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The one time metalheads aren’t looking for noise is when they’re practicing. Still, many metal guitarists find that rehearsal amps lack the biting, aggressive qualities you need to recognize a riff as a metal riff. So what should you look for when you need the best metal amp for practice?
The five best practice amps for metal guitarists include Boss Katana-50 MkII, Mesa/Boogie Mark Five, Orange Crush 20RT, Blackstar ID:Core 10, and Boss Katana Mini. Different amps will work best for players of different experience levels.
Read on to discover more about each of these amplifiers that I’ve put to the test, as well as learn some information to look for when buying a new metal practice amp.
What are the Best Metal Practice Amps?
Metal Practice Amps Reviews
Boss Katana-50 MkII 1x12 inch 50-watt Combo Amp Review
Boss Katana amps are easily among the best for metal guitarists, but this 50-watt combo amp is great for players who want to practice with a bit more power.
The Boss Katana-50 MkII comes with five different amp characters, including Acoustic, Clean, Crunch, and Lead. It also includes a Brown setting to get that “guitar hero” quality that metal guitarists crave.
Boss Katana amps are also compatible with the BOSS Tone Studio software to control your tone even further. It includes 60 different effects and channel-by-channel EQs, so you can shape your tone exactly how you want.
Finally, this amp has a cab simulator, so you can plug your guitar directly into computer software and play it plugged in without activating the speaker at all. That means you can practice completely silently and still get all those great metal tones from the amp.
- Offers five different tone characters, including a metal-friendly Brown setting.
- Cab simulator will allow you to play silently
- Compatible with BOSS Tone Studio editing software.
- 50 watts of power may be too much for beginner or bedroom guitarists.
Mesa/Boogie Mark Five:25 1x10" 25/10-watt Tube Combo Amp Review
The Mesa/Boogie Mark Five differs from the MkII (and every other amp listed here) because it’s a tube amp rather than a solid-state. That’ll make a big difference in the price, but also in your sound.
Tube amps are much more delicate and therefore much more expensive, but if you want to blast your volume without that heavy metal sound, a tube amp is the way to go. More on the difference between solid-state amps and tube amps will be explored later on in the Buyer’s Guide.
There are two different wattage modes, 10-watt and 25-watt, so you can choose how much power you need and get the best tone no matter where you’re playing. It also has a Celestion G10 Creamback speaker installed, which will give you a detailed, thick sound.
There are even two different channels: one which has Clean, Fat, and Crunch modes, and another with three special modes unique to Mesa brand amps. For three heavy but unique tones, try Mesa’s Mark IIC+, Mark IV, and Xtreme modes.
It does also include a built-in Cabclone cab simulator for silent practice. If you’re looking to upgrade your old practice amp to a tube amp, the Mark Five is a great choice for you.
- Six unique tone settings across two different channels.
- Will maintain its great tone even if you blast the volume.
- Cab simulator to practice silently.
- Significantly more expensive than solid-state amps.
Orange Crush 20RT 1x8" 20-watt Combo Amp Review
This is the Orange Crush 20RT, and its bright-orange color is just as attention-grabbing as its sound. With 20 watts of power, you can easily fill up a rehearsal space of any size.
It uses a 4-stage preamp rather than a 3-stage, meaning that it’ll give you more room to add distortion to your tone. This article will explore more on how gain stages will affect your sound in the Buyer’s Guide.
It uses Orange’s CabSim circuit, so you can practice through headphones with a tone that mimics the sound of playing through cabinets. It also includes an onboard chromatic tuner, so you can hit each note right during every practice session.
- Highly responsive amp with a powerful sound.
- a 20-watt amp will give you more volume than many other practice amps.
- Onboard chromatic tuner and reverb.
- Some people might find the orange color off-putting.
Blackstar ID:Core 10 V3 2x3-inch 2x5-watt Stereo Combo Amp with Effects Review
The Blackstar ID:Core 10 V3 is a bestseller for traveling musicians since it’s only ten inches (25.4 cm) tall. If you need to fit your amp into a small bedroom or hotel room, this amplifier will work for you.
Blackstar amps come with their patented Infinite Shape Feature (ISF). This basically shifts the amp’s tone stack response and can give you a unique response from each control. It also has six separate amp voicings, from a Clean setting to several different kinds of aggressive lead tones.
It even includes an onboard TRRS Line In/Streaming jack. If you’re an artist who posts covers or original songs to YouTube or Twitch, you can edit your sound directly from the amplifier and stream it through to your phone or laptop.
If you need an amp with sophisticated features, this is one of the best metal practice amps out there.
- Modestly-sized amp under ten inches tall.
- TRRS jack so you can stream the amp's effects to your phone without using the speaker.
- Six different tone settings.
- Modest wattage may not be enough for some players.
Boss Katana Mini - 7-watt Combo Amp Review
Another great amp from Boss Katana, this little 7-watt amp is the most affordable amp listed here.
You’ll be surprised by how much function you can get for a relatively lower price. You can choose between three selectable voicings: Clean, Crunch, and Brown, the perfect high-gain tone for metal players.
If you’re in a spot where you can’t plug an amp in, you’ll be happy to know that this little Boss Katana 7-watt Combo Amp is battery-powered and will operate for seven hours on just six AA batteries. Plus, with a big, sturdy handle on top, you don’t have to worry about dropping it.
This is one of the best bedroom amps available for players who don’t need a huge amp with tons of power but just need to hear themselves in a small room.
- Battery-powered, so you can play outside without a power outlet.
- AUX line-in and headphone output.
- Much more cost-effective than many other amps.
- For players who want a bit more power, this amp may fall short.
Metal Practice Amp Buyer’s Guide
The best metal practice amps will give you a compromise between a manageable volume level and distinctly metal-sounding tones. Volume isn’t critical when you’re rehearsing, but you want an amp with enough “oomph” that you can reliably produce metal riffs.
Here are some tips on what you need to look for when you finally invest in a metal practice amp.
What Features To Look For in Metal Practice Amps
- Multi-stage gain. Metal guitarists will want to prioritize amps with a multi-stage gain, even if they’re just planning on playing in their bedroom. Gain stages come from the preamplifier, which is made up of a series of amplifying circuits. The more stages your preamp has, the more crunchy metal distortion you can pack into your sound.
- Solid-state vs. tube amps. The massive price difference between tube amps and solid-state amps comes from the valves or vacuum tubes inside them, which are much more delicate than the circuitry in a solid-state amp. Tube amps like Mesa/Boogie Mark Five will sound great even when pushed to their maximum volume, perfect for metal players.
How To Choose the Best Metal Practice Amp
- Figure out where you’re practicing. Got a big garage in the middle of nowhere to rehearse? Then a big, powerful amp like the Boss Katana-50 MkII might be perfect for you. If you’re going to be practicing in a house full of other people, a small amp without too much power is where you want to go.
- Determine how much you’re willing to spend. Solid-state amps will always be more affordable than tube amps, and plenty of players have no issues using them. If price is one of the biggest factors in your choice, you should buy a solid-state amp such as the Blackstar ID:Core 10 V3 and the Orange Crush 20RT.
- Look for a battery-powered option. This might not be a necessity. Players who want to prioritize portability, use an amp that’s either fully or partially battery-powered like the Boss Katana Mini.
Finding the best combo amp for metal rehearsals doesn’t have to be a headache. You might worry that a practice amp won’t give you that brown metal bite, but there are plenty of newer amps that offer the best of both worlds. Check out all of the options listed and find out which amp is best for you!