Whether you’ve been recently inspired to learn guitar or you’re an experienced guitarist looking for some reasonably priced, quality gear – this guide will have some great recommendations.
We’re going to be looking at setting up a minimalist guitar rig with supreme sound quality for your electric guitar. We’re also going to assume you already have that guitar for the purposes of this article. If not, don’t worry, we have other articles to help you find the perfect axe to piss of your neighbors!
I have personally tested all of the equipment in this article and I currently own most of it. This is seriously some of the best-sounding and versatile gear you can get at these price points.
Best Stand-Alone Practice Amp
The Mustang LT25
Ok, you want to jam in your bedroom, but you can’t have the neighbors calling the cops on you again. You also just want to plug in without needing to worry about effects. I have just the thing for you…
The Mustang LT25 just isn’t talked about enough when it comes to bedroom practice amps. With built-in effects, amp modeling, a tuner, and auxiliary input, it truly is plug-and-play.
It’s preloaded factory presets sound awesome, but it’s easy to create your own effects with a few button pushes. It’s capable of sounding good at low volumes, but at 25 Watts you can also crank up enough to rock out at a satisfying volume when nobody’s home.
If you’re wanting to run effects pedals or a looper through this, it’s just simply not going to sound good. You need to run your looper after the effects, and that just isn’t possible with this amp. Also, it’s just not a good pedal platform for reasons that are beyond the scope of this article.
Also, the Mustang LT25 isn’t going to keep up in a band practice. This is what we refer to as a bedroom practice amp. A great bedroom practice amp it is though!
That’s ok though. I’ve also worked out a solution for those two problems in our next section.
Best Pedal Platform Amp
The Blackstar HT-20R MKII
An entire article could easily be written about great combo amps that take pedals well. If you’re pushing a Marshall half stack, you’re not going to need to worry much about headroom.
If you’re like me, I wanted to find that sweet spot between an amp having too little headroom and an amp that’s going to blow the front door off with the volume set at 2. I also wanted it to be a quality-sounding tube amp, rather than a solid-state.
You’d be surprised how many amps I tried before narrowing my selection. Finally, though, I found an amp that fit all my requirements. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this is the most versatile tube amp I could find – period.
Now if you don’t know this, tube amps pack more of a punch than solid-state amps. There’s an argument that they’re not technically louder, but they definitely sound A LOT louder. A 10 or 15-watt tube amp can potentially sound louder than a 50-watt solid-state amp.
This amp is 20 watts, but it also has a 2-watt switch to take it down to a bedroom practice level. If you crank it up, it’ll potentially keep up with a band in a practice environment (depending on what kind of music you’re playing).
If you’re looking to gig, you can spend just a little more on the HT20’s older brother – the Blackstar HT40. The 40 Watt version is considerably louder (obviously).
The HT-20R has several different adjustable controls and voicings to shape your sound. It allows you to go from bright American sound to a bottom-heavy British sound with the flick of a switch. For more on that check out this link.
Outputs include a Main Out, External Speaker Cab Outputs (1×16 ohm, 1×8 ohm or 2×16 ohm), and Emulated Outputs for PA, recording or headphones. There’s also an Auxiliary Input, an effects loop and an included footswitch.
While there can’t be a lot of bad things said about Blackstar’s HT-20R MKII, everything has it’s drawbacks.
First of all, as I eluded to above, you’re not going to be able to gig with this amp unless you run it through a P.A. It just isn’t loud enough. You might be able to have band practice with it if you’re not playing metal or hard rock.
If you’re using it to gig though, again, spend just a little more on the HT Club 40. That won’t be ideal for solo practice though.
Lastly, some guitarists find it a little heavy on the bottom end. It seems that switching out the speaker with a Vintage 30 might take care of that. This appears to be the upgrade of choice for this amp among other users.
All that aside, I would vote this the best amp in it’s class.
Best Multi-Effects Pedal
The Mooer GE-200
I tend to be more of a stompbox guy myself, but I’ve used a lot of multi-effects pedals over the years. There’s something to be said for having a minimalist guitar rig.
Seriously, I’d be willing to bet that if most guitarists would just stick to having 3 pieces of equipment (a quality guitar, amp and multi-effects pedal) and mastering that equipment inside and out, they’d be far better musicians. The problem is, we all become gear junkies. It can be quite a distraction.
This is more like the best midrange multi-effects pedal if you will. It will knock your socks off though…
The Mooer GE-200 offers 70 different effects, 26 cabinet models and 55 different amp models. Combine that with the fact that it has a 52-second looper and a built-in drum machine and you’re on your way to being a one-man-band.
Built into the unit is its own audio interface, which is extremely convenient. This means you can plug it straight into your computer for recording.
You’ll be a lifetime trying to run through all the potential sounds you can get out of this little beast.
The biggest draw back for me is the way you have to select your effect patches. You can only bank up and down with two foot switches.
This means that if you’re playing live and you need to switch between sounds, you’ll have to keep 3 of your patches close together for a particular song. They’ll also need to be in a strategic order, you execute the transitions well.
To navigate this dilemma, you could grab the GE 250 (found here on Amazon) instead. This model also offers some additional features that make it quite worth it. One of those features allows you more control for changing your effect patches.
It is, of course, more expensive, though. Or, you could decide on our next pedal instead.
Best Entry-Level Stomp Box
The Valeton MES-6
Some will say this is a misleading heading. Technically, this is a multi-effects pedal but it can lay down your initial foundation to build your pedalboard around.
It covers the basics, it’s priced amazingly and it sounds really freaking good. I probably should have called this something like “best first pedal” though. I know – I shouldn’t be in charge of writing headlines…
This little pedal is just plain awesome and nobody really talks about them. Valeton makes great sounding effects pedals at stupid low prices.
There are 3 buttons for the MES-6 to toggle your effects on and off, much like if they were individual pedals. This will cover your drive effects, chorus, delay, tremolo and your reverb.
There are 9 amps to choose from – 3 Clean channels, 3 Drive channels and 3 High Gain Channels. It houses it’s own cab simulation as well for lineout or your headphones.
The Valeton MES-6 allows you to choose between the chorus, delay or tremolo, but you can’t combine any of those. It’s one or the other. This provides you with the opportunity to start adding effects to your pedal board one at a time though.
Maybe you’ll decide to stick with the Chorus on your Valeton, while you add a new digital delay to your effects chain.
If I had a new player on a budget, I’d serio
usly get them this pedal and a decent amp (like the Blackstar HT-20). That’s all you’d need to make some killer music. I’d possibly add Valetons Looper Mini (found here on Amazon) pedal for the fun of it.
Best Audio Interface
Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Alright, it’s time to record. What interface should you use?
You’re going to need a way to connect your mic, guitar or other instruments to you computer. This is where your interface will come in. For most purposes, I’d recommend starting with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
This device has been pretty well plug-and-play for me. It includes Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools, which will get you laying down tracks in no time.
If you’re going to use the included software, it’ll require setting up some accounts and stuff though. As with any recording software, there will be a learning curve. Once you get used to using whichever DAW you select, you’ll be golden.
The Softube Time & Tone plugin will allow you to polish off your mix to find the perfect sound for your particular project.
This starter pack also includes your headphones, studio mic and your XLR mic cable.
Some users have reported having less luck with setting up their Focusrite than I have. There may be some troubleshooting in the beginning. This isn’t uncommon with audio interfaces and usually has to do with computer settings.
You’re probably going to want to upgrade your mic and headphones at some point. If you’d like to hold out for some better gear, you can just purchase the Scarlett Solo Studio by itself (found here on Amazon).
Note: The Mooer GE-200 and the Blackstar HT-20 listed above both have their own built-in interfaces. Theoretically, you should be able to record straight from either of those outputs into your computer. I have not tried this though.
There is pretty much nothing you couldn’t accomplish musically with the equipment above. At the very least, it will cover all your bases.
Hopefully, you’ve found this guide helpful. Rock on my friends!