Best Modeling Amps of 2021 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

| Last Updated: May 6, 2021

How long has it been since names like Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Led Zeppelin made it popular to get the boys together for a jam session in the garage?

Ever since those epic guitar solos made it onto the airwaves, every teenager on the block wanted to get their hands on a guitar to rock all day long. 

If you are considering replacing or upgrading your amplifier, and you are thinking that a model amplifier would be the best option, take a look at this guide to learn more about the top five model amplifiers.

What is a Modeling Amplifier?

Everyone knows more or less what a guitar amplifier is. Simply put, a guitar amplifier is an electronic device that empowers the electrical signal from a guitar’s pickup to blast the sound through a speaker, thus amplifying the sound. An amplifying device can also alter the tone produced by the instrument through emphasis control on certain frequencies using an equalizer system similar to that of a hi-fi. 

Earlier models only included tube technology to achieve this, but modern-day amplifiers are made of solid-state transistor circuitry that is more convenient. However, many artists still prefer tube amplifiers, despite such amps being somewhat outdated.

What Does a Modeling Amp Do?

Modeling amps are built on the idea of creating the best effects of both tube and solid-state amplifiers in a single, simplistic unit that is cost and energy-efficient. To do this, manufacturers had to employ the use of microprocessors or, rather, computer technology. 

To generate tones, modeling amplifiers use computer programs constructed with finely calibrated algorithms to recreate the effects that each of the components in solid-state and valve/tube devices have on a guitar’s signal. In basic terms, a modeling amplifier does as its name suggests. A signal is sent through clear and untouched as it is produced.

How to Choose a Modeling Amp

Before purchasing anything, there are three key factors that should be considered when choosing what model amplifier is right and perfect for you. These factors touch mostly on the basics, so, when it comes to quality, aesthetics, or price, you have the freedom to choose for yourself.

Purpose

Consider what the amplifier should do for you. Will it be used as a gig performance amplifier, on a stage where it needs to reach the back of the crowd, or for practicing at home and jamming in the garage? Performance and endurance requirements for each possible purpose is assessed differently and weighs in on the buying factor.

Wattage

Wattage output can range from 30w to 60w, ranging in strength, standards, and ability. The higher the wattage, the higher the volume output. 30w amplifiers are considered to be the weaker range. 30w to 60w amplifiers are considered mid-range, while 60w or higher are considered top range.

Effects

Modeling amps come with a variety of different effects that each manufacturer has added to their products, but all model amplifiers contain at least the basic functions of solid-state and tube amplifiers. There are many different models and ranges, though. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Modeling Amps

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Best modeling amp overall
  • Compact and portable, yet still powerful
  • Bluetooth enabled, usable as a portable speaker
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  • Powerful blasting quality
  • Wide range of editing and control options
  • It includes 100 basic presets and functions
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  • Impressive sound quality
  • Best modeling amp for the money
  • Portable but still packed with features
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Review of the Best Modeling Amps

Looking at the top five model amplifiers available, we will be comparing what each brings to the front, and we have selected the main points that make them stand out to us. We will be highlighting each amplifier's qualities, and we will consider what recent buyers had to say about it.

Best Overall:
Vox Adio Air GT

Vox Adio Air GT 50W 2x3 Bluetooth Modeling Guitar Combo Amplifier

PROS

  • Wide range of tones and sounds
  • Battery-powered for mobility
  • Offers portability in an attractive package that is ideal for any traveling musician
  • Astounding eight hours of life on a single charge using eight AA batteries
  • All the standards in tone ranges; sounds incredible even at low volumes
  • Despite its size, it packs a powerful punch in volume amplification that sounds exquisitely clean.
  • Surprisingly small amplifier when it comes to physical build, and it looks fashionably stylish, too
  • Two effects sections built into its functions that permit the use of nineteen effect types and a total of twenty-three guitar amp models

CONS

  • Volume range might not adequately support reaching the furthest people
  • Some customers have reported malfunctions in the Bluetooth device of this model
  • A little too weak for outdoor stage performances in front of a large crowd

What Recent Buyers Report

All the people who invested in the Vox Adio Air GT felt impressed by its performance in relation to its size. Only a few customers reported problems with their model, and they were generally concerned with the Bluetooth device. The common opinion about the Vox Adio Air GT amplifier is that it is an ideal practice amp.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Apart from all the stated reasons that this model would be the top choice, Vox has added a special addition in the form of computer software that can be used for home recording and editing. The JamVoxIII is a free copy given away with every individual sale of the amp. With its stylish and compact design that sacrifices nothing in clarity and power of sound production, the Vox Adio Air GT is by far what we would consider the best modeling amplifier on the market.

Who Will Use This Most

Designed to be compact, light, and incredibly versatile, the Vox Adio Air GT is the ultimate in traveling modeling amps, and it is ideal for musicians who spend a lot of time abroad or those looking for an amp to practice. If you are a home-based leisure artist, then it would be the ideal amp to have in your entourage of equipment.

Bottom Line

The Vox Adio Air GT is a light, compact, powerful, clear, versatile little amp that is as impressive as it is innovating. Certainly, this is the choice for you if you want a traveling or practicing amp to invest in.

Runner-up:
Marshall Code 100 C

Marshall CODE 100W 2x12 Guitar Combo Amp Black

PROS

  • Presets and functions onboard can be further advanced and added to via the Gateway App
  • Using MyMarshall software, you can upload or download a wide range of user favorite and already made presets to find your flavor and sound easily
  • Using full connectivity with Bluetooth enabled communication, you can stream music with an iOS or Android device, and you can also control CODE to its full use through the Gateway App
  • As the only other model to come close to the impressive quality of the Vox Adio Air GT, the Marshall Code 100c steps ahead only with its ability to produce the kind of volume expected from a performing amp; its impressive 100w output, in combination with its versatile functions, puts it well ahead of any competition

CONS

  • Due to limited availability, the Marshall Code 100c might be difficult to find in unused or new conditions
  • Not particularly portable, as it is larger than comparable alternatives

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent users who have invested in the Marshall Code 100c modeling amplifier had plenty of good things to say. Among the common opinions are that it is an ideal rock concert amplifier that will host all the power you need for just about any venue size.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Marshall Code 100c modeling amplifier re-creates all the classic amplifiers that Marshall is celebrated for. It also features the ability to control the settings remotely using either USB or Bluetooth connections. This adds a versatility that is unique and very useful. This ability will allow a sound engineer to perfect the sound of an artist on stage from an off-stage position while the band is performing. Also, if you are using it at home, you don’t need to get off your lazy bum to change the desired tones, affects, or amplification.

Who Will Use This Most

Performing artists who have moved from the garage to the stage would benefit from investing in this modeling amp. It offers all the power you need with a wide range of tones that can be applied for any genre. If you want a powerful little amp for better performances that can offer you great versatility, then the Marshall Code 100c is the perfect amp for you.

Bottom Line

The Marshall Code 100c is a very impressive modeling amplifier with a lot of power packed into its design. It features a high range wattage output at 100w with 4 digital power amps and 14 digital preamp models. It is an ideal performance amplifier built to outlast all of its competition on the stage.

Best for the Money:
Line-6 Guitar Combo Spider V20

Line 6 Guitar Combo Amplifier (Spider V 20)

PROS

  • Color-coded interface makes it ideal for beginners looking to learn how to use the functions of a modeling amp
  • Small and light amplifier that is ideal for moving around if you travel a lot or have to set up in many different venues
  • Contains a wide range of presets for acoustic, bass, or electric guitars that are easily accessed via its dedicated FX buttons and panel
  • Full connectivity and access to online editing programs is an additional benefit that is worth investing in, especially for beginners
  • Do not underestimate it by comparing its size, although within the weaker ranges it produces a crisp sound that has a surprising amount of volume power

CONS

  • Not an ideal amp to impress a crowd
  • Due to its small and light design, it may not be as functional for stage performances as larger, more powerful amplifiers
  • Free software included with the registration of the product has been noted by users for being buggy and incompatible with Android devices

What Recent Buyers Report

Consumers have celebrated the Line 6 Spider V20 as an excellent room amplifier that is most ideal for practicing. The affordability of the Line 6 Spider V20 is its main selling point and is noted as being its most attractive quality. It is certainly the best bang for the buck that you will find available on the amplifier market.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Line 6 Spider V20 is most appreciated by us for its affordable, light, and portable package. Despite not having the range akin to the other models that top it in this chart, it is nonetheless proven to be a valuable investment.

Who Will Use This Most

Beginning learner guitarists looking for the most affordable practicing amp available will love this little modeling amplifier. It is the best amp to buy if you want to introduce yourself to the modeling amplifier world. It offers all the necessary requirements in an affordable and compact package that is ideal even for a traveling musician.

Bottom Line

Considering that price is often the biggest factor when investing in quality gear for the performer or practicing musicians, the Line 6 Guitar Combo Spider 20v modeling amp runs in at number three on the top spots. Down to the most basic principles of this model, it stands out for its economical package that does not sacrifice too much range and power considering the price.

Best Small Modeling Amp:
Yamaha THR10X Mini

Yamaha THR10X Mini Guitar Amplifier with Cubase AI Production Software

PROS

  • Designed to give better distortion
  • Light and portable, made for desktop use
  • You can control volume from an external input
  • Lightweight and easy to move around
  • Best amp for when not performing live
  • Bringing Yamaha’s latest innovative technology to the front, the THR10X Mini is an ideal, portable practice amp that, unlike the Combo, supports play of softer genres

CONS

  • Power supply can be iffy
  • Some users found the sound to be thin
  • Internal speakers can be considered below average

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers were impressed with the amp’s great ability when used on the road and during live on-stage performances. Like its twin, the THR10X Mini modeling amp from Yamaha boasts all the latest features that were added to the THR10X Combo, with the only difference being that it is focused on recreating softer amp effects and tones suitable for jazz and country genres.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Designed as a portable modeling amplifier for guitarists focused on softer genres such as country and jazz, the THR10X Mini features Yamaha’s patented THR editor software for easy editing and programming at home or in the studio.

Who Will Use This Most

Guitarists who travel around often need something that is good quality, can endure moving around, and still gives great sound. This amp is excellent if being used for those purposes and will meet those needs.

Bottom Line

For anyone who needs a modeling amp that won’t break the bank but can still give them an awesome boost to their music, this could be just the product for you. It is easy to use and will give your music some great tone.

Best Modeling Amp for Metal:
Yamaha THR10X High Gain Modeling Combo Amp

PROS

  • Included software offers detailed control of the amp
  • With its ability to support either batteries or alternate current plugin, it can be used as a portable practice amp
  • Makes use of older amp models, such as the Brown 1 and Brown 2, as well as the Power 1 and Power 2
  • Features amp and effect models targeted at specific playing styles within the line-up of distortion genres
  • Broad spectrum of tones with plenty of aggression to improve the quality of dirty guitar music that some musicians would be looking for

CONS

  • Not a suitable amp for performing on stage
  • Low-range wattage output does not make it ideal for bigger performances
  • Some customers have reported that the sound quality does not adhere to what they were looking for

What Recent Buyers Report

Plenty of customers have fallen in love with this Yamaha model for its versatile functions in the distortion and metal genre; that said, there were several customers who were unsatisfied by the sound it produced and noted that this model does not offer the ability to change channels.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The focus of the THR10X concerning practicing distortion guitars is the obvious reason why we included this model, and it competes closely with its twin design that offers a cleaner guitar effect.

Who Will Use This Most

Any distortion guitar students should invest in this choice of modeling amplifier. It is an ideal, portable amp that can be used anywhere for practicing harsher guitar genres. If you want the best distortion specialist modeling amp on the market, then the Yamaha THR10X Combo would be perfect.

Bottom Line

Although the Yamaha THR10X Combo amp and the THR10X Mini might seem like the same model at first; however there is one key difference. The mini model was made as a solid-state modeling amplifier, whereas the combo uses a combination of technologies.

Can You Really Find a Quality Modeling Amp That’s Affordable?

It is absolutely possible to find a modeling amp that is very durable, useful, and gives you great quality music for cheap. Sure, it won’t be dirt cheap, but it will be affordable without sacrificing all the great stuff you expect from modeling amps.

Pros and Cons of Modeling Amps

Every product out there will come with upsides and downsides, which is the same for modeling amps.

Pros

Convenience

One of the biggest pros of modeling amps is that they are very convenient. You can simply plug in and play. 

Sound vs. Price 

Another thing is that they actually sound good and are versatile and affordable. They are great value for money options when it comes to beginners looking for an amp to learn on

Cons

Over the Top  

Some can find the technology to be too complicated and even overkill in some cases.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you’re looking for something to give you an extra edge, as well as much-appreciated improvements for live performances, then you’ll really love modeling amps. To be fair, people who simply play with friends or on small stages may find these guys too complicated or too expensive. However, if you are not in this camp, we hope this guide proves helpful in your quest for the ideal modeling amp.



Thalia has spent most of her life loving two things - writing and music. Thalia's passion for music saw her learning to play several instruments throughout her childhood and teen years. This passion also led to her earning two qualifications in Sound Recording Engineering, which she now uses by writing about musical instruments, studio gear, and the processes involved in making and producing music.