Wayne Gretzky said it best:
“The only way a kid is going to practice is if it’s total fun for him… and it was for me.”
I think this quote is true for many adults too, especially if you are a beginner.
If you want to learn how to play guitar, you have to practice. There’s no way around it.
Are there amps out there that facilitate fun practice time?
Practice amplifiers and beginner guitar amps of today offer a wider array of features that make practicing more fun than it might be through a traditional amp.
Let’s take a look at our top choices of amps that you should be practicing with.
Snapshot: Top 5 Practice Amplifiers
Practice Makes Perfect. Perfect Takes Practice.
You may be thinking “Any amp is good for practicing through.”
It’s important to remember that just because you don’t have an amp like one on this list doesn’t mean you are unable to practice.
That being said, practicing guitar can be a challenge, especially for children. Every little thing that can make practicing guitar more fun is going to make it easier and more likely for us to work on our craft.
So what makes the perfect practice amp?
For me, the most important thing is a headphone jack. Most traditional tube amplifiers don’t have a headphone jack on them, which means the only way they can be heard is through their speaker. Therefore, all of your work, and your mistakes, are on display for your roommates and neighbors to hear. Practicing with headphones allows you to practice fearlessly and without the thought of others judging your playing. It also means that you can play at any hour of the day without disturbing those around you.
It’s also a plus if your practice amp is small, so that you can easily take it with you into hotels or on the road. This comes in handy if you’re a professional musician on tour, or if your kid wants to practice while on vacation.
Some practice amps even have features that facilitate good practice habits, like having built in metronomes, drumbeats, or Bluetooth connections for jamming along to your favorite songs.
Finally, just because an amp is your practice amp doesn’t mean that it can’t sound good. If you enjoy how you sound you are more likely to keep coming back.
The amps on this list are picked out for any kind of player. I think that all of the amps on this list could help anyone get more excited to play.
While I normally don’t “rank” my amp choices, I think it is worth ranking these amps in terms of how well they support practicing.
Here are my top 5 amps for practicing in order from best, to least-best:
The 5 Best Guitar Practice Amps In 2021
1. NuX Mighty Air Review
- Wireless Stereo Modelling Amplifier with Bluetooth, Mobile App.Bluetooth connectivity and a dedicated app will enhance your tone from your mobile devices.
- Build-in Wireless Receiver , Wireless Transmitter with the package.
- 2 x 2 inch speakers with a passive bass radiator, 4 + 4 watt power.
The top pick for a practice amp is the NuX Mighty Air. This is similar to the NuX Mighty Lite BT, which made it onto our list of “Best Cheap Amplifiers”. The Mighty Air is a wireless model with added features that make it a little pricier than the old model but are well worth the price jump. This amp has everything you could want for practicing.
The NuX Mighty Air is a stereo modeling amplifier filled with two 2-inch speakers and 8 watts of power. It’s a powerful little amp that can fit in the palm of your hand. There are so many features packed into this amp, but the most exciting one is that it has a built in wireless system that charges on the device. No more tangled cords to mess with while practicing!
The Mighty Air also has a built in metronome, drums tracks, backing tracks, and Bluetooth connection for wireless audio playback. You have 13 amps, 20 IR’s, 19 effects, and Acoustic simulation to use while you practice to your favorite songs. This can all be done for up to 18 hours on its internal, rechargeable battery.
It’s important to note that the integrated app allows you to access the full range of sounds and features available on this amp. However, the controls on the amp itself still allow for a lot of versatile sounds and fun practice settings.
The wireless transmitter charges in the input jack, or you can plug in a traditional guitar cable. There is a button below that pairs the transmitter. This amp has four channels that can be accessed from the Channel button and they are indicated by color. The Drum knob controls the volume of your drum track.
The next button over controls both Drum Style and Play/Pause, from which you can choose a wide variety of backing tracks and metronomes. The tempo is controlled by the TAP button via tap tempo. Finally, the four bottom knobs let you control the Gain, Volume, Tone, and Delay/Reverb effect you have on your signal.
The four built in channels on the amp all sound great for such a little amp. The Green channel is a Fender-like clean setting. Yellow is an Overdrive sound similar to a cranked Marshall. It sounds warm, but chunky and clear at the same time. Next is the Red channel that emulates a high gain fuzz tone. Finally, the Purple channel is the acoustic emulation. It doesn’t sound exactly like an acoustic amp, but it’s still cool that you can sound like an acoustic while playing your electric.
The Mighty Air’s wide arrange of other sounds, including effects and famous amplifiers, can all be accessed on the app.
- Type: Stereo Modeling Amp
- Power: 8W
- Channels: 4
- Speakers: 2 x 2”
- Features: Built in Wireless, NuX App, Bluetooth, Drum Looper, Metronome, Built-in effects, Rechargeable Battery
Final Thoughts on the NuX Mighty Air
It just doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to compact practice amplifiers. You could have this unit laying on your coffee table to incentivize your practice while you watch TV. The backing tracks will get you learning how to jam. Wireless connectivity means easy plug/play accessibility.
It has a headphone jack if you want to play silently. It sounds great and its competitively priced. There are no excuses to not practice when you have this amp.
2. Yamaha THR10II Review
- Realistic tube-amp tones and feel plus essential effects
- 15 Guitar amps, 3 bass amps, 3 mic models for acoustic-electrics, and flat modes for everything else
- Bluetooth support for audio playback, editing via the remote, and more
For those who want more sounds, and are okay with a stationary amp, then the Yamaha THR10II is the answer. This desktop amp made it into our list of Best Amps under $300 as well.
Desktop amplifiers are a newer build concept for amps, to which Yamaha has been pioneering. This name has been thrown around with the likes of the Blackstar Fly 3 and other ultraportable amps, but I think the THR10II embodies this term best. This is an amp small enough to find a permanent home on your desk and is built to be integrated into a home studio or computer.
The Yamaha THR10II is a 20W amp modeler. It has 15 guitar amp models, as well as 3 bass amp models and even microphone simulators for acoustic sounds. All of this lush tone is then pumped through two, small stereo speakers that are perfect for home use.
It also has USB and Bluetooth connectivity, making it a great interface for recording guitar straight to your favorite DAW and for practicing to audio tracks.
While further controls are available on the included software, the amp itself has enough parameters to where you could easily thrive just using the amp alone. Most notable for good practice is the included Tuner/Tap Time control, allowing you to get into tune and then practice to a metronome or with perfectly time effects.
Beyond that is the Amp selection knob, which gives you the option of selecting between Clean, Crunch, Lead, Hi Gain, and Special, Bass, Acoustic, and Flat amp voices. The usual tone control suspects are all there as well, including a Gain, Master Volume, and 3 Band EQ for fine tuning.
The effects controls are really intuitive and clever, with a rotary dial that is split into 4 sections. As you increase the turn clockwise, the effect gets more intense. On the far right are individual Output controls for both Guitar and Audio, giving you the ability to control the volume of your guitar or audio track independently.
Once you find amp sounds that you like, you can save them in one of the five user memory banks for quick access to your favorite presets.
Even though the THR10II projects through 3”, stereo speakers, I am really impressed with the sound quality this amp provides. It will likely sound better than whatever computer monitors you have, unless they are professional grade recording monitors. For the sake of home recording and home practice, these speakers sound phenomenal.
As for the amp itself, this is a versatile little machine that is well equipped for both vintage and modern sounds alike. The amp models are well designed and sound like the real deal. The amp sounds full and worn in, without the hi-fi sterility that many amp models can be guilty of possessing.
- Type: Solid State, Desktop Amp Modeler
- Power: 20W
- Channels: Single
- Speakers: 2 x 3.1” Full Range
- Features: Tuner, Built in effects, Bluetooth capability, MP3 Playback, Tap Tempo
Final Thoughts on the Yamaha THR10II
This is one of the best sounding practice amps available. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air to see practice amps that still sound worthy of being recorded. The fact that it functions as an interface is also really powerful and makes it a great platform to practice recording guitar parts through.
3. Boss KTN-Air Review
- Totally wireless guitar amplifier with newly developed BOSS technology delivers rock-solid sound with ultra-low latency
- Compact wireless transmitter plugs into various kinds of electric guitars and charges while docked in the amp
- Transmitter provides 12 hours of playing time on a single charge, and automatically enters standby mode to conserve the charge when no activity is detected
This amp is almost like a hybrid between the NuX Mighty Air and the Yamaha THR10II. The Katana Air (KTN-AIR) makes for a great practice amp because of its wireless design and unbeatable list of amp and effect tones.
The amp is a combo amp, but at first glance it appears to be a head unit. The amp has two, small stereo speakers that make the amp project on its own, yet it takes up as little space as possible. It also has a wireless receiver that automatically turns on/off when it comes into range with the amp. This means you don’t need to mess around with guitar cables. It is even capable of being powered by 8 x AA batteries. The fact that it is lightweight, wireless, and has a sturdy handle makes this a great hybrid between a stationary desktop amp and a portable amplifier to take anywhere with you.
The Katana Air features almost the exact same control layout as the rest of the Katana Family. It has a knob to select one of five different amp voicings, followed by universal Gain, Volume, and 3 Band EQ. Then come your effects’ controls, which are split in half to allow two effects per control: Boost/Modulation, Delay/FX. At the end are controls for Reverb and the Master Volume, as well as buttons for Channel A and B, Bluetooth connectivity, power, and Wireless.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Katana series sounds phenomenal. I show this amp to anybody who doubts that solid state amps can sound good. The amps are all really convincing in their amp-like character. Boss effects are some of the best and have for decades shaped guitar players’ tones. Having a plethora of them built into such a small amp is really fun.
I’m impressed with the sound quality of the built in, small stereo speakers. The amp is rated at 30 watts, so it gets loud, but it may not be big enough for a band setting. That being said, I think this amp could take on a show if it is mic’ed up into a PA. The wireless feature also works flawlessly with zero latency, making it even more stage appropriate.
- Type: Solid State Combo
- Power: 30W
- Channels: 2
- Speakers: 2 x 3” stereo
- Features: Amp modeling, 50 effects, Bluetooth, wireless connectivity, battery powered optional
Final Thoughts on the Katana Air
It doesn’t have any built in practice tools, but the Katana Air makes for a great practice amp because it has a clean, no fuss or mess design and it sounds great. You could grab this amp by the handle and take it with you on the road. Yet it is still small enough to not take too much space on your desk if you want to keep it in a stationary spot.
4. Line 6 AMPLIFi TT Review
- Turn any Hi-Fi or powered speaker system into a guitar amp
- Stream your music library over Bluetooth
- Jam with the included AMPLIFi Remote app for iOS and Android
Computer interfaces designed specifically for use with guitar are also great tools for practice. With dozens of amp models and a sleek and simple design, the AMPLIFi TT (Tabletop) is perfect for at home practice routines.
Unlike the other “amps” on this list, the AMPLIFi TT is an interface. There is a traditional amp version of the AMPLIFi too, but I wanted to address how compact interfaces like the TT can be beneficial practice tools.
Because the AMPLIFi TT doesn’t have a built in speaker, it needs to be paired with computer speakers or headphones through the 1/4” jack on the front. The benefit of computer monitors, and headphones is the ability to practice quietly in your own home. This model gives you 78 amp models, 97 effects and 24 cabinets at your home computer. Even if you did need to travel, the AMPLIFi is compact and only weighs 4 pounds, so it will go anywhere your laptop can.
The other thing I like about the AMPLIFi TT is its simple control layout. The front panel has a TONE button that allows you to choose between Presets A through D. These presets sound great out of the box, but they can also be saved/programmed to be whatever sound you want.
The five Knobs work just like a traditional amp, with controls for Drive, 3-Band EQ, and Reverb. There are buttons for Tap Tempo and Blue tooth connections too, so you can along to tracks via Bluetooth in tempo. The large knob to the far right is the overall Volume control. These controls allow you to use the unit on its own, but the App allow for much for tonal control if you want.
The AMPLIFi TT has almost as much tonal versatility as the Helix, but it resides in a compact little unit. There is no doubt that this has the most sounds available compared to the other amps on this list, so if you want to have every possible tone available to you when your practice, then this is a great option to consider.
Because the TT is an interface, you can also make high quality recordings with it. Just plug the AMPLIFi TT vis USB to your computer’s recording software and control the setting wirelessly using your phone. There is zero latency and it sounds very realistic.
- Type: Compact Modeling Interface
- Amps: 78
- Cabinets: 97
- Effects: 24
- Features: Bluetooth, Amp modeling, Phone app,
Final Thoughts on the Line 6 AMPLIFi TT
Having the ability to turn any Hifi speaker or powered speaker system into a practice amp is a powerful thing. Even if you don’t have speakers you can still use the headphones. I wish the AMPLIFi TT had software to be used with computers, but the phone App is very user friendly and can be used wirelessly, so I’m still happy with it. It’s also a great too to use if you are learning how to record guitar.
5. JOYO Jam Buddy Review
- Usage scenarios：This Electric Guitar amplifer is build for Practicing,Small Gathering,protable smart size with big power.Bluetooth 4.0 connect channel for recepting background music and songs
- Mute practice：Features monitor headphone out jack that can be conneced with headphone,therefore you can practice quietly or listen to music without disturbing others
- Sound function：Multiple effect function such as Clean、Overdrive and Delay will make an excellent response
The JOYO Jam Buddy is probably the most unique of all the practice amps on this list in that it is a pedal style amp. Don’t let looks deceive you though. This amp is built to make practicing easy and fun.
The pedal amp is a 2 x 4 Watt amplifier that has two channels (three, technically. More on that later.) and can be integrated into your traditional guitar rig if needed. It’s made of plastic, but still feels like a solid and well-built piece of gear. You can either listen to it through headphones or the two built in speakers.
It features Bluetooth capability for jamming along to tracks and because it weighs only 1.5 pounds it is an easy amp to take with you anywhere. The amp is also battery powered if needed and can last for up to three hours on its rechargeable lithium battery.
The Jambuddy has a control panel and two foot switches. The foot switches allow you to choose between Drive and Clean channels, as well as which Drive Mode (Classic or Hi Gain) you want to play through. This effectively gives you three channels to work with. The knobs across the top function like a typical amp, with controls for Master Volume, Tone, Drive Gain, and Clean Gain.
The Drive Gain is a global gain setting for both Classic and Hi Gain settings, so wherever you set this control will affect both voices. The pedal has built in Delay, with controls for the Mix, Feedback, and Time included. Finally, there are two little switches for Power, and for the Bluetooth.
Unfortunately, the sounds of this unit are what place it last on the list. It sounds good enough for practice but compared to the other amps on this list its definitely the least pleasing. My favorite amp setting was the Clean channel with the Clean Gain set past noon for those edge of breakup tones.
The Classic amp sounds okay, with a present midrange that would work well for rhythm guitar practice. It may just be my personal taste, but I find the Hi Gain setting to be the least usable. The high end on it is shrill and hard to handle. If you are looking to practice guitar solos, I would set the Jam Buddy to the Classic or Clean channels and plug your favorite overdrive pedal in front of it instead.
The onboard speakers aren’t the best in the world, but they are good enough for practicing at home. If you don’t like them, there is a headphone jack for quiet practice.
- Type: Solid State Floor Unity
- Power: 2 x 4W
- Channels: 2 (3 voices)
- Speakers: 2
- Features: Battery Powered (Rechargeable Lithium), Bluetooth, Delay, Headphones, Comes with Tuner, Cable, and Picks on Amazon
Final Thoughts on the JOYO Jam Buddy
JOYO makes great, compact amplifiers, so I was intrigued by the design of the Jam Buddy. It is really lightweight and thin, making it an easy amp to take with you wherever you need to practice. The sound quality could be better, but the build/design concepts make it worth having.
Make Practicing As Easy and Fun As Possible
I find that the hardest part about practicing guitar is getting started. If I can have an amplifier that makes getting started as easy as picking up a guitar, flipping a switch, and playing, then I’m off to a good start.
Many of these amps make sitting down and playing easy. This comes in the form of wireless playing, compact designs, or great built in sounds. This is what separates practice amps from normal amps.
Practicing should also be fun!
It can be hard but having a great amp with loads of features to motivate your practice makes it a much more enjoyable process. I think that all of these amps have something to them that makes them fun to play with.
I hope that one of these amps can inspire you or the guitar player in your life.
Happy Guitar Practicing!
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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.