Busking is one of the best ways to share your music directly with other people in an up-close and personal way that traditional venue performances simply cannot beat.
But it’s also your job and source of income, so you need to have gear that both sounds amazing and can perform reliably day after day.
With so many different amplifiers on the market, it can be a challenge to find the right one to fit your needs, so I’ve spent the last few weeks personally testing some of the best battery-powered guitar amplifiers that are perfectly geared toward the working busker.
These fit a wide range of applications and budgets, so no matter your needs, you’re sure to find something here that will suit you.
Best Busking Amps - 6 Portable Options
Table of Contents
- Best Busking Amps - 6 Portable Options
- Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Busking Amp
- Essential Busking Accessories
- Busking for All Budgets
1. Roland CUBE Street EX 2x8"
The Roland CUBE series of amplifiers have been long-standing favorites for performing musicians. But most CUBE models are designed with either home practice or venue performance in mind and lack the features that a busking musician requires to make them work.
All that changed with the Roland CUBE Street where Roland has included a plethora of handy features that make it perfectly suited to street performances.
It has 2 ¼” inputs allowing you to run both a guitar and microphone at the same time, negating the need for a separate pre-amp or a second amplifier for your vocal performances.
There is an in-built chorus and delay effect on the guitar input, but only a reverb effect on the microphone. As a modeling amplifier, I’d have liked to see a few more utility effects thrown in here such as a noise gate or compressor which are really helpful when dialing in a live sound and would also help lower the number of external effects you need.
It can simulate all your essential tones such as lead or crunch if you’re an electric player, or it offers a clean acoustic sim if you’re just looking to amplify an acoustic guitar. The sounds of these models are pretty good and certainly passable for busking scenarios.
One of the best features of the Cube Street is the ability to reduce the wattage output which in turn increases the battery life. Depending on your use case, it might even be a must-have feature in a battery powered amp for busking.
I can say from experience there’s nothing worse than having a great performance that’s paying well only to be forced to pack up early because of battery limitations, so this is a very welcome addition!
2. Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge
Fishman always delivers products that are well-built and perfectly suited for the serious professional, and the Loudbox is no exception.
The first thing I like about this amplifier is its aesthetics which feature a beautiful faux tan leather tolex chassis that makes it look thoroughly classy.
While the overall construction of the amplifier is fantastic, I found its utility as a PA speaker somewhat limited due to its shallow angle, you may need to prop it up a bit to get it to project to an audience properly.
The Fishman Loudbox Mini keeps the front panel arrangement nice and simple so you don’t have to think about too many settings as you perform.
There’s a separate instrument and mic input with a gain and 3-band EQ adjustment for each channel. These are perfectly fine for broader sound sculpting, but I still needed to use external hardware processing for some of the more detailed tweaking of my sound.
Most of the cool tech in this amp exists under the hood, particularly with the Bluetooth aux input (there’s a hardware aux in too, don’t worry!) so if you like to use backing tracks from an iPhone or iPad you can effortlessly stream it to the amplifier.
Additionally, there’s an XLR DI out if you like to capture your performance directly and mix them yourself later on. Great if you like to process clips and post them to social media!
Despite being rated for 60 watts I found the amplifier was pretty quiet, even when cranked. While I think this is perfectly acceptable for small performances at something like a coffee bar, you may run into some trouble being heard during street performances if there’s a lot of traffic or street noise around.
What makes things more difficult is that if you’re cranking the volume to 100% the battery will only last for about 4 hours, so you need to be extra careful and ensure it’s fully charged before heading out.
3. Yamaha THR30 II
Yamaha redefined what a practice amplifier could be with their THR series, using cutting-edge modeling technology to give you unprecedented access to high-quality guitar tones in a package that’s incredibly small, accessible, and affordable.
Originally popularized as a practice amplifier as many famous musicians would use them backstage before a show as a warmup amp, but its notoriety quickly picked up speed as its utility as a full rig-in-box became apparent.
All 15 of the included amp models sound fantastic and cover all the tonal ground you could want, from a classic clean/crunch sound all the way to a fully saturated distortion.
This can then be combined with a slew of inbuilt effects which further reduces the amount of external equipment such as pedals you’ll need to take out with you.
These amp and effect combinations can then be saved to any of the 5 user presets and recalled at the press of a button. I found this super convenient as I didn’t have to waste any time in between songs fiddling about and adjusting knobs before I could start the next song.
As you’d expect there’s an aux in so you can run a backing track directly into the unit if needed.
The Yamaha THR30 II is battery-powered, but you can only use the internal rechargeable battery which from my testing lasted roughly 5 hours. This means you have to be even more careful than normal to ensure it’s fully charged before heading out because you can’t simply keep some spare batteries to hand. You are completely reliant on the internal battery which may be a turnoff and a potential liability for some.
Also, it's not the best busking amp for vocals. In fact, it can't handle vocals at all since there’s no XLR input, so this is better suited to solo-guitar performances. If you need to include vocals you will have to amplify your microphone via a separate amp/speaker.
4. Boss CUBE Street 2
The Boss CUBE Street 2 is one of the most affordable busking amplifiers on the market. Everything about its design is just right for street performances from its light weight, portability, and speaker angle that offers fantastic projection for your street audience.
It also has a few cool features which make it unique in the busking-amplifier space such as the in-built harmonizer on the microphone input. This effect is a ton of fun to play with, you can just pick a key and interval, then it will generate harmony based on the input source.
Although don’t get too excited, as far as harmonizers go it’s pretty basic offering only octave harmonies, so without any minor/major thirds you can’t create anything too complex. Still, the unison mode works great as a doubler and sounds fantastic when layered with a bit of the in-built reverb.
Another very cool feature of the Boss Cube Street 2 is the in-built looper, allowing you to record a short phrase and then over-dub it with additional layers to create dense performances, even if you’re a solo musician.
The guitar portion is what you might expect for a more budget-oriented modeling amplifier. It has all the tonal options you’d want, from crunch to lead, and a nice acoustic sim mode if you’re just looking to amplify and acoustic-electric input.
The sound on them is not mind-blowing, but nothing is stopping you from utilizing some pedals to help enhance the sound bit.
As you might expect there’s an aux in to help out if you need to use backing tracks, as well as an ‘eco’ mode in case you need to save on battery power.
Overall it’s a great little busking amp for guitar and mic that’s packed with fun goodies. But at only 10 watts a serious busker who’s pulling a sizable crowd will probably not find this loud enough for their needs. But if you're just looking for a cheap busking amp to get started, you likely won't be disappointed.
5. Fender Acoustic Junior Go
You may have noticed that many of the amplifiers listed contain some kind of modeling technology designed to help eliminate the amount of external gear you need to bring with you on your busking adventure.
But what if you’re a dedicated acoustic player who doesn’t need any distortion whatsoever?
This is where the Fender Acoustic Junior might be your savior, it’s both a dedicated acoustic amplifier and a comprehensive effects processor giving you those extra tools you need to make a busking performance sound extra polished.
Let’s first talk about the aesthetics as it’s one of the most beautiful amplifiers around, it has a simple cloth grille on the front. You may have noticed the design looks like a simple flat cabinet, but it comes with a retractable foot at the bottom you can use to angle the speaker upwards. An essential feature of any professional busking amp.
It has a dual XLR input allowing you to run a microphone together with your acoustic guitar for vocal performances. This vocal input can also be routed through one of the plethora of digital effects too.
I was very impressed with the range of effects on offer here as not many busking amps give you options to add delay or multiple reverb types to the vocal track.
There’s also an in-built looper which is perfect if you like to do that whole percussive-acoustic thing as you can quickly layer a few percussion tracks through the guitar input.
But for me, the big selling point of this amp is its tone and the volume it can output. The 8-inch woofer and compression tweeter is full of low end and can be monstrously loud when cranked, you will have no issues with volume here.
However, at high volumes it needs a lot of juice, and you can only use an in-built lithium-ion rechargeable battery which will pose challenges if you accidentally head out without charging it beforehand.
6. Roland AC-33
The first thing I noticed about the Roland AC-33 is how classy and understated it looks. It has a rosewood cabinet making it one of the most unique-looking amps around.
At first glance, it may look awkward to use as a busking amp due to its front-facing speakers, but just in case you can’t elevate it by some means there is a convenient kickstand placed underneath which helps to angle it upwards.
Unlike other amps which try to include a plethora of effects and gimmicks, this one takes a much simpler approach with just a 2 channel input with individual chorus effects for each channel, and a master reverb/ambiance.
Depending on your style and application this may be a hindrance or offer that perfect clean simple setup you’d like for your performances.
There’s a headphone output which I found surprisingly helpful if I found myself busking in a particularly noisy area and needed direct monitoring so I could hear myself better. It also helps it double up as a practice amplifier too.
There’s an aux in on the back, and a ¼” line out for both left and right which can be helpful if you wish to pass the signal through an additional mixer. As well as a looper function and anti-feedback toggle which is useful in those rare cases you’re playing in a tight spot and need to stand right in front of your amp.
When operating on battery the wattage is reduced to only 20 watts, but I still found this to be adequately loud for the majority of busking scenarios. It also runs on 8 x AA batteries which I really like as it means I can carry spare batteries with me rather than have to rely on a single internal rechargeable battery.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Busking Amp
So you’ve found your perfect busking amp, fantastic!
These kinds of amps have all sorts of extra features and goodies designed to make your life easier as a performer and make you sound as good as possible in those less than ideal environments such as busy and noisy streets.
So here are a few tips you can use to ensure you are getting everything your amp has to offer.
Angle your amp!
When a forward-facing speaker cabinet is placed on the floor, it means most of the projected sound is being sent toward the feet of the crowd. Sure, your sound is still going to be audible, but many of the high frequencies will miss your listener's ears and make your performance sound dark, dull, and lifeless.
There are 2 solutions to this, the first is to elevate your amplifier somehow, many buskers use something like a small trolley to raise the height of the amp.
However, another solution is to angle your amplifier so the speakers are pointing up at a 45-degree angle. This allows you to sit your amp on the floor while your audience receives the best possible sound quality.
Many of the amps listed in this article come with convenient kickstands on the front to angle it. Otherwise, you can stick something like a brick under the front to prop it up.
Set your volume carefully
Getting the right volume levels as a busker can be challenging, you want it to be loud enough so you can be heard in as large of an area as possible, but you want to stay within the loudness limits specified by the governing body.
Not only that, but you also need to be mindful of your battery life as the louder you go, the quicker you’ll run out of juice.
Try experimenting at home to find the right balance between battery life and volume so you’re not left tweaking things in the heat of battle.
Essential Busking Accessories
Most of the amps listed here are pretty feature complete and do a great job of limiting the amount of extra equipment you have to lug around with you.
But there are still a few cool accessories you might want to consider which will make your life easier as a performer.
Portable power bank
One of the downsides to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries is that once they’ve run out, you can’t simply throw a new one in.
So if you find yourself running out of battery while using an amp that doesn’t take AA batteries then you’ll have no choice but to pack up and head home early, forcing you to lose out on potentially earned money.
So keeping a DC power bank (or 2, or even 3) in your backpack can really get you out of a bind if you accidentally forget to charge your Amp before heading out.
An often under-appreciated piece of busking gear. As so many amps like to put their control panels on the top of the unit, it means even the slightest bit of drizzle poses a real threat to your equipment.
Amplifier covers, whether purpose-made or just an old piece of tarp you’ve cut up can be the difference between you weathering a bit of rain and having a productive performance or having to abandon your set early and miss out on your income.
You can find ready-made amp covers for most common busking amps, or you can buy a generic large one such as the Fishman Performer Cover and make it work with your amp.
Cables used for busking are subject to a lot of abuse, pedestrians will often accidentally tread on them and connectors will get dragged over hard concrete as you pack down.
It’s always a good idea to keep a few high-quality instrument cables on backup to ensure a cable failure doesn’t halt your entire show.
I highly recommend the D’addario circuit breaker cables which allow you to mute the cable if you have to unplug it which saves your audience from the loud pops and buzzes that usually occur from changing a cable while your amp is switched on.
Busking on a budget is pretty easy, you don’t need too much to get started, and a lot of the essential gear you need isn’t that expensive anyway.
However, one area where you really shouldn’t skimp on quality is your stands.
This includes microphone stands, music stands, camera tripods, you name it.
Being outside in the wind and rain, and often playing on uneven surfaces are quickly going to make the flaws of low-quality stands apparent.
There’s nothing worse than wrestling with stands while all you want to do is focus on your performance. Invest in good-quality stands!
For vocals, the On-Stage round base microphone stand offers great value for money and can withstand the rigors of street performing.
Busking for All Budgets
We’re very blessed these days to have so many purpose-built amps specifically for busking that are not only affordable but pack in a ton of modern features that makes our lives as performers easier than ever.
So now you can relax and enjoy your shows in new locations and reach new audiences without having to deal with massive amounts of gear once and for all!