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, heavyweight, 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 four of the best practice amps currently on the market.
Practice Day Or Night
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.
Four Style Choices
You can run it on 6 AA batteries and easily take it on the road. Amazon
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.
All The Sounds In One Place
For those who play multiple styles and like to tweak and experiment, this one’s a no-brainer. Amazon
Line 6 has 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 60-watt amp comes with multiple 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.
The One That Stands Out
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.