We live in an era of unprecedented choice when it comes to guitar gear. Everywhere you look, a new maker of guitars, pedals, or amps is popping up. With the boutique companies, you’re getting something distinctive, something hand-wired and special. These pieces are excellent, but they’re also expensive.
Expensive is fine for your live rig. You want to have the best tone when it matters, as well as enough power to cut through the band. When you’re practicing at home, though, it isn’t quite so necessary. Many guitarists have a secondary rig that they use for noodling around on.
This usually takes the form of a small combo amp. Guitarists always want good tone, but we might not want to be putting a lot of mileage on that multi-thousand dollar half-stack. Nevermind the simple fact that these beauties are often simply too loud for the home setting.
A decent practice amp should be flexible, capable of good tones at low volumes, and small enough to drag around with ease. It wouldn’t hurt if it was possible to make it loud enough for very small venues, too, so you don’t need to drag out your showpiece for every coffee shop and bar. This usually means something under, say, 40 watts and preferably less than $300.
Small amps sometimes offer on-board effects or modeling so you can dial in a tone that’s close enough to your ideal sound to not be overly distracting while you practice and write. Lately, even very low wattage amps are benefiting from novel efficient speaker designs, so driving amp sounds are easier than ever to get at this level. There are certainly smaller and cheaper amps out there aimed at beginners, but this list is for that sweet spot where serviceable tone and convenience live.
For practice, noodling, and writing, here’s our list of the best small combo guitar amps.