Best Portable Guitar Amp
Portable Guitar Amps
If you love to play the guitar, but can’t stand being tethered to an electrical outlet, a portable, battery-powered guitar amp might be just the thing to satisfy your wanderlust.
While there are a lot of great-sounding, featured-packed small amps out there, most of them require access to an external power source. They can’t help you much if you want to play somewhere there is no power outlet.
In the past guitar players had to make do with an acoustic, but times are changing, and some of the incredible features you've seen in big amps are now finding their way into battery-powered mini amps. And, many of these amps sound just as good as their plugged-in brothers.
If you’re searching for the best portable guitar amp this review should be able to help you out. These amplifiers are perfect for camping, playing around town or just practicing in a secluded place where nobody will bug you. And, they’re made by some of the best names in the guitar amp industry. They might be small, but they pack great value when it comes to tone, usefulness and just plain fun.
Here’s a look a some of the top portable guitar amps out there. They each run on batteries but can make use of an AC adapter as well. Most have onboard effects, and all are lightweight and easy to tote around town. With many, you can even run a line out to a PA system or recording device if you are so inclined.
On to the gear!
Blackstar Fly 3
My top recommendation is the . This mini monster has been my go-to portable guitar amp for over a year. It sounds fantastic, and while at only three watts it is less powerful than other amps in this article is sounds just as big. Blackstar Fly
There are controls for Gain, Volume, EQ, Delay and Delay Level. There is also an OD switch, which makes the Fly operate almost like a 2-channel amp. The design is simple, but the sound is really impressive.
The choice of including a delay effect is a little strange for an amp this size, but realize that there is an optional extension speaker available for the Fly.
The Fly is the amp I grab when I feel like plugging an electric guitar, but would rather play on the back deck or somewhere there is no power outlet. I included this amp in my list of top mini guitar amps, and wrote a full review of the Blackstar Fly as well.
More on the Blackstar Fly
Peavey Nano Vypyr
The gets second place on my list of portable guitar maps. Peavey’s Vypyr amps have achieved tremendous success in the past few years since they arrived on the scene. The Nano Vypyr is the littlest Vypyr, but doesn’t fall short on any of the award-winning attributes that make the bigger Vypyrs so impressive. Peavey Nano Vyper
I really like Peavey amps, and I really like this little Vypyer. In fact, I like it so much I went out and bought one.This little beast is quite a bit more complex than my Blackstar Fly. It features eleven analog amp models, a global 3-band EQ, 10 different effects for a total of 35 different effects combinations, a chromatic tuner, mic input with dedicated volume control, Aux in, headphone/line out jack, expression pedal input, and a cool kickback design. It also has an eight-inch speaker, which is impressive in such a small amp.
The Nano Vypyr has perhaps the most intuitive and easiest to use top panel of any of the larger amps in this review, and the three band EQ is a nice option for dialing in precise tones. It’s also worth noting that Peavey prefers analog distortion using their patented TransTube technology instead of digital. To my ear, this just sounds better.
Roland Micro Cube GX
The Roland Micro Cube has been around for a long time and gets some serious kudos from the tone obsessed out there. This little dynamo has a five-inch speaker in a rugged casing, complete with a handle on top so you can grab it and run.
It features eight amp models and an array of digital effects, as well as a chromatic tuner. It might sound complex, but it’s all controlled via six simple knobs and a couple of switches mounted atop the amp.
On the rear panel you’ve got an auxiliary input and a headphones jack/line out, as well as an AC power supply jack. Though you may never need the power supply: Roland boasts an impressive 25 hours of battery life for the Micro Cube GX. There's also the i-Cube Link, which lets you connect the GX to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
It’s tough to go wrong with the classic Roland Micro Cube GX if you’re looking for the best mini guitar amp.
Guitar World Checks Reviews the Micro Cube GX
Line 6 Micro Spider
Line 6 has long been the kings of digital modeling amps, and almost had the throne to themselves before brands like Peavey and Fender started elbowing their way in. But the Line 6 Spider series is still a very viable option for players looking for modeling amp flexibility and awesome digital effects.
The is one of my favorite portable amps, and may be a breath of fresh air for anyone thinking the larger Spider amps are just too confusing. With a total of five amp models, a three-band EQ and six effects laid out in a very intuitive way even the post technophobic can find their way around the Micro Spider with ease. But don’t worry: Spider online is still available to Micro users. Micro Spider
Other features include a 6.5 inch speaker, six watts of power, mic input with dedicated trim, POD-style direct out, aux in, headphone jack and five user-programmable channels.
Line 6 still get it done when it comes to modeling technology, even on a micro scale.
There is no way to do a review of battery-powered guitar amps and not mention the classic that started it all. It doesn’t have digital effects or hook up to your computer. In fact, it only has one knob. It’s got 5 watts of power coming through a 5-inch speaker and runs on AA batteries or an optional AC adapter.
There isn’t much else to say about the Pignose, except that an amp that has stood the test time through all the technology that has come and gone must be doing something right. Maybe it’s the cool look, or the simplicity, or the unique tone (which can be altered by opening the case to different degrees). Who knows?
It’s a classic little amp, and if everything else above seems a little too advanced, a little too gimmicky, or just plain complicated the Pignose might be your ticket.
Fender Mustang Mini
The Fender Mustang modeling amps have exploded in popularity since their release a few years back. From the little 20-watt Mustang I all the way up to the Mustang V head, guitarists love the sound and versatility of the Fender Mustang series. Fender even gave us a mini, battery-powered version of these great amps, though it is no longer on the market. Still, if you look around a little, you may be able to find a great deal on a gently used Mustang Mini.
With seven watts of power coming through a 6.5-inch speaker the Mustang Mini gives you that epic Fender sound in a bite-sized, portable chunk. Features include eight amp models, a chromatic tuner, 24 presets, headphones jack, Aux in, and a USB port for accessing Fender’s FUSE system. This little amp even has a jack for an optional one-button footswitch!
Admittedly, the Mustang Mini is a bit more complicated than what many players might want in a portable amp, but if you’re already a fan of the Mustang series, or modeling amps in general, this little amp might be right up your alley.
Hear the Mustang Mini
Which Portable Guitar Amp is Best for You?
So which of these amps is the best choice? Obviously that’s something you’ll have to determine on your own! If you want a bigger amp, my choice of the lot is the Peavey for three reasons:
- It’s super-easy to use
- I prefer analog distortion over digital
- It has the biggest speaker
But you might have other criteria that are more important to you.
The simplest choice is the Blackstar Fly. It sounds fantastic, with minimal knob twisting, and it doesn't take up much space.
The Fender and Line 6 both have really impressive options available if you’re interested in patching into the PC. That’s really cool, and opens up a lot of possibilities for new sounds.
The Pignose, of course, is the essence of simplicity. It’s been a favorite for decades, and certainly isn’t going to fail now.
The Roland Micro Cube has pretty much become a classic itself. It’s been around long enough to have weathered the test of time, and many players absolutely love it.
But check them all out and decide for yourself. You can’t go wrong with any of the amps listed here. Good luck in your search for the best portable mini guitar amp!