Whether you’re an aspiring street musician or you’re a seasoned busker looking to upgrade your gear, picking the right amplifier can make a huge difference to your performance. Picture yourself commanding a crowd with a sound that’s as clear, crisp, and vibrant as a live concert right on the street corner. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the best busking amps of 2023, highlighting key features, benefits, and pricing to help you make an informed choice.
You’ll find out which amp offers the perfect blend of portability, sound quality, and battery life to take your performance to the next level. So, let’s plug in and get started!
Our Top Picks For The Best Busking Amps
Compact and portable, it is loaded with features such as a variety of amp models, built-in effects, and Bluetooth audio streaming. The Katana-Air also comes with a smartphone app for easy control and programming of the amp. It exhibits a unique design, resembling a micro amp head with speakers mounted behind the front panel, and can deliver 30 watts of output when powered by AC, and 20 watts when powered by batteries.
- Freedom from cables: The Katana-Air is wireless, offering the ultimate convenience for you.
- Extremely lightweight and portable: Weighing only 4.8 lbs, the Katana Air is extremely lightweight. It can also be powered by either AC power or eight AA batteries lasting up to 12 hours, making it perfect for busking.
- Variety of tones: With 5 different amp types and 58 different types of effects, you can create various tones for different musical styles.
- Remote control: The Boss Katana-Air app allows for detailed control over effects parameters and audio settings.
- Extra features: Motion-activated transmitter automatically turns on when you pick your guitar up.
The Boss Katana Air is priced at roughly $430 USD, offering a fair price for the quality and features it provides.
The Boss Katana Air shines with its wireless capability, providing a seamless experience with minimal latency. The wireless performance is impressive, with a maximum range of up to 75 feet. This makes it easy to play anywhere without worrying about tripping over cables.
With 30 watts of power (or 20 watts when running on batteries), the Katana Air packs quite a punch. The amp models and built-in effects add to the versatility of this device. It includes all the effects found in larger Katana amplifiers. This makes it possible to create a wide variety of tones, suitable even for crunchy metal tones.
A standout feature of the Katana Air is its ability to connect to a phone and play music through its stereo speakers via Bluetooth. This allows users to play along with backing tracks, adjusting the volume levels of the guitar and the backing track separately. Additionally, the device offers various delay and modulation effects which can be easily adjusted using the buttons on the device or through the app.
From my personal experience, I’m yet to find something negative to say about the Boss Katana Air. It is an innovative and feature-rich amplifier that provides convenience, wireless functionality, and a variety of effects, making it an excellent choice for guitarists.
The Roland MOBILE Cube AC is a battery-powered stereo amplifier that offers a mix of versatility and portability. Designed to handle various electronic instruments and audio devices, it is especially suitable for acoustic guitar purposes.
This amplifier offers a variety of inputs for equipment like microphones, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, drum machines, MP3 players, and more. It also has built-in effects such as overdrive, chorus, delay, and reverb, providing remarkable sound quality.
- Portability: The Roland MOBILE Cube AC is extremely lightweight (5.4 lbs) and easy to carry, suitable for street performances or practice sessions.
- Versatility: The amp is designed for various electronic instruments and audio devices, and can be used anywhere, anytime.
- Sound Quality: It offers stereo sound with built-in effects, that enhance the overall sound quality.
- Adaptable: The amplifier can be used to play any instrument along with favorite songs, or for karaoke with the Center Cancel feature.
- Good Battery Life: The Roland MOBILE Cube AC is equipped with a long battery life, offering up to 20 hours of playing time on 6 AA batteries.
- Sturdy and Durable: It is well-built and is designed to last for many years.
The Roland MOBILE Cube AC is available for purchase from various online retailers for roughly $159 USD.
The Roland MOBILE Cube AC is praised for its sound quality and the ability to choose between different acoustic clamps. Its portability and the fact that it can be used for multiple instruments at the same time is a big advantage for musicians looking to busk. It is particularly useful for acoustic guitar performances, particularly when playing around with different sound options, volume control, tone, and reverb effects.
On the flip side, while the amplifier is not specifically designed for it, you can still use it with your bass guitar with the help of an EQ pedal to remove lower frequencies. Another point of consideration is that some limitations have been noticed with the EQ and additional adapters may be required for certain microphone connections.
In comparison to the Roland Cube Street Ex, the MOBILE Cube AC is more simplified and smaller in size, yet it still produces a good sound quality. The amp selector for different types of sound and the built-in reverb, chorus, and delay effects add value to the amplifier and enrich the overall performance.
In conclusion, the Roland MOBILE Cube AC is a versatile and portable amplifier that offers a great blend of features and sound quality. Its ability to work with various electronic instruments and audio devices makes it a strong contender in its category. Despite its minor downsides, it’s still a highly recommended option for musicians on the go.
The Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge is a versatile, high-quality acoustic instrument amplifier that stands out for its battery power, maximum output, portability, and modern utility.
It notably offers 60 watts of power, dedicated instrument and microphone channels, and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity for playback of backing tracks or external music sources.
The amplifier’s rechargeable battery and power management circuitry, combined with its warm and clear sound, make it a trusted option for musicians who need a portable, battery-powered amplifier that delivers high-quality sound and versatility.
- Long Battery Life: The battery lasts up to 12 hours on average volume
- Bluetooth 4.0 Connectivity: Easily add backing tracks or accompaniment to performances.
- Dual Channels: One for instrument input and another for microphone input, each with its own gain, EQ, and reverb controls.
- Powerful Sound: 60 watts of power, offering plenty of volume for playing in various settings.
The Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge is priced at roughly $590 USD, making it a competitively priced option in the market.
When it comes to the pros, the sound quality of the amp is impressive. With the ability to make quick EQ adjustments, the low and mid controls work well with different pickups. The reverb adds depth without overpowering the sound, and the chorus effect is subtle, creating a good and powerful output. The amplifier’s vocals produce impressive sound quality, making it a preferred choice among musicians.
The ability to run the amp on both battery and mains power makes it a great option for buskers. Its compact size and ease of use, with all controls readily available and clearly marked on the front panel, also add to its appeal.
However, the product can be a tad too heavy to carry with one hand for extended periods. Additionally, it could be challenging to balance vocal and guitar levels due to the lack of separate gain and volume controls on the channels. Some might find the high control set too high for certain setups. Despite these minor pitfalls, the Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge remains a popular choice, with the addition of battery power and Bluetooth connectivity enhancing its allure.
The Fender Acoustic Junior Go is a compact, portable acoustic amp combo that delivers high-quality sound and versatility. This battery-operated amplifier is designed for both guitar and vocal performances, offering 100 watts of output power.
Equipped with a rechargeable battery, it provides 12 hours of playing time, making it ideal for busking the streets. The amp features two channels with interchangeable XLR/TRS inputs for both instrument and microphone use. Furthermore, it includes several effects and has a phase switch on both channels. The Acoustic Junior Go also operates via Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming and includes a USB jack for audio recording.
- Portable and Compact: The lightweight design (17 lbs) and rechargeable battery make it a great portable amp.
- Long battery life: You can blast the Fender Acoustic Junior Go for 12 hours at average volume!
- Dual channels: It has two channels with interchangeable inputs for versatile performance settings.
- Bluetooth 4.0 Connectivity: The Bluetooth connectivity allows you to easily add backing tracks or accompaniment to performances.
- Extra features: USB jack for direct audio recording. Onboard sound effects and 90-second looper-enhancing performances
- Excellent sound quality: 8-inch low-frequency driver and hi-fi tweeter delivering detailed sound quality
- Powerful: This amp offers a whopping 100 watts of output.
The Fender Acoustic Junior Go comes with a price tag of roughly $499 and can be purchased at various retailers.
Being a proud owner of the Fender Acoustic Junior Go myself, the compact, and lightweight design of the amp is a major advantage.
Weighing in at only 17 lbs, it’s easy to transport and set up, making it ideal for musicians who like to busk. The amp’s detailed sound quality, despite its compact size, is genuinely impressive and the dual outputs make it adaptable to larger stages when connected to a more powerful PA system.
One aspect that stands out is the amp’s versatility. The two channels, each with their XLR/TRS inputs, make it suitable for either instrument or microphone use. Additionally, the onboard effects and the 90-second looper add an extra dimension to performances. The ability to operate the amp wirelessly via Bluetooth is another beneficial feature that enhances its convenience.
However, there are a few areas where the Fender Acoustic Junior Go could improve. The amp might not be powerful enough for larger stages unless it’s connected to a more powerful PA system. Also, the looper function needs a pedal for operation, and that adds an extra cost for the user. However, neither of these drawbacks will affect your use of the amp for busking. The Fender Acoustic Junior Go offers acoustic performers a portable, sound-rich, and versatile solution for their amplification needs. Overall, it’s a formidable acoustic amp that lives up to the renowned Fender name.
The Yamaha THR30 II is a wireless desktop amp loaded with features that make it more than just a traditional amplifier. It is a Bluetooth speaker, an audio interface, and a guitar amp all in one.
This amplifier is part of Yamaha’s THR II series and highlights wireless technology that makes cables a thing of the past. The THR30 II is battery-powered and can be controlled through a user-friendly app. With direct outputs, it also functions as an audio interface.
- Versatile: The Yahama THR30 II can function as a Bluetooth speaker, audio interface, and a guitar amp.
- Wireless: Built with cutting-edge wireless technology, there is no need for any cables.
- Lightweight and convenient: The THR30 IIweighs only 9.7 lbs and can be controlled through an app and is battery-powered.
- Comprehensive: Comes with direct outputs and doubles as an audio interface.
- Variety of Tones: Offers 15 guitar amp models, 3 bass amp models, and 3 mic models for use with acoustics.
- Sound Quality: Delivers excellent sound due to Yamaha’s Extended Stereo Technology.
The Yamaha THR30 II is priced at roughly $550 USD. Despite being more affordable than many traditional amps, it offers a plethora of features and superior functionality, delivering excellent value for money.
Receiving praise for its ease of use and impressive sound quality, the amp offers three emulated circuits, each with its own unique musical flavor. The controls are familiar and intuitive, much like those of “ordinary” amplifiers. The THR30 II comes with built-in presets. These presets can easily be edited using the companion app, which offers more control and variability.
This model can boast a variety of in-built effects, including Tremolo, Phaser, Flanger, and Chorus, which add depth and dimension to the sound it produces. The ability to have precise control over delays and reverbs is also a significant advantage, and any sound can be saved to one of the five onboard preset slots.
The sound quality is highly impressive and compares favorably with more expensive pedals and amps. The THR30 II is also highly portable, making it a great solution for street playing. If you’re into a cool-looking setup for busking the streets, the THR30 II’s retro design with a backlit grill is ticking that box.
On the downside, it’s noted that the presets may not be to everyone’s liking, and the built-in tuner can be difficult to see depending on where the amp is placed. As long as you’re willing to put in the time to adjust the presets, the THR30 II remains an excellent choice as a versatile, easy-to-use amp with top-notch sound quality.
The Boss CUBE Street II is a portable amplifier specifically designed for musicians on the move and street performers.
This portable amplifier, the first to carry the Boss name, boasts a sturdy injection-molded casing. It is both lightweight and robust, weighing only 9.7lbs. It showcases a built-in looper with up to 45 seconds of stereo sampling time and can be connected to a computer or mobile device for recording or livestreaming performances. The amplifier can be powered either by a main adapter or 8 AA batteries, giving you 10 hours of playing time on battery.
- Light and compact: The Boss CUBE Street II weighs only 9.7 lbs, making it highly portable.
- Long battery life: You can jam for 10 hours with 8xAA batteries or the main adapter.
- Sound quality: Two 6.5-inch speakers deliver a crisp and direct sound with decent bass.
- Versatility: Versatile input options including a jack socket for guitar and mic inputs, an XLR mic/instrument combo socket, and an iCube Link/Aux In mini-jack for connecting a phone or playback device.
- Onboard effects: Features a three-band EQ, reverb control, and a harmony knob for adding digital harmonies to vocals.
- Built-in looper: Comes with a built-in looper with up to 45 seconds of stereo sampling time.
- Connectivity: Can be connected to a computer or mobile device for recording or live-streaming performances.
- Expansion options: Can be expanded with optional Bluetooth Audio MIDI Dual Adaptor for wireless audio streaming and use of free Cube Editor app.
The Boss CUBE Street 2 is priced at roughly $350 USD. The price includes the amplifier, power supply, and aux cable.
The Boss CUBE Street 2 is a significant improvement over the original CUBE Street. It is lighter, louder, and equipped with a built-in looper and a line-out feature. Even though it’s lighter, the amplifier manages to deliver a sound that is twice as loud as the original, thereby showcasing its powerful capabilities.
The built-in looper is a remarkable upgrade, providing up to 90-seconds of loop time and an intelligent harmony function that automatically generates harmonies based on the chords being played.
Furthermore, the line-out feature is a considerable advantage as it allows for recording performances while still playing at full volume. The Boss CUBE Street 2 has more bass and offers enough volume and quality sound for various applications, making it suitable for outdoor performances. Its lightweight and portable nature makes it perfect for street performers and small events.
However, it is worth mentioning that some of the features like the Bluetooth module for streaming audio and deep editing of onboard sounds, and customizable foot-switch options come as optional add-ons and are not included in the basic package.
The Bose S1 Pro System is a portable Bluetooth speaker system built with versatility and portability in mind.
It boasts an Auto EQ feature that optimizes performance based on the speaker’s positioning, catering to various orientations. With its neutral, balanced sound profile, the S1 Pro is ideal for different music genres. Despite the lack of low bass, the speaker compensates with an extra boom in the high bass, appealing to fans of bass-heavy music. The built-in ToneMatch processing feature enhances audio from connected mics and instruments.
- Portable design: Weighing in at 15.7 lbs, the Bose S1 Pro is easy to transport to gigs.
- Extra features: Auto EQ feature that adjusts performance based on speaker’s positioning, as well as ToneMatch processing for enhanced audio.
- Versatility: It offers a balanced sound profile suitable for various music genres.
- Durability: The S1 Pro is built to be solid and durable for outdoor use.
- Bluetooth connectivity: This speaker offers multi-device pairing and Bluetooth compatibility.
- Long battery life: You can jam for 11 hours with the Bose S1 Pro.
The Bose S1 Pro System is available in the market at a price tag of roughly $699 USD, which is relatively competitive considering its design, quality, and performance.
The Bose S1 Pro System has a number of strengths. The speaker’s neutral sound profile caters to various music genres and can get loud without compression. Its sound enhancement feature provides natural-sounding audio from connected mics and instruments. The Bluetooth compatibility and balanced mid-range make it great for podcasts, while its portability and long battery life make it suitable for outdoor use.
However, the S1 Pro falls short in a few areas. The lack of low bass, while not a dealbreaker, could potentially limit your performances. The downmixing of stereo content into mono also limits the immersive quality. Lastly, the S1 Pro is not water-resistant, which is something to consider for outdoor use.
Despite these couple of shortcomings, the Bose S1 Pro System is a good portable Bluetooth speaker with a balanced sound profile, additional features for sound customization, and great battery life.
The AER Compact Mobile2 is a German-made acoustic amplifier recognized for its compact size and exceptional sound quality.
With features like battery operation and multiple channels equipped with EQ and reverb options, it is a highly versatile tool for musicians. Its power output of 60 watts and an 8″ twin cone speaker produce clear, powerful sound. The amplifier is also equipped with auxiliary input, an effect loop, tuner-line, and headphone outputs, providing a wide range of connectivity options.
- High-quality sound: The AER Compact Mobile2 is known for its transparent and “woody” tone that enhances the natural sound of acoustic instruments.
- Versatility: This amplifier can be used with various instruments and vocals, functioning as a guitar amp or a PA system, and can be connected with other devices or effects pedals through its aux-in and effect loop.
- Portability: Despite the powerful performance, its compact size and an included padded gig bag make it easy to transport.
- Durability: Designed with a solid handle and a soft front foam, the AER Compact Mobile2 is built to last, ensuring long-term use.
The AER Compact Mobile2 typically comes with a price tag of around $1555 USD. Despite being priced higher than some other options, its high-quality sound, durability, and the range of features it offers make it a worthwhile investment.
In terms of pros, the AER Compact Mobile2 is highly regarded for its sound quality and performance. It delivers a beautiful transparent tone that enhances the plugged-in acoustic sound of the instrument, making it suitable for various instruments and vocals.
One of the main highlights is the built-in reverb and echo effects; they add depth and dimension to the sound, enhancing the overall performance. The amp also provides precise sound shaping through its separate controls for bass, middle, treble, gain, and impedance.
As for the cons, it is heavier than other amps on the market, weighing in at 30 lbs. It also doesn’t have as long of a battery life which may be an issue if you’re planning to busk for hours with no access to power.
Despite these shortcomings, the AER Compact Mobile2 makes up for it with its unique transparent tone and versatility. If you like to take control of your sound shaping, this amp will certainly allow you to do so.
A busking amplifier, or simply a busking amp, is a portable, often battery-powered, sound amplification system that you’ll primarily see being used by street musicians, or buskers.
Amps can enhance the sound of musical instruments or vocals, helping the music reach a wider audience in outdoor settings, busy streets, or large open areas. They come in various sizes, power levels, and features, providing the necessary volume boost to help street performers stand out in the bustling urban environment where they’re usually found.
When it comes to choosing a busking amp, you’ll want to consider various factors, including portability, battery life, ease of use, sound quality, and volume. You might also want to think about the type of music you play and the environment where you’ll be using the amp.
When talking strictly about portability, the lightest amps are the Roland Mobile Cube AC and Boss Kitana Air, each weighing less than 5.5 lbs. There are also the Boss Cube Street II and the Yamaha THR 30 II, your mid-range weight amps, both weighing 9.7 lbs. If you know you’ll be moving around a lot busking on the streets, this will most likely be a feature you’re after.
Next up is power. And I’m not just talking about how loud your amp can get, but also its ability to produce good sound. The Fender Acoustic Junior Go has a whopping 100-watt output, which is the most powerful amplifier we have discussed today. If you are playing in a really large open area, this may be the go for you.
You’ll also want to consider battery life. A good busking amp should have enough battery life to last through your performances. The Roland Mobile Cube AC lasts the longest out of all of the amps, allowing you to jam for up to 20 hours on battery power. All tying for second place are the Boss Kitana Air, Fisherman Loudbox Mini Charge, and the Fender Acoustic Junior Go, which all give you 12 hours of playing time.
Another tipping point is connectivity options. In today’s world, having Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity can be a game changer. It lets you link your amp with smartphones and apps for access to custom sounds and effects. The majority of these amps support Bluetooth connectivity, however, I personally find the Boss Katana Air takes the cake. The Bluetooth connectivity works for up to 75 feet, as well as an app that allows you to have detailed control over effects parameters and audio settings.
Lastly, different busking amps cater to different needs and preferences, and some are specifically designed for certain instruments, like guitars or keyboards. For example, if you’re a guitarist, the Roland Mobile Cube AC battery-powered amplifier and Yamaha THR-30 II guitar amplifier are great options. If you play acoustic instruments, the Fishman Loudbox Mini battery-powered acoustic combo amp might be more your speed. Another great option for acoustic musicians would be the AER Compact Mobile2, which is known for its transparent and “woody” tone that enhances the natural sound of acoustic instruments.
At the end of the day, each one of these amplifiers will suit each musician differently. Your musical preferences and unique busking style will be the most important factor when picking the amplifier that will suit you best. So get a list together of your non-negotiable features and let’s hit the streets!