Best Small Guitar Amp Used by Pros 2017

Our Top Picks

Of course, the most important part of your guitar set up is the guitar itself. But an amp can make a big difference to the way your tracks sound, and ultimately the way you play. For musicians who are just starting out with guitar, or for those who mostly play at home, a small guitar amp is a good option, but nowadays there are so many to choose from that finding the perfect small amp can be difficult.

Well, help is at hand! We’ve read hundreds of reviews, talked to a load of musicians, and listened to hours of people playing through small guitar amps. It was fun. It was also so we can tell you that the Blackstar HT-5R is the amp to get if you are looking for a small guitar amp.

Its versatility will really add value to your playing, and the range of sound and tone options available on this amp is second to none. If you are looking for a practice amp that will keep up with you as a developing guitarist for years to come, this is the one to get!

Editor’s Pick – Top Pick

Product #Model
1Blackstar HT-5R
2H&K TubeMeister 5
3Vox AC15
4Fender Mustang II
5Orange Crush 35 RT

Product DescriptionUsers Score
Editor choice
Blackstar HT-5R

Blackstar HT-5R

Well, where to start? This is simply the most versatile amp we tested, and sounds great across an incredible range ...

User Rating: Be the first one!
2 H&K TubeMeister 5

H&K TubeMeister 5

This is simply a great small guitar amp, and represents amazing value. The focus with this amp is on delivering ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
3 Vox AC15

Vox AC15

An absolute classic, re—imagined for the modern age. The only reason this amp, which delivers great quality ...

User Rating: Be the first one!
4 Fender Mustang II

Fender Mustang II

This amp is a little different from the others we are testing today, being a modeling amp. For those who don’t ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
5 Orange Crush 35RT

Orange Crush 35RT

Orange Crush are best known for their bass amps, of course, and the bright orange casing of these amps can be found ...

User Rating: Be the first one!

Best Small Amps for the Money

ModelSizeWeightPower
Blackstar HT-5R

12 x 20.1 x 17.5 in

33.7 pounds

5 W

H&K TubeMeister 5

12 x 14 x 14 inches

18 pounds

5 W

Vox AC15

23.70 x 10.43 x 17.95 inches

56 pounds

15 W

Fender Mustang II

18.25 x 8.7 x 17.25 in

24 pounds

40 W

Orange Crush 35 RT

20.5 x 11.8 x 19.1 in

30 pounds

35 W

What is a Small Guitar Amp?

In the simplest possible terms, a small guitar amp is a guitar amplifier which is a little bit smaller than the average.

Having a small amp has many advantages. Even professional musicians have a few smaller amps lying around in their house or in the studio, because whilst having a big impressive amp may sound great, lugging a huge amp around quickly gets pretty tiresome.

When you play stadium shows, of course, you need that 300 W monster cabinet. But for most purposes, and most guitar players, a smaller amp is perfect. All of the amps we are reviewing today have more than enough power for the practice room – they all go incredibly loud, so don’t worry about not being heard.

In fact, with 15 watts or above, a small amp can even be used to play small venues, and if absolutely necessary can be connected to a venue’s PA system for more volume. The people we talked to for this review said that they spent most of their time playing through small amps like these, as doing so is simply more convenient that carrying a half-stack around.

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Our Reviews

When talking about guitar amps, things can get really technical really fast. Today, we are not going to worry about the complex inner circuitry of each amp, because we don’t think that is what matters for the majority of players. Instead, our reviews are based on the way each amp sounds, and the extra features it offers.

Of course, no one amp can be right for everyone, and there is nothing like hearing these amps for yourself. A few things to look for in any guitar amp, though, are:

  • Power. A lot of people talk a lot about power, as though it was a measure of how good an amp is. This is simply mistaken. An amp with 10 watts of power will be more than loud enough for rehearsal, and even for playing small venues.
  • Size. This is really a matter of personal preference, but we recommend that you get the smallest amp available that fits your requirements. Whilst having a big impressive amp might sound appealing, it sounds less so when you are lugging it to rehearsal and back twice a week!
  • b. It might sound obvious, but make sure the amp you are looking at has the correct type of inputs, and enough of them, to accommodate all the gear you want to plug in.

Ultimately, there is no substitute for hearing these amps yourself. Everybody has different preferences when it comes to how they want their amp to sound. But you could do worse than checking out these ones:


Editor’s Pick: Blackstar HT-5R

Blackstar HT-5R Review

Well, where to start? This is simply the most versatile amp we tested, and sounds great across an incredible range of different sounds and tones. For this reason alone, without all of the other advantages it offers, it easily stands out from the competition.

The versatility of this amp is built around the responsive and wide-ranging three level EQ, which offers the standard triumvirate of bass, mid, and treble, but also offers a huge range on each level. With this level of control, it is easy to find exactly the tone you require, no matter what genre of music you play.

In addition, the Infinite Shape Feature (ISF) doubles the versatility of this amp. Playing with this feature will take you anywhere from “Classic British” to “Modern American”, and anywhere in between.

Whilst this array of tone options may be a bit bewildering if you are a beginner, over the years to come it will really come into its own – it’s nice to know that this amp is able to adapt to whatever style of music you end up playing!

With this kind of amp, you get what you pay for, even at this level. Professionals would never compromise on a poor quality acoustic guitar amp, and so neither should you.

Blackstar HT-5R

The versatility of this amp is built around the responsive and wide-ranging three level EQ, which offers the standard triumvirate of bass, mid, and treble, but also offers a huge range on each level. With this level of control, it is easy to find exactly the tone you require, no matter what genre of music you play.

Really, that should be all we need to say.

This amp sounds the best, period. But if you want lots of extra fancy features, it’s got those too:

PROS:

  • This amp offers two distinct input channels, which really makes a difference when it comes to sound quality. The clean channel offers gorgeous bright tones, and the overdrive delivers some impressively aggressive distortion for such a small amp.
  • You can swap between these channels using the footswitch that comes included with the amp. This is a great feature to have, being standard on bigger and more expensive amps, but not often included on amps of this size. It means that you can quickly swap channels, even mid-track, allowing you greater freedom when writing songs.
  • The additional sound features on this amp sound great. The overdrive sounds great when playing blues, but you can really crank it up if necessary for those rock tracks you’ve been working on! Combined with a digital reverb that sounds as good as any amp available today, we are confident that you will get many years of high quality sound from this amp.
  • One really impressive aspect of the sound produced by this amp is that all these tones sound equally good at low volume. Sometimes, small amps like this can suffer when not being driven at high volume, struggling to deliver satisfying overdrive, but there is no such problem here.
  • Last but not least, the build quality of this amp is second to none. It feels really sturdy, and one look inside will show you the care that has been taken with its construction.

CONS:

  • None, really. You get what you pay for with this kind of amp, and so if you are looking for an acoustic guitar amp which will give you gorgeous, clean tones for many years to come, whether in the practice room or on the road, this is the one to go for!


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H&K TubeMeister 5

H&K TubeMeister 5 Review

This is simply a great small guitar amp, and represents amazing value.

The focus with this amp is on delivering great sound, and not complicating the setup with too many added features. This is great if the type of music you play does not require unusual tones and sounds, but if you are a metal guitarist this is not the amp for you.

This no-nonsense approach confers other advantages, of course. With this amp, you will not spend hours fiddling with hundreds of dials, ostensibly trying to find the perfect sound but actually just procrastinating. The limited options allow you to get on with what really matters – playing your guitar.

The clean tone on this amp sounds great. It has a lovely sparkle to it, being incisive enough to be heard whilst also imparting a gorgeous, subtle gain. If you are looking for a no-nonsense practice amp, you could do worse than giving this one a look.

H&K TubeMeister 5

The focus with this amp is on delivering great sound, and not complicating the setup with too many added features. This is great if the type of music you play does not require unusual tones and sounds, but if you are a metal guitarist this is not the amp for you!

In addition, is has these great features:

PROS:

  • If it matters to you, this amp looks great. We know that many people pretend not to care about such things, claiming that sound quality is all that matters, but having a small guitar amp that looks great can be a real incentive to practice. The signature across the grille, and the blues lights on the tone panel, impart a touch of class lacking in some of the other amps we tested for this review.
  • The amp easily connects to additional cabinets. With this kind of small guitar amp, bass response can sometimes be a concern, especially if you play rock. Whilst this amp’s bottom end is not too shabby on its own, connecting an additional cabinet really gives it a punch.
  • Don’t expect masses of power from this amp – it is, after all, just a 5 watt unit – but it does produce an impressive volume. Some of the people we talked to for this review even said they had used it in small gigs: ask your drummer to use brushes, and you will still be heard.

CONS:

  • Very few. With no footswitch, writing tracks with complicated tone changes is out, but if you are looking for a simple small guitar amp that delivers great sound in an easy to use package, this is the one for you!


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Vox AC15

Vox AC15 Review

An absolute classic, re—imagined for the modern age.

The only reason this amp, which delivers great quality sound and some really nice sounding effects, was not our pick was that some players may find it a little expensive for a small guitar amp.

You get what you pay for with guitar amps, though, and so the price of this Vox model represents the fact that it is perhaps the best sounding small guitar amp around at the moment. The tone produced by classic amps like this is, of course, a matter of taste, but in our opinion there is no beating the vintage tones of Vox amps.

It also looks great, as you would expect from an amp with this level of heritage. If you play in a blues or jazz band, it looks amazing on stage, and will really fit in with your aesthetic.

Vox AC15

The only reason this amp, which delivers great quality sound and some really nice sounding effects, was not our pick was that some players may find it a little expensive for a small guitar amp.

In addition, this amp comes with some great features:

PROS:

  • With 15 watts of power, this is one of the more powerful small guitar amplifiers we reviewed. Whilst this level of power is not strictly necessary for the practice room, having a powerful amp confers other advantages – with plenty of voltage on tap, the amp is able to control its speaker cone to a higher degree of precision than with some less powerful amps, ultimately equating into better sound quality.
  • The amp offers twin channel amplification, with one channel labeled “Normal” and the other “Top Boost”. Both sound great, with the clean tone of this amp really bringing out tremolo sounds, and able to deliver great tone separation even when the amp is pushed to its maximum volume.
  • With 15 watts of power, you may never need another amp. If you are playing large venues, of course, there will likely be a dedicated PA to plug into, and so getting a 300 watt monster of an amp is somewhat unnecessary.
  • If you want a classic British rock sound, this amp is an absolute must. Whilst it is adaptable enough to deal with all genres of music, its most iconic uses were back in the 1960s, when The Beatles were fans of this amp. If you want to replicate the sound of the swinging sixties, this is the amp for you.

CONS:

  • Very few. If you are looking for a small guitar amp that will deliver gorgeous vintage tones, this is the one for you!


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Fender Mustang II

Fender Mustang II Review

This amp is a little different from the others we are testing today, being a modeling amp.

For those who don’t know what this is, a modeling amp is a relatively recent invention which allows one amp to model the sounds of many classic amps. It does this by incorporating clever internal processing software, which in principle is able to replicated any classic amp tone that you want.

Purists can be a but sniffy about this kind of modeling amp, claiming that they will never be able to deliver the classic tone of “purer” amplifiers. Whilst this may have been true a few years ago, when modeling amps generally had a somewhat sterile sound, advances in processor technology mean that the latest crop of modeling amps sound great.

And of course, the huge advantage of getting a modeling amp like this one is that in the long run it will save you a lot of money. Why end up buying a plethora of different amps for different purposes, when you can get one amp that will do everything?

Fender Mustang II

For those who don’t know what this is, a modeling amp is a relatively recent invention which allows one amp to model the sounds of many classic amps. It does this by incorporating clever internal processing software, which in principle is able to replicated any classic amp tone that you want.

In addition, this amp has several big advantages:

PROS:

  • The design of this amp is subtle. If you are into minimal styling, this is an advantage in itself! However, it has another little-mentioned advantage, which is that with an amp that does not look flashy and expensive, you are less likely to get it stolen!
  • The modeling functions of this amp include eight amp models, each with three presets that can be set up and saved for a later date. This means that no matter what style of music you play, you will always have the correct tone.
  • On top of this, the amp offers a huge array of built in effects, each of which can be used on every amp model. In practice this means that there is an almost unlimited range of tone and sound options to choose from, and that you will spend many a happy hour just playing around with the ways that this amp can make your guitar sound.
  • If you play metal or hard rock, this amp is great. The distortion offered is absolutely amazing for a modeling amp, rivaling tube amps for sheer aggressiveness and crunch. Even if you don’t play these styles of music, cranking the amp up to this level of distortion is incredibly fun!

CONS:

  • Very few. This is a great small modeling amp, packing an enormous number of sound features into a tidy package, and if you are a serious player getting an amp like this will ultimately save you money on having to buy loads of different amps!


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Orange Crush 35RT

Orange Crush 35RT Review

Orange Crush are best known for their bass amps, of course, and the bright orange casing of these amps can be found everywhere from school practice rooms to backstage at the largest venues. This guitar amp, though, takes all their expertise and condenses it into a small guitar amp that really packs a punch.

Where this amp really shines is in playing blues. The Orange Crush sound has become something of an institution for blues musicians, and the instant you try this amp out you will be reminded of all those classic blues tracks.

It also excels in metal, because it offers a super high gain mode with crushing distortion. If you want a really aggressive sound from a small guitar amp, then this is the one to get!

Orange Crush 35RT

Orange Crush are best known for their bass amps, of course, and the bright orange casing of these amps can be found everywhere from school practice rooms to backstage at the largest venues. This guitar amp, though, takes all their expertise and condenses it into a small guitar amp that really packs a punch.

Of course, this amp also has several more advantages:

PROS:

  • At 35 watts, this amp is powerful enough for the vast majority of players, the vast majority of the time. It will go more than loud enough for the practice room, and when cranked up it is even able to play small gigs.
  • And don’t worry about sound quality, either. Even when pushed close to its limits, this amp performs really well. Even when blasting out clean tones at huge volume, there is barely a hint of clipping or distortion, and any slight non-linearities actually sound great.
  • The amp can be connected to a footswitch, allowing you to quickly and easily change between tones. If you are looking for a small guitar amp that will foster your creativity, this amp is a good one to get, because having the option to swap between tones like this will allow you to write more complex tracks.
  • The build quality of Orange Crush amps is legendary, and this one is no exception! We are confident that its bright orange casing will stand up to many years of gigging, and deliver many years of reliable service!

CONS:

  • Very few. This small guitar amp has great sound, a nice array of features, and will last forever.


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Our Final Thoughts

So which to choose?

Well, your choice of small guitar amp is yours alone, of course. Nothing can beat hearing these amps in the flesh, and finding one that perfectly matches the sound you want to achieve. All of the amps we reviewed today offer incredible sound that we are confident will please even the most discerning player.

If you are going to be playing a lot of gigs, it is worth going for an amp that is compact, of course. If it’s power you are after, a larger amp can deliver this.

Our choice, though, is the Blackstar HT-5R. This is the amp to get if you are looking for a small guitar amp. It’s versatility will really add value to your playing, and the range of sound and tone options available on this amp is second to none. If you are looking for a practice amp that will keep up with you as a developing guitarist for years to come, this is the one to get!

Summary
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Best Small Guitar Amps
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