5 Best Small Modeling Guitar Amps in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Best Small Modeling Guitar Amp

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If you are in a hurry and want to find out what is the best small modeling guitar amp, I recommend Vox Adio Air GT 50W. It offers you a great variety of tones, the price ain’t too bad and you can take it wherever you go.

Playing through a modeling amp is a fun and versatile way to experiment with tons of different tones.

If you’re not sure what your signature sound is yet, you can try a modeling amp to easily test many different voices. 

I’ve chosen my five favorites to give you a look at the best small modeling guitar amps around.

In this post, I’m going to recommend/review the following amps:

Let’s first look at these fine amps, and at the end of the post, you can find the FAQ section that helps you to make the best choice possible.

Use the table of content to jump to the section you want:

Best Small Modeling Guitar Amp

Best Overall/Most Portable – Vox Adio Air GT 50W 2×3 Bluetooth Modeling Guitar Combo Amplifier

Sound

Despite being small, the VOX Adio Air GT is a loud, powerful soundbox. It packs 50 watts of power in its compact case, easily filling most small to medium venues.

It comes with 11 preprogrammed amp models that let you play in every genre from country to modern metal. Add to this a smattering of digital effects, and you can tweak your tone hundreds of ways.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

The amp models and effects are just the most obvious features of this amp. It also has cool Bluetooth connectivity. This way, you can control the amp with your phone and even play your guitar with no cables attached. Cable-free playing requires a Bluetooth transmitter for your guitar, but it’s worth the extra cost.

Usability

The controls are all clearly labeled, making it easy to dial in your preferred settings. Learning to work the app takes a bit of practice, but it’s pretty intuitive overall.

My main issue is that the Bluetooth can be a bit laggy, which is annoying when you’re trying to record loops.

Value for Money

It’s a bit of a strange-looking amp, but that’s no reason to avoid it. If you can get past the unconventional looks, you’ll find a versatile modeling amp with state-of-the-art wireless technology that is super fun to jam with.

Summary

Vox Adio Air GT 50W review

Pros

  • Powered by replaceable AA batteries
  • Loud 50 watts pumped through 2 x 3-inch speakers
  • Bluetooth feature lets you change settings remotely
  • Provides a huge range of different amp voices

Cons

  • Phaser and flanger effects sound overly artificial
  • Bluetooth connection can lag on some devices

Did I mention this is battery-powered? With 50 watts of power, hands-free use, and portable power, this is an amazing modeling amp you can take wherever you go.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

 

Most Voice Variety- VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier

Sound

Our second VOX entry utilizes a real tube in the pre-amp power stage. This provides you with a genuine tube gain tone that’s great for gritty genres.

The VOX Valvetronix VT20 has really nice sounding effects to mod your sound with and 33 preset models to choose from. 

Plus, you can plug into your PC and run the VOX Tone Room software to find even more great amp models.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

The hybrid tube/solid-state design of this amp is great, but its ability to be modded with VOX software takes it to the next level.

Without the software, you still get a ton of great tone choices. But once you hook it up, the limits are nearly endless. Each model can be crafted to your ideal, giving you full tonal control.

Usability

The VOX Tone Room software is a bit complicated on the surface and can be unsettling for players who just want to plug and play. The thing is, it’s totally optional.

On the face, this is a super user-friendly amp that gives you loads of variety right out of the box.

Value for Money

At a relatively low price, you get a genuine tube tone and many different ways to mod it. That’s great and all, but there is excess noise in this amp that you can’t seem to tune out. Unfortunately, it loses some quality points for this and due its lack of sustain. Still a good deal, but maybe not for everyone.

Summary

VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier review

Pros

  • Hybrid design boosts authentic tube tone
  • Real tube in preamp gives genuine distortion
  • Great-sounding amp models and effects
  • Works with VOX Tone Room software to further increase sound variation

Cons

  • Has a lot of hiss and hum no matter the settings
  • Certain settings can reduce sustain to unacceptable levels

If you want complete control of your sound and are tech-savvy, this amp is a great choice. It’s not the clearest, cleanest on the market, but it ranks in the top of versatility.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

 

Most Instrumentally Versatile – Yamaha THR10II Desktop Amp

Sound

Yamaha’s THR10II is a new edition to the world of amplifiers made for home musicians. It comes with 8 preset amp models that range from dirty distortion to fully flat, and even features acoustic-electric and bass amp models.

It may not have the most authentic voice emulations, but each model is crisp, clear, and well-balanced.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

This is yet another amp that gives you the ability to control the settings from your phone. This is a feature I’ve wished for in amps for a long time, and I’m glad it’s finally here.

You also get 5 channels to store your pre-defined settings in so you can easily change among your favorite voices.

Usability

Anything that can’t be changed from the app is easily accessible via the nicely laid out onboard control panel.

Though there aren’t many effects to choose from, each option is responsive and easy to dial-in.

Value for Money

This is a sleek, functional modeling amp that is best for hobbyists. The newer editions give you battery-power, but you’re stuck to an outlet with the Desktop model. Despite this, the high-quality sound and precise amp models are well worth the cost.

Summary

Yamaha THR10II Desktop Amp review

Pros

  • Designed for guitars and basses
  • 3 unique microphone settings for acoustic-electric performance
  • 20 watts pushed through 2 x 3-inch speakers perfect for in-home practice
  • THR Remote app lets you control your tone from a distance

Cons

  • Bluetooth connection can fail suddenly on Android devices
  • Can be difficult to connect via USB to Windows software

I like Yamaha a lot and trust their electronics more than most. With the THR10II, you get a compact, great-sounding modeling amp that you can depend on and have a great time playing through.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

 

Best Budget – Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 Guitar Modeling Amp

Sound

Peavey is a big name in heavy music, and the best points of the Vypyr VIP1 are its distorted models. These, it reproduces with a stunning strength that rocks even at 20 watts.

It’s made to function for acoustic electrics and basses as well, but these settings fall a bit short of the mark. The bass is generally flat and lacking in robustness, while the acoustic models are glassy. 

But, if you’re looking for a small modeling amp with lots of good distorted settings, this could be the one for you.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

My favorite feature of the Vypyr VIP1 is that you can play with 4 effects at the same time. This gives you room for loads of experimentation. You can create some truly unique sounds like this that you’d otherwise have to buy lots of effects pedals to get.

In addition, you get several amp models that sound just like the real thing. You can choose among crystal cleans, classic British tweed, twangy blues, or a range of heavier models for rock and metal.

Usability

I’m not going to lie, the control panel of this amp looks very confusing. It would take me a whole day of reading the manual and tweaking controls to figure out how it works. This is something that could definitely use improvement. 

But, it’s not a deal-breaker if you’re willing to put in a little work for a big range of great tones.

Value for Money

This isn’t a very pricey amp, and I think if you’re a fan of heavy genres it provides a good sound for the cost.

Its main drawback is that the controls are what I might call sticky. They don’t always do what they’re supposed to which gives me the concern that it might not be reliable in the long run. 

It’s a bit of a gamble, but a relatively low-cost one with the potential for high reward. 

Summary

Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 Guitar Modeling Amp review

Pros

  • Accurate amp modeling reproduces many different tones
  • A wide range of effects for playing with any sound you please
  • Use a max of 4 effects at the same time
  • 4-channel design lets you preset your desired tones for easy switching

Cons

  • Unreliable control knobs don’t always work as they should
  • Complicated controls can be overwhelming

The Vypyr VIP1 has more effects than any other model on this list plus the ability to use multiple at the same time. This is a fun feature that helps it rank on my list of best small modeling guitar amps. 

Not to mention, I’m a big fan of metal and think the high-gain models of this amp sound amazing. It’s definitely worth checking out.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

 

Give Tons of Different Amp Models – Line 6 Spider V 30 MKII

Sound

Here, we find the prime example of why modeling amps are a kind of trade-off between versatility and quality of tone. With the Line 6 Spider V 30 MKII paired with the matching app, you can choose among more than 200 amp models to play on.

However, none of these amp models really sound like the real deal. They’re obvious emulations that lack in the sonic authenticity. It’s strange to describe a tone as “fake”-sounding, but that’s how the bulk of these models sound; more like MIDI than actual amplifiers.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

The lack of genuineness in this amp’s tone is due to the digital processor because the speaker is top-notch quality. It’s a custom-designed Line 6 model made specifically for this amp. When you play an external sound source through the speaker, you can see what I mean. 

Having over 200 amp models to choose from is cool and is a great way for you to find the type of tone that you like, but you’ll want to upgrade to a better model once you’re ready for the big time.

Usability

Now, when you hear “200 amp models” you probably think the control panel of this amp is a monstrosity. In reality, there are only 7 knobs. Most of the control will be through the amp. 

Onboard, it’s a simple, easy-to-use layout that’s great for beginners who just want to hook up and rock. 

On the downside, your EQ is limited to a tone knob, so you can’t alter your sound too specifically.

Value for Money

With the lowest cost of any amp on this list, the Line 6 Spider V provides the greatest number of models but also the lowest overall sound quality. It is truly the best illustration of why guitarists have a love/hate relationship with modeling amps. 

If variation of tone is what you’re after, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more options at a lower price.

Summary

Line 6 Spider V 30 MKII review

 Pros

  • 16 preloaded amp models at a low cost
  • Over 200 amp models available with Spider V Remote app
  • High-quality Line 6 custom-built speaker
  • Simple controls and easy usability

Cons

  • Limited effects reduce tone variability
  • Inauthentic sounding amp models

I like tonal variability, but maybe I don’t need 200+ choices of amp model. That’s not to say this amp isn’t a good choice. You may be the type of guitarist who loves to try out new sounds every day, and this is a great low-cost way to do so.

If you have a tight budget, or you just prefer 20W amp, there is a cheaper, 20W version of this amp available.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

 

Conclusion

It’s probably clear that my least favorite of these choices is the Line 6 Spider V 30, but it’s really a matter of preference. In a modeling amp, I’m asking for more sonic authenticity than this provides, though I am intrigued by its 200+ model choices.

My go-to choice on this list is the VOX Adio Air GT. Although it’s Bluetooth isn’t exactly reliable, I probably wouldn’t use that feature much anyway. It’s battery-powered portability, high-power output, and great sounding amp models give it way more pros than cons. For my own needs and what I think are the needs of most guitarists, the VOX Adio Air GT is the best small modeling guitar amp I can find.

 

FAQ

What Is a Modeling Amp?

A modeling amp is essentially a solid-state amp that uses digital processors to give you the sound of different amp models. Depending on the modeling amp you buy, you can have vintage boutique tones, modern metal voices, and many other sounds from a wide range of different amplifiers.

They’re a special type of amplification system that gives you more tonal options than many other amps. Just by turning a knob you can experiment with different types of tone and try out the sounds of various guitar styles.

Most modeling amps have multiple channels that can include a clean channel along with their different modeling settings. These amps typically let you use the sound of a range of tube amplifiers. Many even work with software that gives you access to 50 or more different voices.

Are Modeling Amps Any Good?

Modeling amps are, in my opinion, great for a number of reasons.

I’m an adventurous guitarist and love to play in several different genres, as well as experiment with new, weird tones. While I love the sound of a genuine tube amplifier, it’s hard for me to choose one tone to stick with for a long time. I like to mix things up too often to choose one specific amp.

With a modeling amp, I have the ability to change up my sound constantly. Whether I want to play classic rock, jazz, blues, or heavy metal, all I have to do is choose the best setting for the genre and away I’ll rock.

Modeling amps give you the freedom to experiment with your style and work to find your signature voice. This is especially good in your early days of playing guitar, as your tastes and performance preferences are likely to evolve the more experience you gain.

You might think you’ll be a dedicated blues riffer, drop a load of money on a tube amp designed for blues, then change your mind and wish you had a way to get sultry jazz tones. Modeling amps let you switch sounds easily, giving you room to grow your genre variety along with your skill.

Besides just being versatile, modeling amps are also low maintenance. Tube amps require regular upkeep. The vacuum tubes that power the amp burn out like lightbulbs and need to be changed from time to time. 

Modeling amps, on the other hand, are all solid-state and digital technology. There are no parts that need regular replacement and they’ll work reliably for a long time.

On top of this, the lack of heavy tubes makes them lightweight and easy to transport. Tube amps can be really heavy and hard to lug around. Substituting tubes for lightweight processing boards cuts down on poundage and makes modeling amps a breeze to travel with.

Who Should Buy a Small Modeling Guitar Amp?

You might find a modeling amp to be best for you if you’re not yet set in your ways as a guitarist. 

I mean, if you’re a beginner to intermediate player who hasn’t yet defined your personal style, modeling amps can make your playing fun, free, and open to experimentation. They’re also great for guitarists who strictly play as a hobby. When all you do is jam at home, you’ll probably want a lot of options tone-wise. Rather than buy several different expensive amps to get a range of voices, you can choose a good modeling amp to provide many sounds in one.

This is opposed to the professional guitarist, touring in a band with a set sound. Guitarists like this, who have practiced for years to find their signature voice, probably have a preferred amp model. For some pros, gear specifications can be very definitive.

When you don’t have to concern yourself with replicating the same tone each time you practice, modeling amps give you variety and flavor. You can play with tweedy gain one minute then switch straight to all-out metal crunch the next as you work to find your favorite tones.

Once you’ve learned your licks and have found a sound you like best, then you can upgrade to the genuine amp that you’ve loved to model.

Why Are Small Amps Sometimes Better?

This review is looking at the best small modeling amps, and there’s a good reason for that.

With amplification, bigger isn’t always better. In fact, a powerful tube amp can be unplayable at home because you really need to push the volume to get a good sound. Aside from risking hearing damage, this can be a major annoyance to your housemates and neighbors.

It should go without saying that small amps are much easier to take with you than big ones. They’re more compact, lighter, and all-around a breeze to carry.

Small amps give you the benefit of in-home practice volumes that won’t result in public disturbance police visits. You can get the full tonal enjoyment of the amp at low to moderate volumes.

If you’re thinking that a small amp won’t let you gig, that’s usually no worry either. Even a small amp generally has enough volume to fill the kind of venue that won’t mike you up. Otherwise, most venue sound guys will want to mic your amp and play you through the PA. Like this, small amps have the potential to fill any room.

The only time a small amp could really be an issue is during band rehearsal. If you don’t have a PA in your practice space, it’ll be hard to be heard over your drummer. 

Overall, if your amp needs include a solid sound for in-home practicing, a compact setup for limited space, and easy-to-use performance and recording features, these small modeling guitar amps are a great choice.

Final Thoughts

All these amps are great options. Your choice really depends on your budget, needs, and what you like.

I hope that this guide helped you to choose the right amplifier for you. If you have any questions, leave a comment down below and feel free to share this post too.

I wish you all the best and keep rocking!

Teemu Suomala

 

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