Price matters when you’re buying music accessories, and quality components will make a real difference in your sound. However, if you’re not playing professionally, the best cheap guitar amps can provide good sound without breaking the bank. Here are eleven of the best amps currently on the market, plus some information to consider while shopping.
For this guide, “cheap” refers to guitar amps that are less than $100. While prices can go below $50, many amps in that range aren’t good enough to call one of the best despite their attractive price point.
- Sold by one of the most trusted names in music
- Has auxiliary inputs and headphone outputs
- Uses a closed-back design for improved bass response
- Only has one channel
- On the expensive end for a cheap guitar amp
Easily one of the most famous amps on the market, and with good reason, Fender’s Frontman 10G is a basic yet high-quality amp suitable for both private and professional environments. It has simple, user-friendly controls, a solid shell to protect the components, and runs at just 10 watts.
The main downside to this amp is that it only has one channel, which can be a problem if you have multiple instruments, and several people want to practice at the same time. However, that limit is common among guitar amps in this price range, so we can’t judge this unit too harshly.
Despite that limitation, this is a high-quality product and an excellent first choice for most buyers. If you’re just starting out and unsure which guitar amp to get, try this one first.
Best Mini Amplifier
- Has an MP3/Line in for playing other music
- Available in several designs
- Battery-powered, so you can play it anywhere
- Has both clean and overdrive channels
- Still can’t produce the tones of a larger unit
- Not compatible with traditional 9v adapters
- Not as good in the high range
When space is a concern, miniature amplifiers can help get the job done. Unlike traditional speakers, which rely more on their size to improve performance, this small amp focuses on producing the best sound it can despite its compact design.
Unlike most other amps, this unit also comes in several formats. The expansion cabinet version offers additional options and features, making a lot of difference for casual players.
The major drawback of this unit has everything to do with its size, and that’s the fact that this amp is not especially loud even at maximum volume. This isn’t as big of a problem if you’re playing with headsets, but it doesn’t have the volume for professional performances.
Top Choice for Lowest Price
- Suitable for professional use
- Supports mono, stereo, and headphone jacks
- Uses an open weave fabric that improves sound projection
- Has a reinforced handle
- Larger than many other cheap amps
- Does not have a battery option
- Has the controls set in the back, which makes them harder to reach mid-session
It’s not a Fender, but this 10-watt amp is among the best options in the budget-focused range, with various controls and features that help improve its final audio quality. The choice of open weave fabric is a particularly nice touch for maintaining its overall sound quality.
However, unlike many other amps, this unit puts the controls on the back half of the unit, behind the carrying strap. This means that you have to look at it from above, not from the front, to make adjustments. If you’re sitting down, that extra distance can be the difference between comfort and painful stretching.
On the positive side, this unit ships with an instrument cable and a selection of test picks. The picks are especially nice to have because they let you hear how your pick affects your sound, and that’s a fundamental part of finding the perfect setup.
Best Rechargeable Amp
- Has drum beat rhythms built-in for accompaniment
- Fully rechargeable, with batteries included
- Lasts about 10 hours per charge, making it incredibly portable
- Also usable with a power supply
- Sound quality isn’t as good as our top options
- Outputs mainly to headsets
Kithouse isn’t a particularly well-known brand, but its rechargeable amp has a lot to love about it. For one thing, having to change batteries every few sessions is a chore and produces a lot of waste. Rechargeable batteries are fundamentally better.
The drum beats are a rare and useful feature, capable of significantly altering your final sound in ways most other amps can’t get close to. It’s not quite the same as having a real drummer, but if you’re the only one listening to the audio, that’s good enough for most purposes.
Best Wireless Mini Amp
- Among the smallest amps in existence
- Supports reverb, chorus, flanger, overdrive, and wow wah effects
- Easily rechargeable
- Uses Bluetooth connections
- Can output to speakers
- Does not come with a speaker
- Not suitable for professional performances due to wireless audio loss
Don’t let the naming convention fool you - this portable amplifier is nothing like most other amps, and that’s immediately obvious just by checking its basic design. This palm-sized amp plugs directly into electric guitars and has buttons on the side so you can instantly adjust its settings.
Output-wise, this amplifier goes straight to wireless headphones or speakers, allowing you to move around a stage without worrying about wires. However, wireless audio signals are fundamentally worse than wired signals, so it’s hard to justify using this amp for any semi-professional performance, much less a serious concert.
The extremely low price point is also a bit deceptive. Since you’ll need to buy a compatible speaker or pair of headphones separately, this amp is only part of the necessary investment.
- More channels than other cheap amps
- Flexible power options
- Includes drum patterns, metronome, and tap tempo controls
- Allows Bluetooth connectivity
- Not especially loud
- Requires a smart device for full control
NUX’s Mighty Lite BT is a small but highly effective guitar amp with a few factors that set it apart from the crowd. It runs on your choice of a 9V adapter, a USB connection, or six AA batteries, which means you can take and use it almost anywhere.
It also offers three channels (clean, overdrive, and distortion), as well as multiple drum patterns and additions. An app available for iOS and Android devices offers instant, wireless control over the amp’s performance.
This option’s main drawbacks are the high price point (barely within what we can call a cheap amp) and the fact that it uses Bluetooth connections, which aren’t as good for pure quality as traditional audio cables.
Best Alternate Choice
- Works for both indoor and outdoor uses
- Has an auxiliary input jack for using other media players
- Has a hard shell with extra protection on the corners
- Uses a single 6.5” speaker for outstanding volume
- Moderately heavier than most other amps
- Relatively large
Donner’s DEA-1 is difficult to describe because it’s a solid amp overall… and that’s it. While it doesn’t have any unique selling points like the wireless portability of the Kithouse B6, it doesn’t have any particular flaws that make me want to avoid it, either. This is, put simply, a solid choice that just isn’t quite unique enough to recommend over its competitors.
The one real upside to this amp is that it’s slightly cheaper than some of its competitors, but the difference isn’t enough to matter unless you’re on an exceptionally tight budget. Ultimately, I see this amp as a good second choice if you’re having trouble finding your preferred option.
Great Choice When On-Sale
- More-powerful amplifiers than other cheap amps
- Excellent selection of options
- A great choice for professional events
- Has dual full-range woofers
- More expensive than most other options
- Relies on Bluetooth for some performance
Electrohome’s Birminghan RS61 is almost not a cheap guitar amp at all, but stores often sell it for less than its full retail price. That discount barely brings it into the range of a cheap guitar amp, and it offers better performance than most of its competitors in this range.
The key thing to keep in mind for this amplifier is its volume. With a larger body and better power consumption, this amp can produce a lot more sound. That makes it a great choice for professional performances, where speakers’ quality matters a lot more than in home environments.
- The bright case and fabric make this amp easy to spot
- 12-watt output offers a higher volume than most competitors
- It has a complete selection of controls for adjusting your sound
- Better output to headphones than most other guitar amps
- Relatively expensive
- The smallest of the full-format Crush line
Orange’s Crush12 amplifier is, like my #8 choice, at the very top of what you can call a cheap amplifier. However, its overall quality makes it worth considering if you’re okay with the bright color scheme.
As 12 watts of output power, this amplifier is noticeably better than many other cheap amps, which usually hover in the 6-10 watt range. A full selection of controls gives this amp more options than some others, too, making it a serious contender for any buyer.
Best Headphone Amp
- Extremely power-efficient
- Available in several types
- Portable enough to let you play almost anywhere
- Comes with three modes on each model
- Each model gives specific types of sound, rather than using an all-in-one
- Not as durable as a full amplifier
VOX’s amPlug series is a collection of headphone-focused miniature amps that you can plug directly into your electric guitars. With up to 17 hours of battery life, they’re also suitable for extended, multi-day use.
However, despite their low cost, these amps focus on specific types of sound. That means you’ll need to buy several of them for the full range of audio options, and it’s usually more cost-effective to get a single higher-quality amp unless you only want to produce one type of sound.
Best Budget Headphone Amp
- Has clean, overdrive, and distortion modes
- Uses cab sim for improved headphone output
- Includes a variety of tone modifiers
- Supports auxiliary input
- Much shorter battery life than the #10 choice
- Not suitable for public performances
Valeton’s Rushead Max is an all-in-one headphone guitar amp. On the positive side, it supports a variety of different sounds and effects. This makes it a great choice for flexible audio needs, especially if you’re only playing into some headphones.
However, at just five hours per charge, this unit as a much shorter battery life than our #10 choice. The battery life is even shorter if it’s helping charge your other devices. Ultimately, this amp is best for the occasional jam, but not for extended sessions.
The Two Types Of Guitar Amps
While features vary between models, there are two primary types of guitar amps on the market, and the choice between them is arguably the most crucial decision you’ll make.
Traditional guitar amps are sturdy and box-shaped, usually 15 inches or less on any side. They almost always include one or more speakers for live playing at various volumes and a pass-through for headphone audio that allows more-or-less silent playing as far as anyone else is concerned.
Traditional amps are popular because they’re suitable for playing with groups of people. Some traditional amps also have Bluetooth connections, giving you more ways to add or adjust audio.
Most traditional amps range from 6-10 watts of output power. Going all the way up to 12 watts is fairly rare but offers additional volume. Outputs tend to be near-universal, with both speaker and cable (headphone) options.
Headphone guitar amps are much smaller than traditional amps, typically about the size of your fist. While some have Bluetooth connectivity, most people call them headphone amps because they don’t have speakers and aren’t designed for playing in front of crowds.
Instead, these amps are mainly for personal use. Even if they can theoretically connect to speakers, Bluetooth connections have fundamentally worse audio than a physical connection. These work best when you plug your headphones directly into them.
Either way, don’t forget to manage your home audio system when playing with an amp. Whether you’re using headphones or a full set of speakers, a proper audio system makes all the difference.
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The Types Of Controls On Guitar Amps
The exact controls vary by guitar amp, which is part of why it’s important to know exactly what they are and what they’ll affect. Having more controls is better because it gives you finer precision over the output sound.
Do not rely on presets you find for generic amps. Each amp is fundamentally different because of its unique physical construction, so presets you may find online won’t necessarily be the best choice with your amp. Instead, you’ll need to listen to your amp and adjust each control as necessary for your song.
Once you figure out the right settings for each song, write them down. This will save you a lot of time as you continue playing.
This one is fairly self-explanatory. When amps have a single volume control, it acts as a master for the entire amp. However, some units have two or more volume controls. When this happens, each of them controls a different channel (typically clean, distorted, or overdrive), and you can adjust them separately.
Gain refers to the adjustment from the preamp, which is the first stage of how your amplifier functions. When this is set to high, it distorts the tone more. That’s a popular choice for loud and exciting music, such as heavy metal.
Lower gain reduces the distortion, possibly to the point of having one at all. This is more popular for acoustic songs and those that try to have smoother melodies.
When in doubt, start with a low gain and slowly adjust it upward as needed.
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Bass refers to the low-frequency sounds on your amplifier. A high bass setting gives a “boom” effect to the music, where it has more force without being as obviously loud or screechy as other frequencies.
Some amps refer to this as the “low” instead, but most of the industry refers to it as bass.
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Mids, or middle, refer to the mid-range frequencies. This is the part of the sound that most electric guitars focus on, so it’s usually better to have this set high. Otherwise, your tone may not have the same level of fullness and depth. If this setting is too low, the guitar may get lost when played alongside other instruments.
Treble, sometimes labeled high instead, refers to the high-range frequencies. When this setting is turned up, it helps each tone sound crisp and sharp. This is particularly useful for genres where you want tones to sound distinct.
Rhythm guitars usually have a lower treble setting because their sound should be mellow and blend with the rest of the song better. Lead guitars typically have higher treble settings.
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Equalizer, or EQ, is a combination control whose actual effect varies greatly between amps. In general, turning this up raises the mids and treble, while turning it down raises the bass.
It’s possible to find a good balance when you’re using an equalizer, but it doesn’t offer as much control as adjusting each of the frequency ranges separately. That’s why this control is fundamentally worse than split controls, and something to avoid if possible.
Reverb is short for reverberations, or the reflection of soundwaves off of different surfaces. High reverb helps add depth to sounds, while low reverb makes things clearer and more distinct. This pairs especially well with treble, and the two affect each other a lot.
Tremolo controls help adjust the pitch of your sound. This is similar to the octaver (below) but tends to have a longer duration and slight echoing.
Delay repeats notes after a short period and helps add complexity to your melody. While these can be interesting and useful, making them too loud or too important can interfere with your primary sound. Amplifiers that have this setting usually let you adjust the length of the delay, its volume, and the number of repeats.
The octaver setting adjusts the pitch of a guitar. This is faster and easier than adjusting your tuning, and won’t slow you down when you want to switch back, so it’s a useful (if rare) choice. Most people use this to make electric guitars sound closer to bass guitars.
Flanger and phaser effects add a type of wooshing noise to audio. Flanger sounds slightly more metallic and artificial, while phaser is a little more natural. Since these are fundamentally similar controls, amps rarely have both choices.
Chorus settings separate the sound slightly to make it seem like people are playing multiple instruments at once. This helps add depth and presence to the sound, and it’s a popular choice for active styles that don’t need particularly clear tones.
Getting the best cheap guitar amp requires more than looking at the price and brand name. As you can see from the guide to controls, amps can have many different options, and most amps don’t have all of these choices.
The only way to know how an amp truly sounds is to experience it for yourself. Every system is different, so the same setting on different amps could produce fundamentally distinct sounds to a well-trained ear.
The Fender Frontman 10G is the best overall unit because it offers rich sound with a decent selection of controls, all backed by consistent build quality. However, if it doesn’t have the controls you want, then it’s not the right choice for you. No amp can be a good choice if it doesn’t produce the sounds you want to hear.
Last Updated on September 27, 2020 by Liam F. Admin