Top Guitar Amps Under $500 Reviewed
No guitar is complete without an amp, of course. Whilst high-quality guitar amps demanding high levels of investment in the past, those days are thankfully coming to a close. As such, there are a range of decent guitar amps under $500.
What makes a good guitar amp
When you dip into the lower price range, it’s all too easy to end up with cheaply made horror stories. Here, we’re going to look at the best guitar amp under $500 and, just as importantly, what you should be looking for in a low-cost amp in the first place.
Power rating: This is, effectively, how loud your amp is going to be. How loud you want your amp depends on where you plan on using it. For the stage, you want to go with a higher rating, but if it’s primarily for playing in the garage or learning as a beginner, you don’t need to go so high.
Speaker size: Speaker size also affects loudness, but the bigger the speaker, the more the sound changes. If you want a clearer mid guitar sound, you might opt for a smaller speaker, while metal lovers will likely also love the bass boost of the bigger type.
Additional effects: There are arguments to and for the inclusion of effects like reverbs. While some do like the added versatility, others will argue that additional effects on amps tend to lack in quality compared to pedals.
Now that you know what you want to look for, it’s time to answer the question: what is the best guitar amp under $500?
Best Guitar Amps Under $500
Ever a trusted brand amongst guitar players, the Champion 100 comes with the classic silver grille façade, but make no mistake, this is a powerful amp with several versatile features for the price point, driven by a 100-Watt amplifier and 12” speakers. Plenty of power for those who want to play to packed out venues, despite its relatively small size. As a solid state amp, it’s much lighter than other tube amps, too, which are more frequently encountered at this price range.
While added effects on lower budget amps can be a cause for some skepticism, the 16 amp effects (part of the complimentary footswitch) are surprisingly impressive in quality, particularly the reverb and chorus, with plenty of ways to expand the voice and tone of your guitar. It might not switch as cleanly as other foot switches, but the versatility can add a lot for those who want to experiment with different kinds of sounds without bloating their budget too much.
The added headphone jack makes it even better for those who prefer to play in more domestic environments where using the full power of the amp might not be the wisest decision. Combining the solid build and versatility with those classic Fender stylings and you got a serious contender for the best amp in the price range. The only issues some might have with it are a rather loud pop sound when the amp is turned off and the lack of a dedicated reverb knob.
- When 'burying' your drummer in volume is important, the 100 watts thrown out of 2 - 12" Fender special designed speakers will get your point across.
- Jam along with your favorite tracks by simply plugging your MP3 player into the Auxiliary input and you instantly become part of the band and /or practice privately with the 1/8th headphone output jack that also mutes the speaker output.
- Toggle between 100 Watts of clean or mean from the 2 channels with the kick of a footswitch during a stage or studio performance.
- Explore many very usable musical tones from the many amp classic to modern amp voicing's and the various spacial effects such as digital reverb, chorus, delay and vibratone.
- Limited Warranty Included.1/8 inch aux input
Another classic brand bringing another classic aesthetic, but with a new digital appeal. Marshall’s Code series has its share of fans. Compared to other digital modelling amps, there’s no sacrifice of sound quality with the added versatility, and you will get the classic Marshall sound out of the Code100C just as easily as you would a more expensive Marshall amp.
A 100-Watt amp with 12” inch speaker, it’s just as able to deliver serious venue-filling power as the Fender Champion, while remaining small enough to pull out the richness of mid tones with ease. Similarly, it has the same headphone function, muting the speaker so you can experience the same tones in a more intimate settings, while the power of the amp ensures you’re not hearing it inconsistently no matter what setting you play it in.
It might be the best of Marshall’s Code series, completing the full bottom end sounds with a much cleaner sound with the volume turned all the way up. As a digital modelling amp, the series of options it brings is more extensive than you could ever hope for, with 100 different settings, 100 presets, and a wide range of effects, of which you can keep 5 active at any one time.
The quality in these presents and effects does vary a touch, but the most commonly used ones, like reverb, have no problems at all. An incredibly versatile and powerful amp for the price point.
- 100-watt Modeling Guitar Amplifier with 2x12" Speakers
- 4 Digital Power Amp Models
- 14 Digital Preamp Models
Slightly smaller, and slightly less powerful than the others reviewed so far, the Fishman Loudbox Mini acoustic amp is designed for portability, thanks to its incredibly lightweight design. Designed for acoustic use, the sound quality is impeccable, producing exactly the same sound you would expect from your guitar naturally, and with a crispness in amplification that’s hard to deny.
That clarity of sound is helped by the different settings, such as the ability to tweak the bass, mid, and treble as you desire, getting it even closer to the natural sound, or boosting it for more crowded, smaller venues as you wish. There aren’t as many effects as you might find on, say, the Marshall Code100C, but it does have some, such as reverb and chorus, that can add a twist to your sound. The no-frills design and application are likely to appeal more to acoustic players who want an amp that can preserve that sound.
As a smaller amp, it is better suited to home practice and smaller, more intimate venues than a louder gig. But as it is an acoustic amp, that’s only to be expected. Still, as loud as it can go, it ensures an impressive clarity of sound. Furthermore, it have a direct XLR output on the back to be hooked to the mixer for further amplification if you really need it.
If there was any complaint, it would be the finish and covering, which can be a little fragile, but the optional cover you can buy with it protects it well enough.
- Fishman's lightest and most portable amp yet
- The Loudbox Mini packs 60 watts of clean acoustic power
- Two channels featuring Fishman's legendary preamp and tone control designs
- Digital reverb and chorus for the instrument channel & reverb for the microphone channel
- The Loudbox Mini sports an AUX input and balanced XLR D.I. output
4. Yamaha THR10
This tiny, 10lb, 10-watt, 2×3” battery powered amp is designed with a different kind of use in mind than the others mentioned so far, here. This low-volume amp will not be filling out most venues but is rather here for those who like to get playful with their sounds. It’s a practice amp and a recording amp, primarily, coming with a metric ton of effects and settings that can help you achieve all kinds of sounds at a relatively low price.
While a solid state amp, it also brings the ability to produce authentic tube tones, without the weight and the regular need for repairs that those amps often bring with them. Furthermore, it offers clean, crunch, bass, acoustic, modern amp selections, EQ, volume, and gain control, and further options besides. If you’re looking for versatility, you’ll find it in this desktop amp in spades. There are five presets so you can save your favorite sounds and access them with ease at any time. Connect it to a computer with the USB 2.0 connections and the Cubase AI allows you to customize the sound even further.
Furthermore, the fact that it can run on both eight AA batteries or AC makes it brilliant for the recording lounge, the bedroom, or the campfire. If there are any complaints, it’s that the black plastic parts of the casings are relatively cheap feeling, so you may want to handle it with some care.
- Includes five classic amp models, plus bass, acoustic, and instrument modes. THR10 includes a range of effects processing, driven by Yamaha"s signature VCM technology
- Lightweight, portable amp that can run on AC power or batteries.
- Developed with Yamaha"s award-winning AV division to offer true hi-fi stereo sound and a new experience in guitar amplifiers.
Lastly, the have the accessible, highly versatile, and featured packed Line 6 AMPLIFi. At this price range, you’re looking at the 75 watt version at 12 inches, so enough power to fill smaller venues, but perhaps not enough for the bigger gigs.
Versatility is the main drawing factor of this amp, however. The smartphone editing capacity thanks to Bluetooth connectivity means that you can access a huge variety of tones, add backing tracks, play to match mp3 tracks, and do much more besides. For those who want an amp that can reach the far corners of all venues, however, it doesn’t pack quite enough power.
As such, the AMPLIFi is best used for those want to practice or record different sounds. The lack of a pedal means that you’re not adjusting your sound on the fly so much as you’re stopping to pick up your phone now and then, but the sound quality remains consistent throughout.
- Simple and Clean guitar amp build for the living room
- Wireless audio streaming and tone editing over Bluetooth , 2 mid-frequency drivers,2 high-frequency drivers, 1/4 Inches Guitar input and 1/8 Inches Stereo,1/4 Inches Headphone output Aux input
- AMPLIFi delivers recommended tones to match your music. 4 onboard presets (access unlimited presets via app)
How To Choose A Guitar Amplifier
Here is a great YouTube video explaining what you need to know about guitar amps before you buy one:
Which of the options above is the best guitar amp under $500 depends on what, precisely, you’re looking for. For acoustics, the Fishman Loudbox Mini is undoubtedly one of the best on the market. For those who want to get truly experimental or to find their signature sound in smaller venues or their own bedroom, the Yamaha is your best bet. For powerful, venue-ready amp that still brings plenty of versatility, however, we recommend the Fender above all else.
Whether you play acoustic or electric guitar, you will need some strings to ensure the best sound. Check out our review of the best guitar strings for beginners to find the perfect set.