Even the greats were beginners once.
It can be weird to think of our guitar heroes as being just beginners at some point in time, but its true.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
So, where exactly should you start when it comes to picking out an amplifier for your electric guitar?
This is our list of best amplifiers for beginners that want to become their own guitar heroes.
Snapshot: Top 3 Guitar Amplifiers for Beginners
Where to Begin…
In a world where guitar amplifier technology has innovated tenfold and the options available are practically endless, how is a beginner supposed to know where to begin?
One might think to go for the cheapest amplifiers. While this is a good place to start to possibly gauge a kid’s interest without investing too much money, these amps run the risk of being outgrown by children and adults alike.
One might then think that small combo amps have it all for a beginner. They sound great and they typically have intuitive controls that won’t intimidate or confuse the newcomer. However, these amps can get expensive.
For this list I wanted to pick out three amps that had a perfect balance between cost and ease of use that is perfect for a beginner.
I chose primarily solid state amplifiers because they require less maintenance and they keep the cost down. I also wanted all of these amps to be combo amps so that players can hear themselves without having to fuss around with external speaker cabinets.
I looked for amplifiers that would be fun and engaging for years to come. That way, even when you’re an intermediate player, these amps can still serve you as either a practice amp or for taking to small gigs. Just because an amp is your first amp doesn’t mean you should have to outgrow it.
Speaking of practice amps, because a big part of being a beginner is practicing, anything labeled as a practice amplifier would make a great choice for beginners. For this list I found a couple options that share characteristics of some of our favorite practice amps. So, if you need more ideas those are worth looking at as well.
Without further ado here are our top three guitar amplifiers for beginners:
The 3 Best Beginner Guitar Amps In 2020
1. Boss Katana 50 (mkII) Review
- 50/525/0. 5W 1x12" Guitar Combo Amplifier with 5 Amp Voicings
- Cab-emulated Headphone/Recd Output
- 4 Tone Slots
The Katana series of amps has made it onto just about every list I’ve written in one form or another. It just goes to show how easily approachable and enjoyable this amp can be. The Katana 50 especially sounds like a professional level amp and has enough tonal variety to let beginners explore whatever sounds excite them, while remaining at a low price point.
The Boss Katana is built to grow with you as a musician, making it a fantastic amp to start out with. Being a 1×12 combo amplifier, it isn’t too big or intimidating. However, when you factor in the fact that it packs up to 50W of power and features 10 built in amp voices, you know that this amp is willing to go wherever you want to go as you develop musically.
Boss has included their Tone Studio editor for learning how to tweek guitar tones. The amp is probably too big for younger kids, but I would definitely recommend this to adults who are just starting out.
At first glance the controls may boggle the minds of beginners, but thankfully there are no confusing LED screens or hidden menus. What you see is what you get for the most part. Let me break it down for you.
Start by choosing the Amp Type you want to play through. These are lined up from lowest gain (Think clean sounds) to highest gain (think distorted sounds). As a beginner I would recommend selecting either Clean or Crunch to start out with. On these amp settings you’ll hear your imperfections better, which will lead to better practice habits. From there you can move on to the heavier gain settings.
Or not! The beauty of guitar playing is you get to do things however you want to. The EQ controls allow you to shape your tone. For example, if you want a little less bass, just roll the Bass control counterclockwise. The same logic applies to the Mid (Middle) and Treble (High end) controls.
There are controls for the Effects (more on that soon) and on the far right is a control for the Power Control. With this you can bring the amp down to .5W while maintaining your amp’s tone. This makes the Katana great for home practice when you are first starting out.
Part of the fun of learning an instrument is exploring all the crazy sounds it can make. With the Katana there are over 65 effects (of which you can use 5 at a time) to choose from and to keep you inspired. The Katana can get fuzz, chorus, flanger, delay, different reverbs. You name it, the Katana can do it.
The Katana used Roland’s Tube Logic technology, which allows the amp to sound like it’s a tube amp even though it is solid state powered.
I think this is great for beginners because while tube amps sound amazing and react to your playing well, they require maintenance and technical know-how that is beyond what beginners should focus on. The Katana is the best of both worlds, making it a great sounding and reliable amp.
- Type: Solid State
- Power: .5W, 25W, or 50W
- Channels: Single
- Speaker: Custom 12”
- Features: Built in Boss Effects, Phones In/Rec Out, Cabinet Capability
Final Thoughts on the Katana 50 (mkII)
I would recommend this amp to the already musically inclined. It may be too advanced for a young child to use, though if a kid can figure out how to work an iPhone then they can figure out the Katana 50. This is an amp that you can use for a lifetime.
It’ll start with you at home, and then when you’re ready to go on stage it will still be an appropriate choice of amp. It’s one of my all-time favorites.
2. Fender Mustang LT25 Review
- 25-watt combo amplifier
- Single 8” Fender Special Design guitar speaker
- Wooden cabinet
The Fender Mustang LT25 is another amp modeler that is super user friendly. Fender is most known for their classic tube amps that have shaped modern music as we know it, and now you can have a wide variety of their amps and other classics at your fingertips with the smallest of the Mustang series.
The Mustang LT25 is an amp modeler that pushes 25 watts of solid state power. It has an 8” Fender Special Design speaker that allows the amp to sound good no matter which of the 30 presets you play through. It is also a great practice amp with its 1/8” AUX and Headphone inputs, so you can jam along to your favorite songs without disturbing your roommates or neighbors.
The Controls are what really make this amp a great option for beginners. Even though the amp has a ton of firepower in terms of tone options built into it, navigating through all your options is really easy. Whichever amp you choose utilizes the onboard knobs for Gain, Volume, 2-Band EQ, and a Master Volume. The rest is done using the Editing wheel to the right of the amp, which allows you to scroll through Fender’s LED screen.
The buttons to the right allow for further navigation and saving options. The TAP tempo button also works as a tuner when held down, meaning you don’t have to buy a separate tuner when you’re buying all your beginner’s gear. The USB can be used for recording, if you are interested in learning how to record your guitar into your computer.
Even though this amp is designed for with new guitarists in mind, the sounds that come out of it are amazing. It has everything from classic clean tones that would work for country or blues, to high gain sounds that will inspire the budding metal head in the family.
Check out the demo in this article to get a sense for all the tones this amp can get. Whichever amp setting you choose you can modify it with the onboard knobs or SAVE it so that the amp works however you want it to. Despite being only an 8” speaker, the Fender Special Design speaker is really flexible and is great for accommodating a wide variety of sounds.
- Type: Solid State Amp Modeler
- Power: 25W
- Amp Models: 20
- Speakers: 8” Fender Special Design
- Features: Built in FX, USB, Amp Modeling, Footswitch
Final Thoughts on the Fender Mustang LT25
The Fender Mustang LT25 takes the power of modern amp modeling and presents it in a way that is beginner friendly. I think this is really powerful because it allows beginners to explore their sound without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars.
It may not be big enough for gigging, but it is a great amp to start learning on.
3. Fender Pro Junior IV Review
- 15 Watts
- Jensen 10" P10R speaker
- Volume circuit modified for more gradual Breakup
I mentioned before that I prefer to suggest solid state amps to beginners, but this tube amp is too good to pass up. It was actually my first amp and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in a small, clean tube amp that will age with you over the years. When it comes to learning, I think a high quality clean amp is the best place to start.
The newest version of the Fender Pro is a 1×10 combo amp surrounded in lacquered tweed covering with a vintage 50’s style grille cloth and leather handle. It pumps up 15W of sound through a single 10” Jensen P10R speaker and weighs about 20lbs. The chrome control panel has just two controls: Volume and Tone. This is about as simple of an amp build as you can get, making it absolutely perfect for beginners.
It only has two controls: Volume and Tone. Easy enough, but the satisfaction you get from sweeping these two knobs to the perfect sound is immense. This is a great place for beginners to start, because it makes you focus on just playing the instrument, as opposed to tinkering around with effects.
You’ll notice that the type of guitar you At first glance you may think that just controls for Volume and Tone would be limiting, and in a sense you would be correct. However, you will be surprised at how versatile a well-built amplifier can be when sweeping just these two controls. This is a great place for beginners to start, because it makes you focus on just playing the instrument, as opposed to tinkering around with effects.
You’ll notice that the type of guitar you use and the touch of your fingers has a big effect on how your amp responds, which is a very important lesson for new guitarists to learn.
Don’t be fooled by the small stature of the Fender Pro Junior IV. This amp has enough power to be taken onto a wide array of stages for a wide array of genres. I’ve used this amp during rehearsals for a working variety band in which we played David Bowie, Johnny Cash, and Chris Stapleton. It works well on its own, but it also takes pedals well.
As a beginner you may be afraid to turn it up too loud (trust me, it gets loud) but once you have the confidence, you’ll learn why countless guitarists prefer small combo tube amps. It’s hard to beat the natural saturation and overdrive of a tube powered amp. It has a tight and focused mid-range, with bell-like low ends and bright high ends.
- Type: Combo Tube (2 x EL84)
- Power: 15W
- Channels: 1
- Speakers: 1 x 10” Jensen P10R
- Features: Not much. It speaks for itself.
Final Thoughts on the Fender Pro Junior IV
While I am comfortable suggesting modern amp modelers to beginners because they are user friendly and offer a lot of tonal exploration, I can’t forget that the most important thing for a new guitar player to learn is their touch and the guitar itself. The Fender Pro Junior IV, while expensive when you consider how much tonal variety you get for the price, is a great amp to learn on.
It will continue to work well with pedals and any guitar you decide to get in the future as well. I sure do love mine.
Remember Your First Amp
As a player who had the good fortune of receiving a Fender Pro Jr as their first amp, a high quality tube amp, I can say that having a good amp right out of the gate influenced how I play today. It doesn’t have to be a top of the line amp, and in all seriousness shouldn’t, but a quality amp facilitates quality practice and quality playing.
Believe me when I say you will remember your first amp. Hopefully it is a fond memory and it spurs years of more happy memories playing the guitar.
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.