Cheap practice amps

Richard Monroe

Well-known member
Well, I decided I needed a cheap practice amp to replace an old one that died a while ago. I was limited to about $150 max, and prefer to buy new as most of the used practice amps I've seen in that price range are abused, with blown speakers, bad pots, etc. Here are the parameters:

1. I don't need it to be particularly loud. I use it for traveling, and a little jamming, but it doesn't have to deal with a band, which would be almost impossible in that price range. I might use it for recording if it produces some cool tone I like, but I have better rigs in the studio.

2. Most of my needs are for clean tones. I play rhythm, and almost no lead, but I might hand the axe over to a shredder- you never know. So- distortion is OK, but only if I can get rid of it.

3. Reverb is essential, as I play a fair amount of blues, and don't feel like carrying stomp boxes around with a practice amp.

4. FX is OK if it happens to sound cool, but not necessary. I can always put a pocket pod in the signal chain and dial up what I need if I have to. I suppose that also includes the reverb mentioned above.

5. Other bells and whistles that are cool, but not necessary: aux in, external speaker jack, headphone jack, line out, onboard tuner, AC electrical jack.

6. Self noise sucks, and pronounced single coil hum is flat out unacceptable. I use both single and double coil pickups.


Well first, after playing the little 5 watt Fender, I came to the conclusion that 5 watts doesn't cut it, so I began to narrow it down to 15-25 watts. I played through bottom shelf amps, including Fender 25R, including the digital FX version of the same amp, the Roland Cube, Peavey Vypyr 15, a Marshall (forget the model), Line 6 spyder, and an Acoustic floor wedge amp which is really an acoustic amp.

Not surprisingly, the Acoustic produced some of the best clean tones, and had the best EQ of the lot. Of course, no overdrive channel is available. I actually considered it, as it would have other applications as a powered floor monitor. There's no doubt, though, that I would need that pocket POD with it. Look, ma, no reverb.

The Marshall was the most useless of the lot from my perspective. There's simply no gain without distortion, a total one trick pony, and it's a trick I don't use.

The Roland cube was better, but it was one of those things you can't define- I didn't like the way it sounded, and that's the best reason to not buy it. Somebody else might love it.

The VOX produced hellish single coil hum at all times. It was actually pretty good with a Les Paul, but I often travel with an Epiphone Casino, a Strat, or Tele. Rejected.

The Fenders were better- (very little hum). They produced that classic Fender shimmer, like an old Princeton, but- that's the only sound I could get out of it, and I couldn't dial up a really clean tone at all. If all I played was blues, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. It also has the most balls, and could be used for a band practice, if the drummer had light sticks, small toms, and some restraint. Another one trick pony. It's a trick I have some use for, but it still lacks versatility.

The Line 6 Spyder was more versatile, but not unlike the Roland Cube, I just didn't like the way it sounded. I think it's the speaker more than the amp. If I could jack it into a 1X12 cab, it would probably be just fine, but that would defeat my purpose, wouldn't it? Also, like many Line 6 modelers, 2/3 of the high gain models produce considerable hum, even with double coil pickups. making them unusable at low volume levels. This is not a good thing in a 15 watt amp.

Last, the Peavey. This is the one I ended up buying. Is it perfect? No. But it came closest to the job I needed it to do. First, it's louder than I need it to be for my purposes, and the speaker didn't overload even at close to max levels. If you are using a lot of pre-amp gain, it can actually scream. Most of the FX I find fairly useless, and it doesn't have a compressor, which I might actually have a use for, but the reverb is usable. It doesn't have as many clean models as I would like (where is the Roland?) but I can get usable tones from the twin, deluxe, and plexi models. The tuner is not very good, and is almost useless with any single coil guitar. It just wants more output than it gets from a tele.

Of course, my first official act was to begin replacing their nasty high gain presets with nice clean, flat edits. I can see why people who don't deal with modelers hate it, as you can't get anything out of it without some editing. If you are a plug and play guy, it's not for you. There was almost no hum in any model, with any kind of axe (Yay!). The headphone/line out jack is better than most. In general, it's the best $100 amp I could find for my purposes. I'm interested in the experiences of others, as we all have different needs and perspectives.-Richie
 

WhiteStrat

Don't stare at the eye.
I've got a Vox AD15 that fits the bill for me. I bought it from someone here for $100 and it's a great little solid state modeler.

BUT--that was before the Vypyr's were out. I thought that little Peavey was so fun I had to buy one--but I didn't need it. So I gave it to my nephew. It's fun having that guitar gear connection with someone in the family. He loves it--and I can guarantee he's playing with the jacked up overdriven presets!

If I didn't have a little practice amp at all, it's what I'd get too.
 

cantthinkofname

Active member
hi richard, i just got a microcube and i love it:) it's obviously not perfect but for $119.00 (i think that's what i paid) its great! it's better than any of the other cheap amps i've played before especially for that price. i wish its clean channel would ring more but other than that, although its all pretty much a subjective thing, i am very happy with it. good luck finding the one you want:)
 
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