Sure, we would all love to have all the luxurious and high-end gear. However, it’s rarely ever that we can afford any of these expensive products these days. What’s more, having one expensive piece of gear, like a pedal or an amp, means nothing if the rest of your setup is not up to the standards. Therefore, you usually end up getting either cheap or mid-level stuff that brings mediocre results.
However, there’s actually some affordable stuff out there that can make your tone more than just decent. Knowing that they’re one of the most important factors in your tone-making process, you should always dedicate enough attention and when choosing your next amp. With this said, we figured we could find some cheaper examples and bring you a list of the best guitar amps under 500 dollars.
Top 7 Best Guitar Amps Under $500 Reviews
VOX VT40X – Best for Live Shows
To start things off, we’ll include one amp by Vox, the company that’s pretty well-known for their abundance of great products in all price ranges. A piece like VT40X is a great example of their affordable products that can give you some great tones. It features 40 watts of power, and it comes with two important features – 12AX7 tube in the preamp section and an integrated digital amp modeling processor. So we can say freely that this is more than just a regular hybrid as it combines tube, solid-state, and digital modeling technologies.
There are those standard basic controls for volume, 3-band EQ, and gain. Then we also have the power level, which works as a power attenuator and can reduce the overall power output of the amp and allow you to use the full potential of the tube at lower volumes. The amp’s one 10-inch speaker might not be much but it’s enough to get the tone going at any power level.
As for the modeling part, the amp comes with 11 different presets, including three user-adjustable programs. It also comes with a compressor, chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, delay, and reverb effects. Pretty versatile for such a cheap little amp.
- 11 different amp models
- Power attenuation
- 12AX7 preamp tube
- Amp modeling
- USB connectivity for making different presets
- Might be a little complicated for beginners
Peavey Vypyr VIP 3 – Best Overall
Another great amp with modeling capabilities, Peavey’s Vypyr VIP 2 is another great example of a cheap but good amp. The whole Vypyr series earned their reputation for great tones for the price. This particular amp is one of the newest in the series.
It’s the standard combo amp that bears one 12-inch speaker and has a total of 100 watts of output power. In fact, this is more than just a regular guitar amp as it can also handle basses and acoustic guitars with piezo pickups.
We have the standard controls that you can see on Vypyr amps, like pre and post-gain, as well as the 3-band EQ. What’s also really useful is that it features a so-called “Power Sponge” which is the classic power attenuator, bringing the output power anywhere between 1 and 100 watts.
But the strongest feature is the abundance of different guitar amp models. There are over 400 presets that can be made using 36 amp models, 25 different stompbox effect models, and even digital replicas of different instruments. You can get some 12-string or even sitar-like sounds.
What’s more, you get the USB connectivity and the amp’s integrated audio interface. This way, you can record multi-track projects in your DAW of choice.
- Very versatile and features a lot of amp and pedal models
- Power attenuation (1 to 100 watts)
- Integrated audio interface and USB connection
- Some amp models could be better
Orange Crush 35RT – Best for Distortion
Before we get into this one, it’s important to note that Orange amps might not be for everyone. They usually have a very specific tone with some sparkling and really fuzzy elements to it. It’s mostly intended for the lovers of old-school rock, stoner rock, and some psychedelic-oriented stuff. If you’re into these kinds of fuzzy overtones, then Orange Crush 35RT is the right choice for you.
This is a pretty straightforward amp with no additional fluff to it. Just a simple solid-state, intended for crushing fuzzy tones, as its name already suggests. 35RT features 35 watts of power, clean and dirty channels, and one 10-inch speaker. Controls are pretty basic, although we have separate volume controls for each of the channels. The only effect that we have on it is the reverb.
Overall, this amp gives some really saturated tones. In addition, the headphone output goes through a cabinet simulator that’s designed to replicate those classic 4×12-inch speaker cabs. In addition, we can also find an onboard tuner, which can come in handy.
- Very simple to use
- Great tone
- Some may not like the amp’s specific tones
- Not many features
Yamaha THR10II – Best Compact Amp
What would this list be without at least one of those small lunchbox-size amps? Although very compact and featuring only two 3-inch speakers, Yamaha’s THR10II is a very potent amplifier. In fact, it can also be used for both acoustic and bass guitars.
But the best thing about this little thing is that it’s surprisingly versatile. There’s a total of 15 electric guitar amp models, plus 3 models for basses, and 3 microphone models for acoustic guitars. It also comes with two effect groups – one for chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo, and the other one for delay and reverb. It also features two output controls, one for the guitar and the other one for any auxiliary audio you plugged into it.
Although pretty small in size, THR10II delivers a total power output of 20 watts. This can even be enough for a live gig. What’s more, being this compact, it’s really easy to carry around. But what surprised us the most is the overall tone quality. With this Yamaha’s amp, you’ll even be able to get some tones that closely resemble tube amplifiers and their impeccable dynamic response.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the amp comes with USB connectivity and its own audio interface, and there’s also an app for making presets.
- Fairly compact
- Great tone
- A lot of versatility
- Relatively expensive for a 20-watt amp
Ibanez TSA15 – Best for Overdrive Tone
One of the most important products that came out under the Ibanez brand was the legendary Tube Screamer pedal. With its many versions over the years, it pretty much changed the game for all the guitar players out there. The unique soft clipping tone coloration was enough to push tube amps over the limit and bring that natural distortion. But what if you had all that in one amp? Well, there’s Ibanez’s TSA15 amp.
It features an integrated TS circuit that lets you push your amp into some very saturated territories. But the best thing about it – it’s a tube amplifier with two 12AX7 tubes in the preamp and two 6V6 tubes in the power amp section. On top of this, there’s also a clean boost switch that adds 6 decibels to the signal.
This is a vintage-style amplifier, but it still can deliver various different tones. The classic TSA15 is a combo amp, although there’s an amp head version as well. Technically, this is a one-channel tube amplifier, as the Tube Screamer Circuit is pretty much an integrated pedal and not a tube-driven distortion.
Either way, having a tube amp and a Tube Screamer pedal for a price below $500 feels like you’re cheating the system. But it’s possible.
- Great tone, fully tube-driven amp
- Integrated Tube Screamer circuit
- Mostly vintage-oriented, could be a little more versatile
Bugera V22 Infinium – Best for Vintage Tones
Speaking of cheap but great tube amps, there’s no way not to mention Bugera and their great line of products. After all, they have some of the best tube-based stuff that’s surprisingly great for the price range. Out of all their stuff, we’re going with V22 from their Infinium series.
Here we have a classic two-channel amp, as well as bright and normal inputs. Then we also have the boost switch and presence control in addition to the standard knobs. It comes with a total of 22 watts of power, while the company’s so-called “Tube Life Multiplier” technology offers stable operation even after extensive use without tube replacement.
- Great tone on both channels
- Inclusion of two different inputs, normal and bright
- Clean boost
- It’s mostly good for just vintage blues-rock stuff
Boss Katana 50 MkII – Best Solid-State Under $500
Last, but not least, we have Boss Katana 50 and the MkII model on our hands. This is a pretty straightforward solid-state amp, although it provides some surprisingly great tone qualities you’d probably never expect to hear with such a cheap amp. It comes with 5 different voicings, or models, as well as 60 different onboard effects. We also have a headphone or line output with its own cabinet simulation. This means that it can go directly into a mixer or an audio interface.
With all this, you also get the power soak control that lets you choose between 50, 25, and even 0.5 watts.
- Very simple to use
- Good tone
- Great build quality
- Nothing for this price range
How to choose a guitar amp
But before getting into the world of electric guitar, it’s really important to know how to choose the right amp. The task is not as simple as it may seem at first.
One of the main things you need to think about is the set budget. This is the main thing that narrows down your choice. For instance, in this article, we shared some of the best amplifiers below the $500 mark. If your budget is bigger, then set a certain price range and try to find the best solutions within it.
Style of music
The next filter comes with the desired genre, or scope of genres, that you want to play. This is where you’ll further narrow down the choice, as most of the guitar amps are designed and made with a certain musical style in mind. If a tube amp has softer distortion or overdrive, it’s usually intended for blues music, like the aforementioned Bugera V22 Infinium. If you’re planning to have something that’s capable of delivering various different tones, you can go with some of these amps that have onboard digital amp modeling, like VOX VT40X or Peavey Vypyr.
Different types of amps
Another thing to think about is what technology is right for you. We have tube amps, solid-states, hybrids (which combine these two worlds), and digital modeling amps. A lot of the amps in the lower price range these days come with integrated digital processing and amp models. Some of them are even capable of replicating those expensive tube amps to some extent.
However, it’s still far from the real thing, and if you enjoy those saturated and organic tube amp tones, you should probably be more patient, save up a little, and then get a tube amp.
Output power (wattage)
The overall power output is also really important here. If you’re looking for an amp for home use, there’s no need for more than 20 watts for solid-states or more than 5 watts for tube amplifiers. If you need something for live gigs, then at least 30 watts for a solid-state amp and 10 watts for a tube amp.
Your personal preferences
In the end, it also comes down to your own personal preferences. For instance, it’s not that rare to find a pop, funk, or rock guitarist playing through an amp designed for some crushing and chugging metal tones. At the same time, we also have some very specific amplifiers, as is the case with most of the Orange products.
As we explained, these amps usually have that fuzzy and sparkling tone. It’s not bad by any means, it’s just that this is not what a huge portion of guitar players are expecting from an amplifier. This is not something we could discuss so easily, and it’s best that you try as many amps as you can and find what suits your style.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to connect guitar amp to a computer?
There are two main ways how you can connect your guitar to a computer. The first one is through a USB connection, as many newer guitar amps, especially those cheaper ones, come with an integrated audio interface. This way, you’re able to create multi-track projects and record using any of the standard DAWs.
The other way of connecting your amp to a computer is by using the headphone output. However, you should use one of those 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch adapters if your amp has the standard instrument cable output. In some cases, we have the 1/8-inch output that you can use with the standard aux cable.
When connected to your computer, you should find a way to activate direct monitoring on your soundcard. Or, you can use an additional audio interface and record and play in real-time while also using a DAW and effects plugins.
How to connect guitar amp to an audio interface?
Having an audio interface definitely helps a lot. The easiest way to connect your amp is if it has a headphone or line output with cabinet simulation. If not, then the only way is to use one or more microphones and record it this way. However, this is a little trickier as your tone will be largely influenced by your room’s acoustics. Most of the amps we mentioned on the list have a line or headphone output.
How to play electric guitar without an amp?
While the electric guitar is intended to be plugged into an amplifier, there are actually a few ways on how you can play without one. We discussed this issue in one of our other articles and the methods include playing through an audio interface, going straight into your home stereo system, and playing through a mixer and a PA system.
Read more: Ways To Play an Electric Guitar Without an Amp
Looking at modern trends, it seems that conventional guitar amplifiers as we’ve known them for so long are kind of going out of fashion. We’re seeing the significant rise of digital modeling amps as floor units, rack-mounted units, or even bearing the standard amp head format.
How to get rid of guitar amp hum?
It’s not that unusual to experience that annoying guitar amp hum. In a lot of cases, this can be due to the type of your guitar’s pickups. For instance, single-coils always have slight buzzing to them, and you can never fully get rid of it. Just try and control the high-end spectrum of your tone.
It can also happen that electrical installations impact your guitar tone and add some unwanted hum to it. The solution might seem weird, but in some cases, just moving your guitar away from electromagnetic interference can help.
Amps these days often have the ground lift switch that helps get rid of any hums that might occur due to ground loops. You can also try and use any of the balanced power supplies. They can easily handle any type of guitar amps.
To be fully honest, you can’t expect to have a fully professional amplifier below the $500 price mark. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a good tone and reliable operation. The amps that we listed above can come in handy for beginners, intermediates, practice sessions, and even some semi-professional gigs. It’s up to you to use them to their full potential.
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