The Best Ukulele Amps: A Review Roundup
This article reviews some of the most popular ukulele amps. I’ll start out with some inexpensive novelty amps and move up to high quality, performance-grade options. Let’s get right into it!
Danelectro’s Honeytone series of amps are fun for practicing or being heard in a casual jam session, but they’re not going to blow anyone’s mind.
While these amps are surprisingly loud for their size, their overall sound quality is so-so. The tone tends to be somewhat thin, lacking in bass, and not very clean. But to be fair, that’s the case with any electronic device that has a small, cheap speaker.
The N-10 has an overdrive feature designed for use with electric guitars. This can create interesting effects with a uke, but most folks will probably play “clean” (without any distortion).
The unit features a 1/4″ input for a standard instrument cable and a 3.5mm jack for headphones.
At around $20, the Honeytone is a fun little uke amp that will let you play around with your instrument’s pickup, but not a whole lot much more. Check current pricing and reviews on Amazon.
The Fender Mini Twin ’57 and Mini-Deluxe are going to perform at about the same level as the Honeytone amps reviewed above, but they have a more conventional aesthetic that skews closer to the looks of a “real” vintage amp. While the dual-speaker setup produces a slightly richer sound than the Honeytones, it’s not going to be a huge difference.
Like any single watt amp, these little guys aren’t going to get very loud and are best suited for practice or small jam sessions. For the money (around $30-$40) they are a fun accessory, but players who want more performance should keep saving and consider the Fender Frontman or Behringer Ultracoustic (reviews below).
The Hodad DH-1 and DH-2 are another line of retro-styled mini amps from Danelectro. Much of what I wrote about the Honeytones is true of these amps, but the Hodads have an additional speaker and a slightly higher wattage. This gives them a richer tone and allows you to crank them up a bit more, but they’re still not going to blow your hat off.
Aside from the colors, the only difference between two models is that the DH-1 features tremolo and echo effects (and is a few bucks more).
I ordered a couple of the Luna Suitcase amps for our music store a while back because, frankly, I thought they were cool looking. Unfortunately, the slick vintage vibe wasn’t enough to outweigh the UK-5’s subpar performance.
Both of the amps we received were so quiet they almost couldn’t be heard over the acoustic sound of the ukulele. When the amp is barely louder than the instrument, it isn’t doing its job. While 5 watts isn’t a ton of power, it should still be enough to produce a respectable level of volume.
As much as I wanted to like this amp, I can’t recommend it–especially given the relatively high price tag. Players looking for an amp in this price range would be better off going with the Fender Frontman 10G or, even better, the Behringer AT108.
At around $60, the Fender Frontman is a good choice for budget-conscious players who wants to play intimate venues or jam with a little more power. It does a nice job of bridging the gap between the just-for-fun novelty amps above and the more serious amps I cover below.
While the Frontman won’t give you the big volume and rich bass of a more expensive amp, it does have a cleaner, fuller tone than anything in the novelty category. The variety of inputs mean you can play with headphones or plug in an MP3 player to strum along with your favorite songs.
The Frontman’s 10 watts of power is far greater than other amps I’ve reviewed so far, but it’s still considered practice amp and isn’t really designed for major performances. This means that it’s probably not going to be sufficient for settings where you expect the volume level to be above a quiet coffee shop on an open mic night.
In terms of bang-for-your-buck, you can’t do much better than Behringer Ultracoustic AT108. Designed specifically for acoustic instruments, the AT108 provides a crisp, natural acoustic tone that rivals amps many times its cost.
With an 8″ speaker pushing 15 watts, the At108 will provide a full, rich tone during practice sessions while also offering enough power to be viable in small performance settings. An XLR input allows for the use of high quality microphones, and additional inputs for headphones and an MP3 provide lots of versatility during practice or recording sessions.
As an acoustic-only amp, the AT108 has stripped away all non-essential effects and features, leaving only basic tone and volume controls. I consider this a good thing. By eliminating unnecessary bells and whistles, Behringer has created an amp that is focused, easy to use, and affordable.
While Behringer’s “Virtual Tube Circuitry” technology might sound like a marketing buzz phrase to some, but their excellent tube modeling software really adds a lot to the tone of an amp.
Without getting too technical, traditional vacuum tube amps are prized by many musicians for their rich, mellow sound. However, they’re more expensive than modern solid state amps and they require more maintenance. By reproducing the characteristics of vacuum tubes through software, Behringer has combined the benefits of tube amps with the affordability and convenience of solid state amps.
At around $100, it’s hard to go wrong with this amp. Click here to read reviews and get the current price on Amazon.
While the Yamaha THR5A is twice the price of the Behringer Ultracoustic AT108 reviewed above, it has a handful of extras that may make it worth the extra money for players who want a more feature-rich amplifier.
The assortment of effects (conveniently mapped to just two knobs) offers a variety of ways to fatten up your sound with reverbs, delays, and more. The built in tuner is handy, although I still prefer my SNARK tuner to anything else.
An array of mic models let players simulate the sound and characteristics of five professional-grade microphones. I think it’s a great way to capture the warm, rich tone of a mic while eliminating a mic’s inherent issues such as feedback and the need to maintain a consistent distance. The included THR software gives opens up the hood and lets tone freaks to tweak and edit until they get exactly the sound they’re looking for.
A USB port allows you to plug directly in to your computer, meaning that the THR5A doubles as a recording interface. Yamaha’s THR line of amps come with Cubase AI, a stripped-down version of Cubase’s professional audio production software. I haven’t used this software personally, but it seems to capable enough for basic recording, editing, and mixing.
To top it all off, the nouveau-retro styling and metal casing give this little amp a lot of personality. For around $200, it’s a top contender in the world of affordable ukulele amps.
If you want a serious ukulele amp that is great for practice but also works well in small to medium performance settings, you simply can’t beat Fishman’s Loudbox Mini.
Rather than packing the Mini with loads of questionably useful features, Fishman has focused on one thing: tone. The Mini has an incredible presence and has no trouble filling up a room–it’s hard to believe how amazing this little amp sounds until you hear it person. At 60 watts, the Loudbox Mini has plenty of juice and is more than sufficient for a majority of casual venues.
The Mini is at the pricey end of the spectrum compared to other uke amps reviewed in this article–about $329 online. However, it’s well worth the investment for players who are serious about gigging and want an amp that makes them sound like a pro.
For what it’s worth, this is the only amp we sell at my family’s music store. We’ve found that the Mini meets the needs of 90% of our customers, but folks who need a more powerful amp should consider the Loudbox Artist or Loudbox Performer. These amps are quite a bit more expensive, but they offer more power (120W and 160W respectively) and offer a couple more instrument/mic inputs.
But don’t take my word for it–check out the Loudbox Mini’s near-perfect rating on Amazon.