12 Best Modeling Amps in 2018
While some can look quite sexy, despite their namesake, modeling amps are not built for models. They are built to produce a wide variety of tones and sounds, however, and are very high-tech compared to their solid-state and tubed counterparts.
We went on a trek to find the best modeling amp for consumers looking to make the leap. All of our picks are considered “combo” amps as well, which means they come with a speaker and are not just a head unit.
Top 12 Modeling Amps Ultimate Table
|Design||Name||Wattage||Amp Models||Rating (1-5)|
|1. Fender Mustang II V2 40-Watt 1×12-Inch Combo Electric Guitar Amplifier||20, 40-Watts||17||4.7|
|2. Vox MINI5R Battery Powered Amplifier||5-Watts||11||4.7|
|3. VOX VT40X Modeling Amp||20, 40, 100-Watts||11||4.6|
|4. Yamaha THR10 Mini Guitar Amplifier||10-Watts||5||4.5|
|5. Roland CUBE Street EX 4-Channel 50-Watt Battery Powered Amplifier||50-Watts||4||4.5|
|6. VOX MINI3G2BK Battery Powered Modeling Amp||3-Watts||11||4.4|
|7. Marshall Code 50 – 50-watt 1×12″ Digital Combo Amp||50-Watts||14||4.3|
|8. Vox AV30 Analog Valve Modeling Amplifier||30-Watts||8||4.3|
|9. Peavey Vypyr VIP 3 – 100 Watt Amplifier||20, 40, 100-Watts||10||4.2|
|10. Line 6 AMPLIFi 75 Modeling Guitar Amplifier||30, 75, 150-Watts||78||4.0|
|11. Behringer V-Tone Gm108 True Analog Modeling 15-Watt Guitar Amp||15-Watts||3||3|
|12. Line 6 Spider V 30 Modeling Amplifier||15, 30, 60, 120, 240-Watts||200+||4.0|
How to Choose the Right Modeling Amp
If you want to sound like Harrison, Hendrix or Buckethead, a great modeling amp can get you there. Finding the right one can be difficult however unless you keep a few things in mind.
- Wattage – Are you just going to practice before hitting the stage or do you need something with a bit more pop for an upcoming gig? This is where you will want to consider wattage, which directly affects your budget. You can still get plenty of punch from budget-friendly units; you just have to consider where you will be using your new modeling amp.
As a rule of thumb, practice amps are anywhere from 5 to 30-watts. These are smaller and can be easily lugged around as well. Medium-sized modeling amps range from around 50 to 100-watts while big events require something at 100-watts or beyond. The speaker size matters as well but is generally in line with the wattage in combo amps.
- Amp Models – A modeling amp is what it is due to its digital nature; this allows it to mimic sounds of different types of amplifiers without having to own them all. Emulation is the key here, and things can get pretty wild on the high-end models. That said, not everyone is going to need 200 amp models so you need to look before you leap.
If you want to have that vacuum tube sound, it can be accomplished or you can go with heavy bass or acoustic/electric as well. Some models will have preset libraries full of models while others may only come with a handful to hit a specific era or tone. Think about the sound you’re looking for after you consider the size you need.
- Effects – If you weren’t impressed by a modeling amps ability to emulate different amp models past and present, the array of effects may change your mind. You don’t even need a pedal with the right amp as some will let you set it digitally. Fuzz, growl and all the usual suspects are present so you can kiss your old pedalboard goodbye and welcome new tones and effects into your arsenal.
- Outputs and Inputs – Every guitar amp has the standard input jack, and there’s always an output as well. Modeling amps kick thinks up a notch or two. As they are digital, most will offer up USB access and some even come with software or cloud-based libraries full of tones. Bluetooth is another feature to keep an eye out for along with CD inputs and headphone jacks.
Top 5 Best Modeling Amp Reviews
Fender has produced some of the finest electric guitar amps on the market. You can’t throw a rock without hitting an analog or solid state amp from the company, and they dabble in the world of modeling amps as well. The Fender Mustang II V2 is an amazing option for anyone that wants a digital amp, and it was a lock for the top spot in our best modeling amp list.
The Mustang II comes in two sizes with a 20 and 40-watt amp. Either way, you roll, you will get 17 amp models to choose from out of the box. It also comes with Fender FUSE software and Ableton Live Lite for studio use, and in case you want to tweak those preset tones. As for the ports, you will get a USB port, ¼” instrument input, ¼” footswitch jack, and two 3.5mm jacks for auxiliary and headphones.
Another advantage of the Mustang II we enjoyed was the ability to actually download background tracks and beats to play along with through FUSE. It’s not something you will find on many other amps, and definitely something to consider if you want to dig deep into your sound.
The VOX MINI5R is a small option and what we would refer to as a practice amp for the most part. That said, it’s portable and battery-powered so you can take it out for a sidewalk show or practice on the go. It’s not that powerful at only 5-watts, but we think you will be pleasantly surprised by how loud this one gets and the type of tech it packs inside its tiny cabinet.
The MINI5R has 11 amp models despite its size and you’ll get 8 effect types as well. That is impressive, but not nearly as much as the 99 rhythm patterns. This little modeling amp lives up to its name, as it allows you to set the genre to your mood. A few of the options included Jazz, Latin, Pop, and Metal. On the downside, there is no USB port on this unit, so your modeling is limited to what you can do on the amp.
VOX’s amp is powered by six AA batteries and is rated at 12 hours of usage at a full 5-watts or around 17 hours at 1.5-watts. There is an AC adapter included as well, and you can opt for one of three colors with Ivory, Classic, and Black.
If you like the style and functions of the VOX Mini but are looking for new power, you may have found your top choice with the VOX Valvetronix VT40X modeling amp. It has the same amount of amp models at 11, and there are 13 onboard effects as well. This one comes in three different sizes however with a 20-watt, 40-watt, and 100-watt models.
While the speaker size will vary depending on which size you go with, the abilities stay the same across the board as do the ports. The VOX VT series has a USB port up top and 33 preset programs for to go along with a switch for Class A or Class A/B. As mentioned, this one has all the bells & whistles and is a great option for large gigs or smaller venues.
While there really is no downside to this amp in our eyes, there is a huge bonus in the Vox Toneroom app. You can use the app from your smartphone and connect directly to the amp through the USB port for an additional measure of control over your sound. It’s only available for iOS at the moment, but you can use the PC-based software if you sport another device.
We always try to include products that offer up something different, and the Yamaha THR series certainly fits that bill. It is available in several different configurations including a desktop amp, head or cabinet. You can also choose between Dual or Single-channel or pick the type of sound you want to start with. The Styles are listed as Acoustic, Boutique, High Gain, Mini THR and Original THR along with the aforementioned “channel” models. Rounding things out with the options is a 1×12 and 2×12 cabinet.
For our purposes, we chose the Desktop model THR10 which is a portable combo amp with a classic style. It comes with 5 tube amp models, a 3-band EQ and 4 modulation effects. You’ll also get 4 delay and reverb styles to go along with the THR Editor and Cubase AI software for recording and editing. As for the speakers, on this model, they clock in at 3.15 inches, and you will get two of them inside the portable little box.
Depending on the sound you’re looking for, the Yamaha THR range has you covered from classic to electric-acoustic. Other features to note on this one include a USB port and the fact it can run off 8 AA batteries or AC power.
If you’ve made it this far in our best modeling amp list, you have probably noticed that big things can come out of small packages when it comes to modeling amps. That trend continues with the Roland CUBE Street EX, which is another battery powered amplifier that allows you to go portable or run from a wall jack.
Unlike our other battery powered beauties, the Roland CUBE is a 50-watt amplifier with 4-channels; this allows you to hook up different instruments or a mic along with your axe in case you want to put on a mobile show. On that note, there are two inputs for the microphones in case you want to sing along with your lead while you play.
There are four speakers in the CUBE to covers the lows and highs, and you’ll get a 3-band EQ with reverb for each channel. It’s not quite as adventurous as the amps from Spider when it comes to the number of models available, but does sport the company’s COSM amplifier modeling technology. At full power, you can go 5 hours or dial things down with power saving mode for more playing time at a lower wattage.