14 Combo Amps Under $500

Big Sound for Small Budgets: 14 Combo Amps Under $500

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14 guitar combos to help you achieve serious sound without breaking the bank.

Guitar amps have been around since the 1930s, but early designs weren’t very powerful and offered little tone control. With the growing popularity of electric guitars in the 1950s, amps grew louder and offered better tone controls plus built-in effects—usually tremolo or reverb. With the varied sounds demanded by modern guitarists plus the appearance of huge concert venues, guitar amps have continued to evolve. Weekend warriors and garage band guitarists have benefited from this evolution as modern amp technology has grown increasingly more powerful and affordable.

Let’s take a look at 14 top-selling guitar combos that earn praise from gear critics and budget-challenged guitarists alike.

Fender Mustang II V.2: A digital-savvy combo for the home studio

Fender Mustang II V.2

The Fender Mustang II V.2 is a modern take on one of the best-selling amp lines of all time.

Beneath the classic “blackface” Fender cosmetics, the Mustang II V.2 has a USB interface you use in conjunction with included Fender Fuse software to edit your effects and amp presets on your computer. It comes with 18 amp models ranging from clean to deeply distorted tones. Looking for more tonal fodder? You can download, upload and swap patches with the entire Fender online community as well as grab cool presets made by pros and store them for instant recall. With an optional footswitch, you can smoothly transition between any two patches you assign. Fender also tosses in special versions of Ableton Live Lite and Amplitube software, making this a great rig for developing your recording and mixing skills. With 40W and a single 12” speaker, you can also ride your Mustang at smaller gigs and hold your own in garage jams.


Take a tour of the Mustang Series guitar amps and all their 21st-century capabilities.

Fender Mustang III V.2: More power, more tonal possibilities

Fender Mustang III V.2

The Mustang III V.2: adds performance-friendly features making it a versatile combo in both recording and gigging situations.

The Fender Mustang III ups the ante with 100 watts—enough for larger venues and louder bands. With a robust set of factory presets plus unlimited storage for more, realistic amp models, dual XLR outputs and an included footswitch, the Mustang III is ready to hit the stage or studio. Cool new effects include a Green Screamer, Big Fuzz and intelligent pitch shifting. You can also connect expression pedals for greater control over your playing dynamics.

Vox AC4C1-12: A little tube combo with classic UK tones

Vox AC4C1 12

Crank the all-tube Vox AC4C1 up and it’ll go from classic Vox clean chime to grittier crunch tones.

With tonal heritage straight out of the iconic Vox AC-30—the amp that drove the British Invasion—the Vox AC4C1-12 is the latest in a line of great little 1x12 combos from Vox that are ideal for practice and recording. The 4-watt output stage has a single EL84 tube and gets plenty loud for practice. (As tube amp purists know, they’re much louder than solid-state combos with equivalent wattage.) Yet it’s still easy to get into overdrive territory without blowing the roof off your home studio. A 12” Celestion speaker translates everything the preamp with its dual 12AX7 tubes and your guitar tone settings throws at it. From sparkling clean classic chime to warmer, distorted sounds the AC4C1 will do your bidding.

Line 6 Spider IV 75: Endless creativity from the masters of modeling

Line 6 Spider IV

The Line 6 Spider IV delivers a huge tonal canvas on which to create your own sounds or use professionally created presets. A great amp for guitarists who do a lot of covers.

Line 6 are old hands at creating guitar and effects models that have astounding realism. Use the Spider IV to call up a virtual history of great guitar and amp sounds that have defined the music universe from surf to country, from reggae to metal, and every music genre in-between. No matter what tone you’re seeking, the Spider IV guitar combo will deliver it. Its 500 presets, 300 of them designed by some of the biggest names in rock, make it your own sonic playground. You get another 200 presets based on some of the greatest guitar sounds ever. Want Jimmy Page’s lead tone on “Whole Lotta Love”? Just call it up from the easy to navigate user interface with a display that keeps you informed on key settings. You can also create and store 64 of your own presets using 16 killer amp models plus Line 6 Edit software. With 75W and a 12” Celestion Custom speaker plus a full array traditional control knobs, you can switch to manual mode for a totally satisfying traditional combo you run from the front panel.


Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis demonstrates just some of the huge creative potential and sounds packed into the Line 6 Spider iV.

Fishman Loudbox Mini PRO: Hi-fi acoustic guitar amplification

Fishman Loudbox Mini PRO-LBX-500

The Fishman Loudbox Mini PRO-LBX-500 is ideal for singers who perform with acoustic guitars in intimate settings.

Unlike most other models in this roundup, the Fishman Loudbox Mini PRO targets the acoustic guitarist. It’s a super-portable sub-20 lb. 2-channel rig that lets you plug in a guitar plus mic using its XLR connector. Designed for accurate, uncolored sound, it has a 6.5” woofer/midrange driver and 1” tweeter. With a chorus effect on the guitar channel and reverbs for both guitar and mic channels, you can dial in a little vocal drama while adding shimmer to your instrument’s natural sound. Fishman’s smart feedback-fighting technology keeps a lid on embarrassing squeals without compromising your sound. When you’re playing a bigger room with a PA, the XLR output lets you plug in without needing a DI box.


Take a video tour covering all the performance-friendly features on the Loudbox Mini PRO.

Orange Amplifiers Crush 35RT: Serious British rawk on a budget

Orange Crush 35RT

Orange knows the harder regions of rock—its Crush 35RT is a sweet entry-level guitar combo with a full range of practice and performance features.

Orange has long been a force in the world of hard-rock amplification, spawning a line of tube heads and combos that show up in the backlines of some of rock’s biggest guitarists. The solid-state Orange Amplifiers Crush 35RT delivers that heritage in a more affordable practice-amp size. A 10” Voice of the World speaker is driven to serious levels by the 35W power stage. Practice with headphones and CabSim technology that serves up realistic 4x12 cabinet tone. Two channels, a buffered effects loop, 3-band EQ plus a Gain knob to get you into overdriven sounds combine to make this more than a mere practice amp.


We caught up with Orange designer Adrian Emsley at NAMM 2015 where he walked us through some of the cool features built into his updated Crush designs.

Acoustic A1000: A complete PA in a single, retro-styled cab

Acoustic A1000

Part acoustic guitar amp, part PA, the Acoustic A1000 is a complete solution for acoustic solo and duo acts.

With two independent channels, each with effects processors, 3-band EQs with sweepable mids, and 100W total output, the Acoustic A1000 Stereo Acoustic Guitar Combo Amp is a big fix in a portable package. Two 8” neodymium-magnet speakers deliver full-range sound while helping keep total weight to an remarkable 42 lb. 20 preset/user programs allow you to smoothly segue between sounds. Dual inputs with ¼”/XLR jacks plus an XLR direct output with multiple setting choices make the A1000 a versatile performer in many different settings. Built-in feedback elimination makes setup and placement a breeze. Bluetooth compatibility allows painless syncing and playback of your Bluetooth devices—use them for break music or backing tracks. The logically laid out control panel with independent channel status displays is housed in a vintage-styled cabinet.

Blackstar ID:60: Dial in the those tube tones you crave

Blackstar ID:60

The Blackstar ID:60 packs a lot of cutting-edge amp technology including a MIDI input into its compact cabinet, making it a tone-tweakers dream rig.

On its surface, the Blackstar ID:60 1x12 Combo looks pretty typical of practice and small gigging amps. But beneath that plain-Jane exterior, this thing is loaded with amp models that take a different tack from the Line 6 approach. True Valve Power technology models the sound of specific power- and preamp-stage tubes to reproduce a huge range of quintessential amp tones from round and brown to bright and twangy with all stops in-between. The Voice knob accesses six channels that go from clean to crunch to overdrive. A patented ISF control works in conjunction with the EQ section to massively broaden that tonal universe. The ID:60 has 128 user-storable patch locations plus 12 more you can assign to a front panel knob—a nice touch in performance.


Talk’s cheap. Give a listen to what you can program and play with the ID:60!

Dean Markley DM60RC: Total sound control

Dean Markley DM60RC

The Dean Markley DM60RC Guitar Combo is a well-rounded practice and small-venue performance rig.

The DM60RC has all the essential functions you want in a practice/small-gig combo without any dubious, frilly features. It puts out a loud 60W to drive a custom-designed 12” Celestion speaker via Clean and Overdrive channels. An effective 4-band EQ helps you dial in tones easily and with an optional footswitch you can access the onboard chorus and reverb effects hands-free. An MP3 input lets you connect music players and the headphone jack will help keep the peace during late-night practice. Sized to handle smaller venues, the well thought out DM60RC is housed in a distinctive tan Tolex-covered cabinet that’s road-ready.

Ibanez TSA15: The legendary OD stomp—now in an all-tube combo

Ibanez TSA15 Tube Screamer

The Ibanez TSA15 Tube Screamer Combo is a powerful little all-tube performer that gets insanely good when you kick in the onboard sound of that seasick-green stomp you find on countless pedalboards.

Aside from the iconic stomp sound built into the Ibanez TSA15 combo, this is a full-fledged little tone machine that gets its hair from a pair of 12AX7s in the preamp and dual 6V power tubes pushing out 15W of Class A goodness. All that tube-generated crunch is delivered through a 12” Celestion Seventy 80 speaker that can reproduce a broad range of overdriven, distorted and clean tones. A Pentode/Triode setting lets you select either 15W or 5W operation. The latter mode is ideal for getting big distorted tones without a whole lot of volume—a perfect scenario when recording.

Marshall MG50CFX: Sweet practice combo in a new box

Marshall MG50CFX

From one of the most respected names in the business, the best-selling Marshall MG50CFX Guitar Combo Amp pairs versatility and portability.

The compact Marshall MG Series MG50CFX 50W 1x12 Guitar Combo Amp is ideal for practice or more intimate performances. The rugged carbon fiber cabinet is loaded with a well-matched 12” speaker and 50W power amp plus a slew of digital effects. Four channels with patch storage locations give you turn-on-a-dime tone shifts using the included footswitch. At under 17 pounds the MG50CFX goes easy on both your back and wallet. An MP3 line in, effects loop and emulated speaker headphone output are all worthy practice features.


The MG Series MG50CFX combo may be a Marshall of another color, but it sonically embodies classic Marshall tone and a whole lot more.

Peavey Envoy 110: Dual footswitchable channels with tonal dexterity

Peavey Envoy 110

The Peavey Envoy 110 sounds far bigger than its 40 watts and dishes up a lot of tone options.

Among weekend warriors who count on their modestly priced gear to hold up week after week, Peavey’s rep is sterling. The company loads a 10” Super Duty Blue Marvel speaker in the 40W Envoy 110 to churn out plenty of volume—enough for smaller venues. But the magic of this top-rated amp lies in its two footswitchable channels, each equipped with independent 3-band EQs and 3 tone variations per channel. A Classic/High Gain/Warm switch on the lead channel invites tweaking. A little experimentation will dial up pretty much anything you want from glassy cleans to filthy metal tones to modern overdrive angst. High- and low-gain inputs let you tailor the amp to various guitars and pickup types. At just 21 lb, the Envoy 110 is one powerful and portable amp.

Randall RG1503-212: Massive high-gain power for less than you’d guess

Randall RG1503-212

When the Randall RG1503-212 is in the house, hold onto your seat. This 150W solid-state beast gets LOUD!

The Randall RG1503-212 looks like it’s ready for a fight—and sounds like it would win. It’s built by the same people who gave ‘80s icons like Randy Rhoads the firepower they needed for extreme-gain sounds. The three footswitchable channels with four-band EQ will hold their own in loud band settings. The Bright switch on the clean channel will help you cut through dense band mixes. A pair of 12” Randall custom-voiced speakers mounted in a rugged stageworthy cabinet and protected by a steel grill pound out 150W of solid-state power. A bass EQ Boost switch and mid EQ scoop function let you fine-tune your sounds endlessly. Or practice quietly through the headphone jack. The XLR output with ground lift and real spring reverb point to the RG1503’s professional heritage. Mounted on casters for easy movement, this heavyweight is a best-selling contender for the modern rocker who needs massive power on a moderate budget.

Tech 21 Trademark TM30: Create amps to match the tones in your head

Tech 21 Trademark 30

The Tech 21 Trademark 30 Combo contains a modded version of the famous SansAmp GT2 pedal circuit.

Tech 21 took the legendary core of its SansAmp GT2 pedal technology and married it with a throaty, 30 watt combo in the Tech 21 Trademark 30. Where the Trademark 30 really shines is in tone construction. You dial in your sound by choosing amp gain structure and speaker type, then tweak the results with 3-band active EQ controls for precision tone shaping.

A professional-quality Accutronics 3-spring reverb, effects loop, and XLR output are all housed in this 14-lb. powerhouse.

Confused by all the specs and features? See our Instrument Amplifier Buying Guide.

Get more help!

That’s a lot of amps! Still got questions about what’s right for you? Call a Musician’s Friend Gear Head at 877-880-5907 for expert, friendly help from players who live and breathe this gear.

Tags: Electric Guitars Amplifiers

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