Top 5 Best Guitar Amps Under $200
5 Awesome Guitar Amps
If you’re looking for a new guitar amp and only have $200 to spend you want to get the best value for your money. The good news is there are a lot of amps out there that fit into your budget and still sound great.
In that price range you are basically looking at small-wattage combos that will work well for practice, and maybe lower-volume rehearsals.
To make the most of your available cash, look to amps with onboard effects so you don’t need to spend money on stomp boxes and pedals. But, with so many different amps out there, where do you start?
I love to go guitar amp shopping, but unfortunately if I were to buy everything I wanted it would probably cost me my house or my marriage, or maybe both. But one thing I can do is virtually shop for gear, and offer opinions on what I like and don’t like about different amps.
Hopefully my thoughts can help you in your decision making process, as well as save you some time and even some money.
After 30 years of playing I’m pretty picky, so I’ve whittled this article down to what I think are the five best guitar amps out there for under $200. Every one of these amps is worth the asking price, but the one you choose will depend on your goals and needs as a guitar player. Read on!
Fender Mustang II
Fender makes some great tube combo amps, and they are primarily known for their amazing clean sounds and bluesy overdrive. With the Mustang modeling amp series, Fender has created amplifiers that emulate popular Fender models and also branch out to some niches traditionally occupied by British and high-gain American amp makers. It makes for a great package, with a wide array of amp models and effects.
The Mustang II pushes 40 watts of power through one 12-inch speaker. It ought to have enough power to be heard in low-level rehearsal situations, and it certainly has enough flexibility to accomplish pretty much any style of music. Fender’s website boasts 17 different amp models and 24 onboard presets.
Country, blues, jazz and classic rock players will dig this amp. The Fender classic model emulations are spot-on, and you’re going to love what you hear. Of course it goes without saying that the clean sounds will be fantastic coming from a Fender amp. However, metal players may be disappointed.
Conclusion: I like Fender amps for clean tones and smooth overdrive, but I’ve never been impressed with Fender’s attempts at high-gain sounds. This amp is no different. If you’re into metal this might not be for you. Otherwise, this is an incredible amplifier. If you play anything but extreme metal it’s worth a hard look.
The Fender Mustang Series
Peavey Vypyr VIP 2
I may as well say from the get-go that I’m a big fan of Peavey amps. I used a 5150 stack (now the 6505) back during my days playing in metal bands, and my practice amp now is an older American-made Transtube Bandit 112. Peavey gear is loud, bulletproof and, much of it, geared toward metal. So how does the Vypyr modeling amp series do when it comes to capturing the vibe of legendary Peavey amps?
Pretty good, it turns out, and not too shabby with some other classic American and British amps either.
The VIP Vypyr series employs Peavey’s analog Transtube circuitry, not digital distortion. As solid-state distortion goes, the Transtube design is pretty good. But what’s most interesting about this amp is what Peavey calls the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) design. Basically, it’s just an easy way to know exactly what you have dialed in just by looking at the instrument panel of the amplifier. This is a great feature for modeling amps that have a gazillion effects.
The VIP 2 does not have a gazillion effects, but it does have 12 “stompbox” models and 36 on-board amp models. It's also does something other amps in this review don't: The VIP has models for bass guitar and acoustic guitar as well as electric guitar. It's basically three amps in one, and that makes it one of the most versatile amps in the world.
Conclusion: Obviously I like this amp a lot, and when I had a chance to play it I was a little overwhelmed. It offers such a wide range of possibilities and functions and it really is a groundbreaking amp. It will be invaluable for guitar players who need a bass amp, or something to plug their acoustic-electric into as well. Guitarists who don't play bass will still find an incredible array of sounds, but may prefer something more traditional such as the Fender above.
Check out the VIP 2
Line 6 Spider IV 30
Line 6 is possibly the biggest name in modeling technology, and their Spider amplifiers are now legendary. They started out as pretty decent amps a few years back, but now are capable of sounds that are tough to tell apart from genuine tube amps. The incredible Spider IV series comes in all shapes and sizes, from little combos to half-stacks.
The little Spider IV 30 is a 30-watt version of this classic amp that features 12 amp models and 7 Smart FX, all packed into a 12-inch speaker cab.
Models include Clean, Twang, Blues, Crunch, Metal and Insane, and it’s pretty easy to guess the type of sound you'll get from each. This Line 6 amp also has Red and Green versions of each model, which offers different voicing. It’s an interesting and versatile little amp, with some useful features. You also get access to the Line 6 Spider Online website, where you can get free lessons, tones and other goodies.
Line 6 has certainly carved a place for themselves in the guitar amplifier world, and the Spider IV is a great little amp that offers a little bit of everything.
Conclusion: I guess I’m old fashioned, but most Line 6 amps are a bit too much for me. They sound good, but the larger models have way too many bells and whistles, and the online interaction is much more than I want to deal with. But this little amp skips a lot of that malarkey and just gives you some very usable tones and effects. No matter what style of music you play, this thing could make a terrific practice amp.
Everybody knows Marshall. These guys are the kings of the rock amplifier world, renowned for incredible high-end tube amps. Their MG Series lineup consists of affordable, solid-state amplifiers made for up-and-coming players and home hobbyists.
They rank from the little 10-watt MG10, up to the MG100 head and 4x12 cabinet. The MG30FX is somewhere in the middle of the pack, putting out 30 watts of Marshall power through a 10-inch speaker. It also has a small array of digital effects, including reverb, chorus, phaser, flanger and delay.
This amp will give you some great analog distortion tones and clean sounds, and it does have thatMarshall vibe. If you’re looking for solid, classic tones this might be your amp.
However, don’t expect it to compete with modeling amps when it comes to effects, and, while the overdrive is excellent, don’t look here for that modern-metal, high-gain sound.
Conclusion: I love the tone and the simplicity, and the Marshall MG30FX lives up to the Marshall name as a great rock amp. A 12-inch speaker would be nice, though. This amp is best suited to players who love classic hard rock and metal sounds and don’t feel like fiddling with endless buttons and menus to find their tone.
More on the Marshall MG30FX
Vox Valvetronix VT20 Plus
Voxis a British amp maker known for great classic overdrive sounds and smooth distortion. The Valvetronix VT+ Series has gotten a lot of attention for its great digital effects and authentic modeling of Vox amps as well as other well-known designs. It comes in several sizes, and the VT20+ is the little 25-watt version of the lineup. It features 33 amp models, including some Vox classics, and 25 effects. However, it only has an 8-inch speaker, making it the smallest of any in this review.
The VT20+ is actually a hybrid amp, incorporating a 12AX7 preamp tube and creating what Vox calls the Valve Reactor Circuit. Whatever they have going on under the hood, it really nails that warm, crunchy British tone that Vox tube amps are known for. You’ll get some great clean sounds too, from that glassy Fender-ish tone to a warmer “almost ready to break up” sound.
There are 99 presets, but only eight user programs for creating and saving custom settings. Still, it’s a versatile amp, capable of some really good tone.
Conclusion: Love the warm overdrive sounds for blues and classic rock, but this amp probably isn’t the best choice for metal guys. The 8-inch speaker is a bit of a bummer too, because a slightly larger cabinet and speaker would go a long way in complementing the tone. On the plus side, this little guy is a bit less expensive than other models in this review. All in all, a great choice in a little practice amp, especially if you dig that warm, growly overdrive.
Amp Awards and Final Thoughts
These things all sounds amazing, and each manufacturer packs incredible features into a practice amp. So which amp would I choose if I had to go with one?
My Best Guitar Amp Under $200 Award is a toss up. I'd love to give it to the Peavey Vypyr. It sounds amazing, and its innovative setup makes it super easy to use. However, I also appreciate that it might be too much for some player who don't see the use for a bass amp or acoustic rig.
For that reason, I'd consider the Fender Mustang II. It really does sound great, but as a player who is into some heavier styles I’m not feeling it. However, it's getting great reviews, so unless you're into extreme metal think could be the amp for you.
The Best Plug and Play Award goes to the Marshall MG30FX. I wish it had a 12-inch speaker, but it still sounds really good. It’s perfect for those who want some digital effects, but do not want the hassle of too much technology.
The Best All-Purpose Amp Award definitely belongs to the Spider IV. Yeah, heavy rock players tend to gravitate to it, but I can’t imagine a genre that this amp couldn’t serve well.
The Best Amp in a Small Package Award goes to the Vox. With only an 8-inch speaker I just don’t feel like it can compete with the other amps in the review, but remember that it is less expensive than the others too. Still, many owners comment on the loudness of this amp, so by all means hear it for yourself and decide.
I hope this review has been helpful in your search for the best guitar amp under $200.
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More Guitar Amps
It's not easy choosing the right guitar amp. If you didn't find the answers you needed in this article, here are a few more that might help.
- Check out the big brothers of the amps in this article. If you need more power and more features, you can find them here in five of the top gig-worthy amps available.
- Or, go the other way! These guitar amps are smaller version of the amps in this article. They are perfect for practice, songwriting and jamming with your buddies.
- Here are five battery-powered, portable guitar amps for taking along when you go camping, to the beach or to the park. Or, like me, you just might want to play on your back porch without using an extension cord!
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