So, you’ve just bought your first electric guitar.
You need an amp!
While playing your guitar via your PC can be pretty practical, nothing beats the sound and experience of a real amplifier.
But with a ridiculously wide range of various models to choose from, picking just the right one for your needs can be pretty hard.
Lucky for you, I’ve decided to list and explain some of the most useful features and specs you should have in your mind when choosing an amp for home use.
Whether it’s the size, power, type of amp, or effects and other features, you are bound to have a much more clear image of what you’re looking for after reading this guide.
The Most Important Factors! – Form Factor, Power, Speaker Size
Amps come in all different shapes and sizes. Okay, the shape is pretty much consistent, but the form factor is the number one thing that tells you on what occasions the amp is most conveniently used.
Sure, there are a lot of various factors to consider, but let’s start from the top.
- Form Factor and Size
Generally speaking, guitar amps come in 2 different form factors: Combo and head & cabinet.
Combo amps are pretty self-explanatory. They feature both the head and cabinet in one, uniform device.
This means that the actual amp requires less space, and moving it around is way easier.
For home use, there isn’t a real need of getting a separate head & cabinet amp.
There is one more form factor which you could consider. Guitar amps for headphones are a great solution if you’re really restricted when it comes to available space.
I’ve written a separate article just about that type of amps that you can check out here!
- How Much Power Do You Need?
Probably less than you originally would have guessed!
Most beginner guitarists are quick to think that they need 100W or more of power when choosing their first amp.
But here’s the kicker:
Even for gigs at smaller venues, 100W may be too much!
You should actually be looking for amps with up to 20W of power, max.
Even 3 watts will do just fine for your home practice sessions.
Not only are you wasting money by getting a much more powerful amp, if it’s only for home use, but it also has to do a lot in terms of the actual sound.
With a big, powerful amp, you can only turn up the volume slightly. This means that both the tone and volume are going to be pretty weak.
Playing at lower volume levels is much better with a less powerful amp, as it can push through a good tone at a wider range of settings.
In terms of speaker size, anything around 8” or 10” is definitely enough to do the job just fine.
Various Types of Amps – Solid-State, Tube, Modeling, and Hybrid
So, you’re looking for a combo amp with up to 20W of power.
But which type do you get? Solid-state, tube, modeling?
Basically, there are 4 different types of amps you can choose from:
- Solid-state amps are very practical, low-maintenance, and usually, offer a clean channel as well as an overdrive/distortion one. You can find great solid-state amps at reasonable price points.
- Tube amps, on the other hand, require you to occasionally change the actual vacuum tubes. They offer a much more natural tone, with that unique “organic” overdrive at higher gain and volume settings. However, they tend to be more expensive than solid-state ones.
- Modeling amps utilize digital processors in order to simulate the sound of various different models, whether they’re tube or solid-state. They also come with numerous effects you can use, but, depending on the price, these can sound a bit too digital.
- Hybrid amps use a combination of tubes and solid-state circuitry, offering the best of both worlds.
What’s the bottom line?
Well, depending on your personal preferences, going with any of these types can be a good idea.
If you’re looking for an amp that delivers natural sound, and don’t really care about effects, a tube amp is the way to go, if you can afford one.
Modeling amps are great with experimenting with a wide variety of different presets, amp sounds and effects.
Solid-state amps fall somewhere in the middle, as they too can offer a decent number of effects as well as a pretty natural sound.
So, think about your playing style and musical taste and choose accordingly!
Additional Features That May Come in Handy!
Pretty much every amp on the market offers different additional features included in their amp.
As a beginner, you may find some of these to be pretty useful and save up some more space.
Tuner, headphone output, microphone/aux input, and other similar features are worth checking out if you find any of them necessary.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the best guitar amps for home use!
Reviews of the Best Amps for Home Use
- Fender Mustang I V2
Rocking sleek looks and mean features, the Mustang I V2 by Fender clearly shows that this company takes good care of the beginners as well as the professionals.
For just over $100, you will be getting a very versatile and great sounding amp that will perform quite nicely across a wide range of different genres of music.
With 20W of power, this bad boy can reach great volume levels, while still sounding clear at lower ones.
As the Mustang I V2 is a modeling amp, you can choose from 17 different amp models, each catering to the needs of different genres and playstyles.
Other controls include gain, volume, bass, treble, and a master knob. Simple, yet effective, which is what a beginner guitarist really needs from an amp he’s going to practice on at home.
This model also features delay and reverb effects. However, what really sets it apart is the fact that you can connect it to your computer and dig pretty deep into those presets, with additional effects such as tremolo, phaser, and others as well.
- A wide range of built-in presets
- Simple and easy to use
- Includes a built-in tuner, as well as aux input and headphone output
- 20W and 40W versions
- Overall sound is a bit digital
- Not for fans of natural guitar sound
The Mustang I V2 by Fender is a perfect choice for anyone who likes to experiment with various sounds and tinker around with a bunch of effects.
- Marshall MG15CFX
As one of the best representatives of solid-state home use guitar amps, at number 2, we have the MG15CFX by Marshall.
Rocking that well-known design, and focusing on the actual sound quality without any additional bells and whistles, it’s an option that’s definitely worth considering.
So, you basically have 4 different channels to choose from. The clean channel is well balanced, and by adjusting the 3-band EQ, you can easily set it up to your personal preferences. The crunch channel features exactly that, a nice middle point between absolutely clean and distorted.
The 2 OD channels sound kind of similar, but, once again, with proper EQ adjustment, can be used on different occasions, and sound pretty good.
Besides these controls, there is a separate knob for the reverb, volume, master, and a pot for including the other effects.
Sure, the Mustang by Fender outperforms the MG15CFX effects-wise, but as a beginner, having chorus, phaser, flanger, and delay at this level is probably good enough.
Marshall also included an aux port as well as a headphone one, for jamming to your favorite tunes or practicing in private.
- Straightforward, good tone
- 4 channels to choose from
- Decent sounding effects
- Built-in tuner
- Headphone and aux I/O
- The OD channels tend to be pretty noisy
- Limited to beginners
If you don’t really care much about extra features and various amp models, and simply want a good solid-state amp, the MG15CFX is a great option.
- Roland Micro Cube
Offering “only” 2W of power, the Micro Cube by Roland is definitely one of my favorite home use guitar amps, due to its practicality and very fun user experience.
The first thing you notice about this amp is how small it is. It even has a strap on the top so you can easily carry it around wherever and whenever you want.
As it’s pretty rugged and nicely built, the Micro Cube is a great option for anyone looking for a practice amp, and a one that’s easy to take to your friend's house to jam together.
Feature-wise, you can choose from 6 different tone presets, ranging from a clean tone to various types of distortion.
Effects include chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, as well as variations of reverb and delay.
While the Micro Cube can get pretty loud, the sound is pretty average. It’s more of a fun experience, and not something you’d get if you want a natural and “organic” tone.
Don’t get me wrong, it sounds good enough for beginners, but it’s focused more towards experimenting with the built-in effects and just having plain old fun playing your guitar.
If you decide to show off your skills on the streets, take the Micro Cube with you, as it can run on batteries as well!
- Very fun and easy to use
- Can run on batteries as well
- Has a tuner, effects, and aux/headphone I/O
- Can get pretty loud
- Overall sound is average
- Buzzing at high gain distortion presets
The Micro Cube by Roland is a handy little amp, great for practicing at home, jamming with your friends, and simply getting crazy with the effects.
- Vox Valvetronix VT20X
The Valvetronix VT20X by Vox combines the natural sound of tube amps and the versatility of modeling amps resulting in a warm-sounding amp that can cater to pretty much anyone’s needs.
This basically means that you’re getting the best sounding simulations as well as a base tone that you can model and play around with yourself.
The presets include 7 built-in amp sounds, including the double rectifier, brit, various other Vox models and others. You can really tell that they are spot on, as Vox used state of the art digital technology when emulating these various models.
Besides the built-in presets, there are 3 slots in which you can save your own sounds.
Effects are present as well, and can easily be accessed either via the buttons or pedals. With 4 different channels, you can set the amp up just the way you want to, and cycle through various presets instantly.
The VT20X brings modeling amps to a whole new level, providing excellent tone quality unlike many other models from this category.
- Amazingly wide range of different tone setups
- Spot-on amp simulations
- Expandable presets by connecting to a computer
- Great value for the price
- Basically no cons
It seems that Vox really hit the right spot with the VT20X. The natural and balanced sound, multiple amp simulations, and easy to use presets make for an amazing amp.
- Bugera V5 Infinium
And finally, at number 5, we have a tube amp. The V5 Infinium by Bugera is probably your best bet if you’re looking for an affordable, good sounding tube amp that’s suitable for home use.
The fact that you can cut the 5W down to 1W or even 0.1W is what makes the V5 so convenient for playing at home. This way, you can easily achieve that sweet tube overdrive without having to crank up the gain and volume that much.
As far as the controls go, Bugera kept things simple. Gain, tone, volume, and reverb knobs are pretty much everything you’re going to need. However, a 3-band EQ would have been nice as well.
So, what kind of sound can you expect from a tube amp this small? Well, the clean tone sounds kind of like you’re playing a Fender amp, and the distortion is similar to a Vox amp. Take all that but slightly darker, and you’re talking about the V5.
If you’re looking for a lot of gain, perhaps for rock, metal, or similar, heavier genres, the V5 shouldn’t be your choice. It’ sounds great for soft rock, jazz, and blues.
- Attenuation from 5W to 1W or 0.1W for practicing at lower volume levels
- Creamy tone, great clean and saturated overdrive
- Good sounding reverb
- Great bang for the buck
- The attenuated settings limit the tonal range a bit
- Some users may not like the lack of gain
As far as affordable home use tube amps go, the V5 Infinium by Bugera is a great model you should definitely consider getting.
Conclusion Time - Let's Pick a Winner!
You’ve had the chance to take a closer look at some of the best home use guitar amps on the market.
Although each and every model has different features it’s special for and approaches the task from a different angle, if I had to suggest getting one of the mentioned models, it would have to be the Valvetronix VT20X by Vox.
This amp manages to combine pretty much everything a beginner, as well as a more advanced guitarist, might need and presents a great environment for practicing at home.
For the price, the VT20X is without a doubt, a great investment.
I hope that this article helped you in finding just the right amp for home use.
As always, thank you very much for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one!