The Best Small Amps for Guitar

Ready to Make Some Noise?

Small amplifiers are great for beginners and experienced guitarists alike. If you want something small, portable and reasonably cheap then small amps are the answer. There are many small amps on the market so which one should you choose? I’ve reviewed eight of the best small amps for guitar to make it easier for you to find the right small amp for you.

At one end of the scale are cheaper 5 and 10 watt amps and at the other end are feature rich amps that range in power. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re all able to produce a great sound that’s more than ample for practice. If you’re just getting started don’t miss my post on the best guitar accessories for beginners. Let’s get started!

VOX AC30 Guitar Headphone Amplifier:

 

I thought I’d start a little left-field with this choice. This little amp plugs into your guitar’s output directly, without the need for a cable. You then plug headphones into the output jack on the AC30. That makes practicing super easy, but it does limit you to only practicing through headphones. The head swivels so that you can angle the AC30 to accommodate the angle of your guitar’s output jack. The AC30 has an AUX input jack, which enables you to jam along with MP3s (even via your phone). It’s powered by two AAA batteries (included), which provide around 15 hours of battery life so you won’t need to own a battery factory to make this practical. The AC30 also has an auto-off function to stop you from accidentally chewing through batteries. Surprisingly there are also on-board effects (chorus, delay and reverb).  There are various models available, from Bass, to blues to classic rock (which delivers the crunch of a 100w amp!) As with all VOX products, the styling is pretty cool too!

Pros:

  • Surprisingly feature rich for such a small unit
  • On-board effects
  • Aux input to play MP3s
  • Great for practicing on the road
  • Great value

Cons:

  • Constructions isn’t great so it won’t survive heavy knocks and bumps

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RockJam GA20w:

 

This is a sturdy and reliable 20 watt amp, which is perfect for beginners. Whilst it doesn’t have any additional features, such as on-board effects, it does the basics well. It packs quite a punch for its size measuring just 27 x 28 cm and weighing only 4.2kg. That means it’s also very portable for when you’re on the move. There’s a headphone jack to enable you to practice silently and a boost button to crank up the distortion. The gain, volume, treble, middle and bass controls look great. The power cable can be stored in a compartment behind the amp. You can use the amp for a microphone or a guitar giving it some versatility.

Pros:

  • Boost button to instantly switch between clean and distortion
  • Lightweight  – just 4.2kg!
  • Headphone jack – to keep the neighbors happy!
  • Volume, Gain and EQ control to fine tune your sound
  • Excellent value for money!

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have any additional features
  • Sometimes there’s a background hum at higher volumes

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Vox Pathfinder 10:

 

This amp is beautiful! As are most VOX amps to be honest. It’s a little bigger and heavier than the RockJam GA20 and it’s 10 watts instead of 20, however it can fill a medium sized room with rock quite easily! This is because it uses VOX’s bulldog speaker. The amp is sturdy, well designed and portable when you’re on the move. The chicken head controls give you precision control over your sound and this amp is capable to producing a plethora of different sounds. Warm blues to screaming metal to clean and bright in seconds. The amp also features a headphone jack so that you can practice silently. There’s plenty of flexibility too with a 5 meter power cable, which can be stored in a compartment at the back of the amp. It’s a little more expensive than the RockJam GA20, but I think you’re getting what you pay for with quality sound and a beautiful design.

Pros:

  • Quality sound from the bulldog speaker
  • Lightweight for portability
  • Sleek and stylish design
  • Sturdy build
  • Great for beginners

Cons:

  • Not as much output as comparable amps
  • No additional features, such as reverb
  • Doesn’t have an aux port for playing music from your phone

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Marshall MG15CF:

 

Ok full disclosure, I do love Marshall amps. I have a 50 watt Marshall that I’ve used on occasion for gigging and it’s never let me down! This 15 watt offering from Marshall maintains their reputation for making great amps. The MG15CF has all of the features you’d expect plus an aux port so you can plug in an MP3 player to jam along with your favorite tracks. Or you could just use it as a speaker. It features a headphone jack for silent practice as well as the overdrive button for when you want to rock! It’s a little heavier than it’s companions in this class at 7.5 kg, but it’s still small enough to be portable. It comes with guidance on how to produce different sounds, which is a nice little bonus if you’re a beginner. The cable is quite short, so something to bear in mind if you’re practicing on the move. As I said I do like Marshall amps. Although not quite up to the good looks of a VOX, they still look very good!

Pros:

  • Marshall reliability
  • Aux port to connect your MP3 player
  • 15 watts output – more than enough for practicing
  • Sturdy build
  • Headphone jack for silent practice

Cons:

  • Slightly more expensive but still good value
  • Power cable is quite short

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Boss KTN-MINI Katana:

This amp is tiny. It weighs 1.2 kg and is no more than 11 cm in any direction. That makes is an amazing choice for someone who is always on the move. It also has in build delay, which is a nice feature for such a small amp. Principally it runs off 6 AA batteries, although there is a port on the back for an adapter. No adapter is included, so you’d need to buy that separately. Having said that the battery life is around 4 hours, so you won’t be stopping to change the batteries every 5 minutes. There are three principle modes, which are controlled by a switch. Clean, crunch and brown. That gives you more flexibility to create different sounds. You can also connect this amp to a laptop if you want to record. The key advantage of this amp is portability, but there are a surprising amount of features when size and weight is the principal benefit of this little amp.

Pros:

  • Ultra portable. Weighs 1.2 kg
  • In built delay effect
  • Good battery life
  • Three modes giving you more control
  • Aux port – play along with your favorite MP3s
  • Headphone / recording device jack – practice silently or record

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with a power adapter
  • Pricier than more traditional practice amps

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Fender Frontman 10G:

This lightweight practice amp is a decent offering from Fender. It weighs just 3.8 kg and just shy of 30 cm in height. With an output of 10 watts it’s firmly aimed at guitarists who want to practice in a small space. The sound quality is excellent with no hum. It’s made of sturdy materials and has the iconic Fender badge slapped on the front. The sounds is punchy , but you don’t benefit from the “Fender sound” that you get from their bigger amps. Having said that it has an aux port so you can play along with your favorite tracks. It also has a headphone jack for silent practice. It’s good value for the price, however I think the VOX Pathfinder performs better in the 10 watt range.

 

Pros:

  • Decent sound quality
    Compact and lightweight
  • Sturdy construction
  • Aux port to connect your MP3 player
  • Headphone jack for silent practice

Cons:

  • Sound quality isn’t as good as slightly bigger Fender amps
  • Doesn’t come with on-board effects
  • Better value offered by competitor amps

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Yamaha THR5:

 This tiny amp is absolutely packed full of features. I’ve never known such a complete product. The amp has a built in tuner, built in effects, delay and reverb, 5 present sound modes, an aux port, a headphone jack, a USB port and Cubase AI (recording/editing software)! The design is quirky and characterful whilst being lightweight (just 2 kg) and small form. You can operate the THR5 with batteries, but an adapter is included with the amp. Just as well as it’d take 8 AA batteries to power this amp off mains. It pumps out 10 watts of guitar goodness and comes with 5 modes enabling you to determine what type of goodness. The sound quality is excellent thanks to two speakers each powered by it’s own 5 watt amplifier. That means stereo sound. The THR5 uses Virtual Circuitry Modelling (VCM) to reproduce the sound of a tube style amp. Further, if you have an iPhone, you can use an app to slow down sections of songs and to cancel out the original guitar part in songs to let you jam along. I think this is the best practice amp you can buy. Did I mention it also lights up?

Pros:

  • Top notch stereo quality
  • Absolutely packed with additional features, including tuner, ob-board effects and 5 modes
  • Aux port to connect your phone / MP3 player
  • Free recording software included!
  • Power adapter is included
  • Headphone jack for silent practice
  • Lightweight and small form factor

Cons:

  • If not using the adapter is requires 8 AA batteries for power
  • Higher price point than other practice amps

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Final thoughts

There are some fantastic small amps available today. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Yamaha THR5 but the VOX Pathfinder also represents great value for money. If you’re just starting out be sure to check out my post about the best guitar accessories for beginners.

I hope this has given you some food for thought when picking your first or next practice amp. Feel free to leave comments below or use the contact page to get in touch. Now go make some noise!

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