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06/19/2022

Guitar Player Reviews the Best Guitar Amps Under $1,000

Guitar Player // June 19th, 2022

If you’ve moved beyond your practice amp, or you’re just looking to upgrade your rig, the best guitar amps under $1,000 can offer some seriously great guitar tones without breaking the bank. You’ll be surprised at what you can get in this price range, from modeling amps that are great for home practice to full-blown tube amplifiers that will shake the foundations of your local venue.

1. Fender Blues Junior IV
One of the world’s most popular tube combo amplifiers
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: Tube comboOutput: 15WChannels: 1, with fat boostTubes: 2x EL84, 3x 12AX7Speakers: 1×12″ Celestion A-TypeWeight: 14.3kg

REASONS TO AVOID
-Not enough for bigger gigs
-Not high gain
The Fender Blues Junior has been a staple of the guitar community since its launch in 1993. It’s a lightweight, EL84-powered combo with a single 12-inch Celestion A-Type speaker, perfect for playing at home and small to medium size gigs.

The Blues Junior gives you both the classic ‘spank’ of a Fender clean amp, as well as a lovely and warm drive sound that’s perfect for rock and blues. It sounds like a boutique tube combo but at less than half the price of some of its more expensive brethren.

The ‘fat’ switch gives you a massive midrange boost, quite literally fattening up your guitar tone, which you can engage via a footswitch. The onboard reverb circuit has that ’60s ‘blackface’ aura, warm and washy without overpowering your core sound.

2. Fender 68 Custom Vibro Champ
For players who want vintage valve tone at home
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: Tube comboOutput: 5WChannels: 1Tubes: 2x 12AX7, 1x 6V6Speakers: 1×10″ Celestion G10R-30Weight: 9.25kg

REASONS TO BUY
+Classic Fender clean tone
+Great for recording and home use
REASONS TO AVOID
-Not enough power for bigger gigs
-Doesn’t do high gain
The Fender 68 Custom Vibro Champ is the perfect small combo for home use. Rated at just 5 watts, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s lacking in power but this amp is surprisingly loud, and more than a match tonally for the bigger Fender combos.

This amp delivers an outstanding clean tone, as you’d expect – balanced and smooth, playing extremely well with drive pedals. It won’t give you loads of gain on its own, but still hits classic rock gain territory when you crank the volume.

The bright switch is incredibly powerful and the built-in tremolo and reverb effects are extremely high quality, taking you from subtle to swathes of sound. This clever little amp works equally well for recording and home practice.

3. Boss Katana 100 MkII
One of the best modeling amps in the world
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: Modeling comboOutput: 100W, switchable to 50W, 0.5WChannels: 4Tubes: N/ASpeakers: 1×12″ Custom WAZAWeight: 19kg

REASONS TO BUY
+Variety of sounds
+Built-in effects
REASONS TO AVOID
-Not a tube amp
-Better with the additional footswitch

The Boss Katana has rapidly become one of the most popular guitar amps on the planet, partly due to its awesome tones, and partly due to its versatility. If you’re the kind of player who likes to change it up, then the Katana will be your perfect partner.

It has five different amp models, each with a voice variation switch which gives you plenty of options from pristine clean through to high gain. There are also a plethora of Boss effects, of which you can run five simultaneously.

Having ten amp sounds and a full pedalboard available at the push of a few buttons makes this amp a serious consideration for any guitar player, but particularly those who like to change their sound often.

4. Supro Delta King 12
Boutique amp tone at a brilliant price
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: Tube comboOutput: 15WChannels: 1Tubes: 1x 12AX7, 1x 6L6Speakers: 1×12″ Supro DK12Weight: 13kg

REASONS TO BUY
+Outstanding tones
+Beautiful reverb
REASONS TO AVOID
-Looks may put people off
-Upside down controls

Supro’s discontinuation of the popular Blues King left many a guitarist scratching their heads. Thankfully though, they’ve followed it up with the absolutely brilliant Delta King 12, which firmly takes a place as one of the best tube combos available today.

The Delta King delivers a smooth and sweet clean tone and, with a little tweaking of the gain knob, you can get it to go into full blues drive and hard rock mode. Engage the boost and things go even further, drastically increasing the volume with a punchy guitar tone.

The unit itself is very distinctive looking, which may put some traditionalists off, but there’s a range of colors to suit your style, with black on black for those who prefer things more reserved.

5. Roland JC 40 Jazz Chorus
The greatest clean amp ever manufactured
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: Solid state comboOutput: 40WChannels: 1Tubes: N/ASpeakers: 2×10″Weight: 15.8kg

REASONS TO BUY
+Great for stereo set-ups
+Brilliant pedal platform
REASONS TO AVOID
-Pricey for the wattage
-Needs pedals to excel

The Roland JC line of amps is a stalwart in the world of electric guitar, and unusual because it’s not a tube amp. But let’s face it there aren’t many amps that can serve both James Hetfield and Johnny Marr equally well.

The Roland JC is well known for being one of the best pedal platforms on the planet, and its high-headroom clean tone sounds absolutely phenomenal. Tube amp aficionados might not enjoy how sterile it is, but for some players, it’s exactly what they need.

The two inputs for hooking up your stereo rig allow you to run a wet/dry set-up without carrying another amplifier, utilizing each speaker differently for a three-dimensional tone. Onboard effects include Chorus, Vibrato, and Reverb, giving you luscious soundscapes aplenty.

6. Yamaha THR30IIW
A compact amp perfect for playing at home
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: Modelling ampOutput: 30W on mains power, 15W on battery powerChannels: 5Tubes: N/ASpeakers: 2x 3.5″ special design full rangeWeight: 4kg

REASONS TO BUY
+Simple to use
+Superb sounds
REASONS TO AVOID
-Slightly lacking in the low end
-Pricey for what it does

Yamaha’s THR range of amps was a surprise hit when it first emerged, bridging the gap between the ever-popular small combo, and the somewhat limiting headphone amps that are so good for home practice.

The Yamaha THR30IIW features five unique amp tones with three variations, giving you plenty of scope whether you’re a clean country picker or a hard riffing rocker. The amp models are detailed and realistic, delivering the touch sensitivity that is so loved by tube amp enthusiasts.

There are various onboard effects including chorus, phaser, flanger, and tremolo alongside a dedicated echo/reverb control, and they make the amp sound huge considering its small form factor. There’s also a line out so it’s not just for home practice, you can gig it too.

7. Quilter Labs Atlantic Cub UK 50
A trio of legendary British amps in one box
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: Solid state comboOutput: 50WChannels: 3Tubes: N/ASpeakers: 1×12″Weight: 21.5 lbs.

REASONS TO BUY
+Three stellar sounds
+Built in reverb
+Line/headphone out
REASONS TO AVOID
-Some players may still prefer tubes

When it comes to buying a budget amp, most people are searching for a unit that can deliver a wide array of tones. That said, you don’t want a jack of all trades, you want an amp that does a handful of sounds very well, and the Quilter Labs Aviator Cub UK 50 certainly does that.

Containing three of the most legendary British amps of all time – AC Normal, AC Top Boost and JMP – the Aviator Cub will transport your guitar tone across the Atlantic to a place of tonal bliss. This amp may be solid-state, but in our opinion, you’d be hard pushed to tell. This sleek 50-watt combo delivers plenty of power, a full mid-range and a harmonically rich overdrive that would make some tube amps jealous.

The additional line and headphone out also means that the Atlantic excels as a home practice amp as well as a studio companion. So if you want to nail a trio of British hard rock tones, but you don’t have space – or cash – to buy two Vox amps and a Marshall, this is the combo for you.

8. Orange Micro Dark
Simple, portable and brimming with dark high-gain tones
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: HybridOutput: 20WChannels: 1Tubes: 12AX7Speakers: N/AWeight: 1.72 lbs.

REASONS TO BUY
+Very portable
+Great metal tones
REASONS TO AVOID
-Not for blues fans

Okay, so the Orange Micro Dark isn’t the most feature-laden amp in the world, but it’s not trying to be. Instead, this is a small head for those of us who want a simple to use, easily transportable amp that sounds killer – and that blacked-out Orange styling is just an added bonus.

In terms of tone shaping abilities, it’s a fairly basic affair, with controls for gain, shape and volume. The gain will happily do on the edge of break-up when turned down and full-on metal when gunned all the way.

The intuitive shape control is the same found on other amps in the Dark series and allows you to go from scooped mids on one side and mid-pushed on the other – providing a surprising level of versatility.

9. Vox AC10 Combo
The sound of the ‘60s for less
SPECIFICATIONS
Type: TubeOutput: 10WChannels: 1Tubes: EL84Speakers: Custom 10”Weight: 27.12 lbs.

REASONS TO BUY
+More manageable Vox tone
+Portable
REASONS TO AVOID
-No tremolo

It’s no secret that we love a Vox here at Guitar Player. These diamond-clad combos deliver a tone that’s so distinct and instantly recognizable. Now, while most players admire the iconic AC30, there is one massive issue for most people, the volume! Even its smaller brother, the AC15, can be too much for home use. That’s why we’ve chosen to include the pint-sized AC10 instead – it’s also great if you are on a tight budget.

This all-tube combo strips the AC down to its most vital parts, delivering a more streamlined amp that has bags of character and charm. Modeled after the Top Boost circuit in the traditional amp, the AC10 can easily achieve those classic cranked rock tones without blowing out your windows.

The onboard digital reverb also does a pretty good job at replicating the sound of a retro spring tank. So if you need a touch of vintage-inspired tone without excessive volume – or a crazy price tag – then the Vox AC10 is for you.

Choosing the best guitar amp under $1,000
There’s a lot of choice in this sub-$1,000 price range, and similarly, there are a lot of considerations to be made when choosing one of the best guitar amps under $1,000. But by far the most important thing to consider is your current rig and playing style. Some amps are great for players who like to generate their drive sounds with pedals, offering a clean platform with plenty of headroom for driving the front of the amp. Others are more geared towards players who like a simple set-up, drawing their drive from the amp itself, so pay careful attention to the amp channels and what they offer.

Solid state vs tube amps
There are two types of amps at play here, solid-state and valve/tube amps. Solid-state amps are generally considered better for their clean tones, making for great pedal platforms to build your tone upon and working particularly well with time-based effects like delay and reverb. Solid-state amps don’t require loads of volume to deliver their best sound, so you can rely on one for quiet practice and get the same tone whether you’re practicing at home or playing with a heavy-handed drummer.

On the other hand tube/valve amps need to be cranked to sound their best, so higher wattages are often not great for home practice, although some come with attenuation options that allow you to dial it down to practice quietly. Guitar players love tube amps for their natural-sounding, harmonic-rich overdrive, something that’s difficult to replicate digitally. For the most part, professional players tend to use tube amps when they play, because of the warm sound that’s inherent in analog-driven circuitry. Be warned though, tube amps can be incredibly heavy!

What other features do you need?

You should also consider the features the amp has when purchasing. If you’re looking to record at home, many solid-state and modeling amps come with direct inputs so you can record at any time, a great option for whenever inspiration strikes.

If you use a lot of time-based effects such as reverb and delay, you may also want to consider if the amp has an FX Loop, so you can get the best out of them. Many amps come with onboard effects, so if you’re not a pedal-focused player, you may find the inclusion of onboard effects will help you elevate your tone beyond what you’re used to.

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