With every electric guitar comes a guitar amp. You can have the nicest electric guitar in the world, but if you have no amp capable of producing a great sound, your guitar is virtually worthless.
There are countless brands and various types of guitar amps out there, from full stacks to miniature pocket amps, and sorting through them all can be overwhelming – especially for a beginner.
Every new player out there has dreamed of owning or playing through a full stack of speakers loud enough to be heard from outer space, but unless you’re playing concerts in a different arena every night, there’s not a need for the giant amps you see in movies and on television.
My best advice is to get something that best suits your needs, and that you love the sound of.
Let’s get into our list of 11 of the best portable guitar amplifiers.
Best Portable Guitar Amplifiers Reviewed
1. Yamaha THR10C Classic
All you need to get going with this portable amp from Yamaha are 6 AA batteries. The THR10C Classic is a tabletop tone monster not much bigger than a loaf of sliced bread.
It delivers awesome, tube-like tones ranging from brilliant Fender-like cleans to vintage and tasteful mild distortion. The keyword to keep in mind there is “mild.”
The Yamaha THR10C Classic was designed with classic tones in mind. You won’t find screaming lead tones on this unit, but if the natural warmth and mild breakup of classic valve-based amp models are appealing to you, you might just want to give this thing a try.
Yamaha was able to achieve the natural sound of tubes through their proprietary VCM (virtual circuitry modeling) technology, making the amp ultra-responsive and dynamic.
The THR10C Classic provides ten different amp simulations, with several extra effects, as well as USB and AUX outputs to make live and recorded performances much easier – not to mention the stereo mode, which makes this little amp sound ten times wider than it really is.
2. Marshall MS2 Mini Amp
The Marshall MS2 Mini Amp is small enough to fit on your belt loop and loud enough to serve as potentially the best practice amp on this list. If you like to walk around and practice, or sit outside in the park while you jam, this amp could be one of your go-to’s.
This unit features a simple setup, powered by a single 9-volt battery or a 9-volt battery supply. You’ll easily find a clean and an overdrive channel, along with a volume and a tone knob for minor adjustments.
Because of the amp’s size and overall output limitations, live performances wouldn’t be the best place to show this amp off. The value in this amp comes from your ability to easily pack it in a suitcase or backpack pocket and hit the road.
3. VOX Mini3 G2 Battery Powered Modeling Amp
The VOX Mini3 G2 is one of the most versatile amps on this list. It’s powered by 6 AA batteries or the included power adapter.
It is small and light enough to be taken virtually anywhere you’d like to go. The VOX Mini3 G2 features amp modeling technology, giving you the option to choose from 11 amp models, and use 8 different onboard signal processing effects.
This opens the door for exploration of countless musical styles, and simultaneously gives you the freedom to go wherever you please, be it the city streets, countryside, or university courtyard. VOX has always provided guitarists with high-quality guitar amplification, and you’ll find similar quality with this mini amp just the same.
4. Roland Cube Street Combo Amp
You don’t typically hear the name Roland in conversations among guitarists, but this little amp begs for recognition. The Roland Cube Street Combo Amp might just be the most versatile amp on this list due to its high volume output and onboard amp modeling.
You either need the included 9V power adapter, or 6 AA batteries to get going with this amp. It features 8 amp models, a built-in chromatic tuner, and 2 digital effects processors. You’ll get a solid 15 hours of playtime if used with batteries, making this good for back-to-back gigs on the go.
The Cube Street Combo Amp also doubles as a PA system, including a two-channel architecture, making this a great option for anyone who needs to be able to play and sing through one amp!
5. Fender Mini ’57 Twin-Amp
If you’re a busy studio musician or guitar tech and just need something to quickly plug into to test, the Fender Mini ‘57 should be your next go-to. This mini amp has all of the classic charm of the original 50’s Fender sound packed into one small 1-Watt container.
This little unit is powered by a single 9V battery, but don’t let that fool you – it can be loud if you need it to be, but not so loud that you could take it on stage with you.
Onboard you’ll find an on/off switch, drive, tone, and volume control, giving you all the controls you need for that classic Fender sound. This amp is great for practicing, playing in small acoustic ensembles, and traveling.
6. Danelectro Honeytone N-10 Mini Guitar Amp
If you’re like me, then you’re probably a fan of how vintage amps and guitars sound. Natural valve breakup and warmth are two of my favorite aspects of a vintage tone.
The downside to having such a love for these is the cost of vintage gear. Luckily, you can get that warm vintage tone without breaking the bank or your eardrums with this Honeytone N-10 Mini Guitar Amp by Danelectro.
This little amp is powered by a single 9-volt battery and is small enough to clip onto your belt loop, making it an extremely portable option for a practice amp.
It features a single channel with an off/volume knob, tone knob, and overdrive knob. You won’t find any fancy amp modeling onboard this mini tone-beast, but you won’t miss any from this transistor-based vintage design.
7. Pignose Legendary 7-100
In terms of portability, this mini amp belongs near the top. The Pignose Legendary 7-100 is another monster powered by 6 simple AA batteries.
It features an incredibly simple design of a single channel with volume control, a single 5’’ speaker, and uniquely, a preamp output. The simplicity of design might lead some to believe that this amp doesn’t belong on a “best-of,” list, but it’s actually a high-end piece of gear.
The simple design allows you to use it as either a high-end fuzz pedal or a standalone clean-sounding amp with all the chime and clarity you can expect from a 5” speaker -and then some!
This little amp is somewhat of a boutique piece of gear. You’ll be able to get the best out of a fuzzy, crunchy sound by pushing the amp, and also a beautiful clarity when pushing your guitar’s volume. Some experimentation will certainly lead the way!
8. Blackstar Fly 3 Mini Amp
As it is with most of the amps on this list, The Blackstar Fly 3 Mini Amp is perfect for practicing. It’s loud enough to sound and feel good but not so loud that it’s disturbing to others.
If you love the sound of a nice Blackstar amp but can’t afford to invest in a valve combo or stack, the Fly 3 might be your next best starting point.
This little amp is battery powered, features a clean and overdrive channel ranging from chiming clean to almost-broken up, and mild overdrive to screaming lead. While this amp is transistor-based, you’ll still notice some nice tube-like warmth when pushing the clean channel.
This amp is small enough to fit on any desktop, packed in just about any sized bag or suitcase, making it a great option for the traveling guitarist. Take your Blackstar tone just about anywhere!
9. Boss Katana Mini
Another brand name that’s not often heard in conversations among guitarists is Boss, but that doesn’t exclude this amp from the conversation.
The Boss Katana Mini is yet another powerhouse supported by either 6 AA batteries or a power adapter. This amp provides you with a brown channel for screaming leads or high-gain metal tones, a crunch channel for overdriven rhythm sounds, and a clean channel for those chiming arpeggios.
If you’re looking for something to provide you with a huge rock or metal guitar tone for less, you need to take a look at the Boss Katana Mini.
While still not as loud as many standard guitar amps out there, the Boss Katana Mini still holds its own in terms of raw output volume.
10. VOX Pathfinder 10
While you won’t be able to turn this amp on without a standard power cable, that doesn’t make it any less portable. The VOX Pathfinder 10 is your next go-to 10-watt combo amp, giving you all the pristinely clean and unique crunch of VOX amplifiers.
This amp gives you a channel of clean and overdrive, along with gain, treble, bass, and volume knobs for tone customization.
If you’re worried about disturbing your neighbors or roommates while you practice, you’ll be able to take advantage of the headphone/line-out jack.
Simply plug in your headphones and the speaker is automatically muted, leaving you free to practice without disturbing anyone else. Use that same headphone/line-out jack for easy recording directly into your DAW, without having to set up a single microphone!
11. Orange Micro Terror MT20 Amp Head
If you’re in need of a tiny amp, but also in need of a big sound, you need to check out Orange’s Micro Terror MT20 Amp Head. While this requires an external speaker cabinet, it could potentially fill your amp needs for a long time coming.
The Micro Terror features a single 12AX7 preamp tube, giving you all the classic orange valve warmth, along with a 20-watt solid-state power amp.
Like most of Orange’s amp models, the Micro Terror gives you all the classic British guitar tones via the simple controls of volume, tone, and gain.
If you’re an avid user of effects pedals, this amp will provide you with all the loud and clean you could need for almost any small gig setup.
Why Buy A Portable Guitar Amp?
Portable guitar amplifiers have grown in popularity over the years and for good reason.
They’re inexpensive when compared to their giant stage-worthy counterparts, they’re portable (hence the name), and they don’t take up much room.
Someone who doesn’t have the extra space to store a larger guitar amp would benefit from purchasing a portable amp simply because you can keep it in a drawer, or on a desk.
Different Types of Guitar Amps
Let’s talk about the different types of guitar amps out there.
Tube amplifiers are the original guitar amplifiers. Many classic guitar tones out there are owed to the characteristic sound of vacuum-tube-based amplification. These amps are designed to use valves, or vacuum tubes, to amplify the electrical signal produced by the magnetic pickups on your electric guitar.
Tube amps are typically much heavier, making them less portable, and much louder – which isn’t always a bad thing (unless you have neighbors close by).
When it comes to tube amps, the louder you turn them up, the better they will sound, so it may not be in your best interest to go with a tube amp if you’re looking for something portable.
Solid-state amps sound great – especially at quieter volumes. Contrary to their valve-based counterparts, solid-state amplifiers use electrical components called transistors to amplify the electrical signal from your guitar’s pickups.
Solid-state amps are popular for many reasons. They’re less expensive, easier to maintain (you don’t have to replace the tubes), and much lighter, making them great for gigging musicians.
The problem with solid-state amplifiers is that they tend to produce harsh and unpleasant amounts of distortion if the transistors are pushed too hard (i.e. if they’re turned up too loud). Many people prefer tube amplifiers for this very reason, but now hybrid amps offer a solution to give guitarists the best of both worlds.
Hybrid guitar amplifiers are designed as a combination of both solid-state and tube amplification. Hybrid amps can feature a valve-based preamp circuit, feeding into a solid-state power amp circuit, or vice versa. This makes hybrid amps more versatile than a complete solid-state or tube-based design.
Modeling amps are simply amps that have onboard digital microprocessing, allowing the amp to model the sounds of any other guitar amp. These sounds are programmed instead of produced naturally through onboard effects processing and pedals.
Several of the best portable guitar amplifiers on this list feature some type of amp modeling, offering upwards of 11 different amp models to choose from, while other amps create a distinct sound of their own.
Guitar Amp Sizes
Guitar amp stacks have an amp head, which you plug your guitar into. The head unit houses all of the electronic components that amplify the signal coming from your guitar.
These components include a preamp, guitar effects (like equalization, gain, reverb, etc), and a power amp. The only thing missing from the head unit is the speakers, which are most often purchased separately.
These are the amps worthy of a concert stage because you can connect the head unit to just about any set of speakers necessary. This makes customizing speaker cabinets something to get excited about, but if you don’t need it then it’s just an expensive hobby.
Combo amps make up the majority of amps out there. What gives a combo amp its name is the combination of a head unit and speaker cabinet in one single piece. Almost every amp on this list is a combo amp.
Minis and Micros
Mini and micro guitar amps are simply tiny versions of combo amps. They’re most often battery-powered, and small enough to hang from your pocket or belt, making them the most portable amps out there.
There was a time when a friend bought me a mini guitar amp as a gift and I laughed because I assumed it was just a gimmick, but it became one of my favorite practice and travel amps.
What does an amplifier do for your music?
The amplifier you choose to use will directly affect the sound of your music. That seems a little obvious to say, but it’s true.
Without an amplifier, you’ll never be able to hear your electric guitar, and a low-budget, low-quality amplifier will only make your nice guitar sound cheap.
That doesn’t mean that inexpensive guitar amps are all low-quality though. There are gems hidden everywhere and it’s your job to find the ones that you think suit your ideal sound the best.
Does a beginner guitarist need an amp?
If you’re a beginner guitarist with an electric guitar, then absolutely, yes. Without an amplifier, your electric guitar is extremely quiet and needs an amp of some kind to make it possible for you and others to comfortably hear it.
Best Portable Guitar Amp – Final Thoughts
Whether you’re a complete beginner in search of your first practice amp, or a seasoned performer looking around for something new to renew your thirst for practicing, you’ll find that any of the portable amps listed above will suit your needs.
For your first guitar amp, any of the above will suit your needs, except for the Orange Micro Terror, as you’ll need to purchase an external speaker cabinet to use it.
If you’re looking for something to practice on at home or perform on the streets with, you might want to take a look at some of the battery-powered amps, as you won’t have to worry about the power supply.
For sonic quality and versatility, my first choice and top recommendation all around is the Yamaha THR10C Classic. The closest second on this list is the Roland Cube, which offers plenty of volume, clarity, and versatility.