As any guitar player will know, there are those moments when you wish you could just throw the guitar strap over your shoulder and wail away till the early hours. Unfortunately, the fiercely grim reality of disgruntled family, housemates and neighbours being woken up by your 2 am rendition of War Pigs generally puts an elaborate stop to this dream. But fear not, as we have solutions in this rundown of 2019 practice amps. With any of these amps, you’ll be able to crank serious tones at not so serious volume, or chuck on some headphones and shred till dawn!
Blackstar ID: Core V2
Blackstar’s incredibly popular ID: Core V2 range pack serious tones and features that punch well above their humble size and price.
There are 6 distinct channels to choose from, Clean Warm, Clean Bright, Crunch, Super Crunch, OD1 and OD2 and a healthy variety of 12 effects on board, not to forget the onboard tuner. The line input is great for general playback or playing along to favourite backing tracks. The combination of advanced features including USB connectivity for direct to computer recording (Presonus Studio One Blackstar Edition software for instant DAW recording is included). There’s also speaker-emulated line out and Blackstar’s INSIDER software, allowing you to create, store, share and download patches online for ultimate tone sculpting, pretty awesome!
Offered in 3 power ratings, 10, 20 and 40-watt versions all boasting Super Wide Stereo for a fully immersive sound (and particularly great when paired with the built-in effects). You can take your pick and perfectly match what size amp is going to be right for you with all the lush tone you can think of.
** For a limited time only, Blackstar ID: CORE V2 amp’s that are purchased through an authorized Australian Blackstar dealer comes with a Free Blackstar amPLug2 headphone amp.
Fender Mustang 1 V2
The Fender Mustang series of amps offer users modelling of classic Fender tones with nice modern features. The Mustang 1 V2 does what it’s bigger, more powerful siblings do at an even more attractive price point.
Choose from 17 amp models which cover off Fender’s classic (and modern) range of amps, from the ‘59 Bassman to the Deluxe Reverb, amongst many others. 24 presets are available dosing up sure fast options right out of the box, for you to then tweak to taste and save for later if you so desire. There’s also the effects one would expect to find such as delay, reverb and more, all being very simple to operate. USB connectivity for recording is available for those wishing to track directly to their preferred DAW. There’s also phones and aux connections for playback devices and use with headphones, you’ve got it all covered here.
At 20 watts this amp packs a punch and delivers the goods for the lovers of Fender tones. Worth checking out.
Certainly, a delight to look at and boasting a wealth of nifty features, the VT20X is a great little compact offering from Vox.
As expected this 20-watt amp boasts 11 amp models (which jumps to 20 when using their Vox Tone Room software). What’s cool is the effects section, which is labelled as pedals (2 on offer) and reverb type, a nice detail. There’s lots of additional tweaking available on the aforementioned Tone Room software (available for Mac, PC, iOS and Android) as well as the other expected features from as amp such as this, including an aux input, footswitch jack, headphone jack and mini USB connectivity for recording to your DAW.
With readily available controls, simple operation and the ability to go deeper into editing, the Vox VT20X offers up tasty tones at a great, home practice amp price point. Also available in a 40 or 100-watt version.
Orange Crush 20
Renowned for their straight-up, no bullshit amp designs and quirky graphics, the Orange Crush 20 promises an all analogue signal path with just the right amount of modern features to keep both the tone purist and modern age player content.
This few frills amp looks classic Orange with the tone to boot in a compact little package. Clean and Dirty channels (switchable on the panel or via footswitch) offer up 4 stages of available gain from gorgeous cleans to full throttle metal distortion. The headphone output provides cab simulated ready for real-world headphone practice. The Aux-in completes the package for music playback or to jam out with.
Certainly not offering an abundance of features like some of the aforementioned amps, the Crush 20 is indeed a wonderful companion for the player seeking straight-up Orange tone with simple operation.
To complete our best on a budget list is Marshall Code 25. These little amps are bursting at the grille cloth with modern features with lots of versatility and perfectly tuned for home practice.
Jam-packed with selection digital preamps, power amps and speaker cabs plus 100 presets to choose from. There’s additional control available when connected to Marshall’s Gateway app (for iOS and Android devices) allowing you to deep dive into editing land and from the app you’re able to stream music via Bluetooth. To round things off presets can be uploaded and downloaded to the MyMarshall global library. USB connectively acts as an interface to your DAW as expected.
Definitely an amp for those who like the ability to fine-tune their tone for days, so for some, it may be a little too feature-packed. However, there’s no denying the Code25 fully embraces the technology available on modern digital amps and brings this to the at-home user in a neat little package. For all the bells and whistles, worth a look. Bigger models also available, but beware of the windows bursting.
There are lots out there in the practice amp world, but for us, these are the highlights we’ve seen this year. If you’re looking for something even smaller there’s, even more, to choose from such as the Blackstar Fly 3/Superfly, Vox Pathfinder10, or Boss Katana Mini to name but a very few. But for those who crave the tone but want it dialled in at home without the fear of that dreaded banging on the door, any one of the 5 above will have you riffing till your heart’s content.