What Are The Best Modeling Guitar Amps In 2019? – Reviews

Why Choose a Modeling Guitar Amp?

Modeling amps are essentially all-in-ones, they were built to digitally recreate the vintage sounds of a tube amp, along with their modern-day counterparts, solid-state amps, and pack them all into a compact little box. They allow you to perform an all out hard rock, set, or any style of play that you fancy, without the need for pedals or other accessories.

Modeling guitar amps were initially scoffed at by purists who preferred the enhanced, warm and natural tones of an all-tube amplifier. They harshly criticized digital amplifiers for their artificial tone, but modeling amplifiers have come a long way since their groundbreaking inception. Even with all of the imperfections of the early models, it was the first time guitarist were able to posses dozens of quality digital representations of the most iconic guitar amplifiers and effects from one piece of gear.

As technology advances, and digital sound became more authentic to that of solid-state and all-tube amps, the industry took notice, and the rise in their popularity and demand for digital amps exploded. Digital amp modeling is more prevalent today than ever, the sound quality is incredible, and they are able to model equipment down to its individual components.

Squabbles about modeling amps are quickly fading as their power and capabilities advance. The number of available digital tones and the performance of these products also continues to increase. The quality of the modeling technology they are built with has grown exponentially since they were first introduced. Tube purists will always defend the pure, natural, warm sounds of an all tube amp over a digital one which is fine, everything isn’t for everyone.

So, why choose a modeling guitar amp? In case you haven’t been convinced up to this point, here’s a brief summary: digital amplifiers provide today’s musicians with the ability to replicate the sounds of the worlds best brands, Marshall, Vox, Peavey etc. In addition, these amps include a library of seemingly endless guitar tones all available in one amazing piece of gear. Because they are digitally controlled, manipulating sound with a modeling guitar amp is as easy as pushing a button. To achieve the same result with other kinds of amplifiers would take lots practice and some expertise.

Modeling amps can usually connect straight to you computer via USB port, making reproduction of your music effortless. These amps are the best for experimenting with new sounds and styles of music, or to assist you in creating a signature sound. They’re also a popular choice among gigging musicians, giving them the benefit of playing various styles of music in one package. Modeling amps are generally more light-weight, smaller and cheaper than all-tube or solid-state amplifiers. Given all of their conveniences and increasing popularity, like it or not, amplifier modeling is here to stay.

Editor’s Picks

Product DescriptionUsers Score
Editor choice
Peavey Vypyr VIP3 (100W)

Peavey Vypyr VIP3 (100W)

This innovation 100 watt modeling amp is our pick for best modeling amp. The Peavey VYPYR VIP3 guitar modeling ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
2 VOX MINI3G2CL Battery Powered Modeling Amp, 3W, Classic

VOX MINI3G2CL Battery Powered Modeling Amp, 3W, Classic

Key Features: 11 Amp models VOX “Bassilator” for enhanced low-frequency effects Enhanced quality effects ...

User Rating: 4.5 (2 votes)
3 Marshall Code 50 Digital Combo Amp (50W)

Marshall Code 50 Digital Combo Amp (50W)

Undeniable giants in the industry, as a company Marshall has managed to pack several decades of their classic ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
4 VOX Valvetronix VT40X Modeling Amplifier (40W)

VOX Valvetronix VT40X Modeling Amplifier (40W)

The Vox VT40X modeling guitar combo amplifier employs sophisticated digital technology, along with a unique analog ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)

Buying Guide For Choosing the Right Modeling Amp

There are plenty of modeling amps here to choose from, many of which have comparable features, but there are also oodles of them that have several features unique to certain models. Given all of the options digital amps provide, I’m positive you’ll find one that perfectly suits your needs.

Our buying guide is here to help you make the best choice, by apprising you some key features of digital amplifiers to assist you in making the most informed choice possible before purchasing your shiny new modeling amp.

Affordability

The majority of modeling amplifiers range between $250 and $500 dollars, but depending on the brand, style and wattage, they can cost more or less. The technology necessary to achieve the same sounds with the analog circuitry of an all-tube or solid-state guitar amp would easily cost thousands of dollars, over the purchase of many of the best amps on the market.

Amp Power

The power refers to the number of watts you need to achieve the sound you want. The higher the wattage, the louder and more powerful the guitar amp. I’ve seen modeling amps range from a minuscule 1 watt to a mighty 240 watts. It’s wise to choose the amount of power you want your amp to have based on the it’s primary purpose.

A 15 to 30 watt guitar amp may best suit your needs for practicing, but it wouldn’t be as effective for playing gigs. You’d want something with a lot more power, of a higher quality, and with more options and such. It’s also not ideal to purchase a 120 watt guitar amp for home practice.

Available Amp Models

The inner workings of many modeling amps, contain what is known as ‘amp models.’ Amp modelling or Digital Signal Processing (DSP), is one of the best features ever, it is what allows your amplifier to mirror the style and tones of other amps, such as the heavy chugging of a Peavey guitar amp, the warm bluesy tone of a Marshall, or any genre you can imagine. One modeling amplifier can provide the sound of hundreds of amps, speaker and even microphone combinations.

Built-In Effects

One of the major benefits of these amps is the number of included effects. They are important in making sure you have the tools available to you to adjust your sounds and add different layers to your performance. Before procuring your new guitar amp, check the product description to see what kinds of effects and presets are included. Many of the higher-end modeling amps offer downloads for new and custom tones, in addition to giving you access to hundreds of presets.

Keep in mind that budget-friendly amps will come with significantly less options than more expensive digital amps. But in comparison to tube amps, less options on a digital amplifier is still 100% more awesome than no options.

Connectivity

Similar to effects, the higher-priced amps generally have more options for connectivity. For more frugal musicians, there will usually only be connections for headphones and your guitar. On more high-end devices, you’re able to connect to your computer via USB, allowing you to record straight to your computer and edit your sounds. There are even options connect your phone or tablet as well.

I personally feel that it’s worth spending the extra dough to get an amp with as many options as your budget will allow. These amps are well made, and will last you for many years, so why not invest in a better model upfront with more options and better connectivity.

Portability

Unlike all-tube amps that that require large plate voltages, voltage transformers, and magnets causing them them to be quite cumbersome and heavy, modeling amps are all digital. It’s one of the best features of these amps. The entire operation is performed by a computer program that picks up the guitar signal and processes it. This makes them quite light, compact and easy to carry.

For example, the 120 watt Roland JC-120 all-tube amplifier weighs a muscle-pulling 76 pounds, while the Line 6 Spider IV modeling amplifier 120 weighs just 41.5 pounds. If you plan on transporting your guitar amp frequently for busking, or gigs, it’s fitting to have an amp that’s light-weight and easily portable.

Modeling Amp Terms Explained

If you are new to digital amplifiers, it may be useful to review some of the basic terms associated with them. Being knowledgeable of the terminology will make it a bit easier for you to know which questions to ask and what to look for when out on the hunt for your next modeling amp.

Useful Terms Related To Modeling Amps

Digital Modeling

In the world of amplifiers, this is the process of reproducing sound from traditional amps such as solid-state or vacuum tube amps digitall. This can be done using downloaded computer software or mobile phone apps.

Digital Processor

This is a small microprocessor that filters and converts the sound that is put into it, so that the output of that same sound is altered based on commands it receives from the included software. Essentially, with regards to modeling amps, the digital processor is what emulates the sounds Vox, Orange, Line 6, Marshall and other amps.

Amplification

The process of taking sound input from a guitar or any other instrument and amplifying or magnifying its signal. It increases the sound, and adds to the effect to the instrument through speakers.

Output Wattage

Output wattage refers to the maximum power that can be emitted from the amplifier. This measurement is usually listed somewhere on the amp itself. Higher wattage usually means higher total potential volume. If using additional speakers, the total output can be affected by output of those speakers as well.

Frequency

In scientific terms, the frequency is the rate at which a sound wave vibrates. It determines how high or low the pitch of something in. Modeling amps can usually alter higher frequencies or lower frequencies (bass).

Types of Amplifiers

There are four types of guitar amplifiers: solid state (analog), tube, modeling (digital), and hybrids.

Valve (Tube) Amps

Tube amps have been around longer than any of the other three types, and produced the preferred sounds many blues guitarists desire their warm tone and natural distortion. Tube amps usually sound louder than solid-state amps of the same wattage and have separate channels that can switch from clear to distorted tones in an instant. These amps are often the priciest option and the tubes need to be changed occasionally.

Solid-state (Analog) Amps

Rather than using vacuum tubes, solid-state amps use transistors. This makes the amp more affordable and accessible to a greater range of musicians hard rock, jazz,classic etc. They are built very reliable and seldom need repairs. They often have a very clean tone and many come with a distortion option as well. These amps are popular with guitar players looking for a dependable and affordable touring amp.

Digital (Modeling) Amps

Just as the name suggests, these amps operate solely through digital technology. Rather than relying on vacuum tubes or transistors, the same classic tonality can be achieved through digital programming to match a variety of different tones. Modeling amps use digital processors to simulate the sound of old-fashioned tube technology by some of the best tube and solid-state amplifiers ever created, they can mimic the sound of bass and acoustic guitar. They are also capable of of mirroring the sounds of any genre, Brit, blues, hard rock, jazz etc. Modeling amps are programmable, and often have built in digital effects, and a built in tuner.

Hybrid Amp

For the best of both worlds, these are the most versatile amps to invest in. They are built to use a combination of valves, vacuum tubes, and digital programming to create an amp that can work with multiple instruments and be used in multiple roles. Many hybrid guitar amps use a tube in the preamp section and solid state circuitry in the power section to create a tube tone without requiring the use of power tubes to rock out. These amps are ideal for playing modern blues, the classics and even hard rock.

Best Modeling Amps in 2019

While some neigh-sayers still believe that modeling amps don’t sound as warm and natural as tube amps, we obviously disagree. With all of the advancements in digital amplifiers, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference in the sound between the two amps. If you are looking for a range of amplifier sounds, without having to invest a lot of money and space to store several weighty tube and solid-state amps, then you for sure are going to want to acquire a great modeling amp.

Each of the amps we reviewed today comes highly recommended by their users, and have received overwhelmingly positive reviews.

1.EDITOR’S CHOICE: Peavey Vypyr VIP3 (100W)

This innovation 100 watt modeling amp is our pick for best modeling amp. The Peavey VYPYR VIP3 guitar modeling amplifier is the first to contain models for Electric, Bass, and Acoustic guitars. Their Variable Instrument Input, provides amplification for a variety of instrument types. Not only does the amplifier morph from a bass amp to an acoustic amp to an electric amp, it also allows the electric guitar player access to other instrument models as well.

The days of taking multiple amps to a gig for different instruments, or producing mediocre sound by plugging multiple instruments into the same amp are over with this amplifier. This multi-instrument-friendly Peavey Vypyr VIP amp was built to makes light work of those issues. The new VIP (Variable Instrument Input) changes the gain structure and input sensitivity based on what instrument you use. There is also a built -in direct out option for microphones.

The VYPYR combines Peavey’s exclusive TransTube analog circuitry with a powerful 32-bit, floating point SHARC processor to deliver uncompromised tone, making the VYPYR series the best sounding modeling amplifiers available. All VYPYR effects, amp models and parameter controls can be accessed via the amp itself, with no need to connect the amplifier to a computer. The entire Vypyr VIP series also features the easy-to-use Peavey WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface, so no more guessing where your knobs are set when you switch presets. Each knob is surrounded by LEDs that indicate their setting.

This 100 watt digital amp also includes a USB bi-directional data and audio port to provide an easy way to record and/or connect to their software and store presets. There are also free lessons, and practice to backing tracks while connected to your computer.The amount of power, effects, amp models, Variable Instrument Input, and instrument models, are why it has our highest rating and is the best modeling amp in our review today.

Key Features:

  • 100 Watts
  • One 12 inch custom voiced modeling speaker
  • Patented TransTube tech
  • 100 Watt to 1 Watt variable power
  • Acoustically ported semi-closed back
  • Over 400 amp accessible presets
  • LCD Display for quick preset, model and effect selection
  • 10 instrument models including Acoustic guitar simulators, 12 String guitar model, Sitar model, 7 String model, Baritone Model, Resonator model, Electric Violin, Bass guitar models
  • Enhanced chromatic tuner
  • 12 Amp accessible stompbox models plus delay reverb
  • 36 on board amp models
  • 6 bass amp models
  • On-board looper
  • Amp accessible real time dual parameter controls
  • Amp accessible global reverb and delay
  • 26 Total on-board amp accessible effects.Tap Tempo
  • Bi-directional USB – Data – Midi – Audio record out
  • Studio quality headphone outAux/MP3/CD input
  • Optional footswitch
  • Built-in simulated direct out for microphones
PROS:
  • It’s innovative. It’s the first amplifier that contains settings for Electric, Bass, and Acoustic guitars amp models.
  • It’s variable power of 100 watts to 1 watt, make this a great amp for recording, practice, or live use.
  • This amp has a great, controllable tone, thanks to Peavey’s TransTube tech in the preamp and power amp sections.
  •  This company created the easy to use WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface, allowing you to change presets without having to reset your knobs.

CONS:
  • None that I can conjure up. It gets our highest rating and is the best modeling amp we could review.


2.VOX MINI3G2CL Battery Powered Modeling Amp(3W)

Vox introduces the MINI3 G2 3 watt amp, the next-generation model of their MINI3, the definitive portable modeling amplifier. It is a great practice amp, a great option for busking and you might be amazed at how good it sounds in the studio as well. It features VOX’s original Bassilator circuit for dramatically enhanced tone.

Featuring sophisticated looks, compact construction, battery power, and modeling technology inherited from the Valvetronix series of amps, the MINI3 is the definitive portable modeling amp. The MINI3 G2 is the second generation of this popular mini amp. VOX’s new Bassilator circuit delivers a powerful tone with solid bass frequencies that can be heard even at low volumes.

The onboard effects are awesome, and were built to add more realism than its previous design. This incredibly portable MINI3 G2 is well equipped whether you’re at home or on the go.This VOX battery powered modeling amp is versatile in part due to its portability. Along with the AC adapter, there is a battery option that allows for more mobility than other modeling amps that don’t have a battery capacity. It also offers a bass feature called the Bassiltor, which is ideal for enhancing lower tones.

Most traditional amps don’t have a very high-quality sound of bass when music is played at lower volumes. This amp produces great bass at any volume level. This amp is a champion in the category of convenience and compactness. It also works with headphones. It still is versatile, in its ability to make your guitar sound bad ass, or like an entirely different instrument altogether.

Key Features:

  • 3 watts
  • 11 amp models built in
  • Effects: 8 types
  • Delay/Reverb: 4 types
  • Audio Inputs: INPUT x 1, MIC IN x 1, AUX IN x 1
  • Audio Outputs: Headphones x 1
  • Power amp output: Maximum output is approximately 3W RMS @4Î
  • 5 inch speaker
  • Signal processing: A/D conversion = 24-bit, D/A conversion = 24-bit, sampling frequency =44.1 KHz
  • Tuner detection range: E1-E6 (41.2 Hz – 1,318.5 Hz)
  • Power supply: AC adaptor (included); 6 x AA batteries
  • Battery life: Maximum 12 hours (using alkaline batteries)
PROS:
  • This bite-sized amp packs 11 authentic built in amp models
  • Has a wide range of tones from sparkly cleans all the way to high-gain distortion
  • Usable with a variety of instruments such as electric guitars, acoustic-electric guitars, and keyboards
  • New Bassilator circuit – delivers a rich low end, especially with high-gain models
  • Enhanced compressor, chorus, flanger, tremolo, delay, and reverb
  • You can use the included AC adapter or enjoy up to 10 hours of musical portability with six AA batteries
  • There is a dedicated mic input with separate volume and reverb/delay controls – ideal for vocals
  • AUX input jack to connect your MP3 player, and there is a built-in tuner as well.
  • Convenient carrying strap is included for true on-the-go jamming mobility

CONS:
  • None whats-so-ever. I mean at only 3 watts this pint sized portable amp kicks all sorts of ass. Great for when you want to rock out on the go. It’s one of the best mini amps on the markets.


3.Marshall Code 50 Digital Combo Amp (50W)

Undeniable giants in the industry, as a company Marshall has managed to pack several decades of their classic signature sounds into a travel-friendly combo amp. The Marshall Code 50 Combo 50 watt amplifier has over 100 presets for instant inspiration at home or on the road.  Use the Equalization controls to experiment with the delay/reverb and modulation to tap into your desired tones. This combo amp is able to accommodate 5 effects simultaneously to create exactly what your craving.

It’s 50 watt fully-voiced 12 inch speaker, feel free to mix and match the digitally modeled preamps, power amps, and speaker cab emulations to customize convincing tones for the stage and studio. The inventive folks at Marshall found a way to allow you to customize any tone setting in the Code 50 Combo without getting out of bed. it can be programmed via USB using the included Marshall Gateway software, or over Bluetooth with a mobile app. This isn’t just a great stage amp, the Marshall Code 50 Combo can double as a practice amp and recording tool at home.

An auxiliary input lets you plug in your phone, footswitch or MP3 player and jam along, which really comes in handy for learning new songs and practicing solos. The headphone out doubles as both an option for silent practice and as a natural-sounding output to run straight into your recording platform.

Key Features:

  • 50 watt combo
  • Single input
  • 14 preamp models
  • 4 power-amp models
  • 8 speaker cab models
  • Speaker: 1×12 Marshall
  • Controls: 3-band EQ, gain, volume, pre FX, amp, mod, delay, reverb, power, cab
  • 100 presets
  • 24 FX (five simultaneously)
  • Aux. input
  • Headphone output
  • USB connectivity
  • Bluetooth iOS and Android integration
  • Optional footswitch
PROS:
  • Re-creates decades of classic Marshall preamp/power amp/speaker cab combinations
  • Can be controlled remotely via USB or Bluetooth
  • Aux input with headphone out for silent jamming and recording
  • The Marshall Code 50 Combo is user friendly, and suitable anyone in need of a reliable gig or practice amp

CONS:
  • None, I mean come on it’s a Marshall combo, we love this company. The durable build and features make it worth every single penny.


4.VOX Valvetronix VT40X Modeling Amplifier (40W)

The Vox VT40X modeling guitar combo amplifier employs sophisticated digital technology, along with a unique analog circuit, to bring you authentic tube performance. Vox analyzed actual amp components and circuits when they designed the VT40X, so each of its 11 amplifier models sounds incredibly realistic.

A multi-stage Valvetronix tube preamp incorporates true tube circuitry, so you feel the subtle nuances that you’d expect from a tube guitar amp. A tightly sealed cabinet and expertly designed bass-reflex structure, along with 13 classic stompbox effects, ensure that the Vox VT40X modeling guitar combo amplifier delivers an unbelievably powerful tone that far exceeds its modest size.

Highly sophisticated DSP imbues the Vox VT40X with an enormous level of processing power. You’ll hear the difference in the VT40X’s sampling rate and sound of each of its 11 realistic amp models and in the quality of its 13 onboard effects. The Vox VT40X’s included Tone Room editor/librarian software puts an enormous amount of customizing power at your fingertips.

You can tweak parameters to such a degree that it’s almost like building your own instrument. When using Tone Room in conjunction with the VT40X, you gain access to a broad range of 20 realistic models of some of the most sought-after amplifiers around. Sixty preset programs, some modeled after the signature sounds of famous guitarists, unlock the full potential of the VT40X. Nearly everything is editable and storable, so once you craft the perfect tone, you can easily recall it later.

Key Features:

  • 40 Watts; 1 x 10″ Speaker
  • 12AX7 multi-stage pre-amp circuit
  • Valvetronix preamp uses a vacuum tube multi-stage amplification circuit
  • 11 realistic amp models
  • 13 high quality on-board effects
  • 33 preset programs
  • Built-in tuner, AUX in jack, Headphones out, and USB connectivity
  • Optional footswitch
PROS:
  • Hybrid analog/digital technology yields stunning tone.
  • High-performance DSP delivers next-level sound quality.
  • The VET technology in the VT40X is based on how analog amps work,and this amp is highly praised for is its “tubey”.
  • Tone Room editor/librarian software for customizing amps and effects.
  • This amp is best for the studio or small gigs.

CONS:
  • None for the price. This is an excellent amp for the studio or small gigs.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a piece of gear that is equipped with the best and latest technology, is lightweight, and can provide you with a multitude of amplifier tones and effects, then a modeling amp is the ideal choice for you. Digital amplifiers bundle together huge value at a fair price. They give you the freedom to perform without pedal boards and guitar accessories, to explore tones in an unencumbered all-in-one product.

The digital combo amplifiers offered by Peavey, Vox, Marshall and Line 6 are high rating and among the best-selling modeling amps in the world, and that’s exactly why they’ve made our list. If you have any doubts or want to further investigate these amps or any modeling amp for that matter, it’s best head down to your local music store and give one- or all of them a test drive.


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