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Best Guitar Amps 2020

Top 10

Vox AC30

For many years now, Vox has been one of the most important guitar amp manufacturers. And their AC series have pretty much marked an era in music, defining some of those “sparkling” yet heavy tones that we’ve got the chance to hear in the 1970s. And that’s exactly what you’ll get with the good old classic AC30. This 30-watt amp head retains the simplicity of those old vintage amps, while also adding some classic vintage-style effects in there. It’s equipped with classic EL84 tubes in the power section and 12AX7 in the preamp section. This configuration gives it that classic “British” tone that many guitar players still love even to this day.

Orange Amplifiers Rockerverb 50 MKIII

Orange is another unavoidable brand when we’re talking about great guitar amps. They’re somewhat specific in their tone and are usually really popular among those who prefer “fuzziness” over regular distortion and overdrive. But their Rockerverb 50 MKIII is a whole new level of harmonically rich content and a true feast to those who love that psychedelic-drenched guitar tones. This is a 50-watt amp head that comes with two channels. Orange keeps true to their signature style, retaining only basic simple controls. But it’s the amp’s simplicity and heavy tone that makes it so amazing. This tube-driven amp comes with EL34 and 12AX7 valves.

Boss Katana 50

Although solid-state amps might not be as popular and respected as tube-driven ones, there are still a few examples that manage to rock everyone’s world. And right when everyone thought these kinds of amps can’t get any better, Boss came out with their amazing Katana series of amps. From this collection, we’re choosing Katana 50 as the best one. You have 5 different amp models in this one, including a simulation of an acoustic guitar amp. Of course, you also get a clean booster, some modulation effects, as well as a standard delay effect. It’s really surprising how a solid-state amp can sound so amazing and yet retain all the simplicity in its features.

Orange Jim Root Dark Terror

Of course, there was no way to avoid another Orange amp on this list. The company became very popular among metal musicians, especially those who want to have a balance between vintage and modern tone types. And that’s exactly the case with a signature Dark Terror amp head of Slipknot’s axeman Jim Root. Once again, we have a very straightforward amplifier with only the basic controls on there. Although featuring a max output power of only 15 watts, this amp is loaded with tubes. We have three 12AX7 valves in the preamp, two XEL84 in the power section, and even one 12AT7 in the effects loop. There’s hardly any chance you’ll find a heavier amp than this one. In terms of tone, that is.

Marshall Plexi JTM-45

Even after all these years, Marshall still keeps making some of the best amplifiers of all time. What’s more, some old models are still in production, featuring a circuitry that didn’t really change much over the years. One of the examples is their classic JTM-45 amp that pretty much defined the tone of blues, rock, hard rock, and even heavy metal music. It’s a fully tube-driven amplifier with the total output power of 30 watts. It’s an expensive one but is worth every single dime. The amp comes equipped with three ECC83 tubes within the preamp section and two 5881 ones in the power section. Such a configuration might be a little unusual, but it gives some of the best vintage-oriented tones that you can find these days.

Fender Master Twin

Of course, Fender is one of the biggest names in this game of guitar amplifiers and has been for many decades now. The company’s Twin series has come a long way, and these days we have an amazing solid-state model Fender Master Twin that comes with its jaw-dropping 200 watts of output power. What’s more, this amazing amp is equipped with Fender’s amazing digital modeling unit that brings a lot of amp replicas and effects with it. We have a two 12-inch speaker configuration, but the amp itself isn’t that heavy to carry around. It’s a very useful one for live gigs, even if you’re touring around the country. It’s not intended as a professional piece, but Fender’s Master Twin can surely bring a strong punch, no matter the genre that you’re playing.

Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus

Even to this day, there’s not a single amplifier that sounds like Roland’s legendary Jazz Chorus. The most famous model is JC-120 which bears an output power of 120 watts. It’s a stereo amp that’s well-known for its chorus effect that works with both speakers, creating a very unique tone. In fact, this same amp model, which bears a circuitry that’s almost unchanged for a few decades, was used by many guitar heroes to record clean parts on some of the best albums of all time. It’s as bright as it gets, yet it retains the overall punch all over the audible spectrum. It also comes with two input channels, each bearing two different jacks. Tone shaping options are almost endless. Despite being a solid-state amp, it’s still one of the best amps of all time.

Fender Champion 40

Guitar amps can get pretty expensive if you want it to get sounding good. However, there are still some examples of amps that are within the affordable limits and that sound good. One of these is Fender’s Champion 40, which is one small yet very potent amp. Sure, it might not be at a pro-level like some other amps here, but it’s still an awesome one. It bears the power of 40 watts and is equipped with four different amp model emulations. What’s more, we even have a few onboard effects in case you want to get some of these things going without using pedals. Of course, we also have clean and distorted channels, as well as an option to use an external footswitch (bought separately) for all of these features. This is one of the best options if you’re looking for a good budget amp.

Fender 68 Custom Deluxe

It’s no surprise to see yet another Fender amplifier on this list. However, this time we’re going into a very vintage-oriented tube-driven amp, their 68 Custom Deluxe. This bad boy is inspired by the old legendary Bassman amps and their very bluesy tone. This is a tube-driven amp, but we don’t remember hearing any other that cracks up like it when you push the volume up high. We have two channels on this amp with their separate inputs. Each channel also has two individual jacks for high and low gain. The “custom” channel gives more options for those who prefer modern tones over vintage stuff. Additionally, we also have completely analog reverb and tremolo effects.

Marshall DSL100HR

Marshall pretty much overdid themselves with the entire DSL amp series. This is especially the case with DSL100HR, which is a fully tube-driven 100-watt amp head with a clean and a “dirty” channel. It’s a mostly modern-oriented amp and we have more features for tone shaping on the distorted channel. You can even enter some of those tight and really heavy high-gain territories. Nonetheless, this is a very versatile one and it comes with four ECC83 tubes in the preamp and four EL34 tubes in the power amp section. Although it features a total output power of 100 watts, we also have an attenuator that brings it down to 50 watts.

Types of Guitar Amps Explained

The electric guitar has to be one of the most exciting instruments out there. And it’s not only just the basic sounds that it can make but the overall flexibility and the sheer amount of options that come with it. Of course, electric guitars don’t work on their own. You need something to amplify the passive or active signal coming from them. Sure, you can play them unplugged, but that’s impractical outside of quiet bedroom practices, and even then it’s not quite effective. Aside from amplifiers, we also have an abundance of pedals and other units that add effects or completely change the guitar’s original tone. This is why the instrument is so exciting as it brings so much versatility into pretty much any genre that comes to mind.

But what we’re interested here are the guitar amplifiers and different types that were developed over the years. After all, amplifiers are one of the main components of your tone. In fact, many would argue that it’s the essential component and the one that makes the most impact. Of course, there are different ways to categorize amplifiers and the most common division is depending on the technology that’s used for processing the guitar signal. In this sense, we have the basic division on tube, solid-state, and digital modeling amps. Other than that, we have amps made especially for bass guitars and those designed for acoustic guitars. Other than that, we also have amps of different sizes and power levels. In this brief guide, we’ll look into the main types of amps and explain how are they special.

Tube Amps

Tube amps, also known as valve amps, takes us way back to the first half of the 20th century. Although the technology is kind of “outdated” in a way, these amps are still the most valued ones. These amplifiers use vacuum tubes to conduct the signal and further amplify it. The biggest advantage in the ears of guitar players and music listeners is the “warm” kind of tone and the dynamic response that they provide. The harder you play and the more you push the volume level, the guitar tone “breaks up” and distorts. Back in the old days, the late 1940s and the early 1950s, sound engineers regarded this as an error, an unwanted side-effect. But since both the musicians and the audience loved it, tube-driven distortion turned into a widespread thing.

Of course, just like any other type of an amplifier, tube guitar amps have a preamp section and a power amp section. The preamp section includes the main tone-shaping features, including the equalizer and distortion (usually made as one or two separate channels). In this section, we can usually find 12AX7 tubes, which are interchangeable with ECC83 tubes.

The power section is where the signal gets amplified and “prepared” to go through the speakers. While most tone-shaping happens in the preamp section, power sections of tube amps have their own way of further shaping the tone. This also depends on the particular amp model, and some amps get more tone-shaping within the power amp section. Here, we also find bigger vacuum tubes, most commonly 6V6 and EL34.

While their tone and dynamic response are popular among guitar players, tube amps come with their own downsides. The biggest problems come down to maintenance and handling. You now only need to be careful when transporting them, but the tubes should be changed once in a while, about every 6 months if you’re playing them often. Additionally, their tone might not always be that consistent, which can be problematic if you’re frequently gigging. After all, tubes are pretty sensitive, and even the slight changes in current can impact the tone. This is why other equipment is often needed if you want to have a more consistent tone with tube amps, which comes as an additional cost to their already high price.

Solid-State Amps

Since tube amps proved to be complicated, it was only a matter of time when amp manufacturers would look for more practical solutions. The invention of transistors was crucial for many different industries, including the music industry. So instead of those bulky and heavy tube-driven amps, we got more compact and practical devices. Of course, their price is significantly cheaper and they’re way simpler to maintain compared to tube amps.

Another advantage comes down to the fact that you don’t need to push the volume up high in order to get the full potential out of them. This way, you can get a good tone even at a lower volume. On the other hand, there are a few other aspects at which these amps are not as nearly as good as tube-driven ones. First, the tone of solid-state amps is more “sterile” and they don’t provide you with any dynamic response at all. Their distorted tone is more “rugged” and it feels as if there’s more compression applied to it. It’s not “worse,” but many guitar players still prefer tube-driven tones over solid-state stuff.

In the end, they’re way cheaper compared to tube amps and are usually very popular among beginners, intermediate players, and enthusiasts who don’t feel like spending a lot on guitar gear. There are also professional-tier solid-state amps, like Roland’s legendary Jazz Chorus series. Additionally, some famous guitar players, like Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell, preferred solid-state amps over tube ones.

Acoustic Amps

What we refer to as acoustic amps are guitar amplifiers designed and voiced in such a way to work with acoustic guitars with piezo pickups or microphones. In some way, we can say that these amps are like smaller PA systems as their overall frequency response is “flatter” compared to electric guitar amps which focus mostly on the mid-section of the audible spectrum. So aside from the big speakers, they can also include tweeters to cover the higher-end better. In most cases, acoustic amps include both instrument and microphone inputs, giving solo performers two channels.

In most cases, acoustic amps are more powerful compared to conventional electric guitar amps. This way, you get more headroom and the amp has less chance of distorting the tone, which is an unfavorable effect with acoustic performers.

Bass Amps

Of course, we also have amplifiers made specifically for bass guitars. When it comes to the technology, bass amps can also come in a tube or solid-state formation. But the most important trait is that their circuitry is designed in such a way to deal with lower frequencies. Additionally, speakers and cabinets are also designed to support lower frequencies. If you’d plug a bass guitar into a regular guitar amp, you’d not only get a very “thin” tone but also risk blowing out the speakers and a few other components.

Portable Amps

We’re living in a time when even the most complex devices can be made in smaller sizes. That’s also the case with guitar amplifiers, and we have plenty of portable compact models that are intended for home or backstage practice sessions. They’re usually solid-state amps at a very low wattage, mostly below 10 or even 5 watts. In some rare cases, we also have tube portable amps, like Blackstar’s HT1R.

Digital Modeling Amps

Now, here’s where the tricky part comes. With the development of digital technology, we started getting digital amp emulations in many different forms. Instead of relying on analog signal paths that we have with solid-state or vacuum tube technology, digital amp modelers convert your guitar’s analog signal into digital information and process it in that format. Some would not refer to them as amplifiers, but rather more complex multi-effects processors. However, some of the modern examples, like Kemper or Axe-Fx, come with preamp and power amp sections and can be attached to either guitar amp cabinets or PA systems. And their main idea is to replicate the tones of many different amps, even those vintage tube-driven ones. This also includes the dynamic responsiveness of tube amps.

Most of the solid-state amps that we have today come with an additional digital amp modeling device. This way, you can get plenty of different tone presets and other options within just one simple combo amp.

Hybrid Amps

The so-called “hybrid” amps combine the solid-state and tube-driven technology in their circuitry. We already know how expensive and complicated tube amps can get, but they still have some very desirable tone characteristics. This is why many manufacturers started making amps with a tube-driven preamp section and a solid-state power amp. This way, you get some warmth and dynamic response, especially with the distortion on. There have been some examples of hybrid amps that feature a tube-driven power section, but these are pretty rare.

Multi-Purpose Amps

In the end, we would also like to mention the so-called “multi-purpose” guitar amplifiers. These basically serve as portable PA systems and have circuitry and speakers that can support electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and bass guitars. When you turn it on and plug your instrument, you get to choose whether you want bass, guitar, or acoustic mode. One of the best examples of such amps is Line 6’s Firehawk 1500, which features an amp modeling section and has a total output power of 1500 watts.