Electric guitar players need something to plug their guitars into. For recording, that would be an audio interface, and for gigging it would be a fairly powerful amplifier. But what about practicing and playing at home?
Also, what about people who are just starting out with the electric guitar and the budget is limited. You don’t really know if you’re going to stick with it, so a cheap amp takes some of the risk out of the process.
This is where a small, cheap guitar can be very useful. It doesn’t need to be powerful, but it should be small, light and not cost very much.
Something else to check is if it has a headphone jack. This can be really useful when you don’t want your guitar playing to be heard.
Best Options for Cheap Guitar Amps?
So what are the best options for cheap guitar amps? I was thinking really quite inexpensive, so I have gone for amps costing less than $50 (at the time of writing).
The type of guitar amp I am thinking of is one that combines the amplifier and speaker in one cabinet. This is often called a Combo amp.
I’m actually looking to buy a cheap guitar amp myself, so this article has come out of the research I’m currently doing.
The main guitar amp I used in the past is a Marshall Mercury combo, which I love. However, the people I live with don’t love it since it is quite loud (when played at home, anyway). I could turn it down but then it wouldn’t sound so good.
I mainly play guitar for recording into a DAW, connected via an audio interface. The software takes care of making it sound good, but I still need an amp for general practice, noodling, and so on.
Three Types of Amp to Think About
Looking at the amps available in this price range, there seem to be three main options:
- Amp cabinets that are meant to be placed on the floor like larger amplifier combos.
- Amps that are a bit smaller and more flimsy, that seem to be intended for table-top use (or placed on the sofa next to you).
- Amplifier units that are intended only for use with headphones.
Option number 2 above is sometimes called a Micro Stack. They are often very small and made of plastic, and may be styled to look like full-sized amps by companies like Marshall. These units can look and sound okay, but every time you move your guitar the cable pulls the amp over, which can get annoying. So option 1 is better in this respect due to the larger size and weight.
Regarding option number 3. Playing guitar through headphones is okay, but it’s important to hear the sound ringing around you in the air to really feel the music. This is almost essential to be able to write songs and compose music. You need to be able to sing what you are playing and let your brain and body respond to it. So, I would suggest an amp that includes a speaker.
Options 2 and 3 both mainly run on batteries, sometimes with an option to buy a mains power supply separately. They usually sound quite good when the batteries are new, but the sound deteriorates quite quickly as the batteries run down. This pushes me in the direction of option 1, since these amps normally run on mains power.
So option number 1 above is my preferred option. These larger, sturdier, guitar amps are nicer to use, and the larger cabinet allows a bigger speaker to be included, which can make the sound much better.
In addition to the power output (in Watts) and controls available, I will also be thinking about whether the amp unit looks cool. This is important for guitarists. My main guitar is a Japanese Telecaster with a distorted neck and terrible intonation, but it looks great!
So, in no particular order, here are my three cheap guitar amp choices to check out…
LyxPro 20W Electric Guitar Amp
The first amplifier to consider is this 20W guitar amp from LyxPro. This is a company located in Edison, New Jersey (although this amp appears to be manufactured in China), and their website includes contact details and other information. Before even looking at the guitar amp, these things make me feel better about it.
Looks and Construction
Thinking about whether it looks cool or not – yes, it certainly does.
The amp cabinet is just under 12 inches high and just under 12 inches wide, and its depth is around 4 inches. This is small enough to be stowed out of the way when not being used, but big enough to stand on the floor like a proper amp combo.
The build seems pretty solid, and the weight when you lift it up gives the impression of a solid unit. The corners are protected by rubber corner edges, which adds to the robust feeling.
There is also a carrying handle fitted, which makes it easy to move the amp from place to place.
So before we even plug in a guitar and switch it on, this amplifier unit makes you feel good about using it.
Features and Controls
The amplifier delivers 20 Watts, described on the back of the amp as 20W output power. The cabinet includes a speaker, which is around 6 inches in diameter.
The amp includes a standard 1/4″ guitar input jack, plus a standard 1/4″ headphone jack so that you can play without anyone hearing you.
In addition, there is also a 3.5mm aux input jack so that you can plug in another sound source to play through the amp. This could be used to play along with a backing track and hear it coming out of the same speaker as your guitar playing.
The control panel includes a Volume control, which lets you adjust how loud the output of the amp is. There are also Treble and Bass controls so that you can adjust the overall tone of the sound by increasing or decreasing the the amounts of high or low frequencies.
The Gain control increases the level of the signal that’s coming into the amplifier and can make the sound more “saturated” and richer (you can read more about audio saturation in this article).
Next to the gain control there is a Drive button that can be turned on to further increase the “overdriven” sound effect.
This Drive button is very useful, since it means you can get a rich, saturated guitar tone without having to turn the amp volume right up. This makes it more enjoyable when playing at low volumes.
Rockville G-AMP 10 Watt Guitar Amplifier
Next is the Rockville G-AMP. Rockville is a company based in Inwood, New York, and their website includes some reassuring information about the business, its aims and history.
Looks and Construction
The Rockville G-AMP cabinet feels pretty robust, with rubber feet and corner protectors contributing to the solid look of the unit. There is a carry-handle on the top of the unit.
The Rockville amp is just over 10 inches high and wide, and just under 5 inches deep. Small enough that it doesn’t take up much room, but big enough to feel like a proper guitar amplifier.
Features and Controls
The Rockville has a 1/4″ input jack to plug your guitar into. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack so that you can listen privately and practice without annoying anyone.
The amp produces 10 Watts (RMS), which is delivered through a 6 inch speaker.
Controls include a Volume knob, together with Treble and Bass knobs so that you can adjust the levels of high and low frequencies.
In addition, the Rockville has a Channel Select button so that you can choose between a Clean (for a twangy sound) and Drive (for a richer, more saturated sound).
There is also a Gain knob, which allows you to increase the level of the incoming guitar signal to produce a more powerful and saturated sound. This is only active when the Drive option (see above) is selected.
A really useful feature of the Rockville amp is Bluetooth. The control panel has a BT button that turns on Bluetooth so that you can connect a your phone (or other Bluetooth equipped music source) and play along with songs or backing tracks.
This Bluetooth feature should really appeal to younger guitarists who will probably be used to playing tracks on their phones, which may not have a audio output jack (but which will have Bluetooth).
Vangoa 10 Watt Guitar Amp
The third option is the Vangoa 10 Watt guitar amp from. Vangoa appears to have started off in 2017 as an online store, and has now developed the business to offer their own products.
Vangoa seems to be based in China, and only sell their products online. However, they are active on social media, which gives the impression that they take their business seriously and will stand behind their products.
Looks and Construction
The Vangoa amp has a solid appearance, with the corners covered by soft corner protectors, which helps to avoid damage the the amp cabinet. There is a retractable handle on top so that you can carry the amp easily.
The amp cabinet is just under 10 inches high and wide, and just under 3 1/2 inches deep. Like the two amps above, this makes the cabinet big enough to feel good in use, but small enough to be moved out of the way easily.
Features and Controls
The Vangoa control panel has two 1/4″ jacks; one to plug your guitar into and the other to plug in headphones for playing without bothering the neighbours.
There are three control knobs: one each for volume, treble and bass so that you can adjust the amount of high and low frequencies as well as the overall level.
A Drive button is included so that you can switch between a clean guitar sound and the (usually more pleasant) overdriven guitar tone.
A nice feature of the Vangoa is the inclusion of an adjustable bracket that can be opened from the back of the cabinet. This bracket lets you angle the speaker and controls upwards and towards you. This makes it easier to adjust the controls and hear high frequency sounds when playing at low volume levels.
Three Amps to Think About
If you are thinking about buying an inexpensive guitar amplifier combo that looks cool, sounds good, and is easy to use then these three guitar amps are worth a look.