An unfortunate fact in the life of every musician is that sometimes people just don’t want to hear you play. Which is pretty understandable all things considered, I mean I wouldn’t be too enthused if one of my roommates decided that 3 A.M. is the perfect time to practice the drum part from YYZ.
So what’s a musician to do? Nobody wants to be a headache for those around them, but everybody has to practice. Well thankfully, there are all sorts of great practice amps that fill this niche wonderfully. In no particular order, here are some of the best mini-amps available for the discerning musician on a budget.
One of the smallest amps on this list- weighing in at only 0.34 pounds and roughly the same size as the Danelectro Honeytone– the Marshall MS2 is another great option for the musician looking for an amp with a small footprint. This no nonsense amp sports a dedicated volume and tone control as well as a headphone jack. The amp also boasts stereo-out functionality, allowing the Marshal to drive an external power amp.
Like most amps on this list the Marshall MS2 can be powered by either a standard 9-volt battery or an external adapter, both of which are sold separately.
If you’re on the hunt for a practice amp with huge sound, you can’t go wrong with the ZT Lunchbox Junior. ZT Amplifiers was established in 2008, and ever since the company’s inception they’ve had one goal in mind; designing affordable, yet compact, amps with boutique tone.
The ZT Lunchbox Junior is a relatively minimalist amp, but it sports some useful features regardless. While it has the usual stand-bys (volume, gain, and tone) the amp also has the ability to power pedals through its dedicated 9-volt out adapter, and it sports a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s also an AUX-in port, making it a great option if you want to jam along with your favorite tracks.
The ZT Lunchbox Junior can be powered by either the included power cord, or a 12-volt adapter which is sold separately.
If you need a flexible mini-amp capable of replicating a wide array of tones, then look no further than the Roland Micro Cube. This ultra-compact sports eight unique amp models, as well as eight DSP guitar effects. The variety of effects and amp models makes this amp a great option for the musician who needs the hallmark tones of several different genres at their finger tips, but doesn’t want to drag their pedals along with them. The i-CUBE Link is also a great feature, allowing the amp to easily interface with most Apple products. While the Roland Micro Cube was designed with battery operation in mind, but it can also be run off of the included adaptor.
Fender has had a long standing reputation for making some of the best practice amps available, and the Fender Mustang I V2 is no exception. While the effects on the Fender are a bit more limited than what you’d see on the Roland, most useful options are on board, some of which include: reverb, delay, tremolo, overdrive, and fuzz. Also, the Mustang features seventeen unique amp models, all of which do a great job of reproducing classic guitar tones.
But the true standout feature on the amp is the easy customizability. So long as you have a computer and a USB cord any effect or amp model can be edited through the included Fender FUSE software, which gives the amp an unprecedented amount of flexibility.
So the biggest problem with mini-amps has always been that you can’t get a great tone out of them. Sure, you can get a tone that’s great for a mini-amp, but you’d be hard pressed to find an amp that could perform equally well in both a studio and a college dorm.
Well Vox has finally solved this problem with the AC4TV, one of the only all tube practice amps available on the market today. What’s great about this amp is the built in attenuation feature, allowing an all tube overdrive to be achieved at any volume level on the amp.
The Vox is powered solely through a standard wall adapter, which does limit it’s portability by quite a wide margin. However, it does offer one of the best values on the market for the musician who is looking for all tube tone that can be achieved at a reasonable volume.
It's not the cheapest mini-amp on this list, but the Orange CR3 is a great option for the discerning musician on a budget. While it may not have much in the way of onboard effects, the onboard overdrive and tuner will meet the needs of the average guitarist. The amp also sports the same retro aesthetic as its bigger brothers, which is a huge plus if you’re a fan of the company.
Every Orange CR3 ships with an included power supply, though the amp can also be powered by a standard 9-volt battery.
The Danelectro Honeytone is one of the most affordable practice amps on the market today, sporting a funky retro aesthetic and a surprisingly full sound for its small size. Though the amp may not sport much in the way of features, by all accounts it takes pedals like a champ. This amp is perfect for the young musician heading off to college, as it’s relatively expensive and leaves a small footprint.
The Danelectro Honeytone can be powered by either a standard 9-volt battery or the Danelectro DA-1 adapter which is unfortunately sold separately. The amp also sports a headphone jack, making it a great option for silent practicing.
Practice amps are a great tool for any musician to have, but with the wide variety of options available selecting the perfect model for your needs can be a bit challenging. But hopefully with the information here you’ll be able to make an informed decision.