Practice Amps: Your Humble Yet Mightily Powerful Pal

Practice Amps: Your Humble Yet Mightily Powerful Pal

15th Feb 2021 @ 17:00 | Jon Whittaker

The Humble Practice Amp: Not To Be Underestimated

Sadly, practising playing the guitar through a full-stack, or mighty valve combo is not a practical option for most players, and so a practise amp is the only option. For the uninitiated, the practice amp is a guitar amp - be it acoustic, bass, electric or all of the above as is the case of the awesome Blackstar BEAM - that is low in power but often equipped with features that are ideal for practising and rehearsing at low levels.

Practice amps are - generally - portable enough to take anywhere and everywhere, battery operated for the same reason, and nowadays some often have record-ready outputs to connect directly into your audio interface or DAW of choice for professional-ready tracking on-the-fly. What an age we live in?!

These days, the practice amp can be anything from an amp modelling equipped combo to a low-power, full valve amp that is ideal for recording, too. Some can be as discreet as pocket-friendly headphone amps that make the requirement of a speaker completely redundant, and some employ expertly engineered multi-speaker arrangements that are low on power yet high on output!

Here we outline some of the best practice amp models on the market right now.


  1. Blackstar Debut Series
  2. Orange Mini Crush 3-Watt Combo
  3. Blackstar Amplug 2 FLY Headphone Amps
  4. Yamaha THR5A Electro-Acoustic & Silent-Guitar Amp
  5. Blackstar FLY 3 Series
  6. Orange Micro Terror 20 Watt Amplifier
  7. Fender Rumble 15 Bass Combo

1. Excellent for Beginners: Blackstar Debut Series

image of a guitar amplifier

Features

  • Simple to use, all-analogue design for natural-sounding clean and overdrive tones
  • 15-Watts of beautiful Blackstar tone
  • Clean and Overdrive channels for various styles
  • Patented ISF gives you both British and American sounds
  • ‘Tape’ echo effect great for solos or clean passages
  • 2 x 3-inch Stereo Linear Response speakers perfect for MP3 playback, movies, backing tracks, and more
  • Headphone and speaker-emulated output for ‘silent’ practice and easy recording
  • Gorgeous vintage cream and ox-blood styling using premium covering, fret and hardware.

Designed by the same UK R&D team as Blackstar’s high-end valve amps, Debut practice amps deliver the ultimate playing experience for guitarists who are just starting out and want great tone. Their simple to use, analogue design combined with gorgeous high-end cosmetics to create the most desirable practice amps available. Whatever your ability or budget, these cool amps raise the benchmark for tone, features and desirability. Start your playing journey with Debut Series.

Blackstar Patented Infinite Shape Filter

This patented technology allows you to sculpt your sound to the exact tonal signature you prefer. At it's lowest setting, ISF allows for an 'American' characteristic with a tight bottom-end and aggressive mid-range tones. Turn it higher and you get the quintessential 'British' sound characteristic, less aggressive and more 'woody'. Combine this with the all-analogue design and you have a bevvy of lush natural-sounding clean and overdriven tones to play with.

2. Great for the Compact Conscious: Orange Mini Crush 3-Watt Combo

image of a guitar amplifier

Features

  • 3-Watt guitar combo with a custom speaker for portable but hearty tone
  • Tone to sculpt and get your perfect tones
  • Dedicated gain control for clean to dirty transition
  • Headphone output for silent practise when required
  • Headphone connection auto-cuts the speaker for silent practice when needed
  • A compact yet incredibly tough cabinet - perfect for all players
  • Classic Orange finish with tweed grille and Orange crest
  • Built-in tuner to keep you in tune anywhere
  • Can be powered from mains or 9v battery

Orange are a brand that needs no introduction when it comes to full-on, classic amplification and the Orange Crush, in particular, meets much acclaim. Well, what if we told you that you can now own an Orange Crush combo that can fit in the palm of your hand! Cool right?

The Crush Mini Guitar Combo comes with a mini speaker that is dedicated to giving you great personal projection, ideal for practice in the bedroom or jamming out some ideas with bandmates. This is hidden behind the woven grille cloth that maintains that classic 1968 look with picture frame edging.

The rest of the Crush mini is wrapped in "basket weave" style orange vinyl with reinforced edges making this little beauty very durable.

Full-On Control

The Crush Mini guitar amp comes with 3 main controls to shape your sound. Gain, tone and volume are all present to completely mix up the characteristics of your sound as you see fit. A headphone socket is provided for totally silent practice and there's even an aux input for playing external music sources through the Crush mini.

Built-in Tuner

Why buy a separate tuner for practice when your little amp has one built-in! The Orange Crush will have you tuned up in no time thanks to its clear top panel tuner.

The Orange Crush Mini Guitar Combo gives you a bite-size taste of classic "Orange tone", and because it can be powered from AC or Battery, it can go anywhere with you.

3. Pocket-Friendly Silent Practise: Blackstar Amplug 2 FLY Headphone Amps

image of a guitar headphone amplifier

Features

  • The perfect silent practice solution for the discerning player
  • Three channels with Classic, Modern and Overdrive tones
  • Custom Tone Control gives you everything from booming to cutting
  • Six rhythm loops with Rock, Funk, R&B and more with Tap Tempo control
  • Foldable input jack rotates 180 degrees to ensure a snug fit on any body type
  • 17 hours of playing time from two AAA batteries lets your practice well into the night
  • Take the powerful Blackstar bass tone wherever you go

The Blackstar Amplug2 FLY Guitar Headphone Amp is the perfect silent practice solution for any guitarist. Battery-powered, these headphone amps are super compact allowing you to carry real Blackstar tone wherever you go, perfect for when inspiration strikes.

On the FLY

There are three channels on the Amplug2 FLY guitar with clean, crunch and lead tones. Each has the tone-shaping capabilities offered by Blackstar's patented ISF feature to ensure you have every sound you need. The clean chimes nicely and has a warm breakup when pushed, the crunch has a classic tone 'hot-rodded' with clarity and definition and finally, the Lead setting gives you a harmonically-rich, mid-boosted overdrive that's great for heavy riffing and lead playing.

Infinite Shape Filter

This patented technology allows you to sculpt your sound to the exact tonal signature you prefer. At it's lowest setting, ISF allows for an 'American' characteristic with a tight bottom-end and aggressive mid-range tones. Turn it higher and you get the quintessential 'British' sound characteristic, less aggressive and more 'woody'. Nine built-in effects can be selected on any channel, with three each of Chorus, Delay and Reverb, great for adding texture to your tone when practising.

image of a guitar headphone amplifier

Anytime, Anywhere

The Amplug2 FLY has a foldable input jack that rotates 180 degrees, ensure it will fit into any guitar body type. With 17 hours of playing time from two AAA batteries, you can play for longer and the handy auto power-off feature means that after 30 minutes of no signal the unit will automatically turn itself off.

The Blackstar Amplug2 FLY Guitar Headphone Amp is a fantastic little unit that will suit the newbie guitarist wanting to play late into the night, or the veteran player looking to warm up backstage or flesh out ideas in between shows.

4. For Discerning Acoustic Players: Yamaha THR5A Electro-Acoustic & Silent-Guitar Amp

image of a guitar amplifier

Features

  • Yamaha THR5A Electro-Acoustic & Silent Guitar Amp
  • THR5A is optimized for use with electric-acoustic and Silent Guitars
  • THR5A offers simulations of classic tube condenser and dynamic mics combined with studio-grade effects
  • Packed with a wide array of effects including compressor, chorus, delay, flanger, phaser, and tremolo
  • Built-in USB connectivity for recording directly to DAW

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.

The Yamaha THR5A is optimized for use with electric-acoustic and Silent Guitars. Utilising advanced modelling technologies developed by Yamaha, THR5A offers simulations of classic tube condenser and dynamic mics combined with studio-grade effects to create recording-studio tone direct from your guitar and wherever you are.

Sounds

The THR5A comes packed with a wide array fo effects including compressor/chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo and delay. The THR5A also includes amp models such as tube and clean. There is a built-in chromatic tuner for the easiest way to keep your guitar in tune. The THR5A has a variety of controls for manipulating blend of clean and gain, master volume, tone and effects controls.

This is a great practice amp with all the features of a more expensive and larger amplifier. Ideal for beginner and advanced alike set in a rugged housing whose size is also super portable. Able to be powered by AA batteries for up to 6 hours.

5. Outstanding All-Rounders: Blackstar FLY 3 Series

image of a guitar amplifier

Features

  • Innovative portable mini-amp for practising your instrument, recording, and audio playback
  • The 3-inch speaker that is powered by a 3-watt amplifier
  • Built-in digital audio manipulation such as sub-control and EQ
  • Battery or DC powered for home use and power on the go
  • MP3/line-in connection for jamming along to your favourite tracks
  • Headphone output for silent practise wherever and whenever you feel
  • Can be connected to the optional extension cab to create a stereo setup
  • Instrument specific options catering for Acoustic, Bass, and Electric Guitar

The Blackstar FLY 3 Series has expanded over the years to cover acoustic, bass and electric guitar, with limited editions aplenty (including the Sugar Skull model above). Blackstar FLY 3 models are more than capable for those who need an affordable and high-quality practice amp at home. You get the built-in 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.

Blackstar FLY 3 Acoustic

image of a guitar amp

Whether your acoustic guitar is a parlour, dreadnought, or grand auditorium the FLY 3 Acoustic will give you more. From filling out your sound to reach more people, or angled back to act as a personal monitor, its natural sound reproduction will enhance your performance.

The two switchable EQ shapes give you either a flat response or a mid-cut with some low and high boost, and the built-in echo effect adds a natural ambience to make playing a pleasure.

As with FLY products they have great battery life and the option to add the FLY 103 Acoustic powered cabinet to create a stereo 6 Watt set-up. Get a fuller-bodied sound now, with FLY 3 Acoustic.

Play audio from your phone, MP3 player, tablet or laptop through the FLY 3 Acoustic or FLY 3 Acoustic stereo pack using an AUX cable. You can also plug headphones into the FLY 3 Acoustic via the EM. OUT and PHONES socket.

Blackstar FLY 3 Bass

image of a guitar amp

One thing has always stood in the way for bassists when it comes to practice amplification. The lack of portable, neighbour-friendly amps that still pack the quality of sound and punch that our low-frequency friends love so much. Now, Blackstar intends to remedy this problem with the introduction of the Blackstar FLY 3 Bass Compact Bass Guitar Amplifier.

This incredible little amplifier has no shortage of connectivity and features that make this one of the best practice amps on the market that will also look very smart as part of your home audio set-up.

To achieve the high-quality deep bass that you will hear from the built-in 5-watt, 3-inch speaker, the FLY 3 Bass gives you excellent tone control. Gain, Equalizer depth, compression ratio and master volume can all be controlled from the top-panel with ease. No matter what your style, the FLY Bass has a sound for you.

The Blackstar FLY 3 Bass Compact Bass Guitar Amplifier also has 2-channels (clean and overdrive) that you can switch between depending on your requirements. Punchy and smooth bass can be easily created as fuzzy, dirty tones for the rockers out there.

Blackstar FLY 3

image of a guitar amp

The Blackstar FLY 3 Bluetooth Mini Amp is now available with Bluetooth connectivity for music playback. The FLY 3 Bluetooth mini amp retains all the great tone, flexibility of control and features of the original, but the addition of Bluetooth makes it the perfect take-anywhere practice amp and MP3 speaker dock.

Tired of moving your large amp around? The FLY 3 combines awesome tone, tape delay effect and ISF controls with a lightweight and compact 3-watt guitar amplifier to give you the perfect mini guitar amp that you can take anywhere.

The FLY 3 is a compact mini amp with big functionality and output - the simple yet comprehensive control set allows you to change the sound of your amp with controls for Gain, Equalisation via the Blackstar patented ISF, Delay Time and Delay Level.

Whether you're looking for your first guitar amp or looking for a portable mini battery powered amp, the FLY 3 is an essential tool for any guitarist - get in touch with your local Blackstar dealer today and get The Sound In Your Head ...ON THE FLY.

6. A Metaller's Dream: Orange Micro Terror 20 Watt Amplifier

image of a guitar amplifier head

Features

  • 20-watt guitar head amplifier with ECC83/12AX7 preamp valve
  • Ultra-portable dimensions and weighs less than a kilogram
  • Can power any 8 or 16 Ohm cab for versatile performance applications: practise, jamming, recording, gigging
  • Simple to use control layout for effortless tonal mastery
  • MP3/aux input enables you to play along to your favourite tracks, or perform to a backing track
  • The headphone output allows you to practise in silence

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 the Orange Micro Terror 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. But if you do fancy waking the neighbours, then grab the optional Orange PPC108 Micro Terror Cabinet then you have massive Orange tone in an easily transportable, bedroom-friendly size.

image of a mini guitar amplifier speaker cabinet

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.

7. A Staple Amongst Bassists Everywhere: Fender Rumble 15 Bass Combo

image of a guitar amplifier

Features

  • 15-watt combo bass amplifier
  • 8-inch Fender Special Design speaker
  • 1/4 inch and aux inputs to jam along with any musical source
  • Headphone output ideal for silent practice when needed
  • Premium quality soft-touch radio knobs
  • Incredibly rich sound from such a compact cabinet
  • A superb amp for home and studio practice sessions
  • One of the most lightweight bass amps around
  • Produced by one of the most revered names in the business

The third generation of Fender’s popular portable bass amps, the Rumble Series, takes a giant leap forward. Although the smallest of the series, the Fender Rumble 15 V3 utilises every part of its 15-watt power rating to provide an exceptionally, and unexpectedly, rich and balanced sound through its 8” speaker.

Anywhere you go

Extremely portable, the Fender Rumble 15 V3 has you covered for rehearsals, practice and acoustic gigs, all the while offering Fender’s legendary tone. It has also been designed to survive travel with its sealed cabinet, which has been covered with black vinyl and protected further with heavy-duty nickel corners. The black metal grille of the previous generation has been swapped out for cloth and branded with the classic Fender logo, which ties in nicely with the vintage-style, ivory control knobs.

Customise Your Sound

The Fender Rumble 15 V3 Bass Amp keeps control of your sound succinctly with a 3-band EQ, comprised of Bass, Mid, Treble, sitting alongside the volume control allowing you to shape the sound to suit the venue. You have the option of silent practice via the headphone socket, and you can also play along to your favourite tracks by hooking your MP3 player up to the auxiliary input.

Powerful, portable and a tone that will impress even the most demanding of guitarists, the Fender Rumble 15 V3 Bass Guitar Combo Amplifier is an excellent choice of amplification.


  1. Blackstar Debut Series
  2. Orange Mini Crush 3-Watt Combo
  3. Blackstar Amplug 2 FLY Headphone Amps
  4. Yamaha THR5A Electro-Acoustic & Silent-Guitar Amp
  5. Blackstar FLY 3 Series
  6. Orange Micro Terror 20 Watt Amplifier
  7. Fender Rumble 15 Bass Combo

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