Portable guitar amps can take your enjoyment of guitar playing to the next level by allowing you to play at the beach, on the road, or just your front porch. Because everybody’s wallet size is different, we’ll be discussing high-end portable amps that can reach around $500 bucks, and we’ll also talk about some more affordable amps around $100 and under.
Also, I know that I should have a “this goes to 11” joke somewhere in here, but I’ll leave that to the pros. Without further ado, here are the top 10 portable amps:
Starting with the smallest portable guitar amp, the Marshall MS-2 is the true definition of take-anywhere portable guitar amps. I mean, it clips onto your belt! You can hang it right next to your cell phone, or pager, depending on what decade you’re currently living in. Sure, it’s a 1-Watt Amp, but this little guy is surprising powerful. The best part? You can grab this amp for just under $50.
A miniature replica of the full-sized Fender Tone-Master, this little amp shows off authentic Fender style alongside great tonal quality – considering its size. Down to the knobs and the grille cloth, this amp looks super cool. Many people compare this amp to the Marshall MS-2 since they’re both 1-Watt portable guitar amps, even though this one’s slightly larger. The Mini Tone-Master goes for around $60 and, for the price, it’s definitely a great choice.
Leaving that 1-Watt town, let’s now take a look at some amps with a little more…shazam? This Sawtooth amp boasts ten watts, giving it a good amount of power for a portable amp. The perfect practice or starter amp, the Sawtooth has the ability to crank out leads whether you’re practicing with friends or playing small crowds. And for around $40, you’re getting a pretty good bang for your buck.
The on/off switch is a pig nose. Need I say more? All right fine: This legendary amp rocks quality sound. A 5-Watt amp, the Pignose has a 6 inch speaker, tough covering, and weighs just 5 pounds. One really cool thing about this amp is that it doubles as a wah-wah. Have a friend open and close the case while you’re playing to achieve this effect. There’s also a preamp out jack, so you can send your sound anywhere you want it to go. Break the piggy bank open -sorry- and grab yourself a Pignose Legendary for just under $70.
If you’re a fan of Orange Amps — and who’s not — then the Orange Micro Crush is for you. Right off the bat, it’s obvious these are the coolest portable guitar amps you’ll ever see. So if you’re looking to make a statement, think Orange. Getting into the technical details, this 3-Watt amp produces killer sounds – all from a 9 Volt battery! The best part is, all the materials on the Micro Crush -the woods, the surfacings, and the grille cloth- are the same high-quality materials found on the full-sized Orange amps. Snag a Micro Crush for around $70.
While there’s many Line 6 Spiders out there, the one we’re talking about today is the 15-watt amp. For just around $100, the Spider really brings it home. The cool thing about this amp is, besides have 4 channels of Line 6 tones that were set by world-class guitarists, you have the ability to store 4 amp setting presets right onto the amp. When it comes to controlling and shaping your tone, this amp has all the capabilities for refinement. And when you’re playing a Line 6 amp, you know you’re working with one of the finest-crafted portable guitar amps, capable of producing powerful, quality sound.
I know I said I’d spare you the Spinal Tap jokes, but this amp really does go to 11. In this case, however, 11 is the number of authentic built-in amp models based on Vox Valvetronix technology. And with eight effects types like flanger, reverb, and an enhanced compressor, this amp gives you plenty of options for sound customization. There’s also a some other great perks like a separate mic line in, and the Bassilator circuit, which helps to kick out awesome rich lows. Pick up this amp for around $120.
With really decent sound quality, effects (such as flanger, phaser, tremolo, and reverb), and array of inputs and outputs, this amp brings versatility back to the portable amp. I actually own this practice amp and, for me, the best part is the battery life. Roland claims 20 hours of battery life due to its high-efficiency design, and that’s no boasting on their part. Tried and tested, the Roland Micro Cube is one of the all-around best portable guitar amps. You can find the Roland Micro Cube for around $150.
If you’re the type of person looking for an amp that looks great, has super simple controls and produces fantastic sound, then Yamaha is the amp for you. The great thing about this amp is its low volume settings. You have control over great powerful sound for small gigs or keeping it quiet enough to practice indoors. With a rugged construction made for the life of a travel amp, this Yamaha is built to last. You can find one of these portable guitar amps for around $199.
10. Roland AC-33
The Roland AC-33 is really one of the premiere portable guitar amps. Now we have to mention, this amp is made specifically for acoustic guitars, so if that’s your thing, consider this amp. Producing true stereo sound, this 30-Watt amp features Guitar and Mic channels, custom-tailored effects, anti-feedback, and a Phrase Looper. And with a rosewood finish, this amp looks great in your living room, on stage, or anywhere else you can carry it. Don’t let this price scare you away; for around $400, you’re getting the best of both worlds: Quality and portability.
Whether you’re a higher end shopper looking at the AC-33, or just looking to get your foot in the door of portable amps, there’s definitely something for you on this list. Most music shops will carry a majority of these amps, so definitely go try them out first before buying. Anybody else have a hot lead on a portable amp? Let us know!
By John Lombard