-in-one solution that will work great for all styles will appreciate the Katana. Its versatile effects and sound, as well as extensive I/O features make the Katana 100 one of the best budget amps for the modern guitarist.
For those after a more traditional tube-amp experience, the all-tube Vox AC10 is a fantastic option. With the AC10C1, you get vintage sounds and all-tube performance in a small package for under $500!
The AC10 has a very simple layout and sound based on the classic top-boost tone of the larger and iconic Vox AC30. By adjusting the gain and volume controls, as well as the very responsive tone stack, you can get sounds anywhere from classic chimey clean tones all the way to gritty overdrive and British crunch. The amp also features a built-in reverb effect which sounds awesome.
Do not be underwhelmed by the fact that the AC10 uses only 10 watts, as the fully tube-driven amplifier is able to get plenty of volume out of it, and still sounds good at lower volumes (which is also a common complaint of smaller, cheaper tube amps). This makes the amp perfect for recording or for smaller gigs where you can mic up the amplifier, and also helps cut down on stage volume.
All in all, the Vox AC10 is a classic sounding, portable option for those looking for traditional Vox tone and all-tube performance. With the ability to connect it to an external speaker, you can use the AC10 for gigs of all sizes easily.
While most of the other amplifiers on this list have been designed for electric guitar players, acoustic guitarists also frequently need to perform with an amp. Enter the Fishman Loudbox Mini – a fantastic 60-watt solid state combo amp that works for both guitar and your voice.
The Loudbox mini features a two-channel design, one for your guitar, and one for connecting a microphone. This makes the Loudbox a perfect all-in-one solution for singer-songwriters who want to perform anywhere without lugging a whole PA and mixer around with them.
The Guitar channel is tailored specifically for acoustic guitars and features built-in effects and reverb. The active EQ controls are also designed with acoustic guitar pickups in mind, helping to prevent feedback and give you a great amplified acoustic tone. In case that still isn’t enough to kill the feedback, there’s a phase switch designed to eliminate any remaining problems.
The mic channel is a notably “clean” channel, with a more traditional EQ curve and built-in reverb. The amp also features Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream backing tracks or other music through the Loudbox. This lets you have fuller-sounding performances and also enables easy jamming with your favorite songs.
The Loudbox Mini also boasts a clean-sounding DI out, so you can use it as your “stage” monitor while running it through a PA at larger gigs. Thanks to this design, you’ll still retain the tone you get out of the amp. If you are an acoustic guitarist that is looking for the perfect all-in-one solution for both small and large gigs, this really is a great choice.
For all these reasons, the Loudbox Mini is quickly becoming the industry standard for acoustic guitar amplification.
Yamaha is known for making all sorts of audio equipment that packs a wide range of features into an affordable package, and their THR10 guitar amp is no different. This extremely portable amp is a great practice tool and also a great amp for traveling.
Coming in at 20 watts and powering two small, but powerful, 3in speakers, the solid state Yamaha THR10 looks more like just a guitar head or a boombox, but still has great tone for any style.
The Yamaha THR10 is designed to be a desktop amp. It has 8 different amp “style” models for you to choose from, covering a wide range of guitar styles, as well as a huge array of built-in effects so you can ditch your pedalboard.
You can also use the Yamaha THR remote app to access further controls for your amps and effects and wirelessly stream backing tracks to the amp, which is a fantastic tool. The amp is also able to be powered by batteries so you can take your guitar playing anywhere you go.
The THR10 also allows you to set up to 5 user “presets” that are instantly recallable on the amp. You can set up different tones for different songs, or use the presets for different effects chains you would like to use in the amp.
The amp is also great for recording, as you can use the USB output to record your guitar in stereo directly from the amplifier. All in all the THR10 gives you great tone for home practice, or for taking your guitar on the go. It is an excellent choice for beginner guitarists who want something that does not take up too much space and provides flexible options for developing their own tone.
Fender has been a legendary producer of electric guitars and amplifiers since the 1950s, and many of their designs have been incredibly influential as a result. Fender’s Bassbreaker series stands in contrast to traditional Fender design, aimed at modern players who want classic Fender clean toneand British rock tone in an all-tube package.
Inside the amp, you’ll find a bevy of 12ax7 preamp tubes and 2 el84 power amp tubes, which helps give this amp a markedly more British tone foundation than most Fender amps. The circuit design is based on the sound of the Fender Bassman, a classic amplifier that also served as the basis for the design of Marshall’s amplifiers.
The Bassbreaker is designed to “bridge the pond” sound-wise between the clean sound of a classic fender Bassman and the cranked British sounds of Marshalls.
The amp also features a switchable treble boost, which takes you into screaming gain territory for even more classic rock goodness. With the amp’s low wattage, though, you are able to get those high gain sustained tones without shaking the foundation of your house, which makes the amp perfect for recording.
This amp also features a wide array of “sweet spots” for great tones and touch sensitivity that can only come from an all-tube amp package.
The Bassbreaker also features a line-out for recording, as well as the ability to connect an extension speaker for larger gigs. If you are looking for a compact, all-tube package that will give you the best of both American and British amp tones on a budget, the Bassbreaker 007 is a fantastic choice.
All-tube combo amp
American and British tones
6. Orange Micro Terror/Micro Dark Amp Head and Cabinet
While all of the other amplifiers in this list have been all in one guitar combos, Orange has produced one of the best “micro” amplifier heads with their Micro Terror and Micro Dark amps.
These pint-sized amp headspack a ton of tone and volume into a package that easily slips into your gig bag, and can also work as a great emergency “backup” amp. The Micro Terror and Micro Dark have a power rating of 20 watts and feature a hybrid design, with a 12ax7 tube in the preamp and solid state power for reliable performance with classic tube tone.
Both the Micro Terror and Micro Dark feature the classic high-gain British tone of Orange is known for, with the Dark leaning more towards a sound quality best suited for hard rock and metal sounds. They both have a simple, 3 knob control layout, as well as a built-in headphone output.
The Micro Terror features a 1/8 in aux in for playing along with your favorite music, while the Micro Dark features an effects loop. The Micro Dark also has a more noticeable high gain sound, with the shape control allowing you to go from scooped mid saturation all the way to fuzzy grit with a simple knob turn.
Both heads can be connected to Orange’s Micro 1×8 cabinet, or you can connect it to any cabinet that can handle an 8-16 ohm load. While it may look kind of goofy, I frequently run a Micro Dark into an Orange 1×12 Cabinet so it can really scream, easily keeping up with a loud drummer at a practice session. It also has a surprisingly good clean tone, so you can pair it with your pedals and get a versatile package that does not break your back or the bank.
Of all the things Fender is known for, perhaps it is their unmistakable clean sound that really lets you hear every note with amazing detail. The Fender Twin Reverb is a good example of this, but it is also known for something else: being incredibly heavy, due to its all-tube design as well as the high power handling 12 in speakers in its guitar combo form.
Enter the Fender Champion 100, a solid-state Fender monster that evokes the same sound and spirit of Fender’s classic blackface designs, without all the weight and hassle. Oh, and it also costs less at under $500.
While the Champion 100 appears to almost be an exact copy of a Twin Reverb upon first glance, a look into the controls onboard reveal that this amp has a lot more going on than meets the eye. The first channel is intended to sound like any Fender clean channel, but also features a multi-effects knob and a tap tempo feature.
The second channel features a selectable amp voicing knob, allowing you to go from Fender’s classic clean sound all the way to high gain tones, as well as another effects control for the 2nd channel.
The amp also features a headphone out as well as an aux-in so you can also use this amp for practice or for your next big gig. This amp also features an effects loop, which is a handy feature for using other time-based effects like reverb and delay pedals within the amp.
When it comes to the rock guitar sound, the name that immediately comes to mind is Marshall. They have been shaping the sound of rock and roll since their debut. Much like Fender, Marshall has plenty of classic amp designs that have been cemented into the fabric of rock history.
The Origin amp line is designed to harken back to some of their earliest, classic amp designs like the JTM45 and Plexi in a modern package. The Origin ORI20C is an all-tube, 20w 1×10 combo amp that gives you that great classic Marshall tone at an affordable price.
While all of the Origin series designs give you the same type of tone as vintage Marshalls like the JTM45, they have a more modern layout and better controls. The Origin 20 features a 3 band EQ, as well as gain and master volume controls that let you blend in the right amount of saturation.
This is opposed to vintage designs where you were likely going to be shaking the house if you wanted a good overdrive tone. There is also a gain boost control so that you can also get the amp into more modern rock territory easily.
The amp also has a handy DI output for capturing the amp’s tone silently, or for convenience when using the amp live.
All in all, the Marshall Origin 20 is a compact, no-frills amp dripping with the classic Marshall rock sound. If you are looking for a British style amp that is simple, portable, and easy to use, the Marshall ORI20C is a fantastic option.
20-watt tube amp
Classic Marshall tone
Portable and compact
What Makes A Good Amp?
So what exactly makes a guitar amp “good” or “bad” exactly? While the perceived sound of any guitar amp will always be subjective to the listener, there are certainly some features to think about when it comes to the price and value of an amp.
Wattage (or power rating)
One of the most important features to consider when purchasing a guitar amp is how many watts of power it has, which mostly equates to how loud the amp is.
In general, the more watts an amp has, the louder the amp is going to be, especially with solid state amps.
For tube and hybrid guitar amps, there is a little bit more volume perception involved, but generally, in my experience, if you have a solid state amp and a tube amp with the same wattage, the tube amp typically ends up being louder. This might also just be due to the tubes adding their own character and distortion to the sound.
Another important factor to consider when purchasing any amp is the way it is configured (IE combo amp or a separate head and speaker cabinet), and by extension of that, what speaker is paired with the amp.
Purchasing a guitar amplifier head allows you some customization with being able to pair the amp with different speaker cabinets and configurations to fit the sound you want, but for the most part, most amps under $500 are combos, so the speaker is already built-in.
Speaker size is another important consideration when purchasing an amp and determining the overall sound. 12-inch speakers are typically the “gold standard” that most gigging guitarists prefer for amps, but 10-inch speakers are still well regarded and work just as well.
While speaker choice is somewhat up to playing preference and overall amp design, there are some common “tone notes” that go with different sized speakers. 8 and 10-inch speakers are typically going to be very clean in the mid-range, which is important for guitarists because most of the sound produced by a guitar is in that range.
10″ speakers are typically more punchy, while 12″ speakers are going to add some more bass response to your sound. If you are looking to play more high gain sounds then a bigger speaker is typically going to be a bigger benefit to you.
Finally, it is important to consider any “extra” features available in the amp you’re purchasing.
Some other features that are common on guitar amps in this price range are built-in effects, a line out, effects loop, or speaker extension so that you can connect the amp to another speaker (which means more sound!).
Many are used to the idea that the only guitar amps that you can get for under $500 are small, “practice” sized amps. But in this list you’ll find amps that I think would work great for the studio, stage, or just your bedroom.