Best Guitar Amp for Beginners Under $100

Updated on May 18, 2017
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Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

The Fender Champion 20 is one of the best guitar amps for beginners with a budget under $100
The Fender Champion 20 is one of the best guitar amps for beginners with a budget under $100 | Source

Beginner Guitar Amps

Choosing a first guitar amp can be confusing for a beginner, and making a bad decision here is one of the easiest ways a newbie can sabotage their efforts to learn guitar. First-time guitar players often pick out the least expensive amps they can find, and unfortunately they soon find out that those cheap amps sound pretty terrible.

Inspiration is one of the most powerful driving forces when it comes to learning guitar, and an awful guitar amp isn’t very inspiring.

Guitar amps for newbies aren’t going to sound as good as the professional rigs used by advanced guitarists, but surely you don’t expect that for under $100. However, they should still sound good. In fact, in my opinion a starter amp should be good enough that, once you’ve moved to a better main amplifier, you can still use your first amp for practice.

Beginner amps aren’t going to be packed with features, but they should include good clean and distortion sounds, plus a decent EQ layout to shape your tone. Part of your journey as a newbie guitarist will include discovering what tones you like and don’t like, and that’s hard to do with a cheap amp that only produces one generic sound. If your first amp has some reverb or onboard effects, that’s a bonus.

I always recommend a budget of around $300 for a starter guitar and amp setup, and one third of that should go toward the amp. That means around $200 for a quality beginner electric guitar, and a budget of $100 to spend on your first guitar amp.

You don't have to settle for a second-rate setup. You can get a great starter amp from one of the top amp builders in the world if you put your mind to it. This article can help.

Here are my top choices:

Marshall MG15CF

Marshall MG15CF
Marshall MG15CF

Marshall MG15CF

The MG15 is the second smallest amp in the Marshall MG Series, and it comes in a few different versions. The MG15CF is a straight-up amp with no onboard effects. That’s okay, because it has a powerful sound for such a small amp.

Even if you are new to guitar you may be familiar with Marshall amps. Big Marshall stacks have been a familiar backdrop at rock concerts since the 1960s.

Powerful Marshall guitar amps have a distinctive roar that many guitar players have come to love, and Marshall does a great job of capturing that sound in such a small package with the MG15CF.

I’ve owned this amp as a veteran guitar player. I used it as a practice amp, and I loved it. For a newbie, an amp like the Marshall MG15CF will start you off right with awesome Marshall tone, and then stick with you as a practice amp once you move up to a much larger main amp.

There is also a version called the MG15CFX which has some excellent onboard effects. However, at a price bump of around 50 bucks I’d suggest going with the Peavey or Fender below if effects are what you want.

Marshall MG15CF MG Series 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp
Marshall MG15CF MG Series 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

Awesome Marshall tone in a tiny little package.

 

More on the Marshall MG15CF

Fender Champion 20

Fender Champion 20 Guitar Amp
Fender Champion 20 Guitar Amp

Fender Champion 20

The next amp I suggest checking out is the Fender Champion 20. This is a very popular amp with a lot to offer for beginners. There are several amp voicings available and some digital effects as well. The EQ section is more limited compared to the amps above, but that doesn’t stop this little amp from sounding pretty darned good.

When it comes to guitar amps, Fender is known for amazing clean sounds and smooth, bluesy overdrive. If that’s the kind of thing you are looking for as a newbie guitarist, this is that amp for you.

In my opinion, even though there are some more aggressive sounds available from the Champion 20, I think it is more suited to lighter styles of music. If you are into metal or hard rock you will probably be happier with the Marshall.

On the other hand, if you are into country, blues, jazz or classic rock, the Champion 20 might be the perfect beginner amp for you. Fender makes good guitar amps, and that extends all the way down to the littlest amps in their lineup.

Fender Champion 20 - 20-Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier
Fender Champion 20 - 20-Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier

The Fender Champ is a great choice for blues, rock and country players.

 

Hear the Fender Champion Series

Peavey Rage 258

Peavey Rage 258 Guitar Amp
Peavey Rage 258 Guitar Amp

Peavey Rage 258

Like the Marshall above, the Peavey Rage 258 is a no-nonsense little box capable of big sounds. Both amps have similar control layouts and 8-inch speakers. One of the ways the Peavey differs is it has three different overdrive voicings to choose from: Stack, Modern and Vintage. This essentially gives you three different sounds out of the same amp.

The Peavey is also slightly more powerful than the Marshall, and is rated at 25 watts over the Marshall’s 15 watts. Neither is loud enough to jam with a live drummer, but they are certainly good enough for performing alongside acoustic guitars, or jamming with other guitar players with small amps.

I’ve long been a fan of Peavey, and I really like their TransTube amps such as the Rage 258. In fact, one of my favorite amps in my collection is my Peavey TransTube Bandit 112, a larger more powerful amp in the TransTube family.

Peavey has done an excellent job of recreating tube tone with their patented TransTube circuitry, and for that reason I give the Rage 258 a slight edge over the Marshall MG15CF. But that’s my personal preference.

Depending on where you buy this amp might put you a little over your $100 budget, but I still think it is a solid choice for a beginner.

Peavey Rage 258 25W 2 Channel Electic Guitar Amplifier
Peavey Rage 258 25W 2 Channel Electic Guitar Amplifier

Awesome Peavey distortion makes this a good choice for metal players.

 

Your First Guitar Amp

As cool as these little amps are, they only have a fraction of the features you’ll find in their larger, more powerful big brothers. But, they are more than enough for a newbie to get started on, and they meet and exceed the criteria I outlined in the beginning as what to look for in a good starter amp: They sound good, they are flexible with good overdrive, multiple channels, solid EQ sections and some even have built-in effects.

They each also satisfy the last point in my criteria for a good starter amp, that they should serve well as a practice amp long after you have moved on to a much larger and more powerful main guitar amp. Choosing an amp that will stick with your for a long while makes sense financially.

You can't go wrong with any of the amps listed in this review. However, depending on what kind of music you expect you want to play, you may gravitate more to one than the other.

  • Blues, country, jazz and classic rock enthusiasts may prefer the Fender.
  • Classic hard rock fans will love the Marshall.
  • Metal and hard rock wannabes might do best with the Peavey.

Good luck choosing the best beginner guitar amp for your $100 budget.

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Guitar Amps for Serious Beginners

Most newbie guitarists want a small amp that sounds good but doesn’t cost too much. The amps listed above are that and more. However, there are some guitar players who mean business from the beginning, and won’t want to waste time on small beginner amps when they have the resources and ambition to grab an intermediate or pro-level amp. If you know you are going to stick with playing guitar, and if you can justify it in your budget, that’s not a bad idea.

If you want to skip the starter gear and jump right to a larger, more powerful amp here are a few articles that will point you in the right direction:

Guitar Amps Under $200

  • These are larger, louder guitar amps for serious beginners who want something a step above the typical starter amp. They aren’t big enough for use in a rock band, but if you want a lightweight amp for jamming with friends they are solid choices.

Guitar Amps Under $500

  • Here are some powerful amps that have what it takes for jamming with a band or performing onstage. They are not the typical beginner amps, but if you are serious about learning guitar you may wish to skip right to good stuff.

Budget Half-Stack Guitar Amps

  • Thinking of starting out with a half stack? Don’t let anyone call you crazy. Adult beginners in particular may wish to live their dream of rock stardom with a huge amp. The coolest part is, they are all very affordable for serious beginners.

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