5 of the Best Practice Amplifiers (and why you should pick one up)
Often, when we say “practice” amplifier we tend think of words like beginner, low volume and cheap. All three of these associations do have some merit… if your living in the early 2000’s! Nowadays the market for low budget or beginner amps is flush with amazing tones for the money. For the past decade brands like Blackstar, Orange, Yamaha and Fender have been putting out some of the best small solid-state amps ever made. These newer solid-state options tend to have amazing clean tones and acceptable to pretty darn convincing drive channels. The tone quality, along with built-in effects and much lower cost than tube options make practice amps a fantastic purchase for all guitar players. Now I know what some of you tube-wielding tone masters are saying right about now, “why should I care, I have a 100-watt behemoth that could crush any amount of solid-state circuitry!” Well maybe it’s too late for you, but for most, the size and quantity of tube amps you own should not hinder your purchase of a practice amp. Beginners to seasoned players can all benefit from having one of these more affordable options. So, let's look at 5 great amps for a variety of people (yes even the tube-wielding tone masters).
Best low budget option : Orange Crush Mini Amp
This mini amp, while it may look like it, is no toy. One of the main features of this amp is its ability to be run off a nine-volt battery. This battery option in conjunction with a small form factor make this amp a fantastic option for travel. Truthfully, it’s just a great all-around tiny amp. Despite its small speaker size, driving the sound is still quite possible thanks to its expressive gain knob. Additionally, this Orange, along with all the Crush series, comes with a top loaded tuner. Essentially, this amp only requires you have a cable and guitar to rock out, pretty simple right? Lastly, another cool addition to this little guy is its 1/8-inch aux jack on the back, enable you to play songs right from your phone. So even if you are just listening, this small but impressive unit is worth a shout.
Best overall practice amp : Blackstar IDCORE10
If you are a beginning or otherwise, I highly recommend you check out the IDCORE series from Blackstar. This amp in particular gives you multiple presets, user customization, and a variety of effects all without sacrificing tone. This thing really sounds killer, I personally have yet to hear another amp comparable at this price point. As far as volume goes, you should be able to get all the volume you would require in a bedroom setting. If you are trying to avoid volume, Blackstar has provided a headphone jack for near silent guitar playing and practicing. Everything about this amp just screams value to my ears, so if you have the chance to play or pick one up, I would strongly encourage you to do so.
Best low budget bass option : Fender Rumble 25 Bass Amp
Yes, the rumble series have been around for a minute now, yet they still hold up as some of the best buys in the lower end of the bass amp market. Specifically, the 25-watt Rumble is a perfect choice for beginners because of the simple but thought out features. Coming loaded with an overdrive channel, aux in, and headphone out you are getting a lot for your money here. Additionally, this amp would serve as a great companion for anyone playing acoustic or small coffee house gigs. Altogether, this bass amp is a mainstay that Fender has done a great job at designing.
Best overall bass practice amp : Fender Rumble LT25
While the standard Rumble 25 is going to be just fine for most people, Fender has recently come out with a revved-up line of new and improved Rumbles. The LT series brings a plethora of effects to the already solid Rumble configuration. The addition of all kinds of effects, presets, and an on board tuner make this a worthy upgrade to the traditional layout. All the effects are of a notably high digital quality and just sound really good. You must play around with all the filter and octave type effects on this amp, careful though! It can be pretty easy to go down the rabbit hole (not always a bad thing, just a heads up). Also, it is worth noting that just like the standard Rumble series there are several larger sized amps in the LT line. Regardless of where you are at as a bass player, this amp is a good one to look into.
Best tube/hybrid option : Orange Micro Terror MT20 Amp
It took a little while for people to really take the Micro Terror seriously. It is after all somewhat comical when you look at it next to a larger Orange, it can seem like something the company would have made on April fool’s day. However, the Micro terror is no joke. This hybrid beast gets its tone from the single 12AX7 in the preamp. While I would not say this sounds exactly like a all tube amp, it does sound great and massive. Honestly, there is just not a whole lot more that needs to be said about this one, if you want huge tone in a budget amp head, this might be for you.
Well that’s all folks, five fantastic options that sit nicely in the “practice” realm. If you are on the fence about any of the picks listed above, I definitely recommend heading into a store near you to try one for yourself. I can talk all day about how great these amps are to my ear, but EVERYTHING in the world of guitar is subjective, so use your own ears when deciding. Thanks for reading and happy playing!