You may not realize it, but portable guitar amps can help you improve the quality of your instrument. They allow you to have access to a wide variety of musical genres that you may not otherwise be able to access. The best portable amps are easy to carry around and have clear displays. Keep reading to learn more about our team's picks of the best cheap portable guitar amps in 2021 below.
While the sound quality of a portable amp is directly related to its size and weight, the build and quality are equally important. If a model can't stand the test of time, it isn't worth your money. The following guide was written with the needs of students, teachers, studio musicians, and live performers in mind. It details what to look for in a quality portable gig amp and points out some of the most common problems encountered by consumers.
Tips When Shopping for a Portable Guitar Amp
If you're not sure where to start when shopping for a guitar amp, we've compiled some tips to help you find the right model for your needs.
Pick the amp based on your genre or musical tastes. If you want a stomping beat in your corner, go for something that's designed for that purpose.
Think about what type of sounds you are looking for. Do you have a specific style of music in mind? If so, think about which types of strings you prefer. A lot of guitar amplifiers are designed with a sound that is specifically meant to be played on acoustic or acoustic-electric instruments
Choose a model that fits your physical space. This will help avoid any issues with the amplifier overheating during longer performances. Consider how much space is available in the room where you plan to place your portable amp. Having a portable model in a corner of the rehearsal area will allow you to play it there while waiting for things to get going.
Know what kind of controls are on the model you decide to buy. The controls on a small portable amplifier might not provide the kindof control you need, so it's always worth checking out the controls before you buy it.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Portable Amp
When you want to buy a guitar amp, you need to decide what kind you will get, what wattage you’ll need, and what other features you require. But, the most important question is how much you are willing to pay.
Choosing a model based on price is a good idea, but you should also know what you can get for your money. If you have the cash, a low-cost amp that only has 500-1,000 watts of power is probably all you could need. However, if you plan on playing regularly, playing gigs, or selling your amp later, it's worth spending a little more. A little extra cash can go a long way toward buying a quality amp.
Most portable amps have a limited number of effects and effects pedals they can connect to. Make sure you know the effects you wish to use, as well as any effects that are compatible with the amp's input and output jacks.
Some amps support more than one input jack. To make sure your guitar can be plugged into the right amp at the correct volume level, make certain that the guitar is compatible.
Portable Guitar Amp Price Analysis
Portable guitar amplifiers range in price from less than $100 to more than $3,000. As with any instrument, you want to find something that does what you need it to do without breaking the bank. The more you spend though, the better quality and better sound the amp has. Here’s what to expect at different price points.
For under $150, expect to get a portable amp and a guitar string sound box. These are okay for beginners or light use, but they won't have much power. If you're just starting a band or want a basic amplifier for practice, a combo amp is probably a better choice.
If your band needs lots of power, we recommend spending between $300 and $450. For this price, your amp will probably sound decent, and you will get onboard effects for your guitar.
The most expensive portable guitars will cost more like $500 and beyond. They will be powerful enough to play and have onboard guitar effects. You'll also get all the onboard preamp/verb and effects you can imagine, along with an onboard soundboard for recording.
How We Chose Our Selection Of The Best Portable Guitar Amps
Our selection of the best portable music amplifiers is culled from a wide range of brands and genres. We've scoured the market to ensure that there are no generic brands or subpar models which may not perform at all to expectations, but which are still within the price bracket of our recommended products.
Famous brands are a great way to guarantee that your new guitar amp will not only sound excellent, it will also perform to your high expectations. For this reason, we search for only the most respected brands to offer you a range that is sure to please.
Reviews are our favorite and most reliable resource for getting an idea of how a product is likely to perform in real world situations. Through these reviews, the team is able to narrow down our shortlist of products to the products we think are the very best. With this information, our team are able choose the perfect products for our testing categories and also to present you with some of their top picks.
Being a consumer, price is always something that you are always on the lookout for. All our readers, regardless of budgets or needs, are provided with a broad range to choose from and which is balanced between price and performance. This ensures that no matter your resources, there is a portable amp for you.
Features To Look For In Portable Amplifiers
Before buying a new portable amplifier for your musical needs; there a few things you must consider to make sure that it is the right one for the job. These features, together with the overall price, will help determine which amplifier is best for any music lover.
As much as possible, choose a model of guitar amplifier that has been specifically designed and created for use with your chosen instrument. As a rule of thumb, portable amps are often designed with specific amp models in mind. So, before you go ahead and make the purchase, ensure you check the specifications to see which model is most suitable for what you will be using your amplifier in the future.
The power source of your portable audio amplifier will determine the level of versatility it can offer. Some of these options include battery power, 12V DC power or even built-in rechargeable batteries. Whatever the power option you opt for, always ensure it's powerful enough for whatever you want to play.
Digital or Analog Inputs
This will play a significant role in your choice of amp and will depend on your intended use. The digital input of an amplifier determines how much data can be passed through to and from your guitar. In simple terms, digital inputs give you the ability to record and store samples of whatever it that the amplifier produces. An analog input on an amp however, allows you to connect to a recording device or computer and load the digital sample directly into the effects processor.
In many cases, if you‘re buying an analog amplifier, you need a preamp output. Depending on which amp you choose, this can either be an XLR or TRS input and can provide you ample power for instruments that require a higher level than normal output to.
We all have different instruments and preferences when it comes to playing. To make your life easier, get an option that allows for a huge range in input sensitivity. Anything below 85dB and above 115dB is common for inexpensive portable amplifying options.
An amp's capacity in amps means how many measurements can it output every minute. Typically, models with more amps mean that they can output more data.
If you're looking for a simple solution to the convenience and affordability of portable amps, then an inexpensive portable amp could be the best choice for you. Portable guitar amplifiers are fairly straightforward devices, with virtually all of them being powered by batteries. In addition to their batteries, some models also feature a power cord, and some even have an auxiliary input for keyboards. You can find basic models that are small enough to carry anywhere, have a stereo speaker, enough inputs and outputs for all your instruments, as well as a headphone jack, at a surprisingly low price. If you aren't looking to spend a lot of money on a guitar amp, this could also be a good option for your situation.
Although these amps are mostly battery-powered, there are some options that include preamp and power tube equipment for distortion and overdrive. Some portable amplifying models even include a pre-amp section for guitar effects pedals.
If all you want is a compact solution that “works for the most part,” then a small, lightweight, battery powered amp may be your best bet. These amps tend to be quite compact, typically between 17 and 20 inches long, 14 and 15 inches wide, 5 and 6 inches high, which makes them quite portable. They also tend not to have as many effects and extra features as larger amps. Like most portable guitars, these units also run off batteries so make sure you always have them on hand if you plan to travel with your guitar.
In this price range, you can also find full-size portable electric guitars that feature all the onboard effects as opposed to just the standard preamps and preout sections. The amp also usually features a full stereo output, headphone socket, or aux input, meaning you dont need to connect an extension cable to your amp to play your electric guitar through headphones.
Full-sized guitar models are considerably larger and heavier than other options, so if this is the style of amp you prefer, it may not be suitable for portability.
Portable Guitar Amp FAQ
Q: What is a portable guitar amp?
A: A portable amplifier is one that you plug into a USB port and can take anywhere. They are great for travel, rehearsal or just in case you need a boost in volume or sound quality.
Q: What are the benefits of a battery powered portable gig amp for live music?
A: Overcharging your amp at a gig will reduce the overall life span of the batteries. This will impact your gigging ability and make the whole experience less enjoyable. A battery-powered amp is also great if you have to travel with your band. You can easily plug in and out of your battery powering amp and keep your set up safe.
Q: Is it worth buying a preamp or a power amp when buying portable amps?
A: Preamps add unwanted distortion to your music and are generally not portable. If you want to add the full sound potential of an amp into your sound system, invest in a high-quality power amplifier. The power of any portable speaker system will vary, and you may only need to run the power cord out for a few feet. However, if your main goal is to produce a full-range sound from your portable system you will need an amplifier that has a wide enough frequency range to cover all musical genres. All the speakers in your rig should also be powerful enough to reproduce the sound you desire.
By Jack Stoneybrook
Jack has been a touring guitarist for almost 20 years, playing in a number of country music and rock bands. Jack loves the road and defines himself as a never-ending student of the guitar and other important instruments or tools that make a musician.