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 Champion 20 - 20-Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier
- Price: $129.99
- Price as of 08/14/2020 09:05 PDT(more info)
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 their price range.
Orange Crush 20 Amplifier
- Orange Crush 20 Twin-Channel 20W Guitar Amplifier, Orange
- Price: $139.00
- Price as of 08/13/2020 20:53 PDT(more info)
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.
Roland Blues Cube Amp
- Roland BC-HOT-VB Blues Cube Hot Guitar Combo Amplifier with Tube Tone, 30-Watt Amp with 12-Inch Speaker, Vintage Blond
- Price: $599.99
- Price as of 08/13/2020 21:09 PDT(more info)
While this might be on the upper end of your price range, it’s worth the money if you can afford it. The Roland Blues Cube is the best blues amp you’ll find for a relatively “cheap’ price. This 30-watt amp gives a pure, authentic tube sound, with five vintage tube amp models pre-loaded. On the whole, the tone is sweet with a nice depth, on both the clean and overdrive settings.
You’ll love playing through the Roland Blues Cube. It’s highly responsive, and the grit and distortion are excellent emulations of a true tube sound and feel. And you won’t need to upgrade the speaker after you get this amp home. The custom 12” speaker that comes installed is perfectly matched to the cabinet, balanced throughout the range with a nice singing high end.
Laney Amps CUB All TUBE Amplifier Series
- Laney Electric Guitar Power Amplifier, Black/Brown (CUB-10)
- Price: $355.95
- Price as of 08/13/2020 21:09 PDT(more info)
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 among the priciest items on this list, 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!
Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel. Email him