Amplifier technology has progressed to the point where some affordable guitar amps are of an impressively high standard. However, it can be hard to navigate your way through the many options on the market.
Whether you are looking for a practice amp to use at home or one capable of playing shows and recording, this list will point you in the direction of the cheaper amplifiers which rival more expensive models when it comes to sound and quality.
8 Best Budget Guitar Amps Under $200
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The preamp is based on designs used in 1960’s amplifiers and can deliver a range of sounds, from smooth tones to aggressive crunch.
This all-tube amplifier produces well-balanced harmonics which are enhanced by the natural compression. The result is a distortion which sounds warm and almost breaks-up when played more aggressively. The integrated reverb unit allows you to control the type and amount of reverberation.
Bugera’s unique Infinium Tube Life Multiplier Technology has been designed to extend the longevity of the power valves within the amp. This is achieved by a specifically designed circuit which constantly monitors the output tubes and evenly distributes the load.
With the Crush 20RT Combo amp, the legendary Orange has continued its long history of producing full-bodied, premium quality guitar amplifiers.
The Crush 20RT is an improvement on the popular Crush 20, with the addition of a built-in reverb channel and chromatic tuner. There is a clean and dirty channel which you can switch between.
The 8 inch speaker produces a surprising amount of power for a smaller amp. This is largely down to Orange’s all-analog signal path with emulates the more expensive models they have produced in the past. The 3 band EQ is a useful addition which allows you to build your own sound through experimentation.
Sonically, the 20RT produces the detailed saturation that guitarists expect from an Orange amp. The high gain pre-amp provides a complex variety of tones at your disposal, and there is a notable lack of unwanted noise even when the gain is cranked up.
The Fender Mustang LT 25 is another quality option when it comes to affordable guitar amps. This compact amplifier is loaded with 30 presets which have been a staple of the Fender sound over the years. These sounds provide a lot of fun and potential for experimentation.
The amp has an 8 inch Celestion speaker which produces ample punch from within the wooden cabinet. Even when cranked up, the quality of tone remains, and this makes it a great option for playing gigs through a microphone.
The LT 25 is a modeling amp, meaning there are tons of variations of the tone that you can get out of this amp. Apart from its compact size, this tonal flexibility makes it a great choice for busking, practicing or even gigging in front of a small to medium audience.
For practice purposes, the LT25 is fitted with a headphone output and an aux input so you can jam over backing tracks or play along to songs without disturbing anyone. There is also a USB connection which allows you to load in external presets and manage the various patches.
The Katana guitar amp series is one of Boss’ most popular, and for good reason. Best known for their production of FX pedals, Boss have incorporated this knowledge into the MKII by loading it up with features and variations.
The amp is installed with five effects categories which allow for real-time processing. It allows for subtle manipulation or extreme, crazy effects.
The Katana MKII 50 watt combo is more than powerful enough to use on stage. It features five characters – clean, crunch, lead, brown and acoustic. There are also three cab resonance settings which provide vintage, modern or deep tonal structures.
As you would expect, Boss has included a rear panel connection which can be linked up to two footswitches or an expression pedal to enhance your effects.
This amp, with its 12-inch custom speaker, delivers the sonic characteristics of genuine tube amplifiers without creating noise problems in the process. You basically have an extensive built in pedal board with the amp, which you can customize and combine until you find your desired sound.
5. Vox VT20X
The VT20X is a 20 watts lightweight amplifier that manages to retain the classic British crunch that Vox have provided for decades.
It features a newly designed modeling engine which produces the most detailed and accurate sound possible. A Valvetronix tube preamp is built in, and it delivers authentic sounding analog tones which highlight the small details which make Vox amps special.
The amp also comes with editing software so you can build your own sounds. The USB port makes it compatible with computers, allowing for quick synchronization between the software and the amp.
Appearance wise, the VT20X has the classic Vox look in a smaller package. Its 8 inch speaker produces enough volume to power a small venue without any issues. It also features a headphone output and aux in for practicing purposes.
The Fender Champion 40 bridges the gap between practice amps and gigging amps. It has the classic Fender tone of larger tube amps but is lightweight enough to carry to and from the practice room with no trouble.
This solid state 40 watt amp produces a variety of sounds which are ideal for rock, jazz, country and blues playing.
Inside the amp is a specially designed 12 inch speaker. The power it produces is enough to hold its own on a stage, and the amp also has a headphone output so you can enjoy silent practices.
The overdrive setting is of the standard you would expect from a much more expensive amp, and the diverse range of built-in effects also sound great.
The Line 6 Spider MKII blends a traditional rock tone with the possibility of tweaking individual aspects to create your own unique sound. This compact 20 watt amp is perfect for practicing and learning about sound manipulation.
The classic speaker mode allows you to quickly access a simple, vintage sound. If you want to spice things up, you can use the Artist and Iconic Song presets which bring 200 of the best known guitar sounds out of the amp, which can then be used as the foundations of your own personal sound.
The amp also features a built-in tuner, headphone output, and the capacity to connect to Mac/PC, iOS and Android. This 20 watt model is great for practicing and playing shows in smaller sized venues.
The Fly 3 is a small practice amp which combines two channels. These two channels are joined by a built-in tape delay and the unique Infinite Shape Feature. It’s an incredibly small and lightweight amp which still manages to produce detailed sounds and a bit of power.
The Infinite Shape Feature allows all aspects of the overall sound to be controlled by you. It also includes a line in which is perfect for plugging in your phone for practice purposes.
A really cool feature of this amp is that it can run off batteries, so you can take it out onto the streets and enjoy some busking.
There are two channels built in, a clean channel and an overdrive. The overdrive channel is surprisingly clear for such a small amp. The fact that it weighs less than 1 kilogram is quite amazing when you consider the volume and detail it can produce.
Features to Consider When Choosing Budget Amps
When deciding on which amp is best suited to your needs, it is important to consider some aspects which greatly influence its performance. Of course, it is important to know what you are looking for in an amp, because ultimately the capabilities will be decided by a combination of these features.
Many people mistake the wattage of an amp for the volume if can produce, but this correlation is not always accurate. Watts are the most consistent method used to rate an amp, but the number doesn’t provide an accurate representation of how loud it can go.
Watts is essentially the amount of electricity (amps) multiplied by the pressure of the electricity (volts). This obviously impacts the power of the amplifier, but it isn’t the only factor when it comes to volume.
Compression plays a prominent role in how much volume an amp can produce. Most small amps have built in compression units which lift up the overall volume when playing quietly, narrowing the dynamic range. This is especially effective on clean channels.
The speakers are perhaps the biggest deciding factor on the sound and volume of an amp. Generally speaking, speakers which have bigger dimensions will produce a louder, more powerful sound.
When the impedance of the speaker and the amp are evenly matched, this produces the maximum power possible. The more speakers in the amp, the more air is pushed out and therefore the louder it is.
Lastly, the component which many guitarists would argue is the most important is the built in effects of the amplifier.
When I was starting out as a guitarist, I had a small practice amp which had tones of digital effects built in. This was invaluable, as at the time I knew very little about effects and their functions.
Many small amps will have effects such as reverb, delay, chorus, phasers, flangers and tremolo built in. Being able to experiment with these effects provides countless hours of fun and learning. It will also help when it comes to choosing pedals in the future, as you will know which particular effects you like the sound of.
Knowing the Purpose
When searching for the best cheap guitar amp, it is important to pre-establish what you want from it. Whether you intend to use it for home practice, playing shows, recording or busking, you will need to consider the power, volume, weight, appearance and other capacities of the amp.
More expensive doesn’t always mean better, as music is a subjective topic. Some guitarists love the digital, artificial sound that cheaper amps provide.
It’s really a case of identifying the qualities you want from the amplifier then making a calculated decision as to which one will provide them. If you are unsure, it might be a good idea to choose one which is multi-faceted so you can experiment.