Unless you led a very privileged life, then we have all been there. Scrimping and saving our cash to go and get that first serious amp. In the 60s, there wasn’t such a choice as there is now. You were really down to about ten options or so. And a couple of those were out of reach financially.
We didn’t have to tread carefully to find the Best Guitar Amplifiers Under $500.
Today there is a seemingly endless choice. We are not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. These days you have to look a bit closer. There are good and some not so good and some downright awful.
When you are on a budget, it is sometimes easier to get caught out and buy the wrong one. But focus on what you need rather than what you want, and you should be fine.
So, let’s take a look at the best currently available and find the perfect one for you…
Top 8 Best Guitar Amplifiers Under $500 On The Market In 2021 Reviews
1 Boss Katana-100/212 MkII 2×12″ 100-watt Combo Amp – Most Versatile Guitar Amplifier Under $500
Boss, of course, doesn’t need much of an introduction to musicians. Their effect pedals adorn just about every pedalboard everywhere. They are maybe not so known for their amps.
Founded in 1973, they are part of the Roland Corporation. Another giant in the music world. This is a model from their popular Katana range of amps. The 100-watt combo. How does it stand up to its competition? You are about to find out.
Rugged and versatile…
This is an amp that is full of variety and has plenty of options. Its main feature is its versatility as it will sit comfortably in most genres of music.
You don’t need to ask about the quality of the build. It is Boss, so it is going to be tough and road-ready. That is how they make their musical equipment. It is quite compact, though, measuring 18 by 14.5 by 9 inches.
The controls are all located on the top next to a strong handle for carrying around. They are nicely appointed and well-labeled. This makes the tone modeling easy and quick. Inside the cabinet, one twelve inch speaker.
Great for acoustic or electric guitars…
But it is what is going on inside where the real points are made. Boss knows how to do special effects for guitars. To start with, the amp has five very different voices. Lead, Crunch, and Clean are all quite obvious in their description.
Boss has included two extra options, though. Firstly, a channel dedicated to getting the best out of an acoustic-electric guitar. Secondly, they have included the ‘Brown’ sound from their Waza amp.
All interesting sound options but of course, we can imagine what else is inside. Boss isn’t going to make an amp without including some of their world-class effects as part of the deal.
Plenty of options…
You get access to the Boss Tone Studio. From there, sixty sounds, including all the famous Boss effects. All of them have edit facilities. So you can customize them to suit yourself. Add these to the control for EQ and effects already built-in to the amp.
You will have a wealth of sounds available. And if you need more, you can also add more effects and pedals behind the preamp. There is an option to allow you to play with your tones at a lower volume level without losing the full sound. It will just be quieter.
This is certainly a decent option and is packed with sound options. It is set at a very attractive price point. It might be worth considering for those that want a modeling amp.
- Typical rigged Boss build on a compact size.
- Packed with Boss effects and amp voices and at an attractive price point.
- It doesn’t exactly have a lot of punch.
2 Yamaha THR10II WL Wireless Desktop Amp – Best Portable Guitar Amplifier Under $500
This is an interesting little amp from Yamaha that is a little bit out of the ordinary. Made for more than just being an amplifier for a guitar, it has a variety of connections, which we will come back to later.
This is a twenty-watt amp with just one channel. It has two three-inch speakers. Built-in are some very nice effects to allow a lot of options for sound modeling.
To begin with, there are emulations for fifteen different tube amps and also three bass amps. There are also three mic settings. Tones may be individually adjusted using a three-band EQ.
Added to the sound creation options are reverb and echo and a chorus, flanger, and phaser. This gives you a wide variety of sound creation for just about every style of music. Yamaha’s own circuitry designs, VCM, ensure that sounds will be authentic.
Recording software included…
There are five settings to store your favorite sounds that you can engage immediately with a push of a button. The amp includes Cubase A1 software for recording.
The build is different, as well. You don’t often find an amp and speaker with a metal casing. But that makes it tough and able to travel anywhere safely and without fear of damage.
It operates either by mains supply or batteries. You will get about six hours of playing time from one charge on the rechargeable battery.
Let’s go back to the connections options. It has Bluetooth to allow you to stream audio, and you can use the Yamaha app for editing. Useful for streaming backing tracks and also bringing in playlists from your devices.
The USB connection offers two channels to record and playback from a computer. There is also a built-in wireless receiver and headphone output. Plenty of options to use.
Take it to the streets…
This may have been designed with the street performer in mind. The connections certainly offer a wide variety of options. And being so portable, running off batteries, and well-made, it is ideal.
It measures 14.49 by 5.5 by 7.2 inches and weighs eight pounds, so it is easy and compact enough to carry with you. A good option but quite an expensive one.
- Tough build but compact and easy to carry with you.
- Lots of sound possibilities and features and good connectivity options.
- Quite expensive.
3 Orange Power Amplifier, Black (Micro Dark) – Best Value for Your Money Guitar Amplifier Under $500
Always good to see something from Orange, with their distinctive designs. And, of course, the shattering volume there amps and cabinets produce. Orange was the only amp company that made Jim Marshall turn round and shout, “What was that?”
‘That’ was an Orange 100 watt and a single four by twelve. This is rather more modest at 20 watts. But it will still make you repeat Jim’s comment. Do they still produce the goods in today’s world? You are about to find out.
Only and amp head…
This is, of course, an amp head only, no speakers. The concept is simple. Give them a loud, punchy sound with no frills. Just some hard-hitting rock. And then make it easy to carry around.
The Orange ‘Dark’ series is well-known. This is their younger cousin if you like. It behaves similarly with plenty of gain and some good tones. But it is just a little smaller. It measures only 3.94 by 5.91 by 7.09 inches and weighs just two pounds.
Internally it is a bit of a hybrid. Solid-state build, yes, but with tube preamps. That gives you a range of options. Not exactly vintage Orange sound from the late 60s, of course. For that, you need to buy something from that period.
But it is powerful and quite dynamic. And if you don’t control it, it is going to bite you. Being just an amp head, as we have already said, you will need speakers. Be careful what you connect up.
Rough and tough…
The controls are placed on the front of the all-metal chassis. There aren’t that many of them, so it is not hard to get a great sound. Volume, Shape, and Gain are all you get, plus the jack socket, and also a socket for headphones.
Easy to carry around, plenty of tonal range, and twenty watts of Orange power. Do you need anything else?
Delivering high-quality performance…
We asked if they still produce the goods. Oh yes. Still the same. Fleetwood Mac took them to the US on tour in ‘68. Jimmy Page blew the roof off the Station Hotel in Richmond in the same year.
The legacy still lives, even in such a small box. And if you listen closely, you can still hear it.
Great little amp with a big history behind it at a very attractive price. Cliff and the boys knew how to make them and still do.
- Powerful little portable amp.
- Plenty of gain and some great tube sounds.
- Nothing at all.
4 Fender Mustang LT-25 – Digital Guitar Amplifier – Best Budget Guitar Amplifier Under $500
We will come out right up front with this amp. We have looked at the Fender Mustang range before, and we are not impressed. That is going to ruffle a few feathers, we know. But it is our opinion. Why do we say that? We’ll look at that in a minute.
Decent construction and materials…
The build quality is okay; no problems there. It is made of wood. We are not certain where it is made. That seems to be hidden in the vaults of Area 51. It isn’t that important anyway.
This is a 25-watt combo with an eight-inch speaker. It has a color display on the control panel. The panel also features the controls for gain and volume, treble, and bass. And there is also a master volume. Furthermore, there is a USB port, a jack input, a headphone output, and a socket for a footswitch.
Great for beginners…
There are 30 presets covering a wide range of tones and sound options. Those are the good things. Some nice features. So why do we say we are not impressed?
Let us be clear. If this is a first amp for a starter to play around with in the bedroom, then it is fine. But we don’t go along with this Fender idea of cheap amps, and we might also say, guitars, just to let people have them.
A Fender but mostly in name only…
This is the company that brought us the ‘Twin,’ the ‘Princeton,’ and the ‘Bassman.’ The Mustang looks cheap, and it is. Control knobs that look like someone found them, and the whole package doesn’t seem serious at all. If you compare this with the Fender Champion, 20 watts, and at a similar price, but with ‘the look,’ there is no comparison.
Fender amps were either ‘Tweed,’ ‘Silverface,’ or ‘Blackface.’ That is what we, at least, want to see. This, we are afraid, doesn’t do it at all. As we said, it is fine for a starter in a bedroom somewhere. But that is all.
- Has some nice presets effects available.
- Cheap price for something with Fender on its label.
- Quite a few for us.
5 Marshall Code 50-50-watt 1×12″ Digital Combo Amp – Best Premium Guitar Amplifier Under $500
Are you looking for an amp that will allow you to do some sound experimentation? But is ready for the live gig as well? Then this could be it. Why do we say it can do both? Read on.
Built by one of the best…
Marshall is one of those companies that, when you mention the name, there are knowing looks exchanged. You know exactly what you are going to get. Since the 60s, they have continued to produce great amps.
This is an amp that takes the Marshall name into new areas. Most manufacturers offer sound modeling amps these days. Not many of them offer the sound and tonal options with the power to go with it. The Marshall Code range gives you that.
Powerful and loaded…
This is the 50-watt version. Four amp emulations, fourteen preamps, and eight Marshall cabinets. And twenty-four different effects are all packaged inside. The amp options include some of the most beloved of Marshall sounds. The JTM45, the Bluesbreaker, JCM800, the Plexi, and others. All waiting to be unlocked – digitally, of course.
The range of effects they have included will make half of your pedalboard redundant. There are over 100 presets. You can employ up to five separate effects at the same time.
There are, of course, the distortion and the overdrive options. But there is also a pitch shifter, phaser, and a compressor. There is even a wah effect. All packaged inside a fifty-watt amp. And we might add a powerful 50 watt.
It is a reasonable size measuring 17.91 x 10.71 x 17.01 inches and weighing under 30 pounds. So not that hard to carry around with you. The 50 watts is pushed out by a 12-inch speaker. Bluetooth is included should you need to stream some audio plus a few other aux options.
The controls, along with an LED screen and a USB port, are all located conveniently on the top. All good stuff for those who like to create their own sound.
The King of Loud…
This beast is quite capable of going onstage with you and letting rip. It is loud. It’s Marshall, what do you expect. Powerful tones, and you can use the sounds built-in. You could almost be back at the Ealing Jazz Club in London in 1963, where they first appeared.
Great amp, plenty of tonal options, plenty of power, and at a great price. One of the Best Guitar Amplifiers Under $500? You will have a hard time finding something better.
- Typical Marshall power with some great effects built-in.
- Full sound modeling features, including amp choices at a great price point.
6 Line 6 75watt Modeling Guitar Amplifier – Best Practice Guitar Amplifier Under $500
This is a different kind of design for most amps. In fact, it looks more like a radiator than an amp. Nothing wrong with that, of course, if you like it. But if you are planning live gigs with it, then it might not be the best choice.
Plenty of volume…
This is a one-channel 75-watt amp with an interesting speaker design. There is a 12-inch main speaker plus two drivers for the high-frequencies and two more for the mid frequencies.
That seems to lend itself more to a speaker to be used at parties or other gatherings rather than a guitar amp. To add to that idea is the Bluetooth facility, which will allow you to stream in music and playlists.
The amp can be controlled at a very basic level from the amp itself. There are drive, bass, mid and treble controls, and also a control for effects. There are four built-in presets.
Relies on an app…
However, to get the best from this amp, you will need to use the app. It is there that the majority of the tone and sound-shaping options are available. It is quite compact, measuring 12.7 by 17.5 by 8 inches and weighing twenty pounds.
We mentioned earlier about live gigs. We would think it is not the most suitable for that environment. The speaker configuration is unlikely to support higher volumes for one thing.
Secondly, the 75-watt rating is very optimistic, to say the least, in our view.
Not very versatile…
Using it for street entertainment will also not be an option as it only has one channel. You, therefore, couldn’t plug in both a guitar and a mic at the same time.
It seems to be quite an expensive option and has certain limitations. Used as a party speaker, it might be fine, and it will also serve as a practice at home amp. That might be the extent of its uses, though.
- Some basic tonal and equipment options.
- Too reliant on the app for operation.
- Quite expensive.
7 Roland BC-HOT-VB Blues Cube – Best Solid State Guitar Amplifier Under $500
This is a combo amp from Roland that appears to have been given the ‘Fender Tweed’ look. It may have the look but has it got the sound? We shall see soon.
Well-built and portable…
It is designed so that it will be able to be used at home or in a live environment. It measures 20.47 by 13.39 by 20.08 inches and weighs 32 pounds. Not really what you would call a heavyweight, and it is convenient for carrying around.
This is a member of the Cube family of amps. It has a twelve-inch speaker in an ‘open-back’ design. The cabinet itself has a good build quality and is quite sturdy.
There are some interesting sound features provided by Roland that have been given the dreaded ‘vintage’ label. A digital solid-state amp can never sound like a vintage amp. I don’t know why manufacturers insist on telling us they can.
Good sound-shaping functions…
There are some selections of ‘famous amps’ which may go reasonably close to sounding like them. There are also plenty of sound options with the controls. The USB will let you record straight to your computer.
There is a three-band EQ and a Master volume, as well as a built-in reverb. The footswitch will give you an extra bite if needed. There is a power selection option of between half a watt to 30 watts. This will ensure you don’t lose the sound at quieter volumes.
So, back to our initial question.
Does it have the sound?
It is a decent amp with some nice sounds. The problem always occurs when people expect the ‘vintage’ tag. Some will convince themselves that it has the sound, but it hasn’t. Digital just isn’t capable of reproducing it.
As a solid-state amp, it is fine. Plenty of tonal options and some good effects. But it is a solid-state amp that is very expensive for what it does.
- Has some nice tone features.
- A compact build that allows it to be carried around.
8 Vox Electric Guitar Mini Amplifier (VXMSB2)
When it all started to get a bit more serious than playing at the local youth club, this look was our first bass amp. Only it was the full-size T-60 version that stood as tall as me. Well almost. This one is a modest 24 by 11 by 21 inches and weighs eighteen pounds.
So this amp really is the past deciding to reappear here in the future. The design is great. Vox always manages to exude that ‘look,’ and it has hardly changed over the years. There is something reassuring about that.
But do they still perform as their predecessors did? Let’s see.
It is a 25 watt ‘piggyback’ amp rather than a stack as some describe it. The amp sits on the aluminum tubing, which surrounds the speaker cabinet.
This design was always an absolute nightmare before. Whereas it would swing about on its axis, now it is clearly fixed securely.
It does only have one channel, though, so that does limit some occupations. But then this isn’t really an amp to be taking out for some street performances. Driving out what is an adequate sound is the ten-inch speaker.
Good-looking and easy-to-use…
It has built-in reverb, and of course, it has a tremolo. A Vox amp would not be Vox without its famous tremolo sound. There is a headphone or line output.
It might have a great old-style look, but it has new insides. All digital, of course, it does its best to recreate a famous sound. It doesn’t do a bad job considering. You can definitely hear a bit of ‘chime’ going on.
Iconic looks and a good sound…
A great little practice amp to keep at home and just look at. It’s not really built to go on the road. It performs well, which is what we really wanted to know. A reasonable price for an iconic look and a decent sound. Certainly, one of the Best Guitar Amplifiers Under $500 you can buy.
- Nice sounds with a hint of the Vox ‘chime’.
- Great design with an iconic look.
- Only really suitable for use at home.
Best Guitar Amplifiers Under $500 Buying Guide
Can you get a great new amp on a budget? Well, it isn’t easy, but it really rather depends on what you want the amp for. There are a varied number of uses why you may need an amp like this.
What is it for?
Different people will use the amps for different reasons, and that will obviously impact on what you need.
All of the amps will be suitable for home use. How many features and sound options do you need? Is it for recording? If so, then you will need an amp that has a lot of tone shaping and sound modeling.
You may also need to consider the size of the amp and how much space you have. For home use, you will not need excessive volume.
These are sometimes the most difficult to decide on. You need a reasonable volume. Also, you may need some form of connection to allow access to a backing track or a playlist. Then you will be looking for a higher output plus Bluetooth or at least an aux to connect to a device.
You will also have to ensure that it is going to be tough enough to be moved around all the time. And to be able to take the inevitable few knocks it may get. Tough enough includes it being able to withstand a bit of rain.
Finally, it will need a decent battery life with rechargeable batteries. Mains only units will be no good.
Do you want it for gigs?
Then you are going to need both of the previous sets of requirements, plus extra volume. That will cut down on the available options.
There are some good options in each category. Once you have decided what you need it for, you can look closer.
Looking for Something Else?
We have reviewed a selection of the very best guitar and bass amplifiers on the market.
So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Battery Powered Guitar Amps, the Best Low Watt Tube Amps, the Best Modeling Amps, the Best Solid State Amps, the Best Portable Guitar Amplifiers currently available.
So, what are the Best Guitar Amplifiers Under $500?
If we had to choose, then we would need a bit of volume, but we also need it to have some decent sound effects built-in. For us, the best amp is also the amp that represents the best value for money.
Therefore, we would pick the…
A great amp at a good price with plenty on board for most guitarist’s needs, from practicing at home to playing concerts.
Until next time may your music always make you merry.