With the blues, you don’t need an amp that’ll get window-shaking volume or one that has a lot of flashy effects. The blues genre in general is more about soul and feeling. What you’re looking for in an amp is something that lets your technique and the natural sound of your guitar hold center stage, enhancing them but not changing the core tone.
A lot of blues players prefer tube amps to solid state models because they’re more responsive, more musical, and have a smoother response. Unfortunately, tube amplifiers also tend to be more expensive, bad news for the blues player on a budget. The good news is you can find some very affordable solid-state amplifiers to give you everything from a smooth B.B. King vibe to a Stevie Ray Vaughn wail.
Below are our recommendations for the 4 best cheap blues amps on the market:
Fender Champion Amplifier
Fender is one of the go-to choices for blues players. The classic American tone you get out of a Fender amp has just the right amount of fuzz and grit to give you that soulful tone you’re looking for. It’s also a very versatile amp, with 17 on-board amp models, making it a great choice if you play in a lot of different styles.
The Champion is one of the company’s smaller amps. It’s a 20 watt amp with a single 8” speaker. While this means it won’t put out the volume of a larger cabinet, that’s normally not as much of a concern for a blues musician as it is for players in harder genres.
The open-backed cabinet also helps open up the sound and give it more presence. The quality of the sound is what matters. It has a full EQ along with effects like reverb, delay, and chorus, in addition to the 17 amp models mentioned above. These options give you a lot of control over your sound, more than you might expect from a $100 amp.
Orange Crush 20 Amplifier
Orange is another famous name in amps, and their distinctive cabinets stand out as some of the most aesthetically interesting guitar amps you’ll find on the market. The sound you get out of them doesn’t disappoint, either, with a warm, sweet tone that’s perfect for the blues. The Orange Crush 20 is a compact 20 watt 1X8” combo amp with a responsive, powerful tone that harkens back to the tube amps of old.
The Orange Crush 20 has two channels on a convenient footswitch, letting you switch between tones easily even while you’re playing. It might have the best overdrive of any amp on this list, with a four-stage preamp that gives you a huge variety of sounds, making it perfect for players who prefer a raunchier blues style.
The new CabSim feature makes this an even more exciting option. This lets you emulate the sound of their larger 4X12” cabinet through the line output, letting you send massive sound to a mixer or even to your headphones, if you want to really rock out during your practice sessions. Hands down, it’s one of the best cheap blues amps period.
Marshall MG15CFX Amplifier
Marshall is another well-known leader in the guitar amp world, often praised for both their sound quality and their versatility. They’re so versatile and pervasive that you pretty much can’t make any “best amps” list without including at least one. The MG15CFX makes this list both because of its low price and because of the high sound quality.
The MG15CFX combines the classic Marshall sound with modern effects circuitry (see full specs). There are on-board controls for popular effects like reverb, chorus, and delay, which can save you money on external effects pedals. It also gives you four different programmable channels, letting you save your blues tone and your rock tone and change at the flip of the switch. The custom 8” speaker puts out a lot of sound for its size and gives you a consistent tone across the range.
Laney Amps CUB All TUBE Amplifier Series
If you really want that tube amp sound, a solid state just isn’t going to cut it. While tube amps are generally more expensive, you do have some options for getting that distinctive tone without spending a fortune. The CUB from Laney is a compact 1X10 all-tube amplifier. While it’s the priciest item on this list, at $250 it’s still an incredible value.
In terms of specs, this amp uses a 10” Celeron speaker (see full specs) that gives you a lot of oomph in the low end, meaning a more balanced tone overall. The clean tone is warm and rich, with a lot of nuance and a surprising amount of headroom. The overdrive isn’t expansive with the stock tubes, but it does a gritty blues tone well. It also offers 3-band EQ along with gain, level, and reverb controls for customizing your sound.
The Best Cheap Blues Amp Speaker Sizes
One thing you’ll likely see in common in all of these amps is they’re all fairly small, using either an 8” or a 10” speaker for the output. Buying a smaller amp is often the best way to get high sound quality at a great value. You’ll often see these models advertised as practice amps because they do put out less volume than larger cabinets, but that doesn’t mean their use is limited to the practice room. An 8” speaker can put out enough volume for small gigs, especially if you mostly play solo.
You also have options for expanding your sound down the line without having to just replace your amp. Extension cabinets are normally a bit cheaper than full amps and let you add speakers to your set-up. If your budget is limited right now, you can get the amp to start, then add a cabinet when you’ve got some more funds to play with.
Each of the amps on the list above has its own strengths, but they all can qualify as the best cheap blues amp. If you’re still not sure which one’s for you, the best answer is to use your ears. Listen to the tone each of them produces, and you’ll probably be able to find the one that speaks to you. Good luck!