As with almost all guitar gear, amplifier prices are coming down, and quality is going up rapidly. As a result, there’s never been a better time to be an amplifier shopper on a budget.
For those on the tightest budgets, finding a cheap amp that’s genuinely good may seem a daunting task at first, but we’ve got you covered. In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide we rounded up the 5 best amplifiers under $300 on the market today. As with all of our amp reviews, we looked specifically for build quality, features, and tones
If you’re in the market for a budget amp, you definitely won’t want to miss this one!
- Best Guitar Amps Under $300:Our Top 3
- Best Guitar Amps Under $300: Individual Reviews
- How To Choose The Best Guitar Amp Under $300
- Final Thoughts on the Best Guitar Amps Under $300
Best Guitar Amps Under $300:Our Top 3
Our top pick in this roundup is a rare find indeed – a quality all tube amp that slips in well under the $300 budget. The Bugera V5 Infinium is a powerful unit that delivers quality tones, and looks frankly excellent!
Budget conscious shoppers will love our best budget pick, the Blackstar Fly 3 Bluetooth. This tiy amp delivers big across the board; it sounds great, it’s highly portable, and it even features Bluetooth connectivity.
If you’re just looking for the best possible amp under $300, we think you can’t go wrong with our Editor’s Choice, the Boss Katana 50 MKII. This amp has reigned supreme in the compact combo modeling scene for years now, and it doesn’t look like any new challengers are equipped to take the crown, either.
Best Guitar Amps Under $300: Individual Reviews
All tube tones and power for far less than you’d ever think possible.
This amp delivers big on vintage styling and classic tube tones. It looks great, and features some clever technology to reduce wear and tear on the tubes, effectively extending their lifespan, and giving you even more enjoyment from the fantastic organic crunch.
The Bugera V5 Infinium is a 5-watt, Class AB guitar amplifier with a 12AX7 preamp tube and an EL84 power tube, making it much more powerful (in reality) than most of the amps on this list, despite having a lower listed power rating (full review here).
Build quality was absolutely solid all around. We liked the vintage vibe, with classic black tolex around the main part of the body, and the off white panel up front giving it a distinctive look. It had a single 8” speaker, which worked really well at delivering a wide frequency response.
Played without any FX, we found that it had plenty of headroom, making it a great option for those looking for a solid clean amplifier. With this headroom we were able to get some great sounds with pedals, too, with no real coloration of the FX units’ inherent character.
With the gain cranked, we managed to get some pretty gnarly organic crunch and distortion, and the best part – because it’s just a 5 watt amp, the crunch was extremely usable at lower volumes.
Assisting in the useability at bedroom levels was the built in attenuator. The V5 Infinium allowed us to turn the power down to 1 watt, which gave us even more opportunity to dirty up the tones, all at socially acceptable volumes.
It had a really nice reverb feature, too. The reverb was natural sounding, and gave us some great ambience to our tone without coming across “digital”, something that often puts us off on cheaper tube amps.
Verdict: The Bugera V5 Infinium seems to defy convention when you stop to think about the fact you’re getting a fantastic all tube amp for such little money. The tones were excellent, it had some great features, and as far as build quality goes, it’s bulletproof. Whether you need your amp for practice, jamming, gigging, or recording, this Bugera really punches above its price tag.
- Solid build quality
- Organic tube overdrive
- Great clean headroom
- Doesn’t have 3 band EQ
- Needs to be mic’d for gigging or recording
Exceptional portability and a great range of tones.
This might technically be considered a micro amp, but it’s no toy. It features many of the same features found on larger Blackstar models, albeit in a much smaller package. It offers exceptional sound quality, multiple channels, tape delay, and even the ability to switch between British and American tone.
The Blackstar Fly 3, as you might guess from its name, packs 3 watts into a tiny battery powered package. Despite the low power, we found it to be a solid performer across the board (full review here). It was constructed from a sturdy ABS type plastic, and being a portable amp, it was clearly built to be able to take some knocks.
We really liked the simple control layout. The panel was top mounted for easy access, and had controls for volume and gain, as well as delay time and level. The EQ control took the form of an ISF knob; ISF stands for infinite shape feature, and it took the tone from a moody, bass heavy British tone, to a bright, sparkly American sound.
Tonally speaking, it delivered crisp, clear tones, with a pretty broad frequency range which was incredible considering it had just a 3” speaker. It kept its composure across the volume range in both the clean and overdrive channels, and gave us some really nice crunch with the gain cranked.
If you need an amp with basic FX, then the tape delay on the Fly 3 won’t disappoint. It had 2 axis control, giving us the ability to modify both the delay level and length, which was far more than we would have expected from such a small unit.
Verdict: The Blackstar Fly 3 is a fantastic choice that comes in significantly under budget, leaving you more money freed up for either a better guitar, or all the accessories you could ever need if you’re in the market for a full package. Its tones are sharp and offer great variety, and surprisingly, it even takes pedals well. It’s about as portable as amps get, and it’s very deserving of the best budget title.
- Highly portable
- Great tape delay FX
- Superb clarity
- Glued on rubber feet
- Lack of EQ options
A perpetual favorite amongst players of all levels.
This is a full featured amp that truly works for players of all levels. It provides the flexibility, versatility, and feature set necessary to work as everything from a practice amp, to a recording input, to a rig for small gigs.
The first time we got our hands on a Boss Katana 50 MKII (for our full review) we were floored to find out that it was less than $500, let alone less than $300. From the enormous feature set, to the build quality and tones, it really doesn’t get better in the sub $300 category.
The build quality exceeded that of much more expensive amps we’ve had on the test bench. Everything about the construction was rock solid, which meant no knocks or rattles, even when all 50 watts were being pushed through the 12” Boss special design speaker. The built in attenuator was also incredibly useful, allowing us to switch between 50, 25, and 0.5 watts – this was great for shifting between bedroom and jam volume levels without impacting the tone or having to adjust any EQ.
As for ease of use, despite the fact that it was a full featured modeling amp, the top mounted panel was simple to navigate, and offered tons of control over every aspect of the amp’s capabilities, from EQ through to FX. We’ve seen tons of modeling amps over the years, and we’re yet to find one in the price range with a more cohesive control layout.
The built in models of the Katana 50 were all great. So, while there are tens of thousands of models available to download from the huge online Katana community, if you don’t want to get into that side of things, the standard selection is more than sufficient. The 5 models that come on this amp out of the box are Acoustic, Clean, Crunch, Lead, and Brown. They range from glassy clean, all the way through to gut punching chug, making this easily the most dynamic amp in the roundup.
We also loved the built in effects selection. There were 60 built into the amp, and like the amp models, there are thousands more to download, or to build yourself in the Boss Tone Studio companion app.
Verdict: The Boss Katana 50 MKII brings so much to the table, and all for under $300! It offers enough power to jam or play small gigs, while still retaining enough fidelity to play with great tone at bedroom volumes thanks to the built in attenuator, and the amp models and built in FX mean that pedals aren’t even necessary. The USB out adds even more versatility, and the impeccable build quality ensures you’ll be enjoying this amp for many years to come.
- Fantastic sound quality
- Tens of thousands of amp models available online
- Built in attenuator
- Quite heavy
- No buttons to turn off FX
Fantastic looks and great tones in a super compact package.
If you’re as interested in the looks of your amp as you are in the tones, then this is a fantastic choice for you. It’s one of the best looking desktop amps on the market, and being a Yamaha, build quality and great tones are assured.
The Yamaha THR5 is a truly compact amp, and despite its diminutive size, it still put out 10 watts by way of a pair of 3” speakers (full review here). This was ideal for practice at bedroom levels, but it wasn’t really sufficient for jamming with a band. On the plus side, it did boast a USB output, which let us use it as a recording interface.
It had 5 amp voicings built into the unit, including Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brit Hi, and Modern. From these amp models we got a great range of tones! The clean setting was crisp, with a nice frequency balance, the crunch setting gave us just a hint of overdrive, the lead setting delivered some screaming top end tones, and the Brit Hi setting gave us some awesome vintage Marshall vibes.
Like the Katana, it also had some built in FX, including 4 modulation type, and 4 reverb/delay effects. Again, for basic use, it gave us the ability to add some texture to our tones without the need for any pedals, which is great for players on a budget. If you want to modify any of the amp voices, or download additional FX, the Yamaha THR editor app does allow for this, although we found it isn’t as user friendly as the Boss Tone Studio.
Verdict: The Yamaha THR5 is a handsome amplifier that makes a great practice unit and recording interface. The amp voicings are solid, and having built in FX removes the need for basic users to invest in external pedals. It lacked a little when it came to volume, but if you’re only looking for something for at home practice, then this is still a solid option.
- Great design
- Good sound quality
- USB interface functionality
- Clunky app interface
- Limited FX array
Legendary Fender tones in their most portable form factor.
With this headphone amp you’re getting some absolutely insane tone from a unit that can literally fit in your pocket. It offers an astonishing 12 classic Fender amp models and an array of built in FX on top of that. It’s ready for any standard wired headphones, and delivers a huge amount of flexibility for a headphone amp.
The Fender Mustang Micro is the smallest amp that Fender has ever made, and despite the fact that it’s a headphone amp, in our opinion, it deserves to be considered amongst the best amps under $300 (full review here).
It felt sturdy in the hand, and we had no concerns about the moving parts coming loose. It was light weight, and with the jack folded it fit easily into a pocket, and would fit in practically any gig bag pocket.
The brain of the Mustang Micro is effectively the same as the Mustang GTX, which resulted in the inclusion of 12 classic Fender amp models. The only downside to cramming all this into such a small unit was that it was a little difficult to switch between settings on the fly. The buttons were closely spaced, so it was quite easy to accidentally change the EQ while trying to move to a different amp.
In addition to the amp models, it had 13 different FX units, which were all surprisingly good. Having access to all of these quality effects in a headphone amp was honestly pretty wild, and not something we’ve seen too often in this category.
It had line in, as well as Bluetooth aux, which let us play along with backing tracks, and amazingly, the USB port isn’t just for downloading firmware or amp patches. This unit also happens to be a full blown USB interface. So, for a little over $100, you can have a headphone amp and an interface for recording.
We loved that it was USB rechargeable, too. Instead of needing disposable batteries, or a power cable, we got around 4 hours of use from each charge. This adds a huge degree of freedom, and makes it an incredibly reliable amp.
Verdict: The Fender Mustang Micro might seem an unusual choice, especially in direct comparison with tube amps and full blown modeling combos, but we think that it’s a viable option for players looking for something compact for at home practice. The built in models and effects were great, and the USB interface functionality was the icing on the cake.
- Super compact
- USB interface functionality
- Built in rechargeable battery
- Requires headphones
- Buttons are cramped together
How To Choose The Best Guitar Amp Under $300
Believe it or not, shopping for a budget amp is remarkably similar to shopping for a premium model. Fundamentally, you’re looking out for many of the same features, and at the same time, trying to avoid many of the same pitfalls. Keep on reading to learn more about what you should be on the look out for when making your decision.
One of the most common questions new amp shoppers ask is “How much power do I need from a guitar amplifier?” The answer, unfortunately, isn’t all that straight forward – it depends on several factors.
How is Amplifier Power Measured?
The first thing to understand is that amp power isn’t actually measured, it’s calculated. An amp’s power is usually expressed in watts, and to discover how much power an amp has, you’d need to use the formula voltage squared divided by resistance. This formula would leave you with the wattage rating of the amp.
Tube Power vs. Solid State Power
One of the most confusing things about amp shopping is understanding the difference between tube power and solid state power, primarily the fact that a 5 watt tube amp can sound as loud as a 30-50 watt solid state amp. This is down to the way in which the power is processed by the internal electronics. Digital solid state amps perform hard clipping on the sound signals, resulting in higher speaker impedance, and ultimately less power.
Tube amps process their power differently, and as a result they are able to transfer up to 90% of their available power into sound, which is why they are perceived as being louder on a watt for watt scale.
The size of the speaker(s) on your amp will also have a noticeable effect on the overall sound profile. Typically, the larger the speaker, the wider the frequency response, meaning you hear more of the individual contributions of the bass, mids, and trebles. The downside is, on cheaper amps, bigger speakers can expose more of a poor amp’s inherent flaws.
Small speakers tend to be dialed in to a more specific frequency. Typically they are strong in the mids to provide a nice, middle of the road tone, but tend to struggle with top end and bass, even with a ton of EQ adjustments. As a result, they often sound more like a household speaker than a guitar amp.
In the sub $300 category there are a huge range of different sizes available, from bug sized headphone amps, to combos with full 12” speakers. The size you choose will impact how easily you can take your amp from place to place. Larger amps are obviously bulkier and heavier, so if you take public transport to get to lessons or jams, you’ll need to think about how much amp you actually need vs. how much you’re willing to carry.
Finally, you’ll need to think about the features you need. If you already own pedals, having built in FX on the amp is almost redundant. If you’re trying to keep your rig as small as possible, having modeling functions as well as FX will help you to do so. If you need volume over everything else, it’s perhaps a good idea to check out a tube powered option.
If you plan to record your work, a modeling amp might be the right choice for you. The majority offer USB interface functionality, which will allow you to plug straight into your DAW on your computer without the need for any additional hardware.
For players who want an amp that performs well for both bedroom level practice and jamming with friends, consider one with an attenuator function. Attenuators allow you to turn down the power, which in turn allows you to realize the tonal benefits of a cranked amplifier, without the volume.
Final Thoughts on the Best Guitar Amps Under $300
The fact that we managed to get everything from headphone amps to all tube models into a roundup of amps under $300 tells you everything you need to know about today’s gear market. It’s more possible than ever to get great equipment at affordable prices, something all guitar players and gear heads should be rejoicing at.
To summarize our favorites from this roundup; our top pick was the Bugera V5 Inifinium. This is an all tube amp with amazing natural overdrive, excellent build quality, and handsome looks. Our best budget option was the Blackstar Fly 3, a highly portable, battery powered amp with awesome sound quality. Finally, our Editor’s Choice was the ever impressive Boss Katana 50 MKII. This is a premium sounding amp that still manages to come in under the $300 budget. It offers a huge range of features, and provides the flexibility needed to be useful as both a practice amp and small gigs rig.