The humble practice amp: not to be underestimated
Sadly, practicing playing the guitar through a full stack, or mighty valve combo is not a practical option for most players, and so a practice amp is the only option. For the uninitiated, the practice amp is a guitar amp that is low in power but often equipped with features that are ideal for rehearsal at low levels.
These days, the practice amp can be anything from an amp modeling equipped combo to a low-power, full valve amp that is ideal for recording, too.
Here we outline some of the best practice amp models on the market right now.
Fender Bassbreaker 007 Combo
The Fender Bassbreaker series was hailed by some of the worlds best musicians as the amplifier that they have been waiting all their lives for. With members from The Strokes, Biffy Clyro and Blink 182, to name a but a few of the artists in love with this amp, discussing how rich and warm the tones are, how versatile these amplifiers can be and just how impressive the harsher, growlier tones can get, it certainly piqued the interest of musicians everywhere. Upon release, the Bassbreaker series did not disappoint and a stand out item was the Bassbreaker 007 Combo.
Yes, it’s a practice amp, but this 7-watt monster is capable of touring on the live circuit thanks to a 10 inch Celestion ten thirty driver as well as 12AX7 and EL84 tubes. Safe to say it packs a punch. It’s small enough to carry to practice but loud enough to hold its own against a drum kit in the practice room. The treble boost effect circuit which can be activated by a footswitch adds more punch to your tone and the addition of a master volume means you can drive the gain without annoying the neighbours. Definitely, one to check out if you have limited room, or want to use a professional amplifier in many settings without throwing your back out every time you pick it up!
The Yamaha THR range appeared out of nowhere, seemingly, but made a huge impact when they did. Billed by Yamaha as ‘your third amp’, the THR5 makes a really great practice amp.
With 5 VCM amp models, extended stereo technology, which makes this stereo amp sound far ‘bigger’ than it is, USB connectivity for recording onto a computer, and the ability to be powered via battery or PSU, this 5W amp really is a mini powerhouse.
The retro styling wouldn’t look out of place in a living room, either…
Blackstar Fly 3
Although not the most feature-packed amp on this list, the Blackstar Fly 3 is more than capable for those who need an affordable and high-quality practice amp at home. You get 2 channels, clean and overdrive, patented Blackstar ISF EQ control, an aux input for playback of external sources such as an audio player or smartphone, and a surprising audible output considering the 3w power rating. Need a little more from your practice amp? Take a look at the Blackstar Fly 3 Pack, which includes a power supply and extra speaker, doubling the output to 6w.
Orange Micro Terror 20 Watt Amplifier
For those for whom only tubes will do, the Orange Micro Terror 20 Watt Guitar Amplifier is a great option if you need a practice amp that’s small and capable of producing rich, warm valve tones. Due to its small size – it clocks in at 135 x 165 x 95 mm (around the size of a lunchbox) it may fool you into thinking the amp can’t stand up against some of the bigger contenders. However, it’s capable of some seriously loud sounds! The combination of the ECC83/12AX7 preamp valve and solid state technology ensure you have that warm valve tone, with solid state reliability – and weight relief! It’s a portable, easy to carry option to take to the studio and to practice, and can power any 8 or 16 Ohm cab. But the sound out of this thing is impressive, to say the least.
It’s very simple to use, with the tone, volume and gain knobs providing all the sound shaping you’ll need. The cool thing about this amp is that you can drive the gain hard and get that classic valve tone at lower volumes. You can also use the MP3/aux input to play along to your favourite tracks or even hook up a backing track to play through the amp. Another great feature comes in the form of the headphones input, which allows you to enjoy all the beautiful tones on offer without waking the neighbours. Beautiful cleans and creamy distortions in a very small package that weighs less than a kilogram – as far as practice amps go, this is a great option.
Line 6 Spider V 60 Watt
Finally, it’s hard to talk about practice amps without including something from line 6. The Yamaha-owned company has been a huge player at the entry-level end of the market for years now, thanks to its popular Spider range of amps.
These cost-effective modelling amps give users access to hundreds of high-quality sounds, and mean there’s always something there to inspire you. This Line 6 Spider V 60 Watt will cover both bedroom practice sessions and full band rehearsals with no sweat too.
View a complete range of guitar amps over at the Dawsons Website.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.