The Best Guitar Amps Under $200
Let’s be honest. Modern amps are extremely loud. It’s insane how even a small combo amp can have the police at your door in under an hour. You were just trying to learn Eye Of The Tiger!
The upside of this amazing power is that you don’t need a massive home amplifier setup to achieve amazing tone and output. The under $200 amp market has grown to include some impressive offerings with excellent features. Amp-modeling is hot right now, and we are the beneficiaries of excellent tone.
These amps are even great for home recording. Most have a cabinet emulator running through the output. Whether you’re traveling, living in an apartment, or you don’t want to wake your rage-a-holic stepdad, the best electric guitar amps under $200 in this article are right for you.
I haven’t played any acoustic guitars through these digital amps, so I don’t know what kind of tone quality to expect. In fact, if you’re looking for an acoustic guitar amp, I want you to buy something and then stop reading this article.
A Brief History of Guitar Amplifiers
Don’t look at me like that. This is interesting.
George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker formed the Electro String Instrument Corporation in 1931. They built the first production model electric guitar amp in 1932, based on a design by C.W. Lane, an Electro String shareholder. This amp was called The Speaker and was available in three models.
Electro String then hired engineer Ralph Robertson to develop some new amplifiers. Four new amps were available by 1941, and the advanced design increased the popularity of guitar amplifiers in general.
Leo Fender repaired these amp models in his radio store and was influenced by the designs. These amps had 10-watt speakers. Even factoring in the killer circuitry, something louder was needed.
Leo Fender came to the rescue in 1949. Along with engineer Don Randall, Fender created the 50 watt Super Amp. The early rock ‘n’ roll artists were on the scene in the early 1950s, including Bill Hailey, Elvis, and Buddy Holly.
Small guitar amps were used during this period, and they were miked for larger shows. A separate PA was employed for vocals. No tube amp used was over 60 watts.
Fender continued to release inventive amps throughout the ’50s and ’60s, including Twin, Bassman, Vibrolux, Deluxe, Showman, Champ, and Pro.
Distortion was not desirable until a few years later. “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks (1964) became the first song famous for using a distorted electric guitar. Dave Davies sliced the speaker cone of a tiny crappy guitar amp and connected it to a Vox AC-30. The song was a huge hit and angered the establishment with that satanic guitar tone.
Other early examples of distortion include Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones and 2000 Pound Bee by The Ventures.
Solid-state amps emerged in the ’60s, and transistors began replacing vacuum tubes in some cases. Many purists state that these amps sound like garbage. Maybe they did back then, I don’t know.
Anyway, early solid-state amps were lighter and more durable than tube amps. The smaller size made transport more accessible. Output continued to increase.
Compact amplifiers soon emerged that increased output while keeping speakers small. By the late sixties, everyone was buying electric guitars, so the need for smaller home amps spurred development.
Amps continued to gain complexity throughout the sixties. Onboard distortion and tone controls appeared, and solid-state technology continued to evolve. Sound quality was always improving.
The British Invasion introduced guitarists to Vox amplifiers. Dick Denney, a London guitarist and amp builder worked for JMI corporation and produced the first VOX amp in 1958. The famous AC30 was launched in 1960 and featured two twelve-inch speakers and four inputs.
It was an immediate his in Britain. The Beatles used the AC30 when they broke into superstardom, and the rest is history.
Jim Marshall changed the game in the mid-’60s. He was a drummer in London who owned a small music shop. Some musicians who hung around Marshall’s store told him that he could make his own amps using English parts to compete with Fender.
In addition to saving money, these components resulted in different tonal qualities. Marshall liked what he heard and began devoting more energy to amplifier development.
One thing that helped Marshall was that many young rock musicians hung around his store. We’re talking Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend. These guitarists told Marshall what was missing from existing amps and what they would like to see on the market. Talk about an influential focus group!
Marshall’s first combo amp was purchased by Eric Clapton. The famous 4×12 cabinet was embraced immediately. Pete Townsend and John Entwistle of The Who bought most of the first run.
Pete Townsend bitched to Marshall about much more power was needed, and nobody seemed to understand this. Jim M. understood and created the first 100-watt guitar amp. This increased power made new and exciting sounds. It also increased the popularity of solid body electric guitars because hollow bodies produced too much feedback with the new systems.
The 1970s brought more inventive amps, different speaker configurations, and more small companies entering the market. Mesa/Boogie, Randall, and Laney all started right around 1970 and added different sounds to popular music. Rock touring took off in the ’70s due to more powerful amp models.
Remember how the Beatles stopped touring because they couldn’t hear themselves? Equipment advanced to the point where concerts were audible over loud crowds. Higher output amps eliminated the need for a PA system for guitars.
Owsley Stanley designed the Grateful Dead’s “Wall of Sound” that was used live in the early ’70s. This was a massive stack of individual speakers perfectly calibrated for each instrument. Owsley also manufactured a ton of acid. I recommend looking into the Wall of Sound and Owsley. Both are fascinating topics.
The 1980s saw the rise of digital. Multi-effects and MIDI became available. Famous rack-mounted units like the Yamaha SPX90 and the Eventide Ultra-Harmonizer introduced beautiful and cheesy new sounds.
The Roland Jazz Chorus, one of the all-time great solid-state amps, became popular in the ’80s. The chime-like clean tones were used with electric and acoustic guitar. The cheap combo amp became ubiquitous in the ’80s. Remember Crate and Gorilla?
After years of excess, amp setups became simpler in the late ’80s. The best example is Guns n’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction. Slash used a fairly straightforward setup, including a Marshall Silver Jubilee amp head.
The 1990s returned to classic guitar sounds because everyone was desperate to forget about hair metal. The Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier blew everyone away in the amp world. This beast is mighty and changed the game for tone, but some people dislike it because it provides so much on-stage volume.
The Peavy 5150 Eddie Van Halen signature was the other defining guitar amplifier of the ’90s. This tube amp had unique design features that made it attractive for heavy gain styles. Durable and loud, this one was extremely popular. The name changed to 6505 when Eddie and Peavey parted ways in 2004. The amp head has a distinctive style that you probably recognize if you were around back then.
There are fantastic amplifier technologies that have emerged in recent years. Small tube head amplifiers like the Orange Tiny Terror are versatile and fun. Modeling amps like the Boss Katana bring fantastic sound quality to a solid-state amp. There are too many excellent combo amps to name.
Line 6 has an extensive array of impressive amp-modeling used by artists including Billy Sheehan, Tosin Abasi, and Vernon Reid. Companies like Headrush are developing amp modeling processers like a footboard controlling amp tones and effects that are run directly to a cabinet or soundboard.
There are so many options available today that it’s to designate the best guitar amps. These amp models are all solid options for guitar amps under $200. The features differ somewhat, and if you don’t see anything you like it’s at least a good place to begin researching.
Affordable guitar amps keep getting cheaper, lighter, better sounding, and with more added features. I don’t understand how this works, but I’m not complaining. Which one of these is the best guitar amp?
The Best Amps Under $200
Orange Electric Guitar Power
- Nice 4×12 cabinet emulation from a practice guitar amp.
- Smooth reverb does not sound digital.
- Many guitarists use this as a live amp. The direct out utilizes the cabinet emulator and sounds fantastic through a PA. This is a great way to reduce stage volume.
- The tuner isn’t the greatest, but it gets you close enough.
- Orange amps are famous for quality distortion, so get out your credit card.
Fender Mustang LT25
- Sounds can be modified down to the smallest detail with the Fender Tone App.
- Sounds can also be edited on the amp using the digital display.
- Like the Orange, the tuner is so-so. Maybe in-amp tuner technology needs more time to develop.
- The tone design takes a bit of practice, but once you understand the configuration you can create amazing output.
Boss Katana Mini
- I cannot believe the quality that is created with a device this small.
- A katana is a sword, and this amp has weaponized tone!
- Tone Studio allows for editing and creating tones. This is a more intuitive system than those found on many other modeling amps. The options are seemingly endless but you won’t get lost.
- Battery operated, which is wild.
- The Katana is a truly versatile amp. I own a 50-watt, and I rarely need any other practice amps at home.
- If you don’t like the factory presets, you can set the amp to manual mode and begin a clean template.
- Start with basic tones on this one and gradually add effects. You don’t want to kill the classic Marshall sound.
- This amp has great aesthetics. Smooth and classy. People will think you have good taste.
- The power cord is too short in my opinion. This is not a deal breaker.
Rockville G-Amp 40
- Separate inputs for the guitar and mic.
- Mic channel has dedicated volume and echo controls.
- This beast is known for durability, so you could throw it down the stairs. Don’t throw it down the stairs!
- LED channel status indicator.
Blackstar ID: Core 10 V3
- You can adjust each voice the three different effects (modulation, delay, and reverb).
- For each effect, there are four variations. Settings can be saved to six custom presets.
- This amp is equipped with the ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) EQ function. This function provides additional fine control EQ options.
- Cab Rig Lite software sets sound options for recording. You can choose from different speaker configurations and decide if you want dynamic, condenser, or ribbon microphones.
- The Hornet looks nice with some vintage piping and interesting grille cloth.
- The control panel contains buttons for delay tap tempo, modulation tap tempo, and tuner.
- Room, hall, and church reverb and tape echo, analog, and digital delay mean you’re spoiled for choice.
- Intuitive design makes this amp easy to use and navigate.
- Unibody case construction is classy and dignified. Get out your platinum credit card.
- Virtual Element Technology provides faithful reproductions of classic amps.
- Korg’s NuTube technology is integrated to provide genuine tube tones.
- A bass reflex system is built into the sealed cabinet to increase low end response.
JOYO Jackman II
- Modeled on British all-tube stack design.
- This amp is about the size of a lunchbox, but the tones will satisfy you far more than your mom’s gross sandwiches ever did.
- Is everyone sure there is a tube in this thing? It’s incredibly light.
- Overdrive channel has great Marshall tone, but the clean channel isn’t really clean. This little thing is all about distortion.