Guitar amps come in all different shapes, sizes, colors…you name it. The key is getting the right amp that serves your needs in the best way. For many players, all they need is a small practice-type amp that’ll just get the job done. No need for a full-blown stack costing several thousand dollars just for that!
Fortunately, technology has come a long, long way in recent years. It’s not uncommon to find a wide range of guitar amps that will cost you less than $100 bucks, and a good number of them are pretty killer! What’s not to like about that?
Well…plenty. While some of these amps are great values, others are the definition of the word ‘cheap.’ We at KGR prefer the term ‘cost-effective,’ but sometimes you have to call things for what they are. Some options don’t offer much more than poor quality and lousy tone. So yeah, in these cases, ‘cheap’ fits the bill pretty well.
With so many small amps on the market these days, how are you to know which ones rock and which ones suck? That’s our job. So sit back for a few minutes and we’ll guide you to the best guitar amps for under $100.
Our Top 3
Best For Rock
Don’t be fooled by its size. The Orange Crush 12 packs a lot of punch and it’s a great amp that will give you some truly awesome sounds. You may think that small amps can’t handle some good ole rock and roll, but you’d be wrong – and Orange is here to prove that to you. Orange has had a resurgence in popularity recently, and they’ve done everything they could to take their classic citrus tone and pack it into this little 12w monster.
Best For Metal
The word ‘metal’ conjures up visions of a wall of Dual Rectifiers or classic 5150s. Got a trick-out for you here – the Blackstar Fly 3 has a ton of fire under the hood, all in a very portable (and cost-effective) package. Yeah, you can melt steel with the right metal amp and we were pleasantly surprised by how hot the tones dripping out of the Blackstar Mini were. If metal is your thing, this 3-watt beast should be right up your alley.
Best Guitar For Clean Tones
You’d think clean tones would be pretty easy to pull off, but that isn’t always the case – especially when dealing with a solid-state practice amp that hasn’t ever seen a tube in its life. With the Acoustasonic 15, Fender has used its reputation as one of the best clean-sounding amp manufacturers to give you one mighty fine-sounding amp for those times when a little dirt just isn’t in the cards. Utilizing some innovative tone circuitry and onboard effects, you’ll find the Acoustasonic 15 makes getting those pristine clean sounds a pretty easy thing to do.
Classic looks and big rock and roll crunch.
With this amp you're getting a genuine Orange, a brand that has helped to define the rock genre, at an increidble price. It brings big, beefy crunch and killer looks, too.
- 3-band EQ
- 6-inch custom speaker
- Distinct Orange tone
- Retro Aesthetics
Maybe it’s the manufacturer’s commitment to analog circuitry or the 6-inch custom ‘voice of the world’ speaker the Orange Crush 12-watt practice amp (full review here) that gives it a truly unique set of sounds to fiddle with. Whatever it is, the whole Orange Crush range features some fab rock-era tones. Whether it’s cranked-up wails, articulated Brit-pop, rhythmic, funky chunks, or heavy overdrive you are after, there’s something for every taste.
Alongside your standard 3-band equalization, you have an overdrive dial and a gain dial. The overdrive controls the amount of headroom, causing your signal to break up and the gain piles on the dirt and noise until it’s a gravelly mess.
On top of that, you have a volume dial, and you can achieve decent levels for practicing. Alternatively, you can practice with headphones. It has a ¼ inch single-channel input and a ¼ output. This is great if you have a decent set of headphones. The port emulates the modeled cabs and sounds awesome.
It doesn’t appear at face value to offer much more than some others we looked at that sell for half the price, but the quality does speak for itself. Top-notch, non-imported manufacturing (no shoddy soldering), closed-back cabinet. Instantly recognizable branding with its eye-catching orange basket weave Tolex and woven speaker grille, it will stand out and ring out.
Verdict: The Orange Crush 12 packs the distinctive looks and tones of Orange into this hard-working, deceptively loud 12-watt amplifier. 3-band EQ, gain, overdrive a punchy custom speaker, and a cab-emulated full-size headphone port, what more do you want for a hundred bucks? Easily our choice for the best guitar amp under $100 for rock players.
Searing metal tones in a highly portable package.
For what is essentially a battery powered micro amp, this 3 watt Blackstar can handle some serious gain, and with the right guitar, it'll even chug!
- Mini amp
- 2 channels
- Tape-delay style effect
- Battery or DC operation
Producing sound that has to be heard to be believed at just 3 watts of power, the Blackstar Fly 3 combo amp is something else. For the most part, micro-amplifiers aren’t all that impressive, but Blackstar has given this palm-sized powerhouse the benefits of the same ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) tech that the rest of their amplifiers have.
In terms of decibels, you can’t expect miracles. But sonically speaking, it’s a surprising piece of kit that can sit on a bookshelf. The clean is pretty sweet and has a range of flavors you can dial in with the tone knob. The overdrive is much more impressive and add to that the digitally reproduced tape-delay emulation. Using the ISF nature of the amp, you have access to a smorgasbord of different soundscapes at your fingertips.
It has a solitary full-size jack input and an auxiliary mini-jack for you to jam along to your MP3s. There is also an emulated output mini-jack that you can use for silent practice via headphones. You can hook two of these babies up with the rear-mounted extension port. The Mini-amp functions with a DC power adaptor or 6 AA batteries, so you can use it away from power outlets.
Verdict: As mini-amps go, the sound doesn’t get much better than the Blackstar Fly 3 in terms of creativity. The EQ and tape-delay utilize Blackstar’s patented ISF, which takes the tone from a focused American style twang to a British crunch. Super-portable, with battery power optional, you can take it wherever you want to. Easily our choice for the best guitar amp under $100 for metal players.
Legendary Fender clean tones in an affordable practice amp.
This Fender amp is primarily designed for plugging in or micing up acoustics, but it does a great job of taming hot pickups on electric guitars for a more bell like tone.
- XLR and TRS inputs
- 3-band EQ and Chorus
- Whizzer cone
- Great articulation
Next up is an amp from Fender featuring a dual input panel that has an XLR input as well as a ¼ TRS that provides a pristine clean tone. You can use the mic-line for singing with a semi-acoustic/ electro-acoustic plugged in.
The dials and inputs are front-facing as opposed to top-mounted, leaving space for a carry handle. This along with its lighter weight makes it a highly portable practice amp. Decked out in a tan-colored textured vinyl with a black, cloth grille, it has a vibe of its own.
The cab is a sealed unit and the speaker is a combinational array set-up, so the sound is great. As well as the 6-inch standard speaker, you have a smaller ‘Whizzer’ cone that acts a little bit like a tweeter, bringing out some of the higher frequencies. This lets your treble end sing out and gives the clean tones a much brighter feel.
Each input channel has a dedicated volume dial, you also have a 3-band EQ and a chorus attenuator. It is 15 watts has great headroom, very little breakup, and is great for shimmering chords and jazzier tones.
Verdict: The Fender Acoustasonic 15 is a beautiful practice amp with a bonus XLR input channel that could serve a busker well. The 6-inch speaker benefits from an additional Whizzer cone that brings clarity to articulate the already clean tones. The chorus dial adds a bit of glimmer and shine. No no-brainer as the best guitar amp under $100 for acoustic players.
A deceptively loud amp with great tone and incredible portability.
If you're a fan of Fender's classic Blackface amps, you'll love the looks of the Frontman 10g. For a 6" speaker with just 10 watts, it moves a surprising amount of air without losing clarity.
- Practice amp
- 6-inch speaker
- Appealing price
The Fender Frontman 10G is a starter amp in their series. While it’s marketed as a beginner’s model, we think it makes a great cheap practice amp regardless of your experience level. Sporting Fender’s iconic looks with its silver thread grille cloth and skirted dials, the 10G is an homage to the Blackface amps that came before it.
You have access to tweaking your gain, volume, treble, and bass, in addition to an over-drive select switch to kick things up a notch. Equipped with a 6-inch speaker set in a closed-back enclosure, the bass end of the spectrum is punchy and impressive. The tube emulation is pretty spot-on. You can mess around with it and achieve a host of memorable sounds from the decades that precede it. It has a good amount of warmth for a small, low-watt digital masquerader.
The volume level is ideal for bedroom practice, you can also use the headphone auxiliary to practice late into the night without anyone complaining. There is also a 1/8 inch auxiliary-in to connect modern audio devices.
Verdict: Easy to dial in a range of tube-type tones, the Fender Frontman 10G is far from a beginner’s amp. With an ideal volume for bedroom practice but a capable 6-inch speaker to help push the dirt and crunchier tones, it’s 10 watts of a sweet choice with an affordable price tag that brings unbeatable value. If you’re looking for the Fender sound, this is the best guitar amp under $100 that will get you to that tone.
Impossibly big tones from a pocket size amp.
Here, you're getting a faithful replica of a Vox AC30 in a tiny, pocket sized heaphone amp that allows for silent practice. It offers strong battery life, classic Vox chime, and takes up almost no room whatsoever.
- Headphone amplifier
- Tone dial, chorus, reverb, and delay settings
- 180-degree fold-out connector
- All-analog circuitry
If you envisage using your amp solely with headphones at unsociable hours, the Vox G2AC30 could be a sound investment. Instead of having a beautiful amp gathering dust in the corner, you have one of the most compact solutions on the market in the form of a headphone amplifier.
The G2 series has had a circuitry overhaul to improve the signal reproduction and amplification, it’s still all-analog pathways. The TRS connection has had a rework. The foldable mechanism can turn 180 degrees, giving it better access to sunken connections and making it more widely compatible with different guitar models.
This tiny but mighty headphone amplifier is equipped with a volume, tone, and gain dial. There’s also an effects button that allows you to cycle through 9 effects settings: 3 chorus settings, 3 reverbs, and 3 delays. There is a built-in mini-jack auxiliary input, so you can listen to a track and practice along.
The sound is great. The AC30 has no overdrive, but Vox makes multiple variations, one with low-end frequency attenuation for bass and five different guitar tone packages for blues, lead, clean, classic rock, and metal.
Verdict: The entire Vox G2 series provides a palm-sized personal amp for silent practice. The Vox AP2AC Amplug G2 AC30 is packed with reverb, delay, and chorus effects and a tone dial that goes from mellow to bright. The connector has a folding, rotating mechanism to help it plug into hard-to-reach outputs, and it is incredibly well-manufactured.
An unassuming, yet reliable practice amp.
Taking design cues from classic Fender amps, this Donner offers good volume, good tones, and solid build quality - everything you need in a starter amp.
- Beginners amp
- Sturdy -build
- Economic price
The DEA-1 is another good starter amp. The first in Donner’s series, it provides a single input two-channel bedroom amp. The secondary channel is activated via a boost button and the bass is punchy because of its closed-cab design.
The build quality is pretty impressive for a cheap amplifier, with a strong shell and a tightly woven grille that sports the Donner logo. Donner has added bumpers to the corners for reinforcement and it has feet to raise it from the floor. The dials are front-loaded to include a carry handle and make it easier to lug about.
Running economically at just 10 watts, the DEA-1 has a 6.5-inch speaker, slightly larger than the other amps we have reviewed so far. This affords it good volume levels, although the higher levels are a little buzzier with the boost activated.
Across the front panel, you have access to a gain dial to control your input levels so you can fiddle to get a sweet spot. There is traditional 3-band equalization to shape your tone, with the bass being particularly rich. The treble is nice and warm for a digital amp.
There is a 1/8-inch aux-in and aux-out so you can play with headphones along to the song you are trying to learn. The amp comes with an input lead and two 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch adaptors.
Verdict: As cheap amplifiers go, the Donner AMP DEA-1 ticks all the boxes of a starter-style offering. With traditional 3-band EQ and a secondary boosted channel, you have good room for dialing in the tone you want. The build quality is pretty good and it harbors a slightly larger speaker for decent practice levels.
The sound of the "British Invasion" in an affordable and portable package.
From the tartan grille cloth to the gold lettering, the Pathfinder is every inch a real Vox. It might not have the power of an AC30, but it has all the chime (and the charm) that you'd expect.
- 10-watt practice amp
- 3-band EQ and Overdrive
- Filtered line-out
- 6.5-inch custom heavy-duty speaker
- Rock-solid design
Another 10-watt route you can go, this time at the higher end of our $100 budget, would be the Vox Pathfinder Combo amp (one of our favorite small amps). Again, it is a modern solid-state amp, but it pleasantly serves up some authentic-sounding vintage Vox tones.
The dials are top-mounted for easy access. You’ll find your run-of-the-mill 3-band EQ and input gain with an overdrive switch, and Vox still manages to slip in a solid carry handle for your convenience.
The 10 watts of power dishes out the decibels quite impressively as far as the overdrive channel is concerned. The clean is much quieter comparatively, but overall volume levels are surprising. With a closed back and a custom-built, heavy-duty 6.5-inch speaker, it delivers sound with clarity between the mids and distinctive trebles.
The case has classic good looks with Vox’s familiar diamond stitching in a red, gold, and green mix all over the front grille cloth. The build quality surpasses a lot of the midrange amps we have looked at. As such, it’s worth the extra dollars.
The 1/4-inch line-out is filtered so that you can hook it up to an audio interface, send a filtered signal, or listen to it authentically with a decent set of headphones.
Verdict: The Vox Pathfinder is a genuine all-rounder – exceptionally well-made, impressive 6.5-inch custom speaker, and well-equipped for tone-sculpting. With two channels (clean/overdrive), 3-band EQ decent volume levels for a 10-watt amp, and a price just shy of our budget cap, it’s a top contender for best amp under $100.
Genuine modeling amp capabilities at an almost unbelivable price.
For around $100, you're getting 3 voicings, delay FX and even 3 band EQ in a tiny, battery (or DC) powered amp that's small enough to take almost anywhere.
- Single-channel mini-amp
- 3-band EQ
- Tape-delay settings
- 3 cab emulations
- A little over budget
Okay, full disclosure, this one is priced above our $100 cap, but we couldn’t help ourselves. If you’re willing to part with a few more bucks, you’ll get twice the amp, and we think it’s worth showing what that $20 extra buys you.
The Katana-Mini is a 7-watt amp with a 4-inch speaker that packs a punch. Lightweight and portable, but built to last with high-quality manufacturing. The input channel has a multi-stage analog gain circuit, and you have 3 amp settings to choose from. They are Brown for high-gain pursuits, Crunch for edgier, driven tones, and Clean, which is self-explanatory (we will add that it’s pretty dynamic).
Next up, you have your EQ panel to hone in on the sound you’re looking for with your style selected. On top of that, you have a tape-delay section. The Blackstar we opened the review section with also has tape delay, but it’s an auto-attenuated feature with one dial ranging from 0-10. The Katana-Mini amp gives you more control, allowing users access to individual time and level dials.
There are two auxiliaries, one in and one out, located on the rear panel. This Mini amp can run on batteries or be DC-powered. Currently, it is selling with a bonus set of Austin Bazaar goodies thrown in, including a 24-pack of Fender picks and a 10-foot GearLux Pro instrument cable.
Verdict: The Boss Katana Mini-Amp is one of the best guitar mini amps on the market. It presents far more range of control over your sound than competitive models. Running at just 7 watts, the 4-inch speaker is phenomenal. You get three channel styles to switch between, a 3-band EQ and Tape-Delay. It’s well worth forking out a little more if you can scrape together the extra cash.
Thankfully, we live in a time when amps don’t have to cost a fortune to be good. These 8 amps cost less than $100, each delivering great tones without breaking the bank.
To summarize our findings from this review…
If you’re looking for the best cheap amp for rock, the Orange Crush 12 is our recommendation. If you’re looking for metal tones, go with the Blackstar Fly 3. Finally, if it’s cleans you’re looking for, the Fender Acoustasonic 15 is hard to beat at the price.