You only have $200 in your pocket but the want, no, the need to play electric guitar is so great that you must find a great amplifier.
Good News: it’s possible!
Whether you are looking for a starter amp, a gigging amp, or a recording amp with dozens of amp models in it, there is a good unit waiting for you in this price range.
In this article I will be helping you explore the best amplifiers out on the internet for $100-$200 that are actually usable in a wide array of scenarios and that are enjoyable to play.
Snapshot: Top 5 Amplifiers Under $200
Working With Limitations
You’ll notice in this list that the size of all the amplifiers is getting smaller. Less materials means lower prices.
Does that mean that you are getting a smaller sound as well?
Most combo amplifiers in this price range utilize a single speaker that is 8” or smaller. That definitely gives you a smaller sound. However, if you already have an extension cabinet, then the head units are a great option as they can be made to sound fuller with a good set of speakers.
Amps in this price range can also make great practice amplifiers or studio units. While amp makers compromise in terms of size and versatility, they usually still strive for the best sound possible. They may just be created to perform in one situation over the other.
Much like buying a cheap electric guitar, you don’t have to settle for total junk when buying a cheaper guitar amp. You may have to start making some compromises, such as only buying a head unit or going all solid state instead of tube powered.
For example, I was able to come across an all tube amp for around $120, but I honestly thought that the rest of the amps on this list sounded better and had more to offer. These amps all have something unique to offer to one kind of musician or another, which is why I tried to make as diverse of a list as possible.
If you’re discouraged by the limitations in this price range but have already hit your maximum spending capability, don’t fret. I consider gear to be something that you accumulate over time, step by step. Hardly anybody is able to get all the gear they want at once.
So, if you are looking to get started in an electric guitar rig on a budget, just keep in mind what your immediate goals are for the instrument and then pick an amplifier that gets you closest to that goal for now. Work with those limitations as best as you can. Then, when you are able to spend $500 on an amp or even $1000 on a guitar amp, you can upgrade to a bigger amp or find a way to make your current selection work even better for you.
The Best Guitar Amps Under $200
1. Joyo Bantamp Zombie Review
- 20 Watt amplifier with single 12AX7 preamp
- Controls: gain, tone and volume
- Fix loop, Bluetooth, 8 or 16 Ohm loudspeaker output, 3. 5 mm mini-jack headphone
The Bantamp line of amplifiers from Joyo are designed to be extremely affordable and small in stature. They are all pretty cool little amps, all modeled after famous big head designs, but my personal favorite is the Zombie. This is for all the metal guitarists out there.
The Bantamp Zombie is designed to emulate the Mesa Dual Rectifier, but in the form of a micro amp. This thing is smaller than your toaster and weighs less too. It’s a hybrid head unit with a 12AX7 tube preamp and a solid-state power amp section. It also manages to have the most essential parts of a great functioning tube amp without getting too busy.
It has an FX loop, clean and dirty channels, and Bluetooth connection capability. It can connect to any 8- or 16-ohm speaker and has the ability to connect to headphones.
The Zombie keeps it as simple as possible with just Gain, Tone, and Volume controls. The channels are switched between on the amp itself. It would be awesome to have a footswitch jack for easy channel switching, but if I had to choose between that or an FX loop, I would go with the loop. Even though the controls are simple, they are powerful and contribute to a powerful sounding amplifier.
This is an amplifier for those who know that they want heavy distortion tones. Lots of amplifiers try to emulate the Mesa Dual Rectifier, but I consider this to be the best one in its price range. The heavy tones are great in standard or drop tunings and the clean tones are some of the most balanced I have ever heard from a small amp.
Admittedly, the type of speaker you use with this amp will have a huge impact on the tone quality, but the amp itself sets you up for success. With the right set of speakers this can get loud enough to play alongside a drummer, making it a great live amp or even just a great backup rig if you are looking for some security on tour.
- Type: Hybrid Head (12AX7 preamp, solid state power amp)
- Power: 20W
- Channels: Clean and Dirty
- Speakers: 8- or 16-ohm connection available
- Features: FX Loop, Bluetooth, Headphone Jack
Final Thoughts on the Joyo Bantamp Zombie
It’s hard to go wrong with a simple “lunchbox” amplifier if you know exactly what kind of sound you are looking for. This is a great amp for beginner heavy metal guitarists or for professionals that need a practice/backup amplifier.
If the tone of this amp isn’t your style, but you like the design, check out the rest of the Joyo Bantamp line of amplifiers.
2. Fender Champ 40 Review
- All the tonal versatility you can handle in a small package with clean and overdriven tones, British and modern amp voicings and various effects including reverb, delay and more.
- Straight forward controls such as "Voice" and "FX Select" allow you to dial in your sound with the ease of just turning a knob.
- Jam along with your favorite tracks by simply plugging your MP3 player into the Auxiliary input and you instantly become part of the band and /or practice privately with the 1/8th headphone output...
The Fender Champ 40 is the best sounding combo amp with amp modeling in its class. If you are wanting a combo amp that can be taken to gigs or rehearsals with built in effects and classic amp voices, then this is a good option for you.
The Champ 40 from Fender is a 40W, two channel, solid state combo amplifier w a 12” speaker. These specs alone make the amp buying. Compared to other amps in this price range, the Champ 40 offers ample power for small gigs and has a larger speaker than most of its competitors. It also has a built in AUX and PHONES input for jamming along to songs.
The features don’t stop there. The amp has four amp voicings including Tweed, Blackface, British, and Metal. It also has built in effects including time based and modulation effects. All of these features are laid out in a classic and intuitive way that makes the amp feel like a traditional combo amp.
The black cabinet with silver cloth screening and black skirt plastic knobs make this amp scream classic Fender.
The first channel is like a Fender Twin sound, while the second channel houses all the additional amp modeling tones. The amp of choice is selected via the Voice control.. These channels can be switched by the FTSW (Foot Switch) input if you connect an external foot switch. Each channel has its own volume control, with the second channel having an additional gain control.
The amp has a 2 band EQ to control your high and low end frequencies. The FX Select switch lets you choose from one of 9 effects and their mix is controlled by the FX Level Control. One cool feature is the tap tempo button so you can dial in your effect speed wherever you’d like.
I think the best sound on this amp is the first channel with some reverb dialed in. It sounds close enough to a big Fender to make it fun to play.
While the amp modeling is not as convincing or lively as the updated Fender Mustang line, the amp modeling is good enough for a beginner or for live situations. I think that the amp has a somewhat noticeable “digital” or flat feel to it. It’s not a bad sound by any means, but when you compare it to the real tube sound of classic Fenders, it’s not quite the same.
I think the Fender Tweed and Blackface amp sounds are also much more realistic, which makes sense considering this is Fender’s forte. The British and Metal amp models would be fun for a beginner to explore, but it’s not quite dirty or full enough for a professional.
- Type: Solid State Combo
- Power: 40W
- Channels: 2 (Clean and Amp Modeling)
- Speaker: 12” Fender Special Design
- Features: Built in Effects, Tap Tempo, AUX/PHONES in
Final Thoughts on the Fender Champ 40
While the Fender Champ 40’s reach exceeds its grasp, it is still the best option in its price range for someone looking for an “all in one” combo amp.
It is a worthwhile amplifier for a beginner that has enough power to work on a small stage and enough versatility to keep you entertained.
3. Roland Micro Cube GX Review
- Power: 3WUltra-compact portable DSP guitar amp with 5-inch speakerRuns on battery or AC power (adapter supplied) and includes carry strapi-CUBE LINK jack provides simple audio interfacing with Apple's...
Is it too much to ask to have a small amp with loads of firepower? Thankfully not! The Roland Cube GX is a compact and powerful practice amp with updated features that make it a killer road companion or practice amplifier.
Roland Cube GX is a solid state, 3-Watt, 1 x 5 combo amplifier, making it by far the smallest combo amp worth playing through. Weighing in at only 6 pounds, this amp is designed to be on the go. It has 8 amp models on it from Acoustic to Extreme, as well as 4 modulation effects and a delay and reverb onboard. It has recording/headphone out jacks and can even run on 6 X AA batteries for up to 25 hours.
The Cube GX also has great features like a Memory function for storing your favorite preset and a built-in tuner, but things get really cool once you start using the iCube Link. With this feature you can use Roland’s free Cube Jam app to jam, record, and learn using your Cube. This is a great feature for recording demos on the road, experimenting with your first recording interface, or just for learning new songs.
The controls on the Roland Micro give you a lot of tonal control without getting too overwhelming. Whichever amp you select, the COSM amplifier Gain, Volume, Tone and Master controls apply to. The EFX section gives you the option to blend in Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, or Tremolo effects, with the mix increasing as you turn the dial to the right for each effect.
The Spring Reverb is a new addition to the delay and Reverb Section, which work in the same way.
What separates this amp from all the other “practice amps” out on the market is the 5” speaker. In my opinion, this feature gives the Cube a bigger sound than I am used to hearing from 3W practice amps. Roland’s amp modeling has also impressed me across all their new amplifiers, my favorites being the JC Clean and Classic Stack.
It may not be loud or big enough for a live setting, but that’s not what it is designed for. The sounds that this amp makes for a practice rig are really satisfying and are sure to keep you looking forward to practice time.
- Type: Solid State Combo
- Power: 3W
- Channels: 2 (Using Memory Function)
- Speaker: Roland 5”
- Features: Cube Jam app, headphone out, tuner, built in FX, amp modeling
Final Thoughts on the Roland Micro Cube GX
The Roland Micro Cube GX is a versatile and fun “grab and go” style amplifier. The 5” speaker and Roland’s COSM amplifier models make it a great sounding practice amp if you choose to play through the speaker.
Combine that with the ability to record on your iPhone and you no longer have a reason to not practice every day.
4. Orange Amps Micro Terror Review
- Power: 20 watt (hybrid)
- Tube: 1 12AX7 tube preamp with solid state power amp
- Controls: Volume, tone and gain
Like the Joyo Bantamp Zombie above, the Orange Micro Terror is a micro head unit amplifier that creates big tones, but with a different kind of voice to it. Whether you’re looking for a tiny amp to pack up with you on the road or you’re looking for a fun novelty for your friend, the Micro Terror has a lot to offer in a small package.
The Micro Terror from Orange is a 20W hybrid amplifier with a 12AX7 powered preamp and a solid state power amp. This gives you the touch sensitivity of a tube amp with the headroom of a 20W power amp. It is compatible with 8- and 16-ohm speakers, so you can make this amp sound bigger than anyone would expect with a 4 x12 extension cabinet if you wanted.
It’s in the name. This amp is tiny, but well made. The amp is built into a high tensile steel enclosure that keeps the head lightweight (only 2.2 lbs.) yet sturdy.
The Micro Terror keeps things super simple. You only have three knobs to worry about: Volume, Tone, and Gain. Volume and Gain are pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worth mentioning that the Tone control is more of a traditional tone control, compared to some of Orange’s other amplifiers that have the Shape knob, like the Orange Micro Dark.
The front panel also has your On/Off switch, Phones in, Aux in, and your Input jack.
Whether you go through the 1X8 Orange extension cabinet or a larger cabinet, the Micro Terror sounds like an Orange amp through and through. It doesn’t have a ton of headroom, but the clean tones offer enough crackle and character to make for a great edge of breakup tone.
It has a unique midrange that I would call foggy or throaty. I could hear this amp being used in a number of situations from Punk, to Classic Rock, even to some Metal. The valve preamp really lends some touch sensitivity as well.
- Type: Hybrid Head (12AX7 Preamp, Solid State Power Amp)
- Power: 20W
- Channels: Single
- Speakers: 8 or 16 Ohm Connectable
- Features: Headphone and Aux In
Final Thoughts on the Orange Micro Terror
Lunchbox amplifiers (as these micro amps are sometimes called) are just fun. The Micro Terror has the feel and sound of a big amplifier if connected to a big speaker and has a voice to it that could translate to a number of different music genres.
Its price point is so low that it’s tempting to just get so that you can have an Orange style amp in the studio, but this would also work well as a dependable rig or practice amp.
5. Mooer GE150 Amp Modeling Multi Effects Pedal Review
- 55 high quality AMP models that utilize MOOER’s non-linear digital amp modelling technology from the PREAMP series.
- 151 different effects,200 preset patches,80 seconds recording time with a built-in LOOPER
- 40 types of drum rhythms and 10 metronome settings
I had mentioned before that most amplifiers in this price range make some kind of compromise or are intended for one particular purpose. Not so with the Mooer GE150. This amp modeling and multi-effects pedal has just about every dream amplifier crammed into it, making it a great option for those looking to have a lightweight gigging solution or for tonal experimentation at home.
There are a few things that make this “amp” different from the rest on this list, but perhaps the first you will notice is that this doesn’t look like a typical amplifier. That’s because the GE150 from Mooer is an amp modeling floor unit. It has 55 high quality amp models, 151 different effects, and built in Impulse Responses (IR) for cabinet simulation. It has 26 user slots for you to save your favorite rigs/presets and it has a built-in expression pedal for you to control multiple aspects of just about any effect you’re using.
It has two sets of stereo outputs so you can send your signal directly to the Front of House, while also monitoring yourself on stage. The GE150 can also be used in the studio as an audio interface in conjunction with Mooer’s editing software.
Everything inside the Mooer GE150 is navigated through the onboard screen. Using the value and mode knobs in conjunction with the unit buttons across the button, you can select whichever FX (Effects), DS (Distortion), Amp, Cab, NS (Noise), EQ, MOD (Modulation), DLY (Delay), or REV (Reverb) you would like in your signal.
The unit also has built in drum loops and a guitar loop that are controlled from the bottom row of buttons. From here you can also control the tempo of effects or loops using the TAP button.
Not pictured above is possibly the most important control of the GE150: the expression pedal. This can be used for volume swells, wah, or as an expression pedal to control any aspect of the effect you have it connected to. My only complaint is that the GE150 doesn’t have buttons on it to quickly turn on/off single effect units. This may be a bit troublesome in a live situation when you want to change tones on the fly.
Mooer’s GE150 has a lot of different presets and tones to choose from. Like many amp modeling units, the “out of the box” settings may not sound exactly the way you want, but with some tweaking they can sound better. If you are using IR’s I would recommend going with your favorite third-party provider to get the most lifelike sound.
While I don’t think the amp models are as good as the Line 6 Helix or Fractal, I think this unit still sounds lifelike and it punches above its price point. With the right settings the amps sound tube-like. The fact that you could use it in conjunction with a regular amp and then just use the effects is pretty cool too.
This is a unit that is flexible enough in its tones to work however you want it to.
- Type: Floor Amp Modeler
- Amp Models: 55
- Presets: Over 200
- Effects: 151
- Features: Impulse Responses (3rd party compatible), Tuner, Expression Pedal, Metronome, Drum Loops, 80s Looper
Final Thoughts on the Mooer GE150
Amp modeling units are a rather popular and polarizing new realm of guitar amplifiers. They have a lot to offer in terms of flexibility and usability, though some question the tonal quality compared to tried and true tube amps. The Mooer GE150 may not be the most brilliant sounding modeler out on the market, but the fact that it makes this kind of technology available in the $200 price range is simply incredible.
I think this is totally worth getting if you are into the technology but can’t afford something like a Line 6 Helix or another powerful modeler.
One might initially think that finding a good amplifier for under $200 is a fool’s errand, but I am pleasantly surprised with what I was able to find in my research.
Sure, these amps don’t all have built in speakers with them, or they may have fewer tonal controls, but they all have a sound that is worth the investment. I hope that you are pleasantly surprised with your options as well.
The most important thing to remember is that if the amp lets you play in the setting that you need it to, even if it limits you slightly, then it is an amp worth having.
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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.