To stand out from the crowd, guitar players are continuously working to develop their distinctive sound. While it’s true that our choice of the six-string guitar, as well as our hands and overall technique, strongly influences our guitar tone, we would argue that our choice of amp plays an equal-sized role in the pursuit of tone as the instrument. Choosing the most incredible guitar amp for your needs is a choice that should not be taken lightly.
So, let us help you raise your tone game with this guide to the best lightweight guitar amp for gigging if you’re not satisfied with your current setup or you’re seeking to buy your first amp. We break down our top amps of the moment, from solid-state practice amps that won’t disturb the neighbors to stage-ready amps and everything in between. To keep things simple, we’ve listed the amps from the most affordable to the more upscale in order of pricing, starting with the more mainstream options.
Best lightweight guitar amp for gigging: Benefits
I would carry a half stack to every gig back in the day, but I could never do that now. I adore the strength and thud of a stack, and for some guitarists, it might be the best option, but I also believe there is merit in making wise trade-offs. Combos are much simpler to handle, and many are loud enough for live performances. Gig-worthy amplifiers will either have a single 12-inch speaker or two 12-inch speakers. A 2×12 combo presents many players with the ideal middle ground between a half stack and a smaller combo. In contrast, 1×12 combos are more compact and lightweight, and many of them nevertheless produce incredible sound.
My rule of thumb for power is at least 40 watts for solid-state amps and 80 watts for tube amps. It would help if you had the power to be heard over your drummer during live sound or practice sessions. You can go much lower with a tube amp, even down to a 15 or 20-watt power section, if you use the house PA for gigs. For solid-state, I’d continue to use higher wattage since the additional headroom would result in a better tone.
Locate Your Sound
Again, everything on this page is based on my view and experience, so the amps stated here are only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re looking for a combination amp for performing, there is a tonne of excellent equipment to consider. I’ll wrap up with a quick anecdote from when I was a metal musician and traveled with my 120-watt Peavey 5150 half stack. After one performance, we left the stage, and the following band began getting ready. We moved our other guitarists’ and bassists’ enormous rigs in the same manner after wheeling my 4×12 cab offstage. We then started dismantling our drummer’s massive double-bass setup.
As we prepared to load three massive speaker cabinets and a mountain of drums into our trucks, we wiped the sweat from our brows as we watched in amusement as the guitarist from the following band placed a small Fender amp on a stool, plugged it in, and placed a microphone in front of it. After finishing his setup, he headed to the bar to wait for his set to begin. His guitar setup wasn’t quite as fantastic as ours, but that’s not the point; the idea is that you don’t need to go wild when you perform in a band. In hindsight, I could have made life much simpler by switching to a loud, good-sounding combo. I probably would have done that if the 5150 212 combos had been available then.
You have the option, but if you decide to use a combo, you have some excellent options that protect your wallet and back. Remember that everything here is based on my beliefs and experiences, and I strongly advise you to conduct your research. For the most recent details on their equipment, be sure to visit the websites of the amp companies.
Last update on 2023-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Positive Grid Spark
When it first appeared in late 2019, the Positive Grid Spark completely changed the appearance of practice amps for use at home. This simple 40W amp may look like all the other practice options on the market, but don’t be fooled – it’s masking some incredibly advanced technology. Powered by the widely respected BIAS tone engine, this amp can duplicate some of the most popular tube amps and effects. This brave little amp becomes the perfect practice tool when used in conjunction with the Spark app.
The groundbreaking Auto Chord feature is one of the most astounding components of this amp – providing you the power to figure out the chords in any song from Spotify, Apple Music, or Youtube. While the Smart Jam feature meticulously studies the notes you’re playing and creates a backing track in a style of your choice – yeah, honestly, Truly, your amplifier will join in the fun. Furthermore, this software includes over 10,000 preconfigured tones to all these functions.
Friedman BE Mini Head
With performers like Jerry Cantrel, Bill Kelliher, and Billy Duffy employing the golden-faced amps to devastating effect on venues worldwide, Friedman has now evolved into a modern classic. Now, even though most of us would like to use a full-fat BE 100 Deluxe or even a Runt to play our Les Pauls, there is one drawback: cost. Friedman, fortunately, has a ridiculously inexpensive choice for those looking for the BE bark without breaking the wallet. The Friedman BE Mini is a solid-state version of the well-known preamp circuit in a convenient 30W tiny head configuration.
With only the bare minimum of features for a high-quality tone and a single channel setup that produces world-class high gain sounds, the BE Mini’s small size, lightweight, and 30W of power make it suitable for a wide range of applications, including live performances, studio recordings, and at-home practice.
Blackstar HT-1R MKII
As much as we all adore the sound of a great set of humbuckers into a turned-up valve amp, it isn’t always practical, especially at home. We often use a computer modeling amp to mimic the tone we want, but what if you need a valve amp? The Blackstar HT-1R achieves this flawlessly in this situation. Thus it’s advisable to maintain the wattage as low as possible to guarantee you receive as much natural breakup as possible. This little combo amp produces plenty of gains, organic compression, and the Blackstar-quality tone you’ve expected.
This little combo’s two different channels, each with two voices, give you an incredible variety of tones, and the integrated digital reverb gives the essential ambiance we’ve all grown accustomed to. As an extra benefit, the MKII has a USB connector on the back of the device that can be used to capture audio, making it a valuable amp to have in your home studio.
Boss Katana MKII 100
Even though the Boss Katana isn’t the most affordable amp on this list, it’s still an excellent option for practicing.—after all, there isn’t even a tube in sight—but there’s a reason it’s become so well-liked: it sounds incredible. These days, it doesn’t matter whether an amplifier is solid-state or tube. Digital modeling amps sound better than they ever have, thanks to technological advancements, as Boss Katana demonstrates.
This is a highly adaptable little amp, providing users with access to five channels: Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, and Acoustic, as well as 15 built-in effects. The effects are of the high caliber you would expect from Boss. Every sound, including delay, chorus, and tremolo, is derived from one of Boss’ renowned stomp boxes. If you connect the Katana 100 to your PC, the Boss Tone Lab will give you access to 60 different effects.
Marshall Origin 20C
The most recognizable guitar amplifier in the world, Marshall, must be on any list of the best guitar amplifiers. Of course, there were many models we could have listed in this guide, but the Marshall Origin 20C sticks out. When the venerable amp manufacturer discontinued the Origin series in 2018, Marshall lovers exhaled a collective sigh of relief. Marshall was, at last, returning to their roots and launching a straightforward single-channel tube amp that was the perfect homage to their heritage while still including contemporary features that players needed. One of the best Marshall amplifiers in recent years is this one.
By adjusting the gain control in conjunction with the power attenuator, the Origin 20C can produce warm, rich, clean, righteous rock tones and blues tones that are just on the verge of breaking up. If you need extra power, this powerful amp also has an internal gain boost and a footswitch-controllable FX loop. So the Origin 20C would be your best option if you have an itch that only Marshall could scratch.
Hughes and Kettner TubeMeister Deluxe 20 Head
When superior German engineering meets high-fidelity guitar tones, you get Hughes and Kettner. One of the most well-known Hughes and Kettner models to date, the TubeMeister Deluxe, introduced in 2016, flawlessly combines beautiful clean tones with extremely articulate gain sounds. There is more than enough gain available for most applications, and by adding a “lead boost,” you can crank up the overdrive to an entirely new level. But don’t worry; despite the quantity of gain, the tone never becomes harsh or fizzy.
The technology concealed on the amp’s rear is where the TubeMeister excels. The brilliant RedBox AE DI is hidden on the back panel. With the help of this clever feature, your excellent amp becomes the ideal studio partner. This switchable DI output allows you to alternate between classic and contemporary modes while simulating a 4×12 or 1×12 cabinet. Of course, you can also disable this function, but given how appealing it is, we wonder why you would.
What should I expect to pay for a guitar amp?
All the amps in this guide are excellent choices, but if you’re starting, you don’t need to spend much money on a bedroom amp; you can find something fantastic for less than $500. You could expect to invest up to $/£1000, or even more, if you want to upgrade to a professional rig, whether tube or digital, for top-notch tone and dependability.
Is it wise to purchase an amplifier online?
It’s not a problem to purchase an amplifier online before testing it out. Thomann and other online music instrument sellers Provide hassle-free returns as standard, allowing you to buy an amp, test it out in the privacy and comfort of your own home, then return it with ease if you decide it’s not for you. Before making a purchase, review the retailer’s return policies, but most allow you to return an item for up to 45 days as long as it is still in its original packaging.
How are guitar amps tested?
We must evaluate the top guitar amplifiers in a way that is appropriate for their intended function. All amplifiers range in size and shape. Thus it is pointless to test an amp’s maximum volume and projection if it is intended to be used as a practice amp.
There are no strict guidelines regarding how much to spend on a best lightweight guitar amp for gigging. A few things to consider before you buy. There are plenty of affordable best lightweight guitar amps for gigging available, and the ever-popular Positive Grid Spark regularly sells for less than $300! You can purchase an all-star modeling amp for well under $500! This price range is perfect for amateur or bedroom musicians searching for an amplifier that will approximate various tones at a low price.
Most giggle amplifiers are found at the next price point, between $500 and $1,000. The variety of amps available in this price range is by far the widest of any other price range. At this price bracket, you may choose from hard-rocking valve amps, ultra-modern metal monsters, and cutting-edge solid-state alternatives.