The best practice amplifiers for home and travel

These amps go to, uh, yeah, just 10.

guitar amp and mic stand
You don't need a giant, heavy piece of equipment to enjoy plucking on your guitar in your apartment.Conor Samuel via Unsplash

For those who are passionate about music and don’t ever keep a guitar further than an arm’s length away, half of the fun comes from being able to plug in and play when inspiration strikes. While there’s no rule against practicing guitar through a legendary four-speaker stack or traveling with a 60-pound tube amp, it may not always be the most flexible or musically fulfilling choice depending on the situation.

For starters, amps that are designed to be loud just aren’t that great at being quiet. Add to that their large size, heavy weight, and fragile inner components and you’ve got a logistical headache for those with small living spaces or frequent transportation plans. Fortunately, there’s a whole class of amps designed specifically for flexibility, portability and home use, and today there are more great choices than ever. Whether you’re a full-time busker or you just want to play guitar without waking up your neighbors, these amps will get the job done when you need them and fit neatly in a closet when you don’t.

Here are five of the best practice amps currently on the market.

Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier

Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier
MP3 player and headphone ready.Amazon

This 10-watt Fender practice amp houses a specially designed 6-inch speaker and sports a closed back to increase its bass resonance. Toggle between clean and dirty channels using the switch on front and adjust the drive with the gain knob. Special features include an ⅛-inch stereo input so you can play backing tracks through the amp—a must for busking or practicing. Keep it at home and jam with a small band or use the headphone jack if you’re flying solo.

Blackstar Guitar Combo Amplifier, Black (FLY3)

Blackstar Guitar Combo Amplifier, Black (FLY3)
Battery-powered workhorse.Amazon

Blackstar emerged in 2004 as a new player in the amplifier market and the brand has quickly earned a reputation amongst players everywhere. The FLY3 is the smallest amp they offer and it packs in essential features from their full-size amps as well as some practice amp-specific tweaks. In addition to having clean and overdrive channels, a headphone/line out jack, and an MP3 player input, the amp includes Blackstar’s patented “infinite-shape” tape delay so you can add some onboard vibe to your tone. Perhaps best of all, you can run it on 6 AA batteries and easily take it on the road.

Line 6 Guitar Combo Amplifier (Spider V 20)

Line 6 Guitar Combo Amplifier (Spider V 20)
Sixteen amps in one.Amazon

Line 6 have been making modeling amplifiers for a long time, and the latest incarnation of their Spider is built upon many years of research and development. This 20-watt amp comes with 16 digital amplifier varieties that you can switch between with the turn of a knob, and has three independent onboard effects, including reverb, which means that there are effectively 200 tone combinations available. It comes with additional dedicated modes for acoustic guitar and bass and it also has an onboard tuner. For those who play multiple styles and like to tweak and experiment, this one’s a no-brainer.

Orange Amps Electric Guitar Power Amplifier, Orange (Crush12)

Orange Amps Electric Guitar Power Amplifier, Orange (Crush12)
Classic British overdrive in a portable package.Amazon

The Orange Crush 12 packs legendary looks and unmistakable British tone into a small and portable package. For those who want to travel light, play in style, and don’t need an auxiliary input, this amp is a perfect fit. It sports basic 3-band EQ controls, a headphone output, and a dedicated overdrive knob all in a signature orange cabinet with a woven grille. The style and reputation points are strong with this one.

Yamaha THR5 10-Watt Desktop Guitar Combo Amp

Yamaha THR5 10-Watt Desktop Guitar Combo Amp
Tube emulation and thoughtful design.Amazon

Yamaha’s THR5 stands on the cutting edge of amp technology and it has the looks to match. This 10-watt modeling amp runs on batteries or AC power, comes with five emulations of classic amp models and is designed primarily to match the tone and dynamic response of tube amplifiers but on a smaller, lighter, and quieter scale. It’s got practice amp-style bells and whistles like an onboard tuner, headphone output and auxiliary input, but you can also plug it into your computer via USB and edit sounds and tones to your every whim.