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The Best Affordable Combo Amps For Playing Live

Published: Mon December 08, 2014  News Feed

Ok, so the days of just playing in your bedroom are over, now. You sorted yourself a band with your mates and is planning to finally play live, soon. Only one problem - you don't want to spend a lot of money, so how do you know you can afford a guitar amp that's loud enough for gigging? Here's our guide to the best, affordable gig-worthy combos!

The best Affordable Combo Amps for Playing Live

In simplistic terms, any small, cheap guitar amp is a suitable practice amp. And any expensive, big, loud guitar amp will for sure be a suitable amplifier for playing live. If you're looking for a good practice amp, a quick look at our Mini Amplification section will show you a few good options, for instance. And a quick glance at some of our best and most expensive amps will reveal a wide selection of great amps that are used today on stages all over the world, easy.

But... there is an awkward category of guitar amps, that leaves some guitarists puzzled - if you buy a 30w solid-state amp, for example, is it loud enough for gigging, or is it only suitable for home practice? Like in many cases when it comes to playing guitar, the answer is never too straight-forward: it depends on the situation, and it depends on what musical style you play.

If you're a solo act, even a small 15-watt amp could be suitable in a small room, playing in front of less than 100 people. If you're in a very loud rock band, with a loud drummer,  playing a small-to-mid-sized venue, unmiked, you may need a guitar amp that's at least 50-watt loud (solid state) if you want your guitar to be heard clearly and without compromising the sound quality.


A small venue

In most small venues, you'll be no more than 6ft away from your amp, if not much closer! In these situations, a 20 or 30watt amp will be loud enough for you to hear yourself through your own amp, without having to rely solely on monitors. You can spend over £300 on a loud amp and have it turned up to 1 or 2, or spend half the money and have your smaller amp turned up to 7 or so. The end result can be pretty similar...

Louder amps have many advantages on their own: you'd be able to take it to bigger stages, you get more bass response and wider sound due to cab size, and more headroom when it comes to listening to your clean sounds. If you can afford one, sure, go for it!

But we're talking of budget-friendly choices here, and in most cases, a 20-watt solid state amp (or a 5-watt valve amp, which sounds louder than solid state of similar wattage) can be loud enough for gigging. If you're playing in a small stage, maybe the back room of a pub, for instance, a loud amp wouldn't be necessary anyway, or even desirable. And if you're playing at one of Britain's many toilet-circuit venues, it's more common to be in a situation where your amp will be mic'ed up than not.

The so-called "toilet circuit" includes several of the UK's best loved small venues, such as Buffalo Bar in London, Zanzibar Club in LIverpool or Cockpit in Leeds, among others. Usually, venues that hold 300 or less people, and where many bands get their first breaks. This type of venue usually has their own sound engineer, on-stage monitors and all the mics any band will need. Guitar amps are always miked, so if you were using a 100w combo you probably wouldn't go past 1 or 2 on the volume knob!

In this day and age, it's very cheap for any venue to get a decent P.A. setup, so very rarely you'd find yourself playing at a venue that's too big for a 30watt amp but which doesn't have the right gear to mic your amp!

With this in mind, here's our Top 7 picks of the Best Affordable Guitar Combo Amps for Playing Live! Enjoy!

Fender Mustang I V.2 1x12” 20W Modelling Amp
Fender Mustang I V.2...
In most situations, amps with 1x 12" speakers will be loud enough for gigging, when mic'ed. This 20w Fender Mustang amp delivers a great range of tones, and could certainly be suitable for gigging. At just £90 (as of december 2014) it's great value for money!


Marshall MG30CFX Guitar Amp Combo w/ Effects
Image: Marshall MG30CFX Guitar Amp Combo w/ Effects
If you're Slash you may notice a difference. But most people in the audience wouldn't say this little amp, when cranked up, sounds any different than a big, much more expensive Marshall model!

For guitarists on a budget who love the classic Marshall tone (especially great with a Les Paul!) this MG30CFX is simply perfect!


Orange Crush 20 Guitar Amp Combo
Orange Crush PiX...
Orange makes some of the best-sounding cheap, solid state amps available. No amp-modelling here, just classic Orange tone in compact, affordable form.

Few cheap solid-state amps sound as "tubey" as these Orange 20 models, which sounds VERY loud for a small 20w gigging amp!


Blackstar ID Core 40 Stereo Amplifier Combo
Image: Blackstar ID Core 40 Stereo Amplifier Combo
At 40w output, this Blackstar amp packs a goodpunch. And, unlike most amps at this price point, it has TWO speakers, for lush stereo effects!

If you're on a tighter budget, the ID Core 20, at half-the volume, is good enough for gigging, too, but the ID Core 40 is definitely the best option.


Line 6 Spider IV 30 Guitar Amplifier Combo
Image: Line 6 Spider IV 30 Guitar Amplifier Combo
Line 6 has a good tradition of making great, affordable amps, and this Spider IV 30watt amp is a great choice if you're looking for a small amp that can be used at gigs and which has a good range of sounds.

From heavy-metal, to blues or classic Marshall plexi sounds, this amp delivers a lot for not much money!


Roland Cube-40GX Guitar Combo Amp
Image: Roland Cube-40GX Guitar Combo Amp
The new Roland Cube amps sound better than ever, and this 40-watt model is certainly great for taking to gigs, too. It's the ultimate "go everywhere" guitar amp for recording, practicing at home and gigs.

It has a great selection of tools, top-quality FX and more...


Image: VOX AC15VR (AC15-style Hybrid guitar amplifier)
The Vox AC15VR is the most expensive amp in this list, but the most classic-looking of the lot! It's basically a cheaper, hybrid solid state version of an AC15, with real tube preamp for a warmer, valve tone.

It's rated as 15w, but thanks to its Valve Reactor technology, it sounds as loud as a 15-watt valve amp, and not like a 15-watt solid state amp (which would be too quiet for gigging).



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