When we think of metal guitar players, we tend to picture huge Marshall stacks, screaming crowds, and tons of gain. Yet, not all guitarists who love metal can afford to wear their bandana, leather pants, and animal print shirt to amaze a cheering audience of screaming fans.
Yes, metal is also played in bedrooms around the world where the new amazing players of tomorrow are practicing their chops.
This post is for them, for you, the guitarists that will take the torch of metal into the future and need to practice from novice to master at a volume that won’t get them kicked out of their houses.
I’ve tested a bunch of bedroom-sized monsters with enough gain to turn any Tuesday afternoon into a metal fest while staying at a bedroom level.
You won’t need earplugs but get ready for some serious chugging with these small amps while practicing metal.
Table of Contents
- Room-Sized Mayhem – What to Expect from a Metal Practice Amp?
- 6 Best Compact Amps for Bedroom Metal Practice
Room-Sized Mayhem – What to Expect from a Metal Practice Amp?
I did the “hard” work for you; AKA having a lot of fun trying out different metal amps with some of the heaviest riffs I could remember. But, what were the criteria I used for my selection? Let’s break it down so you can follow my reasoning.
Available Gain Levels
One of the first things I did when I got to a new amp was to crank the volume and the gain all the way up to 10. Yes, it was a lot of fun but it was also an indication of how much “metal material” we could get out of the amp.
This is because some small amps only offer an “overdrive channel” which is a souped-up clean setting that’s good for some heavy blues and rock and roll but can’t get you anywhere near Randy Rhoads or Dimebag Darrell.
All the amps you’ll find on our list have tested positive for metal.
Bedroom Volume & Sound Quality
Using the word “volume” and the word “bedroom” in the same line usually means someone is telling you to lower it because you’re sharing your house and don’t want to ruin your family’s harmony. Yet, we used it in a different way because we looked for amps that sound good at a low volume.
So, the amps you will see on this list are perfect examples of amps that sound good (AKA tight bass, crunchy mids, and singing highs) when used at bedroom levels.
Unless you live in a mansion, usually bedroom-friendly practice amps need to occupy little space and translate every inch into metal fun.
Well, this was a big part of my selection because I went after the amps that could fit into the corner or could sit comfortably on top of that pile of dirty clothes waiting for laundry to happen.
Moreover, there even are examples on the list that can be sitting on top of your desk (once you remove all your Star Wars paraphernalia, of course).
Speakers come in different sizes and that affects the way they sound. For example, a guitar amplifier with a 12” speaker will always be more focused on the middle frequencies than one with an 8” or 10” speaker. Well, that’s the main reason why Marshall cabinets are known as 4x12s.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, ask any rock n roll guitar God, such as Slash, Angus Young, or even Mr. Steve Vai what size speaker they play 90% of the time.
6 Best Compact Amps for Bedroom Metal Practice
Without further ado, and now that we’re clear about the criteria we used for our selection, let’s take a look at the candidates.
Chances are your new bedroom metal amp is on this list.
1. Boss Katana-50 MkII
The Boss Katana amplifier is the evolution of an already ground-breaking amplifier. Yes, there’s a ton of good news about this new iteration of the amp that’s on its way to becoming a classic.
To begin with, it is a 50-watt amp with a 12-inch speaker, which makes it a great amp for your bedroom and beyond. Yes, with 50 watts you’re more than set to take “your” sound from your bedroom to the stage. Also, you can use it as a power amp (bypassing the processing and preamp sections), in stereo with another Katana, or even as a head by plugging in an extra cabinet.
Moving on to the sounds, the 5 amp characters (made with state-of-the-art digital modeling) offer you a variation button for a total of 10 amp styles.
In the same vein, the company added five of their world-class effects to the amp which you can control from the screen-less top-mounted control panel. Also, for further tweaking and direct recording, you can use the USB connection and the BOSS Tone Studio software.
How does it sound? Well, the “Lead” and “Brown” settings (brown is for Marshall’s iconic brown sound popularized by Eddie Van Halen) can provide some serious high-gain tones. Furthermore, if you activate the booster and a little delay, you’re in shredding heaven.
Besides the versatility, power, and speaker, you can get some serious metal tones at bedroom level and it can be an amp that stays with you while you give your first steps toward metal stardom since it’s as scalable as it is portable, and good-sounding.
Check out this amazing Boss trailer for a full set of specs and audio clips.
2. Yamaha THR10 II
I know what you’re thinking because I thought the same thing: what is Yamaha doing in a list of metal amps? Well, ever since the Japanese giant bought Line6, they have invested heavily in overhauling all their products using the cutting-edge technology that the merger provided them.
The first thing that hit me about the THR10 II is the size and the volume. Indeed, we’re talking about a very loud amplifier to be this small. For you to have an idea, it is what you would call a desktop amplifier with dual Hi-Fi 3” speakers. You can even buy an aftermarket bag to carry it around!
This is literally a do-it-all piece of equipment that can help you shred the night away as much as it can be a great amp to plug your acoustic guitar into. Yes, the 15 amp models stored on this amplifier include bass and acoustic-friendly settings as well as fully-distorted electric ones.
As you would do, I’m sure, I started with the “lead” model to try and get the maximum out of this amplifier. Yet, I wasn’t too happy with the results until I tried the “High-gain” model and things got really nasty. You can hear the chugging as you palm-mute and, if you crank the high-end, you can get some soaring leads out of this amp too.
To round up the package, you can edit the sounds via USB, record this amp directly, connect it to an external speaker, and even use it with the built-in battery. This is perfect to compete with the usual park hippies who play “Wonderwall” non-stop with a righteous “Master of Puppets” rendition.
3. Positive Grid Spark Combo Amp
Speaking about monster amps that can fit in the back of your motorcycle, this Positive Grid Spark combo generated quite a hype around it upon release. I was skeptical about it, just like you and many other metal players in the world because you couldn’t possibly get a decent low-end from such a small amp.
Guess what? I was completely wrong. In fact, it is safe to say that there’s a bass excess in this amplifier’s natural tone.
But let’s rewind because there’s a lot to talk about with this amplifier. To begin with, it might be the most modern guitar-oriented piece of equipment that I have ever tried. Yes, the app allows you to choose any song you want (over 50,000 in the database) and play along with it. You’ll get a chord chart and the exact guitar tone, plus, you can slow it down at will.
But that’s not nearly all, because the amp will also follow your playing with a dedicated drum and bass accompaniment that’s always right. Moreover, you can just play the chords or riff, and the app will get the vibe, tempo, feel, and key and play with you.
All of that is great, we agree completely but the star of the pack is doubtlessly the sound library. Yes, you can just look for Hetfield or Darrell or Mustaine or even Cantrell and you’ll instantly be sounding like them. But not just that, once the sound is loaded, you can modify it with the real knobs on the control panel.
If you want a do-it-all practice amp that’s great for learning, this is the perfect combo.
Check out this great company trailer with all the specs in action.
4. Blackstar HT-1R MkII
The Blackstar HT-1R MkII is the first and only unit on the list that has valves in its circuit. Yes, you read it correctly; this 1-watt amplifier is completely valve-driven (ecc83 for the preamp and ecc82 for the power amp). I think, after playing guitar for way over two decades, that nothing beats the natural harmonics, compression, and color of valve-driven tone.
But let’s start from the beginning. As I said before, this is a 1-watt amplifier with a single 8-inch speaker. The speaker is perfectly voiced to match the amp, but with its USB out, you can connect it to a computer and use your favorite monitors or record without the need for a microphone (say goodbye to that trusty old Shure SM-57!).
Going back to the 8-inch speaker, the amp responds perfectly at bedroom volumes and you’re capable of pushing that tube to get maximum gain without even disturbing your nearest neighbor. Plus, being a pioneer in this kind of amplifier, Blackstar managed to create what they call an “infinite ISF”.
No, it’s not the kind of stone a Marvel supervillain needs to steal but the ability to go from a USA-like tone to a British-like tone and everywhere in between. This allows you to play Mesas and Marshalls at the twist of a knob.This means you can recreate Zakk Wylde’s tones and also Mark Tremonti’s tones with just one knob.
Speaking of tone, this amplifier’s four sounds (two channels with dual mods) go from crystal-clear to complete mayhem and everything in between.
So, finally, this Blackstar won my vote for the best metal bedroom amp because it sounds naturally compressed and not nasal, but that’s just my taste. Here’s a great no-talking-just-playing video to check out tones.
5. Marshall Code 25
The Marshall Code 25 belongs to the company’s newest flagship line of digital modeling amplifiers that go all the way to stage-ready 100-watt combos and heads (with their respective 4x12 cabs).
You might be too young, but I went through the learning curve digital modeling had to go through to arrive at the amazing tones it delivers today. Throughout the first era, what we had were little LCD screens to manipulate controls.
This Code 25 was a trip to the past in that sense, but the good news is that the Marshall app and website work wonders to tweak each of its 100 presets with a bigger, colorful, and intuitive interface..
These presets include clean, dirty, and super-gainy settings that you can manipulate choosing the kind of preamp and power amp structure you want.
For example, you can choose a brown and dirty English JCM800 preamp section and couple it with USA-approved 6L6-fueled power. What comes out of that? Well, a new sound that’s not available in the real world. Plus, you can add several modulation, delay, and reverb effects to that.
Besides the digital part, you can also operate this starship from its traditional knobs that include a master volume per preset and a general master volume besides a gain knob. That being said, the ability to control the amp via Bluetooth makes everything easier.
For those who love the Marshall tone and feel and want a ton of bedroom-level metal tones, this is a great choice. Let me tell you, though, that I really missed those valves.
6. Orange Crush 20
While other companies go for digital modeling and enter that era of guitar amplification, Orange chose to keep it simple and stick to the basics. In other words, the Orange Crush 20 is a classic solid-state amp with an all-analog signal path.
On one hand, it makes it a little less resourceful than other competitors; on the other hand, it keeps the audio clear, concise, punchy, and without the harsh high-end some of the digital amps tend to have.
Beyond the technical aspect of the amplifier, something that stands out the moment you plug into it is the simplicity of the whole concept. Yes, this is a no-frills approach to a traditional dual-channel high-gain amp that sounds just like an Orange amp should: thick, dirty, and rocking.
So, with the addition of a single headphone input (with speaker emulation) and a built-in tuner, you can simply use this amp as any other transistorized two-channel amp you’ve had in your life.
Finally, how does it sound? Well, the word for it could be killer since you can play some very close versions of Black Sabbath tunes like “Paranoid” or “Ironman” and not miss any of that seventies-approved crunch.
Those who want to keep it simple, sound good, and practice with headphones in silence might want to try this one out.
The Bottom End
Bedroom metal amplifiers fulfill a very important role in the life of every musician or aspiring-to-be guitar player. These are metal-approved examples that can serve as an inspiration to work on your chops at bedroom levels without missing any of the fun.
Happy metal playing (at a bedroom volume)!