So what exactly is a modeling amp assuming it’s got nothing at all to do with the catwalk?
Well, until quite recently guitar amps were built in two different ways – being either Valve (otherwise known as Tube) or Solid State. Valve or Tube amp design and construction is quite obviously built around a valve. This is the older technology, of course. Often unreliable, great heavy things to carry around, needing lots of attention and maintenance, but still loved because of the sound they produce.
While solid-state technology had circuits that used semiconductors. And they were more reliable, needed less maintenance, were lighter to carry around generally speaking, and usually cheaper to buy, but just didn’t sound the same.
And so the arguments raged on and on for decade after decade. Which was better?
But then came…
Amp manufacturers were able to digitally recreate the vintage sounds along with their modern-day counterparts and pack then all into a compact little box. Everything in one unit. Of course, the purists will say they cannot create the old vintage sounds digitally, and we would go along with that, but the tech is getting better all the time. They are getting closer and closer as every new product is released.
So let’s take a look at the Best Modeling amps and find the perfect one for you…
- Top 10 Best Modeling Amps To Afford In 2021 Reviews
- 1 Fender Mustang Gt 4
- 2 Vox Valvetronix Vt20x Modeling Amplifier
- 3 Vox Mini3 G2 Battery Powered Modeling Amp
- 4 Peavey Vypyr Vip 1
- 5 Line 6 Spider V 60 Mkii
- 6 Boss Ktn-Head Portable Katana 100w Guitar Amplifier
- 7 Roland M-CUBE-GXW Micro Cube GX 3W 1×5 Guitar Combo
- 8 Blackstar Idcore10 Stereo Combo Amplifier
- 9 Marshall Code 50-50-Watt 1x12Inch Digital Combo Amp
- 10 Marshall Code100C 100-Watt 2×12
- Best Modeling Amps Buyers Guide
- So, Which Is The Best Of The Best Modeling Amps?
Top 10 Best Modeling Amps To Afford In 2021 Reviews
1 Fender Mustang Gt 4
We’ll start off with a product from industry heavy-weights, Fender.
The Mustang series has been on the market for a little while now, but the latest models have moved up a gear in performance and capability. They have just about every conceivable sound included and are heavily loaded with various amplifier options. But not only does this feature modeled amps, but also a barrel load of effects are also included.
Lots of classic Fender tones…
The Mustang GT4 gives you access to all the classic Fender models down the years, and there have been a few great ones that still sound great today. But, Fender has also included some of the best simulations of other manufacturers most notable achievements.
This particular amp is the 40-watt version which drives two 12” Celestion speakers. But, that might not be enough for some mid-size or larger venues, so there are other output size options available.
Bluetooth and wifi…
The controls are nicely situated and simple to understand. And to all intents mirror the standard amp layout except for one thing – a full-color screen displaying information. Before we forget where we are, this is a digital box in a digital age. And it is Bluetooth accessible from your phone or tablet, and it has WiFi.
The WiFi can be used to download updates to the system and for connecting to the Fender ToneAmp where more options await you.
So here you have an amp with all the sounds required, digital connectivity and all at a price that is less than you would pay for even a half-decent acoustic guitar.
The purists are arguing – yes, but…
…and they are right, but listen to the classic Fender Twin Reverb setting and see if you can tell the difference?
It is well-built, packed full of good things and at a price that is more than attractive. Already a contender for the best of the Best Modeling amps.
- Contains vintage and modern amp sounds and special effects.
- Great price.
- 40 watt might be a bit under-powered for live gigs.
2 Vox Valvetronix Vt20x Modeling Amplifier
When you see that familiar speaker fascia and logo that has hardly changed for decades, we still get a little tingle. We can still remember looking at our grainy black and white TV’s and seeing the Shadows and the Beatles using them and wishing we could afford them as well.
The Vox VT20X uses digital technology combined with an analog circuit to produce performances similar to the tube amps of its heritage. In the design process, Vox looked at the amp sounds they wanted to recreate and then looked at what exactly was used to make the sound.
Just like listening to the real thing…
This was then incorporated into the 11 amplifier models included in the VT20X to make them as realistic as possible. They included in the design tube preamp circuitry to further give the feeling of hearing the real thing.
Included onboard are 13 classic effects including reverb, delay, overdrive, etc. It also has over 30 preset programs. Access to the editor and librarian Vox software increases these sound options.
A very rich tone…
The VT20X puts out 20 watts of power through an eight-inch speaker, and the design of the chassis gives off a very rich tone and accentuates the sound level. The Digital Signal Processing (DSP) creates a high level of processing power. The amp has a built-in tuner and headphone out socket and USB for connectivity to the Tone Room.
For its size, it is a powerful little amp that has a lot of sound options, and that delivers a punchy sound. It would though need some help if it were used live and it’s unlikely to get its sound over a drummer. You know what they are like!
- Small but quality selection of amp options.
- Onboard effects and access to Tone room.
- Is a bit under-powered for live work.
3 Vox Mini3 G2 Battery Powered Modeling Amp
Big is beautiful? Not always, look at this little amp. 11 x 7 x 12 inches with its 3 watts of undiluted power. When you hear manufacturers claiming their amps are portable – they should have a look at this. We think with this amp, that ‘portable’ is rather an understatement. It comes with an AC adapter, but it will also run on six AA batteries, which will give you about ten hours of playtime.
Packed within its tiny frame are eleven authentic classic amps that range from beautiful clear tones to the full in your face overdriven metal versions. All placed in this little tiny cute amplifier. Considering it is only a 3-watt rating, it has a 5” speaker which indicates to us you may just get a little more than your 3 watts when you start to push it a bit.
Plug anything in…
This makes a great little practice amp either for home or for carrying around with you. One option it has it is that it is not only able to handle electric guitar, but also acoustic-electric and even keyboards, such is its versatility. To extend its capability it also carries a jack socket as a mic input and provides separate gain and effects, so you could even use it for vocals.
Eight special effects options are included with chorus, delays, reverbs, enhanced compressor, flanger, etc. and it even has a 60s style tremolo, remember those? An aux lets you plug in an MP3 or similar device. It is a super little modeling amp and well made with that great Vox logo and familiar speaker cloth design. Might be a little expensive though for what it actually is.
- Very portable little amp
- Has some good sound options onboard.
- Might be a little expensive.
4 Peavey Vypyr Vip 1
It might be a little unfair, but in the UK back in the day, Peavey had a bit of a reputation. That reputation was ‘Loud ‘n’ Proud and not much else.’ We remember them arriving in the 60s, and a few guys tried them out, but it was a time that Marshall was ‘god’ and HiWatt was about to arrive.
They didn’t stand a chance really. We have since come to recognize that they did produce some quality amps and still do, and this modeling amp is a good example of the quality they can produce.
The inbuilt processors and tube analog circuits give this amp a lot of sound options, and as a plus, all the sounds, models of amps and effects can be controlled and called up using just the amp. No need to connect to a computer to download, it’s all on board.
There is a USB port that will connect you to extra VYPYR software, but it is not necessary to run the amp. Those are for some extras you can look at.
Need an acoustic or a bass?
It has a variety of sound options that go beyond just making guitar noises. For instance, included is an acoustic guitar simulation and the same for bass guitar. These extend to six acoustic guitar models for amps and six for bass guitar.
If though you like your ‘metal,’ you are going to love this, and this is where the Peavey shines. Showing us it can be technical and have variety, but at its core is this desire to make a lot of noise and it does it very well.
It pumps out 20 watts through its 8” speaker and has a vintage style semi-closed back. Included are 16 presets, 25 effects and 36 different amp models.
It’s a powerful little machine that at the price is good value. If you like it ‘Loud ‘n’ Proud,’ Peavey still delivers.
- Compact size but powerful amp with good features.
- A good cross-section of amps and options.
- Some may want more sound options to choose from.
5 Line 6 Spider V 60 Mkii
Now, this is a combo that not only has an array of goodies built-in, but it also packs a punch. Included in this modeling amp are a series of classic amps, cabinets and effects setup for electric and acoustic guitars.
Inside are over 200 amps and cabinets and some of the effects that created some of the greatest sounds. You can literally set up your own system combining which amp and cabinet or cabinets you want to use and then select the effects you want to use with them.
Eight at a time…
With this amp, you can use up to eight effects at any one time. It’s a bit like going into a massive music store and saying I’ll have that, that and that. There are 78 amps, and 23 specially selected cabinets and over 100 effects, including all the usual – reverbs, delays, etc.
Presets have been included to give you a starting point for sound creation, including some specific sounds from well-known and respected players. The genre presets allow you to specialize what sound you are looking for and narrow down the options, even for acoustic guitars. Sound creation is then expansive and made easy with a dial control system and small but easy to read LCD.
Let’s record an album…
It has so much more to offer – a tuner and metronome, a one-minute looper with drum loops and a 3.5mm line input for bringing in your favorite music. The headphone jack, which when used mutes the sound for practice, and two XLR jacks that will send the signal to your interface for recording.
Cubase LE is installed to give you recording options straight into your computer with USB connections to record direct to Apps if you prefer.
It is very hard to see what else could have been included in this amp, other than to make it loud enough to play live and with its 2 x 12 cabinet it is.
Set at quite a high price, it offers great value and deserves a place on our list of the best modeling amps.
- So many classic sound options on board.
- Easy to use with lots of operative choices.
- Some might think it expensive.
6 Boss Ktn-Head Portable Katana 100w Guitar Amplifier
When Boss created the Katana series, they knew they were creating something very special. The company has a simple philosophy that is adopted with all its products, to provide sounds that are exceptional and at a reasonable price. Boss’s Katana series have proven to be successful and respected, and this 100w head takes them to another level.
It delivers some incredible amp sounds, closely reminiscent of tube amps and delivers them with great power and purpose. The small 5-watt built-in speaker will allow you to set up your sounds in relative quietness before connecting to an external speaker cabinet of your choice to really let it go.
Channel after channel after channel…
The operations are based around five well-known setups, Clean and Crunch are standard, then there is Lead, Brown, taken from the Waza amp, and Acoustic. Each with their own flavor and style, you can use a combination of two or three at any one time.
It wouldn’t be a Boss product without them going the extra mile, and in this case, they offer access to the Boss Tone studio. This will give you 55 great sounds which can be customized and edited to give you exactly what you are looking for. There is space allocated for you to save 15 sounds for future use.
One of the great assets of this amp is that it delivers on all fronts. Great distortion and overdrive one minute, crystal clear tones the next and all easily accessible.
And the effects?
This is Boss we are talking about. As you can imagine the delays, reverbs, choruses, flanges, etc. are as good as they always are.
A great value for money product and easily one of the contenders for best modeling amps.
- Superb sounds from all genres.
- Boss effects open the creative door.
- Needs an additional speaker cabinet for some serious volume or live work.
7 Roland M-CUBE-GXW Micro Cube GX 3W 1×5 Guitar Combo
The Roland JC-120 is a guitar amp with a big reputation and a big sound, so you would never be able to get that into a small Roland Cube modeling amp. Wrong! It’s in there along with seven other guitar amp models.
This amazing little battery-powered amp utilizes Roland’s creative COSM (Creative Object Sound Modeling) technology. One of the latest DSP’s to manufacture near-perfect reproductions of the prestigious Roland JC-120 and the others.
Simple and effective…
This little amp will provide modeling options that cut across a range of different genres and will give you good quality in each. The amp tones are simple and effective, while the control panel sits on the top of the cabinet and is self-explanatory and easy to use.
Aside from the amp modeling options, it also includes Flanger, Chorus, Octave, and Phaser as well as Reverb, Tremolo, and Delay. Another nice little feature is the onboard tuner. A headphone jack and aux for external devices are also provided.
Built to last…
It is well-built as well and will take a few knocks. And is supplied with a carrying strap though any smaller and it would probably have fitted in your pocket. It is either AC or battery-powered, and if you are using batteries, six AA’s will give you about 25 hours of playtime.
It really is an amazing little amp. But it is a little limited in its options and doesn’t have a great range of sound options, but those it has are very good. It does though seem a little expensive for what is really a modeling practice amp.
- Well built and easy to operate.
- Has some nice sounds and amps in-built using COSM.
- Might be considered expensive.
8 Blackstar Idcore10 Stereo Combo Amplifier
Set up in 2004 in a garden shed in Northamptonshire, England by four musician friends, Blackstar has come a long way very quickly. Drawing on their experience of working for Marshall, and understanding a little of what musicians really wanted was fundamental in the development of Blackstar.
Now they are a force to be reckoned with and no longer work out of the garden shed in Northampton. Manufacturing has also moved, and this particular model is made in China.
Nice and compact…
The ID CORE is their first step into the world of digital guitar amplification and for the company the culmination of a lot of research and development. It is a compact little amp at just 18 x 10 x 15 inches and weighing just under eight pounds. And has a power rating of 10 watts, but they are ten very big watts indeed.
It has a 40-watt cousin, but in this review, we are talking about the 10-watt version, which is a super little amp.
It has a strong and sturdy build with the controls set neatly on the top. And features six classic tones that take you from clean to some serious metal. It has four main effects built-in that actually become twelve when using the various options and include the basics, such as reverb, and delay.
The sounds themselves are good and powerful, and there is a great stereo sound quality. Connections to your devices mean you can play with your own music.
It is an affordable amp that provides some basic modeling tones for home practice and delivers them very well.
- Some good sound options with easy to use controls.
- Very affordable price.
- Some are going to want more sound options.
9 Marshall Code 50-50-Watt 1x12Inch Digital Combo Amp
Better get the earplugs out, Big Jim has given us another one to take a look at. Marshall is undoubtedly one of the music industry’s giants. It is one of those companies where you only have to say the name, and you get silent nods of approval.
It was Pete Townshend who marched into the shop in Uxbridge road Hanwell in West London and told the ‘Father of Loud’ that he wanted an amp that would “shake my legs with its power and drop my jaw with its tone.” Jim obliged, and we had the JTM45.
Its live debut was at the Ealing Club just down the road a few nights after its completion, by one Jimi Hendrix with Mitch Mitchell on drums and a few others. The next day Hendrix put the adverts in the paper and set up his band in a coffee shop in Westminster, Noel being the first to join him. Only Mitch from the ‘Hanwell crowd’ went with him.
Since those days, Marshall has produced great amps and equipment, and the Code 50-50 is another example. The spec is similar to its big brother the Code 100, and it offers similar sound choices.
Four power amps are included and 24 effects that include Overdrives and distortions, of course, wah, pitch shifter, compressor, phaser, delays and reverbs, etc. They have built it so that you can get as close as you can digitally to that crazy night at the Ealing Club all those years ago.
When you hear this at work, you sense that one day they will actually be able to replicate that sound. You can use up to five effects at the same time or use the 100 presets built-in.
Eight-inch speakers punch out the sound, and for a 50-watt amp, it is loud. But then what do you expect, it’s a Marshall!
It has many other options, including Bluetooth integration and many aux options. Set at a price most can afford; it is outstanding value. It’s Marshall. It could be the best modeling amp.
- Recreates some vintage sounds with accuracy.
- Full of sound and other options.
- No line out, so you will need to mic it up for live shows.
10 Marshall Code100C 100-Watt 2×12
One of the world’s greatest rock guitarists once said that without Jim Marshall rock music and stadium concerts as we know them today, would not exist. Quite right. And all from a little shop in West London using a wood chisel and a soldering iron. And of course, an odd-shaped piece of wood he didn’t know what to do with that created the first sloping front 4 x 12. Not bad, Jim.
Of course, Marshall is going to recreate those heady days, and it may well be that they are the only ones capable of giving us what this amp gives.
Back to the classics…
The Code series of amplifiers has been created to recreate that classic vintage Marshall sound. Using MST, Marshall Softube, you have at your fingertips the sounds that define rock music.
You can travel back in time and hook up the original Marshall 100w amps with original cabinets, some with Celestion speakers. And suddenly you are sharing the stage or your bedroom with Townshend, Blackmore, Page, Beck, Hendrix or dozens of others. You will have access to all the amps, preamps and their settings, the cabinets and effects all at your command.
But not only all the vintage stuff…
All their latest amps and cabinets are included as well. Every Marshall tone you can think off, it’s all in here.
There is even wireless connections through iOS and Android. A headphone socket is included to give the neighbors a break, and when you plug it in, the speaker sound is muted.
And the price?
About the same as our first Marshall 100w stack all those years ago. Remarkable value. It is going to take you a bit of time to get to know it. Time well spent. It is a stunning amp and loud! You’d better believe it’s loud.
If Jim had been here, he would have been smiling from ear to ear. “Turn it up boys, let’s see what she can do!” How we miss him.
The Best Modeling Amp? It will take some beating, but read on…
- Great selection of vintage and modern Marshall sounds.
- Excellent price tag for so much.
- You must be joking, of course not!
Best Modeling Amps Buyers Guide
Well, amplifier sound modeling not the more glamorous version. There are some great options, but first, of course, some decisions need to be made that will affect what you might buy.
What is it for?
If it’s just for home use, then most of them are suitable. There are a couple that are a bit overpowered for home use, but many will produce good amp modeling at home. But maybe you want to use it live? That means a powerful amp with good speakers or miking up a smaller amp. Where and how you use it is important.
What about the sound?
Most of them are going to give you some vintage amp and cabinet sounds from their archives, though some will specialize in their own field of expertise. If you want a special sound then maybe the manufacturer of the original is listed.
And what about the effects?
This can be a crucial area because in some musical quarters, effects are everything, and a couple of amps are manufactured by some of the best FX people in the business.
It’s a great choice to make with so many great options. Big, small, Loud, not so loud, so much to choose from.
Musically, not the other kind.