The 5 Best Cheap Axe-FX Alternatives [That Don’t Suck]

best Axe-Fx alternatives

Axe-Fx is brilliant. It’s used by the pros. And it sounds incredible. But it is expensive. Here’s some cheaper alternatives for mere mortals that don’t suck



Our #1 Pick For 2024

The Line 6 POD Go is The Best Axe-Fx Alternative

I never use huge stacks of effects, so the way the Line 6 POD GO is set up works perfectly for me. I don’t really need the Helix’s 32 banks of effects per patch. In fact, having so many options can cause option paralysis


Christopher Horton

For the money, it is next to impossible to fault the Line 6 POD Go. It is almost as good as Axe-Fx, it is simple to use, it sounds incredible, and it costs better than half the price of the cheapest Axe-Fx you can buy. 

— Christopher Horton, ELECTRIKJAM

Review Rating (/5)

Ease of Use

★★★★

Tone Quality

★★★★★

Portability

★★★★★

Customization Options

★★★★

Value For Money

★★★★


Metallica switched to Axe-Fx years ago. Ditto John Mayer and a whole host of other big bands and artists now use Axe-Fx. The reason? Consistency. 

Being able to create a tone inside a studio setting and then take it out on the road and get the exact same tone night in, night out makes life so much easier. Beyond this, there’s just so much you can do with digital amp modellers, from effects to creating custom tones. 

The sky, as they say, is the limit.  

Axe-Fx is the gold standard, the brand trusted by the greatest and good. But its products are hella expensive. For mere mortals like you and I, something a little cheaper is likely a better fit. But what are some good Axe-Fx alternatives? 

There’s a lot of options out there. But there’s only a select few that I would say fit the criteria of being considered a rock-solid alternative to Axe-Fx for mere mortals like you and I, meaning non-professional players and the financially deficient. 

Below, you’ll find options for premium alternatives (that are still cheaper than Axe-Fx), mid-range options, and affordable options because, let’s face it, we’re not all doctors, dentists, and lawyers. 

Best Axe-Fx Alternatives 

Quick Overview: Top Picks for Axe-Fx Alternatives

#1 Pick: Line 6 POD Go

  • Why It’s Great: Offers excellent sound with Helix technology, versatility, ease of use, portability, and an attractive price point.
  • Ideal For: Guitarists seeking a high-quality, all-in-one multi-effects unit without breaking the bank.
  • Price: Sub-$400 – view latest offers here.

Best Budget Option: Hotone Ampero Mini Vanilla

  • Why It’s Great: Compact, feature-rich, and offers great value for money. Its powerful sound engine and extensive features are packed into a portable and user-friendly device.
  • Ideal For: Players needing a portable and affordable multi-effects processor without compromising on sound quality and features.
  • Price: Sub-$200 – view latest offers here.

The Premium Alternatives

Line 6 POD Go

budget guitar multi effects

I’ve been using the Line 6 POD Go for a while now, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with this compact multi-effects unit. 

In a nutshell, it’s like having a ton of different amps, effects pedals, and even cabinets loaded into one portable device. You can plug it into an amp for live gigging, directly into your computer for recording, or just use headphones for silent practice.

Pros

Great Sound: The amp models are based on Line 6’s Helix technology, so they sound remarkably realistic.

Incredibly Versatile: I can go from sparkling cleans to heavy metal sounds with just a few knob tweaks. It’s got all the classic effects I need too – delays, choruses, reverbs, you name it.

Easy to Use: The interface is straightforward even for someone like me who gets confused by too many knobs and menus.

Portable: It’s so small and light, I can easily throw it into my gig bag.

Affordable: For the price, sub-$400, the POD Go is better than half the price of the cheapest Axe-Fx unit.

CONS

No Built-In Expression Pedal: I occasionally miss having an expression pedal built-in for wah and volume swells.

Some Limits with Tweaking: It’s not as in-depth as the full-fledged Helix units if you’re into ultra-customized tones.

Not for Everyone: If you’re a hardcore analog purist, this probably won’t convert you.

Plastic Build: While it feels sturdy enough, it’s not the metal construction of some higher-end units.

Computer Editor: The PC/Mac editing software could be a bit more user-friendly.

Where To Buy

Guitar Center (USA)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

Thomann (UK & Europe)

VIEW LATEST PRICES


Mooer GE200

Where To Buy

Thomann (USA)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

Thomann (UK & Europe)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

Having tried my hand at the Mooer GE200, I can tell you it’s a compelling multi-effects processor for guitarists seeking a versatile and affordable option.

The GE200 packs a punch, offering a vast array of amp models, effects, and features.

Here’s a breakdown of what you get: 

  • Amp Sims: Explore 55 emulations of iconic amps, from classic Fenders to high-gain beasts.
  • Effects Galore: Dive into a broad selection of 70 stompbox effects, from essential delays and reverbs to more exotic options.
  • Flexible Signal Chain: Craft your ideal tone by arranging the effects order to your liking.
  • Looper & Tuner: Experiment with loop-based jams and ensure perfect pitch with the built-in looper and tuner.
  • Headphone Output & Recording: Practice silently, record directly to your computer, or play along with backing tracks.

Pros:

  • Amp Model Variety: Explore a diverse range of amp tones, catering to various musical styles.
  • Extensive Effects: Access a vast library of effects, allowing for creative sonic exploration.
  • Customizable Signal Chain: Tailor the effects order to achieve your unique sound.
  • Practice & Recording Friendly: Features like the looper, headphone output, and USB interface make it ideal for various situations.
  • Affordable Price: Offers excellent value for the features packed in.

Cons:

  • Less Tweakability: Compared to some high-end models, the GE200 might offer slightly less detailed control over individual effects.
  • Expression Pedal Feel: Some users find the expression pedal a bit less sturdy compared to other options.
  • No Amp/Cab IR Loading: While offering various amp models, the GE200 doesn’t support loading user-defined impulse responses (IRs) for speaker cabinets.
  • Menu Navigation: Navigating certain menus and settings might require some familiarization compared to simpler interfaces.
  • Build Quality: While generally robust, some users might prefer the sturdier build of higher-end units.

Midrange Alternatives

Boss ME-90

Where To Buy

Guitar Center (USA)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

Thomann (UK & Europe)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

The Boss ME-90 is a compact and user-friendly multi-effects pedal that offers a wide range of amp models, effects, and features for guitarists of all levels.

It’s a good option for players who want a versatile and portable pedalboard solution without the complexity of larger units.

Features:

  • AIRD amp models: Delivers realistic and responsive amp tones based on Boss’s acclaimed AIRD (Augmented Impulse Response Dynamics) technology.
  • Built-in effects: Includes a diverse selection of essential and boutique effects, such as overdrive, distortion, chorus, delay, reverb, and more.
  • Easy-to-use interface: Features large knobs and a clear LCD display for intuitive control and editing of sounds.
  • Expression pedal: Allows for hands-free control over various parameters like volume, wah, and effects depth.
  • Compact and lightweight: Ideal for gigging musicians and practice sessions with easy portability.

Pros:

  • High-quality sound: The AIRD amp models offer a step above traditional modeling, delivering natural and dynamic amp tones.
  • Diverse effects: Provides a wide range of effects to cater to various musical styles and playing techniques.
  • User-friendly interface: Easy to learn and use, making it suitable for beginners and experienced players alike.
  • Expression pedal: Adds versatility and control for expressive playing.
  • Compact and portable: Perfect for travel and tight stage setups.

Cons:

  • Limited number of effects: Compared to some high-end multi-effects pedals, the ME-90 offers a smaller selection of effects.
  • Limited customization: While tweakable, it might not offer the same level of in-depth editing as more advanced options.
  • No looper: Lacks a built-in looper for recording and layering guitar parts.
  • Limited connectivity: While offering basic connectivity options, it might not have all the desired connections for specific setups.

Budget Alternatives

Harley Benton DNAfx GiT

Where To Buy

Thomann USA

VIEW LATEST PRICES

Thomann (UK & Europe)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

The Harley Benton DNAfx GiT offers a budget-friendly option for guitarists seeking a multi-effects processor with amp modeling and a variety of effects.

Features:

  • Amp Modeling: Features 55 amplifier simulations covering a wide range of classic and modern tones.
  • Effects: Includes over 150 selectable effects, encompassing essential stompbox simulations like overdrive, distortion, chorus, delay, and reverb.
  • Onboard Drum Machine: Provides rhythmic accompaniment for practice or songwriting.
  • Looper Functionality: Allows for recording and layering guitar parts, ideal for practicing and creating.
  • Expression Pedal: Enables real-time control over various parameters like volume, wah, and effect parameters.
  • USB Audio Interface: Connects directly to your computer for recording and practice with DAW software.

Pros:

  • Affordable Price: Offers a comprehensive feature set at a budget-friendly price point, making it accessible to beginner and intermediate guitarists.
  • Versatile Sound Options: Delivers a wide range of amp simulations and effects, catering to various playing styles and genres.
  • Compact and Portable: Lightweight and compact design makes it ideal for travel and gigging.
  • Built-in Practice Tools: Features like the drum machine and looper provide valuable practice and creative tools.
  • USB Recording: Connects directly to computers for recording demos and practicing with backing tracks.

Cons:

  • Limited Tweakability: Compared to high-end options, the level of customization for individual effects might be less extensive.
  • Sound Quality: While offering decent sound quality, it may not match the realism and nuance of more expensive processors.
  • Fixed Effect Chain: The effects chain is pre-defined, limiting the flexibility in arranging effects order according to personal preference.
  • Limited Brand Recognition: Compared to established brands, Harley Benton might be less familiar to some musicians, potentially leading to concerns about build quality and reliability.

Hotone Ampero Mini Vanilla

Where To Buy

Thomann USA

VIEW LATEST PRICES

Thomann (UK & Europe)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

The Hotone Ampero Mini Vanilla is a compact multi-effects processor designed for guitarists seeking a portable and feature-rich option. It packs a punch with a variety of amp models, effects, and functionalities within its small footprint.

Features:

  • Dual-DSP Engine: Delivers powerful processing capabilities for smooth performance and high-quality effects.
  • 52 Amp Models: Explore a diverse range of amp simulations, covering classic and modern tones.
  • Over 100 Effects: Access a vast library of effects, including essential stompboxes, studio effects, and creative options.
  • Built-in Looper: Record and layer your guitar parts for practice and songwriting with up to 100 seconds of recording time in mono or 50 seconds in stereo.
  • Third-Party IR Support: Expand your sonic palette with the ability to load user-defined Impulse Responses (IRs) for speaker cabinets via the Hotone Editor software.
  • Touchscreen Interface: Navigate and control the Ampero Mini with ease using the intuitive touchscreen interface.

Pros:

  • Compact and Portable: Ultra-compact design makes it ideal for travel, gigging, and limited space setups.
  • Powerful Sound: The dual-DSP engine delivers high-quality effects and amp models, exceeding expectations for its size.
  • Extensive Features: Packed with a diverse range of amp models, effects, looper functionality, and IR support, offering versatility and creative exploration.
  • Intuitive Interface: The touchscreen interface simplifies control and navigation, making it user-friendly for both beginners and experienced players.
  • Affordable Price: Offers a compelling value proposition considering its features and performance compared to similar options.

Cons:

  • Limited Physical Controls: The reliance on the touchscreen might pose challenges for players who prefer tactile control knobs.
  • Smaller Footprint: While compact, the smaller size might require some adjustment for players accustomed to larger multi-effects units.
  • Limited Battery Life: While offering battery operation, the playtime might be limited, requiring frequent charging or an external power source.
  • Newer Brand: Compared to established brands, Hotone might be less familiar to some musicians, potentially leading to questions about long-term reliability.

What’s The Best Option Overall? 

line 6
Line 6 POD Go: The Closet Thing You Can Get To Axe-Fx Under $500

Where To Buy

Guitar Center (USA)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

Thomann (UK & Europe)

VIEW LATEST PRICES

Overall, the best Axe-Fx alternative is the Line 6 POD Go. It really is the only product on this list that is nearly as good as Axe-Fx (just for like half the price).

It does lack some of Axe-Fx’s finesse, the high-end tones, especially with overdrive, aren’t quite as good. But it is damn close in nearly every other aspect. 

You can create pretty much any tone you like with it, it is simple to use to an extent – although you can get super complex if you like – and it can be used live, in the studio, while practicing at home, or on the road and it is super portable.

For better than half the price of a basic Axe-Fx unit, the Line 6 POD Go delivers spades of value. It is more expensive than some of the cheaper options on this list, but that extra couple of hundred bucks is money well spent: the tonal quality, the features, and the settings are just so much better. 

Think of the Line 6 POD Go as an investment. Wherever you are on your guitar journey, it is a product that, while expensive, will pay dividends in the short, medium, and long term.

It’ll grow with you, help you to understand how to build and create myriad guitar tones, and its sound, if you’re just used to basic practice amps, will blow your mind. 

And for less than $400, you really cannot ask for more. In The UK and Europe, you can pick one up here.

Absolute Beginner? No problem.

Learn how to 10x your guitar playing, use all the latest gear, and record like a professional – all from the comfort of your bedroom!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest