7 Best Budget Guitar Amps (2023) Great Performance at a Modest Price

Finding good guitar amps that didn’t cost a fortune used to be a matter of pure luck and typically meant buying used. Thankfully things have changed somewhat, and pretty much every major gear maker has amps in their lineup that are not only affordable but sound great, too. 

What makes a good budget amp, though? Ideally you’re looking for an amp that hits the sweet spot of tone, features, and of course, low price. 

The question then becomes, how do you narrow down your choices in order to pick the right amp for you? There are many options available, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may end up with an absolute lemon.

In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be taking a look at the best budget amps on the market today. When reviewing each model, we focused on build quality, tone and power, and of course, price in relation to features.

If you’re in the market for an affordable but great guitar amp, you won’t want to miss this!

Our Top 3

The Bugera V5 Infinium is our Top Pick. This compact amp features five watts of true tube sound. Additionally, you get reverb and power attenuation with an 8″ speaker, all for a price you wouldn’t believe.

Guitarists searching for a good amp at a very affordable price should check out our Best Budget option, the Boss Katana Mini. With seven watts of power and a multi-stage analog gain circuit, this amp provides tonal variety and flexibility, with Boss quality and ease of use.

If you’re working with a bit more money and you’re looking for the best of the best while keeping to a sensible budget, then the Vox AC4, our Editor’s Choice, offers great tone and classic styling you’ll love.


Individual Reviews

Our Top Pick
Bugera V5 Infinium

Bugera V5 Infinium

A practical all tube amp that with great tone and portability.

The V5 comes with a tube design and compact form factor for those that seek organic tube tone as well as portability. For added convenience, it also features three levels of attenuation, allowing the user to go from small performances all the way to silent practice with the flip of a switch.

The Bugera V5 Infinium is a five watt amp, delivering true tube sound with its 12AX7 preamp tube and EL84 power tube. Aesthetically speaking, this was definitely amongst the more handsome in the lineup. It had a retro design, with a black Tolex wrap and a cream front panel. 

In our tests, the V5 Infinium gave us a great response to our playing dynamics and authentic tube tone that sounded great for such a little amp. The quality and warmth of the popular and beloved 12AX7 tube came through once we pushed the amp a bit. We loved the bite and overall rich tone provided by this tube, in combination with the EL84.

The 8” speaker was punchy and had good balance. It was easily able to cut through a mix and performed well, even at full volume. This amp started to break up at around 12 o’clock, which meant we got a ton of fantastic organic overdrive, and with the gain cranked, some borderline chug. 

One of the most impressive features of this amp was Bugera’s Tube Life Multiplier Technology. This technology monitors the amp’s output tubes, meaning the V5 Infinium is able to keep an evenly spread load. Each tube had an LED right next to it that allowed us to monitor when the life of the tube was coming to an end, of course, we didn’t test for anywhere near long enough to kill the tubes, but if reliability concerns have put you off tube amps in the past, this could be the solution!

Besides good tone, we also felt that the built in power attenuator made it extremely practical, too. We tried it in all three settings: 0.1 watts, 1 watts, and 5 watts. This let us access all of the fantastic saturated tube tone, even at bedroom volume levels. 

That said, we absolutely loved having the flexibility to play at two other wattage settings, particularly at 0.1 watts. This is because this setting is perfect for quiet practicing, which is much needed if you share a living space with somebody else. 

The built in reverb, while not a genuine spring tank, still gave us fantastic texture without the need for any pedals, too.

Verdict: The Bugera V5 Infinium excels in convenience and features the ever-popular combination of 12AX7 and EL84 tubes for a warm and punchy tone. With a power attenuator for tremendous flexibility, this amp can be used for performances at very small venues or for practicing.


Best Budget
Boss Katana Mini

Boss Katana Mini

The most portable amp from the prestigious Katana series.

The Katana line has been an absolute runaway success for Boss. This amp is the smallest, and most affordable in the lineup, yet it still delivers the tone, ease of use, and overall fantastic features that made the Katana amps so popular among guitarists of all abilities. 

The Boss Katana Mini delivered 7 watts of power through its multi-stage analog gain circuit. Besides tone and convenience, this amp also gave us tons of tonal variety and flexibility, as it came with three selectable voicings, a 3 band EQ, a dedicated delay knob, and more. 

We began with the Brown voicing, which gave us a nice high-gain tone with fantastic sustain and richness for such a small amp. Everything from heavy riffs and aggressive power chords to penetrating leads sounded great on this particular voicing. 

For more of a classic rock tone, we used the Crunch voice, which was also great with the gain knob dialed back for a bit of mild overdrive. This voicing paired particularly well with the bridge pickup on our strat, giving it a really nice bite. 

The previous voicings were great for rock and blues, but anybody who plays jazz, country, and the like, will love the Clean voicing. Here we got a nice open tone in all pickup positions. For instance, country licks sounded good on the bridge pickup, while the neck pickup gave us a darker but more articulate tone that can be used for jazz.

Besides tone and ease of use, this Boss amp also excelled in portability. Weighing less than three pounds, the Katana Mini was easy to carry, even for extended periods of time. This makes it a great choice for buskers or anyone who needs to carry their amp out and about.

Additional features like a speaker-emulated output and headphone out port rounded out this amp by making it a great choice for silent practice using headphones, too. 

Verdict: The Boss Katana Mini gave us a great tone for a 7-watt combo amp. This amp comes with three different voicings for tonal assortment and flexibility. With a 3-band EQ and delay effect, this amplifier allows you to quickly dial in your tone and be ready to play in no time.


Editor's Choice
Vox AC4

Vox AC4

Legendary British tone in a small package.

Vox has been one of the most famous names in guitar amps and is still highly regarded as one of the go-to brands for British tone. With the AC4, you get that mythical saturated tone and response but at a far more affordable price.

The Vox AC4 is the smallest in their legendary AC series, offering 4 watts of all tube power delivered courtesy of 2 12AX7 preamp tubes and 1 EL34 power tube. Despite the smaller size, it was still fitted with a 122” custom Celestion VX12 speaker – a real indicator of the quality components we found throughout.

During our tests, we got that revered top boost sound, as well as a natural response that was great for everything from rock and blues all the way to modern jazz. The relatively low output of this amp meant that it could be used for everything from smaller performances to practice at home.

We particularly liked how the AC4 responded once we pushed the gain. Here we got great warmth that was fantastic for soloing as well as rhythm work. At around 10 o’clock, we got a nice tone on the verge of breakup, and beyond that, we got into an authentic British tone, complete with the classic Vox shimmer. 

We also loved the Brian May type overdrive that this amp provided, with a nice frequency response and a great level of clarity. Being low power, it saturated quickly, and the 12” Celestion speaker stayed clear and crisp. The AC4 also took pedals from our board quite well, too, including several distortion units as well as reverb, modulation, chorus, and tremolo effect stompboxes. 

Verdict: The Vox AC4 gave us a genuine British tone on 4 watts. This amp produces great tone thanks to the two 12AX7 preamp tubes and the EL84 power tube, and we loved how this combination sounded when the amp was pushed. In short, you get the quality tone and organic response of a Vox amp with the convenience of a small unit at a very affordable price.

Pros
  • Amazing tone
  • High end build quality
  • Classic styling
Cons
  • Low headroom
  • Heavy at 23lb

Also Consider
Blackstar HT1R MKII 1x8

Blackstar HT1R MKII 1x8"

Screaming tube tones you can realistically use at home.

The HT-1R MkII is a good option for guitarists that want a practice amp that can also be used to record demos. With an updated clean channel and an overdrive channel, this amp features Blackstar’s Infinite Shape Feature, where you can dial in everything from dark and moody British tone to crisp American cleans.

The Blackstar HT1R MKII is part of a new generation of low power tube amps that allow for full saturation at reasonable volume levels. It was extremely well made and lightweight for a tube amp. 

It featured a single 8” speaker, which was more than sufficient for the low power output. It served up a full range of frequencies and never got bogged down, even with saturated tubes.

We began our tests by trying out the improved HT1R MkII’s clean channel. Our tone here was articulate and clear, with a nice frequency response and feel, even at just one watt. The clean channel allowed the true character of our guitar to come through, and we loved it for practicing licks and other techniques that needed a bit of cleanup.

Instead of a more traditional 3 band EQ, it had the Infinite Shape Feature (ISF), which is unique to Blackstar amps. By turning the knob counterclockwise, we got a tone that gave us the nature and feel of those famous clean Fender amps. Here we had a nice low end and forward mids. This tone was really good for anything clean, from Country and Jazz all the way to rock parts. 

On the other hand, by turning the EQ knob clockwise, we got more of a Marshall-type tone. Here is where we stayed for rock and blues. In reality, ISF functions in almost the exact same way as a regular tone dial, so anybody looking for serious sound shaping capabilities may be disappointed.

Additionally, the HT1R MkII also came with four distinct operating modes. These gave us a vintage and modern voice on each channel and were activated via the Voice switches located on the main panel.

Naturally, this amp may be limiting for guitarists who want high volume, as well as those who want tons of headroom for accurate pedal tone.

Unusually for a tube amp, it had a USB output that allowed us to record directly into a DAW, making this a convenient tool for both practicing and recording. 

Verdict: The Blackstar HT1R MKII is a small amp that delivers nice versatility and quality tones on a 1-watt tube design. You can dial American and British tones by turning the EQ knob, and also have useful features like a USB connection for direct recording into your DAW and a built-in reverb knob.

Pros
  • Authentic tube tone
  • Monstrous overdrive
  • Convenient USB out
Cons
  • Relatively quiet
  • Low headroom

Also Consider
Fender Mustang LT 25

Fender Mustang LT 25

Plenty of onboard effects and features for great flexibility.

With 25 watts of power, this amplifier comes from Fender's popular Mustang line, known for offering a wide variety of built-in features to dial in your desired tone, and accurate models of a range of classic Fender amps.

The Fender Mustang LT 25 came with a vast variety of onboard tools, including 20 amp models and 50 presets, with versatile editing options that allowed us to dial in our desired tone and then save it. 

We started our tests by running through the presets featured on this amp. We liked how simple to use the LT25 was, with its well-organized panel that allowed us to intuitively go about dialing in our tones. 

This amp gave us every sound we could possibly ask of a budget model. We especially liked the Fender cleans, as well as some of the overdrive presets. We were also able to sculpt the presets to our preference by using the 2-band EQ as well as the Gain knob. We also loved the fact that the LT25 allowed us to easily store our modified sounds. 

The 1 x 8″ Fender Special Design speaker sounded good during the tests, providing us with a responsive feel. Other useful features like the onboard tuner, tap tempo button, and 1/8″ Aux in also came in handy. We did wish that this amp came with Bluetooth connectivity, and hopefully, some future models will include it. 

Verdict: The Fender Mustang LT 25 delivers a good amount of power at 25 watts and offers a simple and intuitive operation for quickly dialing in and saving your preferred sounds. With plenty of presets, effects, an onboard tuner, and other features, this is a versatile amp that can be used by guitarists who seek out flexibility and good tone on an affordable Fender model. 

Pros
  • Tons of versatility
  • Quality speaker
  • Suitable for jam sessions
Cons
  • No bluetooth
  • Aftermarket community not as big as Boss

Also Consider
Boss Katana-50 MkII

Boss Katana-50 MkII

A compact amp that excels in versatility and ease of use.

This Katana amp comes from one of the best-selling series in Boss' long history. With excellent tone, comprehensive features, and characteristic Boss ease of use, the MK II 50 is a fantastic option for guitarists that are after flexibility and tone on an affordable amp.

The Boss Katana-50 MkII represents amazing value for money. The build quality is nothing short of amazing considering the price, and the power to price ratio is practically unheard of.

In terms of features, it came with five distinct amp voicings – Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, and Acoustic. This gave us a nice variety of tonal possibilities and made this Katana amp a good choice to play different styles, from rock and blues to jazz and country. 

We started our tests on the Clean voice and got an excellent tone with a nice response. Here we played a bit of country and even went all the way to some bebop, and found it to be a good option for both practicing and performing. 

On the opposite end, the Brown voicing gave a nice saturated sound that was good for hard rock and metal. Our power chords and single-line leads had a nice punch and good sustain. We also liked the Crunch voicing, especially for milder overdriven tones, as these projected well with good articulation and note separation. 

The three-band EQ helped us tweak our tone to our liking, and we also loved the effects section, where we got dedicated knobs for Booster/Mod, FX/Delay, and reverb. Additionally, we liked the Cab-emulated Headphone/Record Output, which was great for going directly to our DAW for recording and silent practice. 

With two channels, this amp came with the choice of three wattage options. The first one of 0.5 watts was perfect for practicing at home without bothering roommates or neighbors. There were also options for 25 and 50 watts. The 25 watt setting wasn’t really of much use, as the Katana really let us dial in great tone at low volume, even in the max 50 watt setting.

This Katana amp can also be used with Boss’ Tone Studio editor software, featuring a never-ending number of presets, effects, and models that keep being updated on a constant basis. We were able to tweak every setting, as well as mix and match in order to get any imaginable sound. 

Verdict: The Boss Katana-50 MkII offers the user a very flexible amp that is packed with features. It all starts with the five different voicings, which offer nice cleans and powerful saturation as well. With an intuitive operation, a great number of effects, and different wattage options, this Katana amplifier is a fantastic option for guitarists looking for an affordable and useful amp.


Also Consider
Positive Grid Spark Mini

Positive Grid Spark Mini

A simple and effective amp that excels in convenience.

This is a good choice for guitarists that want a portable amp that is battery chargeable and allows them to play along with tracks. With Bluetooth connectivity, the Spark Mini offers 10 watts of power and can be used as an audio interface as well.  

The Positive Grid Spark, with its dual-speaker design, omnidirectional sound, and four expandable onboard presets, really offers a lot for the money. Although it is small and weighs only 3.3 lbs, this amp comes packed with features that will be useful for beginners and advanced players alike. 

One of our favorite features of the Spark Mini was the USB-rechargeable battery. This gave us up to eight hours of play time without the need for an electrical outlet. We think this makes this amp a great choice for buskers or guitarists who would like to play just about anywhere.

We also loved the fact that this amp comes with a built-in tuner for added convenience. Despite the fact that there were only three knobs, we were able to get some good tones out of the Spark Mini. We loved the inclusion of the Preset knob, which gave us easy access to the Rhythm, Lead, Solo, and Custom amp voices. Our favorite was lead, as it gave us a bitey tone that was good for both chords and single lines. 

To get more tones out of this little amp, we downloaded the Spark App, which gave us an impressive 10,000 presets with amp emulation, effects, and the ability to tweak them. 

Although we liked how it sounded and its features, its size definitely limits its use to a solo practice amp.

Verdict: The Positive Grid Spark Mini excels in portability and versatility, as it offers thousands of presents once paired with the Spark app. Other features like Bluetooth and a built-in tuner, make it a great choice for guitarists that are always on the go and need a good-sounding amp.

Pros
  • Great sound quality
  • Excellent design
  • User friendly companion app
Cons
  • Insufficient volume for jamming with others.
  • Handle feels a little flimsy.

How to Choose the Right Amp For You

Finding the best amp on a budget can be a challenging task, as you want to ensure you get a quality amplifier without breaking the bank. Below we share some of the most important factors to consider. These will help you narrow your list of budget amps and lead you to make a good choice.

Sound

Sound is arguably the most important consideration when choosing a guitar amp, even on a budget. The amp you pick should accurately reproduce the unique characteristics of your guitar and enhance your playing. Aspects like clarity, richness, and tonal range define how good an amp sounds amp, so pay close attention to this.

Features 

Many amps come with useful features like presets, built-in effects, tuners, and more. Decide what is important for you and go from there. For instance, if you play rock, an amp with a distortion channel or a modeling amp with presets that suit your style will be a smart thing to have. Additionally, consider whether the amp offers EQ controls that allow you to shape your sound to your liking.

Value

Ideally a budget priced guitar amp should provide you with the right balance between price and performance. Take a close look at the features, sound quality, build quality, and functionality in relation to the price for each amp that you are considering. When aiming specifically for low cost models, it’s definitely wise to stick to the big name makers, as you’re much more likely to get a quality product.


Final Thoughts

Although picking the best budget guitar amps is a personal choice, there are some clear guidelines that you can follow to make a smart purchase. From your budget to your playing style, consider all the aspects we’ve talked about in this article before deciding on the amp for you.

To recap our choices, the Bugera V5 Infinium was our top pick. This compact amp sounded absolutely fantastic; it offered plenty of power and served up genuine tube tone at a very modest price.

Guitarists searching for a good amp at a very affordable price should check out our Best Budget option, the Boss Katana Mini. With seven watts of power and a multi-stage analog gain circuit, this amp provides tonal variety and flexibility, with Boss quality and ease of use.

For anybody who doesn’t mind spending close to the top end of the budget, then the Vox AC4, our Editor’s Choice, offers the kind of quality you need for serious recording or even miking up to play larger venues.

Author

  • Rodrigo Sanchez

    Rodrigo is an award-winning songwriter (Best Popular Song Of 2018 for Ibermúsicas), and has worked with the prestigious EMI Music Publishing Latin America. He has production credits on artists such as Descemer Bueno, and has also composed alongside Grammy and ASCAP award-winners such as Sebastián De Peyrecave and José Luis Morín.