Power to the Player

The 10 Best Guitar Amps for Beginners

December 23, 2017 Buying Guides By

Last Updated December, 2017: This post has been updated with new picks for 2018. Prices and links have also been updated.

Congratulations on buying yourself a top-notch axe — but you’re not ready to shred just yet. A good guitar also requires the right amp to achieve the right sound. Amps can be a daunting purchase (you certainly won’t be starved for choices on the beginner and enthusiast side of the price spectrum) and there are a lot of qualities that need to be taken into account. Want a low-cost amp that’s durable? Shoot for a solid-state amp. Want better sound? We suggest an all-tube amp instead. Want the most tonal variety on a budget? A modeling amp will get you all kinds of sounds without requiring a fleshed-out pedal board. But at any rate, no matter what you’re looking for in an amplifier, these 10 picks cover all the fundamental bases. So purchase, plug in and let’s rip.

Bugera V5 Infinium

This small tube amplifier gives you a solid dose of warm tone for an incredible price. A great gateway into the world of tube amps, it is a perfect practice amp for small rooms or studios, and a safe purchase for those looking to get a no-frills, good sounding amp.

Key Specs
Power: 5 watts
Tubes: one 12AX7 (preamp), one EL84 (power amp)
Channel(s): one
Speaker: one 8-inch Turbosound speaker

Line 6 Spider V 30

For players who want an incredible palette of tones for a low entry cost, this is the amp for you. Experiment with 128 tonal presets, or create your own sounds with digital models of over 200 amps, cabs and effects. If you’re into playing different styles of music and you don’t want to invest in different rigs, look to this versatile solid state amp first.

Key Specs
Power:30 watts
Tubes: none
Channel(s): numerous (128 tonal presets)
Speaker: one 8-inch high-frequency tweeter

Orange Micro Terror Stack MT20 & PPC108

This tiny amp offers the best of both tonal worlds with a hybrid tube preamp and solid state power amp. It’s tiny package delivers a big sound, and paired with this small speaker cabinet, it’s all you need in a basic package. It’s perfect for pairing with a couple choice pedals, and letting your guitar’s tone speak for itself.

Key Specs
Power: 20 watts
Tubes: one 12AX7 (preamp)
Channel(s): one
Speaker: one 8-inch Voice of the World speaker

Fender Blues Junior III

Fender’s open-back combo tube amps have been used on countless hit records in practically every genre of music in the past half-century. They can deliver both warm bell-like clean tones and gritty overdriven snarls. The Blue Junior III is a relatively inexpensive way to get into Fender tube amps, and it’s the perfect size for studio and small venues.

Key Specs
Power: 15 watts
Tubes: three 12AX7 (preamp), two EL84 (power amp)
Channel(s): one
Speaker: one 12-inch Fender “Lightning Bolt” speaker by Eminence

Vox AC15C1

If you want to explore the two-channel tubes amps, start with Vox. The British brand is known for making workhorse amps that were used by classic rock’s best, and this small 15 watt option will give you all the tone is a small package that you can crank up in small spaces. Along with a simple set of controls, it features a by-passable effects loop for those players who are experimenting with different gear.

Key Specs
Power: 15 watts
Tubes: three 12AX7 (preamp), two EL84 (power amp)
Channel(s): two
Speaker: one 12-inch Celestion G12M Greenback

Marshall DSL40C

From rock to metal, Marshall amps have been the choice of guitar gods the world over. With the DSL40C, you can get the famous Marshall tube sound without having to invest in the stack. It’s a powerful 40 watt amp that has two foot-switchable channels, digital reverb and a shared five-way EQ.

Key Specs
Power: 40 watts
Tubes: three ECC83 (preamp), one ECC83 and two EL34 (power amp)
Channel(s): two
Speaker: one 12-inch Celestion Seventy 80 speaker

Peavey 6505+

If metal is your jam, and you want an amp that will deliver brutal high-gain tone, this is your amp. Sized in a convenient combo package, this 60 watt beast features two channels with independent three-band EQ, pre/post gain controls and presence and resonance adjustment. It’s loud and powerful, yet small enough to throw in the back seat of your car.

Key Specs
Power: 60 watts
Tubes: five 12AX7 (preamp), two 6L6GC (power amp)
Channel(s): two
Speaker: one 12-inch Sheffield loudspeaker

PRS Sonzera 20

Relatively new to the amplifier world, Paul Reed Smith is building some of the most interest amps out there. After tapping legendary amp builder Doug Sewell to head design, the company has produced a range of boutique-quality amps for a fraction of the price. The Sonzera 20 is a reliable amp that is incredibly versatile, with a full tube sound similar to American amps from the ’60s.

Key Specs
Power: 20 watts
Tubes: three 12AX7AC5 and one JJ ECC83S (preamp), two 6L6GCMS (power amp)
Channel(s): two
Speaker: one 12-inch Celestion V-Type speaker

Dr. Z Carmen Ghia

Want dead-simple boutique tone? Look no further. The Carmen Ghia has been around for over three decades, and is still a powerhouse in the high-end amp world. With only a volume and tone control, the focus is on you, your guitar and the music. Nothing else.

Key Specs
Power: 18 watts
Tubes: one 5751 and one 12AX7 (preamp), two EL84 (power amp)
Channel(s): one
Speaker: one Dr. Z 10-inch speaker by Eminence

Grammatico Amps LaGrange

Austin-based John Grammatico is building some of the best amps available, and with his current range of products he’s managed to capture the spirit of legendary vintage amps while utilizing modern reliable components. The LaGrange is a small 15 watt amp that will sound great with either single coils or humbuckers. Expect a warm, woody sound with throaty mids and bell-like highs. The sound is transparent, harmonically rich and well worth the investment.

Key Specs
Power: 15 Watts
Tubes: two 12AX7 (preamp), two 6V6 (power amp), one 5Y3 (rectifier)
Channel(s): two
Speaker: one 12-inch Jensen P12Q Alnico speaker
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