In an ideal world, we’d all have a wall of amps for every different occasion, and a huge studio to keep them in. Oh, if only. Unfortunately, in the real world, we’re lucky if we can afford more than a couple of amps to fulfill all of our needs.
Given that most of us have limited resources, and indeed space, modeling amps are a great and inexpensive way to gain access to multiple amp voicings. Though they may not be exactly like the amp they’re mimicking, technology has come a long way over the last few years, and the sounds modern modeling amps are able to produce are increasingly authentic.
If you’re currently looking for an affordable modeling amp, here are ten of the best modeling amps currently available, So, let’s go through them and find the perfect one for you…
Top 10 Best Modeling Amps To Buy 2021 Reviews
1 Fender Mustang GT 40 Bluetooth Enabled Solid State Modeling Guitar Amplifier
The Fender Mustang GT 40 measures 18 x 12.2 x 11.1 inches and weighs 17.3 lbs. As the name suggests, it has a maximum output of 40 watts. It comes equipped with plenty of modern connectivity, which includes Bluetooth and WIFI.
The control panel has inputs for USB, headphones, auxiliary, and guitar. Other controls include; volume, bass, middle treble, and reverb. There’s also the main control display, to the right, that takes care of all the modeling options.
So, let’s take a look at that…
There is a total of 21 classic amp sounds stored onboard the Fender. What’s more, there are 45 different effects that can be added and combined with these modeled sounds. That’s a huge amount of versatility.
Additionally, the amp can be connected to Fender’s own modeling software via their Tone App. This enables the user to directly access further downloaded amps. It also allows you to use the presets of your favorite artists already stored on the database. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to emulate the great tones from artists such as Gark Clark Jr or Joe Bonamassa?
There are endless possibilities with the software provided by Fender. So, as long as you have a reliable internet connection, you’re good to go.
Fender has a solid reputation for the build quality of all of their equipment and amplifiers. Taking a closer look at the Fender Mustang GT 40, it’s clear to see that there’s nothing to suggest otherwise. Although, like a lot of audio equipment today, it’s made outside of the US, this is still a well put together piece of kit.
Fender also has a solid reputation for the sound of its kit, and again, Fender doesn’t disappoint.
This 40 watts amplifier sounds great. Cranked up high, there’s plenty of clarity, some nice punchy bass, and also plenty of volume. This little amplifier is undoubtedly suitable for use in a small studio or room or possibly even a smaller sized venue.
- 21 onboard amp sounds.
- Excellent Fender Tone App software.
- Plenty of connectivity options.
- Enough volume for small gigs.
- It does not include recording software.
- No increments on the volume or other control knobs.
2 VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier
The VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier measures 19.7 x 9.8 x 16.9 inches and weighs in at 14lbs. This small amplifier is able to deliver a total of 20 watts of peak power.
Although there is no Bluetooth or WIFI connectivity, it does have both a USB and an auxiliary connection. It also has a headphone input and a connection for an optional footswitch.
The top panel contains all the usual controls for things such as; master volume, volume, gain, bass, middle, treble, and reverb. Further to this, there are 11 realistic amp models, 33 preset programs, and 13 onboard effects.
As if that’s not enough, there’s also a built-in tuner.
The VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier uses new technology to improve on previous versions. Their latest proprietary VET (Virtual Element Technology) helps to create modeling based on the analysis of the actual amp and circuits fo the modeled amps. All this technology helps to produce even more precise and realistic amplifier sounds.
Vox also have their own editing software, VOX Tone Room. This can be used via the USB connection and enables you to customize the settings of any existing amp. Also, you are able to change the effects or even produce your own!
Made in the far east, the Chinese have done an excellent job with the Vox VT2X. It’s a well-made amplifier with all the typical hallmarks and design cues you expect from a Vox. It even has the traditional vintage style off-white pointy control knobs. We like that.
The tightly sealed cabinet is another part of the Vox build quality story. The good news is that when coupled with their own proprietary bass port, the amp is able to deliver some superb resonance. Along with some accurate trebles and mids, this is a great sounding small amplifier.
Even better, the Valvetronix features the new addition of a tube preamp, which has been designed with analog components. The incorporation of analog circuitry has undoubtedly helped to create a sound more closely associated with vacuum tube amps.
- 11 amp models.
- Vox Tone Room software.
- Great analog-style sound.
- Excellent value for money.
- Built-in tuner.
- No Bluetooth of WIFI.
- Too small for gigging.
3 VOX MINI3 G2 Battery Powered Modeling Amp
Here’s the second Vox on our best modeling amp list. It’s the tiny 3 watts mini amp.
This little amp, most likely to be used as a practice amp, measures a mere 10.6” x 7.5” x 11.8” and weighs 3kgs. The good thing with this amp is that it runs on batteries as well as by mains AC power. Just pop in six AA batteries in the back, and you should be good to go for 10 hours.
The top of the amp has inputs for; guitar, headphones, and auxiliary in. Also, surprisingly, there’s a standard 6.4mm microphone input. Even better, and even more surprisingly, it can be controlled for volume, delay, trim, and reverb.
The control panel is nicely laid out and features an 11-way modeling selector. Some of the 11 featured amp models include; AC 15, AC30TB, UK 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, Metal, and US High Gain. To compliment the amp modeling modes are a good selection of effects to include; four delays, compressor, chorus, reverb, flanger, and tremolo.
The VOX MINI3 G2 doesn’t have as many modeling options as most of the other amps we’ve reviewed. However, considering its price and size, it would be unfair to overly criticize it on this point.
The amp is reasonably well made, although the materials don’t feel up to the same standard as some of the larger Vox amps. Also, some of the control knobs look like they’ve come off another amp. Frankly, they look wrong.
But given its size, portability and affordability, we can forgive it a few cut corners here or there. The fact that this is only a 3 watts amp so we can also forgive for not producing much volume or being able to reach as low as we’d like.
With that being said, the cleaner tones do seem to project well and at a decent volume. Not enough to gig with, but enough to practice at home with, or enough to annoy a few passing shoppers whilst doing a bit of busking. Thankfully, the volume you do get produces some decent quality sound.
Frankly, for such a small package, this little amp sounds pretty big.
- 11-way amp modeling.
- Good selection of onboard effects.
- Microphone input.
- It can be battery operated.
- Low volume.
- Lower bass response is thin.
4 Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 Guitar Modeling Amp
There’s plenty going on with this Peavey.
It measures 9 x 17 x 15 inches and weighs 19.95lbs. It has a total output of 20 watts courtesy of its specially voiced 8” speaker. As for amp modeling, my oh my, for such a small and affordable amp, it’s got lots. But more of that later.
The Peavey has most of the inputs and controls you’d expect for an amplifier at this price. There are auxiliary, headphones, instrument, and USB inputs. Control knobs include; master volume, low, mid, high, post, and pre-gain.
There is also a tap tempo and a looper. The looper is a really nice addition. The one thing that would have been nice to see is a Bluetooth connection. In this day and age, we almost expect all of our electronic devices to have it. We would have preferred to see Bluetooth over a looper.
The controls and design of the main panel are very clear and easy to use.
Full marks Peavey.
The Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 Guitar Modeling Amp touts itself as being the first amplifier to offer Variable Instrument Performance (VIP). This is a cool idea that gives you electric, bass, and acoustic amp modeling. In total, there are 36 amp models, with 12 of them dedicated to bass and acoustic guitar. What’s more, there’s also an additional 25 easily accessible effects to use with the various modelings.
There are 16 onboard presets though by hooking to their own proprietary VYPYR software, the number of presets is pretty much limitless. Whilst hooked up to the software; you’re also able to record.
No problem here with the build quality. It might be an inexpensive amplifier, but there have been no obvious corners cut in its construction. It looks more than capable of being carried around and given some rough treatment.
Peavey uses some clever electronics and their own patented Transtube analog circuitry to produce some highly convincing amp modeled options. The sound quality of these options is more than good enough to use for gigging, and the volume is more than sufficient for smaller style venues.
- Specific modeling options for bass and acoustic guitar.
- 36 amp models.
- Easy to use controls.
- It has a looper.
- Good sound quality.
- No Bluetooth.
5 Line 6 Spider V 60 MKII
The Line 6 Spider V 60 MK11 is a 60 watts amplifier and part of a range that goes all the way up to 200 watts. Handy if you’re looking for some serious oomph.
This 60 watts version measures in at 9.1 x 17.4 x 16.9 inches and weighs at a not insubstantial 26lbs. It has a USB interface and controls for volume, drive, bass, mid and treble. Additionally, there is a looper, a tuner, a metronome, and a drum loops program.
Although it has a wireless receiver that works with other Line 6 transmitters, what are conspicuous by their absence are both an auxiliary input and any form of Bluetooth or WIFI connectivity.
So, the fact is that although the Line 6 is missing out on some obvious connectivity, what it clearly isn’t missing out on is the sheer number of amp modeling options. There are over 200 of them. And that’s not including the further choices of cabs and onboard effects.
Frankly, that a lot of amp models, but there’s more, you also get 128 presets.
This is all really good stuff, but even better is the fact that they’re also so easy to use. The main menu on the front panel is really well-laid out. Unlike a lot of amp and effects we see, the learning curve to use the Line 6 Spider V 60 MKII is thankfully short.
If you want everything to be accessible onboard your amp without having to remotely access additional software this a great choice of amplifier.
This is one of the best-made amps in our review, and it has a price tag to match. It’s the most expensive amp we review, and although it’s not prohibitively expensive, if you’re just looking for an affordable amplifier, then you need to look elsewhere.
All in all, this easy to use amplifier has enough power for a small gig. It has a great organic sound and is capable of producing excellent authentic amp tones to give you heaps of versatility at home or out on the road.
- It has over 200 amp models.
- 128 Presets.
- It’s an absolute breeze to use.
- Built-in looper and tuner.
- No Bluetooth.
- No auxiliary input.
6 BOSS KTN-HEAD Portable Katana 100W Guitar Amplifier
Though this is technically a head, it does contain a small 5” speaker, so you’re able to use it as a practice amp if the occasion should arise. Otherwise, its 100 watts power rating requires you to hook up to an external cab or speaker.
BOSS KTN-HEAD Portable Katana 100W Guitar Amplifier has plenty of onboard controls and inputs. It has gain, volume, bass, middle, and treble controls. It has auxiliary, headphones, and USB connections and onboard effect plus of course amp modeling options, which we’ll now take a look at.
The Boss has five main modeling options which are; brown, lead, crunch, clean, and acoustic. Onboard there are three easy to use effects controls and a further 55 effects that can be easily accessed, by USB, through the Boss Tone Studio software.
There are a total of four memory slots, and up to three effects can be run simultaneously.
On the face of it, the number of amp models is quite limited, and whilst that is clearly true, the real masterstroke of the Boss KTN-HEAD Portable Katana 100W Guitar Amplifier is in just how well it does those few things.
There’s no doubt about it; this thing is built to last. It’s the kind of unit that will still be hanging around in 50 years’ time with plenty of stories under its belt. It’s built like a rock.
The five amp modeling options the Boss does undertake are done with aplomb. They sound amazing. The range of sounds from chiming beautiful clean tones to high-gain lead tones are truly authentic sounding. But that’s not all, and there’s also an adjustable Power Control that delivers cranked-amp tones but at low volumes.
Hook up to the right speakers, and you’re going to sound awesome.
- Excellent sound.
- Adjustable power control.
- High-build quality.
- Only four memory presets.
- Only five amp models.
7 Roland M-CUBE-GXW Micro Cube GX 3W 1×5 Battery Powered
The Roland Micro Cube GX has replaced the hugely successful original Micro Cube. It measures a compact 12” x 9.1” x 12.5” and weighs in at just 3 kilograms. And has a total of 3 watts of power, and it uses six AA batteries when not running off mains AC power.
It has an easy to use and well-laid-out control panel. There are controls for gain, volume and tone, and a master volume. Additionally, there are controls for delay reverb and EFX. There’s also a preset to store your favorite settings and a built-in tuner.
All looking good so far.
For such a small amp, it does well to offer no less than eight different amp modeling choices. One of the standout amp modeling options on the list is the legendary JC-120. Nice.
There are, of course, onboard effects that can be used in conjunction with the amp modelings. Furthermore, you can also use the i-Cube link to interface with your Apple device for recording, for working with music apps, or simply for jamming along to your favorite music.
The i-Cube link os a great idea, unless, of course, you use android. So that’s basically bad luck for 90% of everyone either owning or using an electronic device.
What’s the thinking behind that, Roland?
We’re sure you’ll agree that it’s nice to see that the latest Micro Cube has kept all of its original portability and, of course, robust build quality. Also, good to see is that those classic Roland looks and design cues haven’t been changed.
The Micro Cube may only be a three-watt amp, but it’s still quite loud and can pack some punch considering its size. Also, the quality of the amp voicings and onboard effects are good.
The sound quality of this tiny amp is surprisingly high, particularly when played clean. Equally surprising is that’s it’s able to maintain this clarity until volumes are pushed to the limit. It’s only at this point that any significant loss of tone or sound quality becomes apparent. In common with the majority of small amps, things can get somewhat rough around the edges as the volume is cranked high.
- Eight amp Models.
- Light and easy to transport.
- It can run on batteries.
- Good onboard effects.
- The i-Cube interface can only be used with Apple products.
- The sound quality deteriorates at high volume.
8 Marshall Code 50-50-watt 1×12″ Digital Combo Amp
This Marshall measuring 17.9 x 10.7 x 17 inches and weighing 27lbs; it’s packed with some great Marshall tones. It has all the standard auxiliary, headphone, and USB connections. But wait a second, this one’s got Bluetooth too, lovely.
Moving on to the main panel, the control knobs are for volume, gain, bass, mid, treble, and master volume. There are also two additional knobs for edit and presets.
There’s no doubt that this is a neat and well thought out control panel. It’s really intuitive to use and won’t take long to get to grips with. Onboard there are 24 built-in effects. Best of all is you can use up to 5 of these effects at the same time.
Another thing we really like is the fact that a two-way footswitch, capable of storing up to 30 presets, is included in the price. All so often, the footswitch is an optional extra, so points here to Marshall for that.
There are 14 preamp models, eight speaker cab models, and four power-amp models. A total of 26 absolutely killer tones we all love. Some of the great and legendary Marshall amp voicings include; JTM45 2245, 1962 Bluesbreaker, JCM2000, 1959SLP Plexi, and just too many more to mention.
The Marshall CODE can be controlled directly to Marshall’s own Gateway app software by either Bluetooth or USB. Once you’re connected, CODE can be used as a DAW interface for recording or streaming music.
Firstly, this thing is loud, really loud. The 12” speaker pushes out more than enough volume to gig within any medium-sized room. The fact that you’ve also got so many accurate Marshall tones readily and easily available makes this a great gigging amp.
The other good news is that at only 27lbs, it’s not going to break your back getting it in and out of your vehicle. You’re also not likely to break anything on the amp in the process. Like most Marshall products, this is built to be around for a while and will take the knocks in its stride.
In short, this is a solid, great sounding and versatile amp with plenty of power and some classic vintage Marshall looks. We like it a lot and would go so far as to say this is one of the best modeling amps under 300 dollars we’ve reviewed.
- Twenty Six accurate Marshall amp modeling tones.
- Five onboard effects can be used simultaneously.
- Bluetooth connectivity.
- Intuitive control panel.
- It’s loud.
- This is more aimed at electric rather than acoustic/electric guitar players.
- No line out.
9 NUX Mighty Lite BT Mini Portable Modeling Guitar Amplifier
Back to another mini amp, and oh boy, this thing is small. It’s easily the smallest of our best modeling amps top picks. It measures a diminutive 6.5 x 3.9 x 4.9 inches and weighs a mere 2.2lbs. It describes itself as a desktop amplifier, which given its size and power; we feel is a very fair description.
Despite its size, it does, however, feature some decent connectivity. There’s a connection for headphones, USB, an auxiliary input, and also Bluetooth. Also, the cool thing is that this little amp can be powered by either 6 AA batteries, a USB power bank, or AC mains.
What’s more, incredibly, they’ve also managed to load tap tempo, a metronome, and nine drum patterns.
The amount of modeling options with the NUX Mighty Lite is limited to just three. These are; clean, overdrive, and distortion. The Nux also has built-in reverb and delay to use with the modeling options.
Unfortunately, there are no options to save presets onboard the NUX Mighty Lite, which brings us on neatly to their mobile app. Available for both Android and Apple devices, the mobile app does allow you to save up to 3 presets on any of the amp modeling channels. It also allows you to use different effects but doesn’t have the facility to add any additional amp models.
Other than some basic mixing and a few extra effects and functions, the NUX Mighty Lite app seems to live up to its name and provide a light software package. Hopefully, the future will bring some upgrades with better features.
The Nux doesn’t seem to be built for anything but light treatment. There’s no reinforcement anywhere on this little modeling amp. Just treat it like a set of hi-fi speakers, and you should be fine.
With only 3 watts of power, this is best used as either a warm-up or a practice amp. The amount of volume and quality of the sound at louder volumes don’t make it suitable for much else. Keep it at low to medium volumes, and it sounds clear and accurate.
It sounds at its best through the clean channel.
- Super portable.
- Can be run off 6 AA batteries or from a USB power bank.
- It has nine onboard drum loop patterns.
- Presets cannot be saved onboard.
- The software app does not offer additional modeling options.
10 Yamaha THR5 10-Watt Desktop Guitar Combo Amp
The Yamaha THR5 is one of five different Yamaha THR models. They all have their own specific voicing as well as having other onboard amp modeling options. The THR5 measures just 6.5 x 10.5 x 4.75 inches and weighs 4.5 pounds. It can be run on either eight AA batteries or mains AC power.
The Yamaha has guitar, headphones, USB and auxiliary inputs. There’s also a built-in tuner and tap tempo. Both of these are always nice to have.
Control knobs include; volume tone and master volume. Additionally, there are two effects knobs and a dial to select the five different modeling amps, which we’ll look at a little later. The two effect knobs can be used in various combinations to dial in 4 kinds of delay with either compression chorus, phaser, tremolo, or flanger.
The whole control panel is really easy to quickly get the hang of. However, unfortunately, it’s not all good news. This is because the knobs are continuous and consequently can cause you to overshoot your desired setting as you inadvertently nudge into the next effect.
The five modeling options are clean, crunch, lead, Brit Hi, and Modern. You may be limited to just five modeling amp choices, but the good news is that it does all of these options really well. The VCM Yamaha technology used gives you incredibly accurate voicing to the amp models. What’s more, when combined with the quality range of effects, there are some great tones to be had.
There is THR Editor Software available, via USB, to help you create and alter your amp’s sound. Unfortunately, there are no further amp models available through the software. Also unfortunate is the fact that there’s no way to save presets onboard the THR.
It looks cool, and we have to say we really love the glowing LED lights that shine from inside its slatted metallic shell. They definitely give it the appearance of a tube amp. As well as looking cool, it’s also certainly built to last. Let’s face it, this thing is made out of metal, so it should be good for plenty of years to come.
This super portable little amp has enough power to be used in a small venue. It’s certainly loud enough, and the sound quality is easily good enough. Even when you turn it up to full gas, you’ll still be rewarded with accurate, undistorted sound.
Played at low or high volume, the THR5 sounds awesome. In terms of sound quality, it‘s also plenty good enough for its size.
- Realistic sounding amp modelings.
- Excellent quality onboard effects.
- Great sound even at higher volumes.
- The effects can be fiddly to dial in.
- No Bluetooth.
Best Modeling Amps Buyer’s Guide
Size is Important
It’s worth being realistic concerning exactly how you’re going to use a modeling amp. If your strictly a bedroom player, there’s really no point in buying something with 100 watts of power. Similarly, if you’re doing regular gigging, anything much under around 20 watts is likely to be insufficient, and that’s if you’re playing small venues.
If you fall a little into both camps, then we think the Fender Mustang GT 40 has plenty to offer. The sound quality and clarity at higher volumes make it capable for use at smaller gigs. Whilst at the same time, the volume on the lower end can be tamed to make it a viable option as a practice amp.
If things get too much out of control, you can always whack on the headphones!
Choice of Onboard Amp Modeling
Most of the amps we’ve looked at are able to offer between around 5-10 different amp modeling options. If you’re gigging, then the ability to easily change between voicing and effects will be essential. We’re sure you’ll agree there’s nothing worse than stumbling around between songs trying to dial in you’re sound.
With this in mind, the best modeling amps are those that are easily operated. Preferably ones with presets and a footswitch to facilitate any changes. Usually, the simpler and more intuitive designs are likely to cause you fewer headaches down the line.
Most modeling amps can now be connected to audio software to facilitate a number of tasks. Often it’s possible to gain access to a much larger number of amp models and effects. What’s more, the software usually allows for more precise sound shaping and recording.
Nearly all are able to do this via USB and some through Bluetooth. Whilst, not a deal-breaker, we do think that we’re getting to the point that Bluetooth is going to be a must-have in the next few years.
Before settling on a particular amp, it’s worth checking out what the connectable software has to offer.
If you’re looking to keep things simple, or possibly you’re just starting out, it could be you currently have none or very few guitar pedals in your collection. If this is you, then it’s worth seeing what onboard and external effects are available.
Onboard effects, like amp modeling, continues to improve. The good news is that you can realistically expect to get some decent sounding effects on your amp. However, be aware there are limitations. The fact is that any onboard effects are still unlikely to match a reasonable quality stand-alone guitar pedal.
Not sure you want a modeling amp, no problem. For some other amplifier options, check out our reviews of the Best Guitar Amplifiers under 200 Dollars, the Best Mini Amp, the Best Portable Guitar Amplifiers, or even the Best Electronic Drum Amps currently available.
So, What Are The Best Modeling Amps?
Did you find anything suitable?
We hope so.
We honestly believe that at the affordable end of the modeling amp market, we’ve got all bases covered. There are plenty of good options. However, despite this quite diverse range of amps, there is one that we think stands out as the best overall.
Our top pick is the…
This modeling amp has 26 accurate amp modeling options, and it’s got great onboard effects that are easy to use, combined with an excellent audio software app that can be accessed via Bluetooth. It’s plenty loud enough to gig with too.
Enjoy your music and happy playing.