Start Busking: Our 5 Best Battery-Powered Amps

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Busking is a great way to build your skills as a performer while making money from your talent. A good, battery-powered Portable PA or battery powered amp is an essential busker gear for many street performers.

PMT Guide to busking gear

Like most skills busking requires hard work coupled with the right set of tools. We are going to look at three amplifiers which will help you build a great busking rig.

Busking can take many forms from playing music, to dance routines and comedy. These amplifier suggestions are aimed to cater for a variety of users. We're going to discuss a few different options here including a selection of battery powered busking amps and battery powered PA systems for busking.

5 Best battery powered busking amps & PA systems

If you don't want to read on, check out our best battery powered amps video below, where Dagan demonstrates some of the best portable, battery powered busking amps and PA systems.

1. Roland Cube Street

Roland Cube Street Roland Cube Street, perhaps the world's most popular busking amp

A long time favorite of buskers. The Roland Cube Street is lightweight, runs up to 15 hours on AA batteries and features 8 COSM guitar sounds, covering everything from acoustic to heavy metal tones. An AUX input allows for backing tracks to be played via phone or MP3 player but Bluetooth isn’t present, which is a shame. The Cube Street also features built in effects such as delay and reverb on both the instrument and vocal channels. What’s really impressive is it’s weight, which comes in at a mere 5.2kg.

The Roland Cube Street delivers great tone for both electric and acoustic guitar with the Blackface preamp being a particular highlight to blues players using backing tracks. If you’ve ever wondered why so many buskers use this amp, now you know.

Features

  • Lightweight but loud combo amp means it can be used for practice and rehearsal
  • Two separate channels for instruments and vocals plus aux for backing tracks
  • Built in amp modelling is sure to please guitarists
  • Ability to add reverb/delay to microphone or instrument channel simultaneously

2. Vox Mini 5 Rhythm Guitar Amp Classic Finish

Vox Mini 5 Rhythm Guitar Amp Classic Finish The Vox Mini 5 Rhythm Guitar Amp is small and compact, but can it hold a crowd?

The Vox Mini 5 Rhythm Guitar Amp Classic Finish follows quite a few design principals of the Roland Street Cube, however manages to serve them up in a smaller, cheaper package. The Vox Mini 5 Rhythm Guitar Amp runs on a 9v adapter or 6 AA batteries with a maximum running time of approx 19.5 hours of playing. That should be more than enough for a busking session!

The Vox Mini 5 Rhythm Guitar Amp features 11 amp models and 8 effects from the popular Valvetronix series which can be used with either guitars or keyboards thanks to multiple line level inputs. It has also been designed to take microphones via a jack input. This is a really nice feature as each amp model is well realised and sounds great when used with its corresponding instrument. This makes the Vox Mini 5 Rhythm more versatile towards varying musician types.  Much like the Roland Street Cube, the Vox Mini 5 Rhythm comes loaded with effects including Reverbs, a Compressor, Chorus, Flangers and delays. Unlike the Cube however, the Vox allows the user to dial in two effects at once which is a very nice feature.

The key feature of the Vox Mini 5 Rhythm Guitar Amp is the fact that you can dial in any 1 of 99 backing tracks covering a wide range of genres. All you have to do is select your genre and speed and you're free to play along using all the effects to your line level instrument as you go.

You also have 3 different wattage selections which allows you to go from 5 watt, 1.5 watt to 0.1 watts - ideal for practising late at night.

Features

  • Ultra-portable
  • Effects and amp models
  • Huge amount of backing rhythm tracks to play with
  • Cheapest Price

 

3. Samson Expedition

Samson XP106 Wireless Portable PA Samson XP Wireless Portable PA

Perhaps not an option you’ve considered yet, the Samson Expedition is a hidden gem. A clean amplifier with no frills just 4 audio channels, Bluetooth connectivity and a built in rechargeable battery with a whopping 20 hours of continuous use. The Samson XP lacks the range of features included with the Cube Street but makes a great platform for any performers, from street dancers to small band setups.

A very reasonable price tag for a clean, class D 100W amplifier with some very useful features. If partnered with a guitar multi FX unit, the amp will sound exactly how you want it to. It features 4 separate channels each with it’s own volume control, bluetooth connectivity or aux for playing backing tracks from your phone. For portability this amp weighs in at 9kg which although heavier than the Cube Street, is more than reasonable for a busking amp.

Features

  • Bluetooth connectivity, wireless music streaming
  • Rechargeable battery for up to 20 hours of continuous use
  • Connect a microphone, instrument or both with an XLR and ¼” Jack
  • Aux input lets you use backing tracks while performing

4. Alto Transport 12 Portable PA System with Wireless Mic & USB

Alto Transport 12 Portable PA System with Wireless Mic & USB

Ok we said three, but we had to include the new kid on the block and serious contender. The Alto Transport 12 Portable PA System with Wireless Mic & USB might just be the ultimate buskers amp. It has 400 watts of pure power, 4 channels with dedicated volume controls as well as a free wireless microphone. In addition, there's also a USB input so you can play your own backing tracks!

The 1st channel allows you to plug in an extra microphone or line level intsrument, channel 2 is for the wireless microphone, channel 3 is for your AUX inputs and channel 4 is for an line level instrument, meaning you can essentially have a full band busking with this single, battery powered PA.

The Alto Transport 12 Portable PA System with Wireless Mic & USB is rechargeable and provides up to 8 hours of power, and it also has wheels and a handle to wheel it around too, so its easy to take with you through the streets!

Features

  • Built-in 4-channel digital mixer
  • Play backing tracks or music via USB
  • AC or battery power with lithium ion pack
  • Free wireless microphone included

5. Boss Katana Air Guitar Amplifier

boss katana air

The Boss Katana Air is the worlds first completely wireless guitar amplifier. This amplifier allows you to completely get rid of cables and go completely wireless without suffering from any latency. This wireless amplifier features full battery support and is powered via eight AA-size batteries or included AC adapter providing 7-10 hours of playing time.

However, it’s the included custom wireless transmitter that really sets this amplifier apart from any others out there. This transmitter plugs into your guitar or bass the same way a guitar cable would and transmits your sound directly to the amplifier providing up to 12 hours of playing time after a single charge. Best of all the transmitter charges directly via the amp – just plug it in to the amplifier and leave it charging for a few hours and you’re good to go.

This is easily one of the best busking amplifiers ever created offering a huge 30 watts of power and zero wires to contend with!

Features

  • Comes with wireless transmitter
  • Battery operated for up to 10 hours of use
  • Built in effects
  • 30 watts of power
  • Completely portable

 

The Verdict

All four of these amps are bound to suit different purposes. If acoustic instruments are your forte then the Samson XP106 might just be the option for you. It delivers immaculate clean sounds for both vocals and instruments while its 20 hour battery life comes in handy for days out. With a simple multi effects pedal added, guitar geeks will be able to get their favourite tone easily. As mentioned above, this amp lends itself as a great foundation for building the ultimate busking rig which is why we feel necessary to include it within this list.

If playing electric guitar is your passion and you’re looking for an amp to busk with on weekends then the Roland Cube Street is the one for you. It’s simple to use, has some great sounding preamps, handles vocals and acoustic guitar, and can be used for any style straight out of the box. If this is your first busking amp you can’t go wrong with the Roland Cube Street.

The star of the show here has to be the Alto Transport 12 Portable PA System with Wireless Mic & USB. While it’s more expensive than the Cube it packs some amazing features. The built-in control centre on the rear of the unit allows for a huge deal of control and even makes a fantastic option for DJ's as you can select, skip and edit the volume of songs you're playing from the USB stick. Acoustic players are catered for straight out of the box, and while you electric players out there will require the aid of a pedal for your effects, trust us when we say it’s worth the investment as it sounds great when you do hook up an electric guitar. It looks great, sounds great and offers more features than its competitors. For these reasons the Alto Transport 12 Portable PA System is our first choice for the all-round best busking amp.

Alto Transport 12

How To Start Busking - In 5 Easy Steps

Street busker

1. Setlist

If you’ve made it this far then you should have a better idea of what gear you’re going to need to get started. You should make sure by this point that you have a well-rehearsed set list but bear in mind that while busking your typical listener will only take a few moments out of their busy day to listen to you. This means that setlists can be repeated.

Use your own judgement to find a balance between well known songs and songs you can perform best. It’s also never a bad idea to have your setlist written down including song key and length. This will keep your performances structured and timings consistent. We would recommend switching up setlists every few weeks in order to keep your busking performances fresh.

2. Location

Location is almost as important as the performance itself. You should find a spot with a heavy traffic of passers-by such as high streets or popular bar locations. If people are shopping or dining nearby whilst you busk, they may be more inclined to leave a tip. Just don’t play too loud! There’s always a balance to these things.

3. Dress to Impress

Ever heard of the peacock theory? (No, Peacocks aren’t trying to take over the world) "Peacocking" is simply dressing to stand out. It seems basic but if a frilled shirt or colourful trousers can turn heads, then why not? It also prompts passers by to give you a listen. If you come across as quirky or interesting then people are always more inclined to help you out.

With that said, this is the UK so the majority of the time you may end up looking like this:

Playing guitar in the rain

Seriously, though: if you are going to busk in bad weather, be sure to keep your equipment dry!

4. A Guitar Case Is Great For Advertising and Gathering Tips

Busker guitar case

If you shop with PMT you’re already a smart person. This one is self explanatory. Having a guitar hardcase can be very helpful. Remember to put up some links to your social media (Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter etc).

5. Last But Not Least, Compromise

Busking is a lot of fun but to make life easier for yourself maybe try out a ¾ size guitar or even a ukulele. Try to find a balance between something you’re happy to use and something that is easy to lug about.

From everybody here at PMT, we hope you found this article useful, and that you have a safe and enjoyable time busking.

Essential Busking Gear

We have supplied a few links below to additional gear which you may find useful.

Find Out More

24 Comments on “Start Busking: Our 5 Best Battery-Powered Amps”

  • David Vachell
    4th January 2017

    Great article and really helpful in researching the options. Having said that, I just got a Laney AH4. Really nice mini pa with 6 channels, Bluetooth, fx, etc. Etc. For the same price as the Roland and the Mackie (£249).

  • Roy Ryan
    21st January 2017

    This article is fantastic! Really helpful.

  • Hazel Williams
    18th July 2017

    Still confused! I need a busking amp for TWO acoustic guitars plus TWO mics.
    Where you mention four channels does that mean four xlr/jack sockets?
    Yes, I'm new to this!

    • Lee Glynn
      18th July 2017

      Hi Hazel, 4 channels means four inputs really. However some may JUST be XLR (Mic) and some may JUST be Jack sockets (line level) or it can be a mixture of the two types. For the kind of thing you want, I would suggest the Alto Mixpack 10 as this has enough inputs for what you need: https://www.pmtonline.co.uk/alto-mixpack-10-portable-pa-system . Here's some other options too: https://www.pmtonline.co.uk/blog/2017/06/16/best-portable-pa-systems-for-djs/ I hope that helps. -Lee

  • douglas
    30th July 2017

    would a yahoo tr10 amp compare well for busking?

    • Lee Glynn
      1st August 2017

      Hi Douglas, yes the Yamaha THR10 is another great option. -Lee

  • David
    13th August 2017

    Your site is very informative. However I'm pretty much very easily confused with technology. I'm a damn good singer though and I'd like to share that with more people so I'm looking for advice on what amp I should get to connect my tablet to, one that also let's me connect a wired microphone. I currently have 49 studio produced backing tracks covering a wide range of songs. At least 2hrs of self contained power and a lightweight to carry amp is essential for me. I live in Edinburgh. Thanks

    • Lee Glynn
      14th August 2017

      Hi David, the Boss Acoustic Singer Pro Acoustic Amplifier 120 allows you to hook up a microphone direct and has a USB out for direct recording to your computer. I hope that helps. https://www.pmtonline.co.uk/boss-acoustic-singer-pro-acoustic-amplifier -Lee

  • Adam
    15th August 2017

    Just wondering if those amps are ideal for bass guitars too? Will be working in a small band/on my own and i'd like to have the right gear for the job.

    Cheers

    • Lee Glynn
      15th August 2017

      Hi Adam, these will be able to handle bass, but we'd definitely recommend checking out the likes of these:
      https://www.pmtonline.co.uk/blackstar-fly-3-bass-stereo-pack , -Lee

  • Ricky
    19th September 2017

    Hi, I'll like to use the Mackie Freeplay in small gigs/rehearsal for a Cajon using the Roland ECM-10, a loop pedal and one vocalist. Would this handle this ok ?

    • Lee Glynn
      19th September 2017

      That sounds like a great set up Ricky! -Lee

  • Noel Harraghy
    8th October 2017

    What portable amp would you recommend for a harp.

    Noel

    • Lee Glynn
      16th October 2017

      Hi Noel, any of these would work well as long as you can plug the harp in via Jack lead. -Lee

  • Crusty Bob Cobb
    10th October 2017

    Surprised there is no mention of a Fender Mini Passport. Mine is a great servant and fits most busking requirements

  • Lisa D
    12th October 2017

    Are these amps waterproof?

    • Lee Glynn
      16th October 2017

      Unfortunately not, but THAT would be an awesome invention :) -Lee

  • Csaba Kurusa
    4th February 2018

    Hi Lee, I really like the Alto Transport 12. I would use is it for electric classical (nylon string) guitar busking. What is your opinion the Alto would be a good choice for it? Do you recommend Alto for classical guitar playing too? Thanks Csaba

    • Lee Glynn
      7th February 2018

      Hi Csaba, that will definitely sound great. The Alto is a great choice that delivers beautiful sound to acoustic instruments. -Lee

  • Csaba Kurusa
    8th February 2018

    Hi Lee,thanks your answer.
    Cheers Csaba ?

  • fiona
    10th February 2018

    hi I would like to go busking .. just my guitar and singing.. would the roland cube be any good for this ? Also could it accommodate a violin if needed ? or would you recommend something else.. is there something else so there were two singing micsand two instrumments ? I had my heart seton a cube but now I'm wondering if something else might be better... please let me know.... thankyou !!!

    • Lee Glynn
      13th February 2018

      Hi Fiona, the Roland cube is a fantastic choice all round. As long as you can plug your violin into it via jack lead, you're good to go! The following blog also has some great options to choose from (it's for DJ's as well as busking musicians) https://goo.gl/iGAFVq -Lee

  • Hilary Dawson
    11th July 2018

    I need to play my digital Roland piano at an outside gig. Would one of these do the job? Grateful for your replies!

    • Lee Glynn
      13th July 2018

      Hi Hilary, yes these will work great as they have line-in inputs for your keyboards! Enjoy your gigs! -Lee

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