Best Half Stack Guitar Amp on a Budget
Budget Half Stacks
For many guitar players the stack is the ultimate guitar amp. These are the heads and 4x12 cabinets we see in the backlines for our favorite bands, and walls of speakers stacked on either side of the drummer have become the iconic rock-concert backdrop. It may seem like you can never call yourself a real guitarist until you plug into a powerful stack.
Monster full-stack guitar amps evolved at a time when rock guitar was in its infancy. Where a guitar amp had once only needed the power to be heard alongside big-band instruments, with the evolution of rock into a more aggressive style of music guitar players needed big, powerful amps to be heard.
These days, things have come full circle in many ways. You really don’t need a stack to play in a band. At most places where you’ll perform your guitar amp will be mic’d and run through the mixing board and the main PA system. You can use a good combo amp as well as any stack, and it will be a lot easier to carry around.
However, there are reasons you may prefer a 4x12 half stack, not the least of which is that they are just so darn cool. They also move more air than a 1x12 or 2x12 combo, and can therefore seem louder. Many players even feel, due to the different dynamics of a 4x12 cabinet, they typically have better tone.
So, if you feel like a half stack is your best bet for a band situation but you don't have the cash to plunk down on one of the legendary amps out there, what can you do?
Read this article, for starters. Here you'll learn about some of the best budget half-stack guitar amp packages available today. They are affordable, and they have the firepower for band and rehearsal situations. They are also solid-state amps, which means they are typically reliable and can take a little abuse. Some of them also include on-board effects, making them the total package and everything you’d need for a gig.
If you are into the tube amp thing I’ll have a separate post coming up on affordable tube head options. For now, let’s check out some amps!
Marshall is among the most respected guitar amp builders in the world, and there is a good reason for that. Their tube amps and 4x12 speaker cabinets have helped to sculpt the rock landscape for decades, and the Marshall logo over the black background has become a legendary symbol of greatness.
As awesome as Marshall tube stacks are, they are not so wallet-friendly, especially for newbie and intermediate guitarists. Marshall fills the void with the MG Series, a lineup of solid-state guitar amps that capture that Marshall tone while remaining affordable.
The half stack version is the MG100HCFX with a matching 4x12 cabinet. It’s an affordable, powerful 100-watt guitar amp, and it has a stable of onboard effects including chorus, reverb, flanger and phaser so you can leave your pedals at home. For guitar players on a budget it is a great way to land a half stack guitar amp for gigs and band practice.
I am a big fan of the Marshall MG Series, but I also recognize their limitations. For many guitar players, one of the main complaints is that the MG100CFX doesn’t sound enough like a Marshall tube amp. Honestly, if that’s what you are looking for you need to save your pennies and go with the Marshall tube amp.
On the other hand, if you want a loud, reliable amp with good tone and some cool effects, this may be the one for you.
More on the Marshall MG100HCFX
Fender Mustang V.2 V
The Fender Mustang Series has gotten a tremendous amount of positive feedback since it first appeared a few years back. I’ve written a lot about the combo amps in the series, and I’ve been impressed. Judging by the feedback to my articles it seems I’m not alone.
With a massive array of amp models and available effects, in my opinion the bigger Mustang combos are about as good as it gets if you are looking for a portable, versatile guitar amp for gigs and rehearsal. If you want an amazing amp just for practice at home there are smaller Mustangs to do the job.
Putting this thing in head form might just make it the ultimate gigging amp. Match it with a Fender Mustang 4x12 cabinet and you have an affordable half stack ready for the stage.
This amp is a versatile, powerful half stack, and an outstanding options for any guitar player who needs to grab a whole bunch of different sounds in the same set. Of course you can pile up the pedals if you want, but with the Mustang you have everything you need, ready to go.
Recent years have seen a surge in modeling amps from some of the best names in the business, and the Fender Mustang Series is at the top of the heap. For gigging guitarists in cover bands this amp deserves serious consideration.
The Fender Mustang V.2 Series
In the minds of many guitar players Randall is the king of the solid-state guitar amp, especially when it comes to metal and hard rock sounds. The RG1003 is a no-nonsense amp with 100 watts of pure Randall attitude and a pair of channels with separate EQs. Throw in some spring reverb and it is all some guitar players will ever want.
This amp is sort of the polar opposite of the Fender above, and frankly it’s probably the direction I would go if I were looking for an affordable budget half stack with solid-state technology. As much as I love amp models and onboard effects in a practice amp, for the stage and studio I prefer one awesome tone that defines my sound. I can add whatever effects I need through pedals.
That’s what you’ll get from the Randall RG1003. Of course whether or not it is the right amp for you depends on if you like the tone or not you, and whether you need more effects and amp models to get the job done in your band. I can’t help you there. All of that is up to you!
The RG1003 can be matched with 4x12 Randall RG cabinet, creating an impressive half stack with amazing power. This is a great way to get a big amp without spending a lot of pennies.
Which Half Stack is Right for You?
Now that you’ve looked at the amps, a few things are probably clear. In this price range you aren’t going to find amps to rival a Marshall DSL100 or Peavey 6505. In fact, even a good 50-watt tube amp will eat these amps for lunch. But the five amps in this article are plenty loud enough for a band situation, and if you are just getting started and don’t have ton of cash to spend they make solid options.
So how do you choose between these five affordable half-stacks? Ultimately you'll have to take a hard look at exactly what you think you need in a guitar amp and go from there. All I can do is tell you is what I would do. The rest is up to you!
- If I were looking for an amp for heavy rock and metal I’d be thinking about the Randall. It’s a straight-up tone machine with no bells and whistles to get in your way.
- For an uncomplicated rock or blues amp I’d choose the Marshall. It has some useful effects, but more than anything this amp is about Marshall tone.
- If I played in a cover band I’d chose the Fender Mustang. It’s versatile, powerful, and it has everything I’d need for a gig. Out of all the amps outlined here I think it’s the best choice for professional and semi-pro musicians.
There you have it. Good luck choosing the perfect budget half stack guitar amp!