Fire-breathing monsters in the form of hundred-watt amplifiers have always been revered in the world of guitars. Even so, the last couple of decades have witnessed an interesting trend; a dramatic rise in the popularity of desktop-size battery-powered amps. They first found use in home practice rooms, then gradually found their way into other applications — including live stage performances and recording studios. Advances in technology have even fueled the advent of ultra-compact devices that can hold a candle to conventional units. So is it about time that you too got yourself a battery powered guitar amp? Our comprehensive guide will help you make the right decisions.
- What To Look For In A Battery Powered Amp
- Our Battery Powered Guitar Amp Recommendations
- Why Would You Want A Battery Powered Guitar Amp?
What To Look For In A Battery Powered Amp
There are various factors you’ll want to keep in mind as you look for the perfect amplifier:
- Speakers: Cordless amps have speakers varying between 3 and 12 inches in size. It’s tempting to go for the warmth and punch offered by large speakers. But you’ll find that smaller ones tend to sound brighter and more-focused. Also keep in mind that an amp with a huge speaker/set of speakers will be bulkier and heavier — not exactly suited for portability. Try to strike a balance between these 3 considerations.
- Amp modeling & Effects: Your playing style and genre preferences will dictate how far you’ll need to go with the effects chain. For a simpler control layout and better battery life, try to avoid unnecessary bells-and-whistles.
- Power supply: Still on the point of battery life, you want an amp whose onboard power supply will keep you going through an entire performance or practice sessions. Again, don’t be tempted to go for more than you need; large batteries only make for a heavier amp.
- Pricing: Prices start out in the low 20s and go far deep into 3-figure territory — your budget will obviously have the biggest influence here.
Our Battery Powered Guitar Amp Recommendations
1. Yamaha THR10 II
It was Yamaha’s THR line that introduced the concept of a portable battery-powered guitar amp. The THR10 II makes that immediately clear at first glance. With twin 3″ Hi-Fi drivers clocking in at 20 Watts, this guy will easily go toe-to-toe with your home theater. And it looks the part too, with a magnificent cream case that seems as though it came straight from the 70’s.
- Dual Speakers with Extended Stereo Playback
- Interface: Mono Instrument & Stereo Aux (input); Stereo Headphone Jack & USB Stereo Interface (output)
- 3-band EQ with Bass, Mid & Treble controls; 5 user-adjustable presets.
- 15 tube amp emulation settings; 3 bass amp settings; 3 mic modes.
- Bluetooth Connectivity for audio streaming and preset editing via Remote app
- Power: 15V inbuilt rechargeable battery
- Dimensions: 14.5 x 5.5 x 7.2 inches; 6.6 lbs
Now, there’s no denying that forking out that kind of money for a desktop amp seems a little bonkers. But the THR10 II is absolutely worth every penny. Leveraging Yamaha’s proprietary technologies, the system mimics the sound and feel of a tube amp with mind-blowing precision. And thanks to the abundant settings, you can concoct any kind of tone you want; from the squeaky-clean to the earth shattering.
2. Yamaha THR5
Not many people would associate a world-renowned heavy metal shredder with desktop amps. But that’s exactly what Paul Gilbert has to say about the Yamaha THR5. More than just a favorite pastime, the THR5 was reportedly good enough to be featured on one of his recent albums.
- Solid state modelling amp; dual 3.15-in full-range stereo speakers; 10W rated output
- Interface: Instrument, Aux & USB inputs; Headphone out
- EQ: Tone control
- 5 tube amp emulation settings; 4 modulation effects and 4 separate Delay/Reverb effects
- Extra tweaks available via THR Editor Software or iPhone App
- Cubase AI Recording Software included
- Power: 8 AA batteries (not included), or factory-supplied 15V adapter
- Dimensions: 10.7 x 6.6 x 4.7 inches; 4.4 lbs
With its handsome louvered case, the THR5 will be able to handle both guitar and stereo playback with ease. Effects and amp models are split across a trio of knobs to let you mix and match tones as you see fit without the risk of muddying up your sound.
3. Roland MICRO CUBE GX 3
The MICRO CUBE GX 3 is the latest in a long line of highly-acclaimed portable amps from Roland. It retains its predecessor’s puny footprint despite adding a handful of features and improvements. All while keeping the price within the reach of most gearheads.
- 3W DSP Amp with 5-inch speaker
- Interface: Instrument & Aux (input); Headphone/Record out; i-CUBE LINK jack for interfacing with Apple devices (cable included)
- 1-band EQ
- 8 guitar amp models
- Effects: Chorus, Tremolo, Phaser, Flanger, Heavy Octave and Delay/Reverb with spring emulation.
- Built-in chromatic tuner
- User-accessible memory function
- Power: 6 AA batteries or AC adapter.
- Dimensions: 8.94 x 9.75 x 6.82 inches; 6 lbs
You’ll be surprised to find just how big a sound this amp yields with its seemingly-lowly output rating. The inclusion of multiple effects and amp models means you’ll hardly ever want for tone-sculpting potential — feel free to explore and experiment as much as you want. You’ll likely run out of juice before the unit does, thanks to the 25-hour battery life. The Roland MICRO CUBE GX 3 is so capable that you might not even need to carry your stompboxes along. Or an external tuner either – the amp already has your bases covered.
4. VOX MINI3 G2
Here’s another linear upgrade; only this time it’s the MINI3 G2 bringing the next generation of Vox’s portable amp formula. A petite unit with lots of enhanced effects, it looks to be the perfect addition into your afternoon jams and those late-night bits of inspiration. But can it really give the rest of the pack a run for their money? Let’s find out…
- 3W modelling amp with 5-inch speaker
- Interface: Aux, Instrument & Mic inputs; Headphone out
- Dual-band EQ
- Redesigned VOX Bassilator Circuit; 11 bespoke amp models
- Effects: Chorus, Compression, Tremolo, Flanger & Delay/Reverb
- Built-in tuner
- Power: 6 AA batteries with up to 10 hours of operation; AC adapter included
- Dimensions: 6.85 x 8.78 x 10.32 inches; 6.6 lbs
You will be pleased to see that Vox have kept the controls simple and straightforward despite the amp’s ample functionality. It features a rotary switch for selecting amp models and a two sets of control knobs for effects. You also have the option to adjust the intensity of each effect if you want to fine-tune the tone further. Overall, there’s no doubt that VOX MINI3 G2 will be a worthwhile investment.
5. BOSS Katana Mini
Most shredders agree that BOSS’ Katana is one of the best amplifiers to have hit the stage in the last decade. Now it’s available as an ultra-compact. The KTN-Mini condenses that splendid Katana tone into a pint-sized amp that practically begs you to take it everywhere. And yeah: You can really take it anywhere. Weighing about half as much as the VOX unit above — and with a tinier footprint too — the Katana-Mini will tuck into your case/backpack with minimal fuss.
- 4-inch speaker with 7W power rating
- Input/Output: Instrumental jack & Aux (input); Headphone/rec output
- Multi-stage analog gain circuit
- Built-in 3-Band EQ with tape-style delay & distortion effects; three amp voicings (Clean, Crunch & Brown)
- Controls: Bass, Mid, Treble, Gain, Volume; Delay Time & Delay Level
- Powered by six AA batteries (included), or optional AC adapter
- Dimensions: 4.63 x 7.13 x 9.06 inches; 2 lbs.
With all the controls of a full-sized amp, the KTN-Mini will let you craft a tone that melds perfectly into whatever style or genre you prefer. You’ll also love the ability to plug in your phone, record practice sessions, and perhaps even jam to your favorite tracks when you’re tired. Not to forget the 7-hour battery life; the BOSS Katana-Mini is just about the perfect example of great things coming in small packages.
6. Blackstar FLY3
It is dirt-cheap and lightweight, but still capable of cooking up a wide range of sounds. It’s titchy enough to tuck into a lunchbox and still leave a bit of room for your chow. And did we point out that it can go for up to 50 hours on a single set of batteries? It doesn’t take a genius to see why Blackstar’s FLY3 is regarded as the best battery powered guitar amp for mobile performers
- Solid state amp with three-inch, 3W speaker
- Interface: Instrument & Aux in; Headphone out & RJ45 jack for extension speaker
- Mono band EQ
- Clean and Overdrive channels
- Infinite Shape Feature; Digital tape-style delay effect with Time & Level controls
- Power: 6 AA batteries or optional 6.5V DC power supply
- Dimensions: 6.69 x 4.96 x 4.01 inches; 1.98 lbs
With clean and OD channels out of the box and 3 watts to play with, this unit should comfortably meet your tonal needs. Blackstar’s patented ISF function works much better than your typical EQ controls, offering everything from clear-cut American-style to classic British. Once again, you can trust the Blackstar FLY3 to bring a whole world of options at your fingertips.
7. NUX Mighty Lite BT
Get ready to rock with the new industry standard for desktop amplifiers in the sub-$100 range. Packing a handful of features into a dinner plate-sized footprint, NUX ‘s Mighty Lite BT will be a great companion for your carry-along ax. More so if you’re looking for an amp that can survive a few knocks and bumps — this unit’s matte-black case is designed to do just that.
- 3W output power
- Interface: Aux-in and Bluetooth (input); Headphone out
- Clean, Overdrive & Distortion channels; Inbuilt Delay and Reverb effects
- 9 Drum patterns and metronome; Tap Tempo switch; 4 Modulation effects and noise gate accessible via mobile app
- Power: 6 AA-size batteries, 9V AC adapter (optional), or power bank via USB connection.
- Dimensions: 6.54 x 4.88 x 3.86 inches; 2.27 pounds
Understandably, this amp isn’t loud enough to play in anything beyond a sizable venue. But for whatever it lacks in punch, the NUX Mighty Lite BT more than makes up with its generous tonal flexibility. You’ll be able to craft everything from sparkling cleans to crunchy overdrive using the onboard controls and mobile app. Not to forget the included drum tracks and metronome to help you play in rhythm.
8. Marshall MS2
Over the six decades they’ve been up and running, Marshall have made a name for themselves as the go-to manufacturer for high-end amplifiers. Even so, it’s the company’s portable line that has their most interesting offerings. The MS-2 belongs to this edgy bunch.
- Solid state micro-sized amp with 1W RMS output via single speaker
- Interface: Instrument in, Headphone out
- Mono Band EQ
- Volume & Tone controls
- Effects: Clean & Overdrive
- Power: 1.9V Battery or optional AC adapter
- Dimensions: 5.51 x 4.33 x 2.36 inches; 0.75 lbs
The MS-2 also features a rear-mounted belt clip so you can immediately hook it up and get your rock on as soon as you get your hands on it. And rock on you will; this puppy is quite loud for its one-watt output. Well, not earth-shattering loud, but it’s enough to register within a 30-foot radius — which is pretty impressive for a half-loaf-sized amp.
Meanwhile, a simplified control layout will let you sculpt the tone without any fuss. Clarity is as good as you’d get from any amp with the company’s DNA. The Marshall MS2 is definitely worth a try if you’re looking for some crunch for your traveling performances and/or practice sessions.
9. Fender ’57 Mini Twin Amp
Of course there was going to be a Fender representative on the list! The company has been making quality guitar amps for as long as anyone can remember. The 57′ Mini Twin brings you Fender’s regal DNA in an ultra-compact format — one that won’t break the bank or your back.
- 1W solid-state combo amp with dual 2-inch speakers
- Interface: Instrument in, Headphone out
- Mono band EQ
- Vol, Tone & Gain controls; Built-in distortion
- Tweed wood cabinet and authentic leather handle
- Power: 9V battery or AC Adapter (not included)
- Dimensions: 11.4 x 7.8 x 3.5 inches; 1.1 lbs
On the surface, you get the impression that this amp could use one or two additions as far as features go. But you’d be missing the point by focusing on what it lacks. As noted earlier, the ’57 Mini is supposed to be an on-the-go accessory above everything else. It’s designed to bring the capabilities you actually need without being overwhelming. In that respect, the Fender ’57 Mini has no equals at its price range. And you’ll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with its gorgeous tweed case.
10. Danelectro Honeytone
The Danelectro Honeytone N-10 is a gorgeous mini amplifier oozing with 1950s nostalgia. Sporting a burgundy case with dark chrome dials and black leather handle for accents, it might just be the most stylish amp on the list. It’s also small enough to tuck into any carry bag, and thus well-suited for giggers and those who like to bring their music on the go.
- Combo amp with 1.5W, 2.5 inch speaker
- Interface: 1/4 inch instrument jack (input); Headphone jack
- Volume, bass & treble controls
- Separate overdrive & distortion controls
- Runs on 9V battery or optional power supply
- Dimensions: 5 x 5.25 x 2.25 inches; 1.05 lbs
As basic as the features look, the Honeytone still makes a solid case for itself. The combination of top-mounted dials and rear belt clip will be a delight for those who frequently perform on their feet. With the unit hooked on to your waist and all the controls at your fingertips, you have the freedom to move around while performing and tailor your tone as you see fit. What more could you want for the price of a large pizza?
Why Would You Want A Battery Powered Guitar Amp?
We’ve highlighted a number of times that demand for battery-powered guitar amps has traditionally been driven by frequent travelers and street performers. Or, to be more specific, anyone who often finds themselves in venues where power isn’t readily available. If that sounds familiar — no matter how remotely — a battery-powered amp is a must-have accessory.
But it’s not to say that such units wouldn’t come in handy for the regular guitarists; those who perform in fairly-predictable settings. Getting access to a power outlet so you can run your standard guitar amp might not have posed a problem as yet, but you should know better than to bank on that. A battery-powered amp can save the day when a sudden power surge shorts out the mains supply in the middle of a stage performance.
Speaking of stage performances, there’re quite a few instances when your big rig will just not be practical. Small venues with limited real estate and volume constraints can especially be problematic. A battery-powered amp will be better suited for such settings, thanks to its downsized footprint and ear-friendly output levels. And if you’re able to convince your fellow band members to switch to such units, everyone will appreciate the ability to hear everybody else. That’ll obviously translate to a better performance overall. Small amps will also make for quicker setups and tear-downs.
But practice is where battery-powered amps really outshine their conventional counterparts. They give you the freedom to play anywhere and everywhere; at the local park, your friend’s place, or just outside the house when you want to enjoy some sun while practicing. There’s no risk of blowing out your windows or incurring the wrath of your neighbors — you’re always able to keep things under control.
As you can see, there are lots of benefits to be had from owning a battery-powered guitar amp. Our handy guide highlights the best models available out there to simplify the shopping process for you. Just be sure to take your time as you weigh your needs and options; feel free to come back for a second look if you’re still not sure. And there’s nothing to stop you from paying a visit to the local dealership to try out any particular device you’re considering. The goal is to give yourself the chance to make a decision you’ll be proud of in time to come.