Picking out the best guitar amp is no easy task. Even if you have an excellent guitar, you won’t get great sound out of it if you don’t have a high-quality amplifier. This guide to amps will help you pick out the right one to meet your needs.
Table of Contents
- 1 In a hurry? Here are our top picks..
- 2 Types of Guitar Amps
- 3 Amp Sizes
- 4 Amplifier Features
- 5 What is the Best All-Around Guitar Amp?
- 6 What is the Best Guitar Amp for Home Use?
- 7 What is the best 100-Watt Guitar Amp?
- 8 Getting a Good Amp Tone
- 9 Best Guitar Amp Reviews
- 9.1 1. Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier – Best Low Watt Beginner Amp
- 9.2 2. Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amplifier (M-DSL40CR-U) – Best Small Gig Tube Amp
- 9.3 3. Yamaha THR10II Desktop Amp – Best Portable Amp Modeler
- 9.4 4. Marshall Acoustic Soloist AS50D 50 Watt – Best Professional Acoustic Amp
- 9.5 5. Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H 120W Head – Best Pro Amp Head
- 9.6 6. Fender '57 Custom Twin 40W 2x12 – Best Vintage Style Amp
- 9.7 7. Fluid Audio Strum Buddy – Best Unique Guitar Amp
- 9.8 8. EVH 5150III 50W EL34 – Best Artist Series Amp
- 10 Conclusion
In a hurry? Here are our top picks..
Types of Guitar Amps
Before you can pick out an amplifier, you need to understand the different types on the market. Each of these amplifiers has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you purchase an amp.
One common amplifier type is what we call a tube amp. These feature transistors or tubes. At one point in time, electronics such as television sets and radios used to feature tubes, but they don’t any longer. In fact, the tube amplifier is one of the only electronic devices left that uses these old style tubes. The reason amplifiers still have tubes is because they give a warm and rich sound. Many vintage tube amplifiers are sought by guitar players because they sound so good. The downside to them is you often have to change tubes because they will burn out. This can cost you a lot of money, and some amplifiers require servicing from a dealership to change the tubes. You can do this yourself, but you need skills to change the tubes.
The next type of amplifier is what we call a solid-state amplifier. These don’t have tubes but instead rely on transistor circuits to make the sound. These amplifiers are more common now. The tone produced by these amplifiers has improved greatly in the past few decades. In some cases, you can’t tell the difference between a solid-state amp and a tube amp. They also tend to cost less when compared to a tube amp. The downside is they lack some of the vintage tones that a regular tube amplifier produces.
The newest type of amplifier is what we call the amp modeler. These have been around for a decade or so. As technology advances, more players are using amp modelers. These are digital amps, and they recreate the sounds of vintage amps, pedals, and other electronics used by players. Many of these amp modelers will recreate the sound of hundreds of different amplifiers and effects all in one small package. This can save you a lot of money. You don’t have to go out and buy a 60s era amplifier to get vintage tones. You can pick up an amp modeler, and you have those tones right at your fingertips. The downside to these amplifiers is that some of the tones produced by them just don’t sound all that good. While technology is improving, it still has a long way to go to recreate classic guitar sounds in a 100% authentic way.
Your acoustic guitar will not sound good through a regular electric amplifier. You need a specific acoustic guitar amp if you plan to play acoustic music amplified. These amps are specifically designed to enhance the tones of acoustic guitars. If you have an electric you can’t plug that into an acoustic amplifier You need a regular amplifier for electric guitars.
Another thing you have to consider is the amp size. Amplifiers come in a wide range of different sizes for various musical tasks. The guide below will help you pick out the right one.
The practice amp is a small amplifier with low-wattage. These usually range from 5 watts to 20 watts. They are not designed to be played in a live setting. They lack the wattage for this type of performance.
The combo amplifier will have all of the electronics or amp head built into the unit. In addition to the amp head, it will also have a cabinet. This often has one large speaker or two speakers depending upon the style of the amplifier. This product will put out more volume when compared to a small practice amp. If they have enough wattage, they can be used in small venues or other live performances. The combo amp is a popular style of amplifier.
The Stack amp features one amp head. in addition to the amp head, there are several cabinets stacked on top of each other. This is usually two or sometimes three. These are the amplifiers you see in large concerts. They are at the back of the stage. The stack-style amplifier puts out a lot of watts. In most cases, this is 100 watts or more. These amplifiers are not suited for practice as they too powerful. Unless you are a musician that plays a lot of gigs, you won’t have much use for a stack amplifier.
The next thing you need to understand is the features of your guitar amplifier. There are several points to consider which are outlined below. This will make it easier for you to find an amplifier to suit your needs.
Amplifiers either have one or two channels. Some may have a couple of more, but most of them will usually come with either one channel or two. The first channel is used in a clean setting, while the second channel is reserved for distortion and effects. Most people will probably want a two-channel amplifier is it makes it easy to switch between a clean setting and a distorted setting. Smaller amplifiers such as practice amplifiers will usually have one channel, while more robust ones will have two channels.
A lot of amplifiers today come with built-in effects. These can include reverb, delay, flanger, chorus, distortion, and similar effects. These effects are usually not as good as a regular guitar effect pedal would be. Most amplifiers that have these are perfect for practicing or for small gigs, but the effects don’t have the sound that you will get from a regular effect pedal. Some built-in effects don’t sound that good at all, so you really have to pick and choose your product.
When looking at guitar amps check to see if it has a loop. Amps in the mid-range or higher price range usually have an effects loop. This allows you to hook up your regular effect pedals with your amplifier and use those to create the effects that you want. In most cases, the effects loop is a lot better in terms of sound when compared to built-in effects on an amplifier.
Almost all amplifiers have a built-in equalizer setting. This includes knobs for treble, bass, and middle. These settings are used to get different sounds out of your amplifier and are standard on most products.
Headphones, Aux Jacks, USB
A lot of the modern amplifiers come with a jack for headphones, USB ports, and auxiliary jacks so you can hook your amplifier up to other equipment such as monitors. Some of the amp modeling amps will have USB ports so you can hook them up to your computer and start recording right away. Your product may or may not have these features; it will all depend upon the individual model.
Some amps will have a standby circuit. This allows you to keep the amplifier warmed up on stage without turning it off when you are not using the amp. Tube amplifiers especially need to be warmed up for them to sound at their best so this circuit is installed.
What is the Best All-Around Guitar Amp?
This is a loaded question because it all depends on what you want to do. There is such a wide range of amplifiers, so it’s difficult to pick the best all-around guitar amp. For example, if you’re just practicing, you will need a simple amp for this task. If you’re going to be performing live, you’re going to need a product that can accomplish more tasks and has a higher wattage.
What is the Best Guitar Amp for Home Use?
When you’re playing guitar at home, you’re not going to be using a full Marshall stack, for example. The best amplifiers for home use will be simple practice amplifiers, combo amps, or some type of amp modeler. These amps allow you to get a wide range of sounds but aren’t too loud. Just remember that an amplifier is extremely loud when you turn it up, so you don’t want to be disturbing your neighbors.
What is the Best Combo Guitar Amp?
There are all sorts of combo amps on the market. The one that is the best for you might not be the best for someone else. Most major manufacturers make excellent combo amps. You’ll have to pick one or based upon what you need.
What is the best 100-Watt Guitar Amp?
One hundred watt guitar amps are usually made for professional musicians performing in large arenas. If you’re just practicing at home, you probably don’t need a hundred-watt amp. Major manufacturers such as Marshall, Fender, Randall, and so on have 100-watt heads would you compare with various speakers. Just like other amplifiers, it’s going to be a personal decision on the amplifier that works for you the best.
Getting a Good Amp Tone
Some guitar players, especially beginners, struggle to get a good amp tone. This short guide will help you get a Dependable guitar tone out of your amplifier.
Dial Back the Knobs
A lot of players won’t dial all the knobs up to 10 on their amp. This rarely produces an excellent sound. To get a good tone, you should start with all the knobs at zero. You can then turn them up individually in slow incremental steps. This will help you shape your tone into something that you like. For example, you can often get better distortion out of the game channel on your amplifier by turning it to 5 or 6 and not 10. Whenever you crank something to 10, you’re usually not going to produce a good tone.
Use a Decent Guitar
You will also get a better tone out of your amplifier if you use a decent instrument. If you have a cheap $100 guitar, your amplifier will not sound good because your guitar doesn’t have decent enough pickups. You should spend a fair amount of money on both your guitar and your amplifier. This is what is going to give you the best tone. You should also exchange your strings often on your instrument, as this will improve the tone as well.
If you have a tube amplifier and you notice that it does not sound right, check the tubes. You might not know it, but one of the tubes might be burnt out or close to burning out. It can be worth it to change these tubes and put in fresh ones. This should improve the tone of your tube amplifier. If you notice scratchy knobs that make sounds when you turn them, this usually indicates that the contacts are dirty, clean these off, and that should improve the tone.
Try a Guitar Pedal
You may find you can get more out of your amplifier by using a high- quality guitar pedal. You can get a wide range of sounds with many of the modern pedals on the market. These can improve the sound of most amplifiers or give you more tone options to play around with.
Best Guitar Amp Reviews
1. Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier – Best Low Watt Beginner Amp
It can be difficult to find a decent practice amplifier. The Fender Frontman 10G is one amp you might want to consider. It has everything you need to start rocking out.
This amplifier features 10 watts of power. It’s perfect for your bedroom or your practice area. It comes with a 6 in Fender Special Design speaker which improves the tone of the amp. It has one channel so it’s easy to operate. The controls include gain, overdrive selector switch, treble, volume, and bass. This allows you to dial in a wide range of tones. There is an instrument input for your instrument, and an auxiliary jack so you can hook up a CD or media player so you can practice along with your music. It also includes a headphone jack for silent practice. The back of the amplifier is a closed-back design, which gives you a better bass response. The Fender Frontman 10g it’s a perfect practice amplifier with great tone and performance for any player starting out.
2. Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amplifier (M-DSL40CR-U) – Best Small Gig Tube Amp
Marshall is known for its excellent amplifier line. They have amps to meet any need that you have. For those that are looking for a gig-ready amplifier for small stages, the M-DSL40CR-U is a solid choice.
This amplifier is driven by 4 x ECC83 and 2 x EL34 tubes. which gives you warm and vintage tones. You get 40 watts of power, so it’s suitable for both practicing and smaller stage performances. The channels have both gain and volume controls per channel, so it’s easy to sculpt your sound with the amplifier. The distorted channel of the amplifier can produce a wide range of tones for various guitar styles from blues to heavy metal. You get both a classic gain channel and an ultra gain channel. There is a reverb control as well as an effects loop, so it’s easy to hook up your pedals to this amp. It comes with a Celestion V speaker, to further enhance the tone. You get a three-band equalizer, resonance control, and a tone shift knob. It ships with a two-way footswitch so you can change the channels and turn your reverb control on or off. This amp captures many of the classic Marshall sounds from the past. It weighs around 54 lbs and one of the better tube amps for those ready for smaller stage performances.
3. Yamaha THR10II Desktop Amp – Best Portable Amp Modeler
There are many different amp modelers on the market. One of the better ones which is also portable is the Yamaha THR10II Desktop Amp. You can get great amp modeling effects no matter where you are with this unit.
This unit produces realistic tube amp tones. It contains 15 guitar amps, 3 mic models, 3 bass amps, and also a flat mode. For audio playback, there is Bluetooth support. Plug the unit into your computer with the USB port for recording and playback. For your mobile device or desktop, you can do editing with the librarian app. If you’ve been looking for an amp modeler that sounds authentic, Yamaha has produced an excellent product here. This model is a continuation of the original THR Series. The unit features a rechargeable battery, so you don’t have to worry about separate batteries. This amplifier produces a wide range of tones from the various models. You can get everything from crisp, clean tones up to searing distortion. It has a wide range of effects such as reverb, chorus, and delay. The best part about the unit is that you can take it with you wherever you go. You can take it to the beach, cabin, or anywhere where you need an amplifier. Experience an excellent amp tone with a Yamaha THR10II.
4. Marshall Acoustic Soloist AS50D 50 Watt – Best Professional Acoustic Amp
You can’t use any old amplifier with your acoustic guitar. You have to have a dedicated acoustic amplifier, such as the Marshall Acoustic Soloist. This app has everything any serious acoustic guitar player will need. It provides 50 watts of power, so it’s well-suited for the stage, recording rooms, or for practicing.
Plug both your guitar and your microphone into this amplifier. This will allow the singer-songwriter to play their acoustic guitar through the amplifier and sing at the same time because the amp can work as a PA system. You can use the included effects with the amplifier to beef up your sound. It features an independent reverb and chorus section. The reverb adds more depth to both your playing and singing. There is an anti-feedback control with the amplifier, so you won’t have as much feedback through your guitar as you are playing. If you need more power, use the line-out to connect to a larger PA system. It has two channels, and both channels featuring equalizer settings to round out your tone. Use the included loop for effects to add more pedals to your amp if you need them. If you need a high-quality acoustic guitar amplifier, the Marshall acoustic soloist is one you can’t beat.
5. Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H 120W Head – Best Pro Amp Head
To play rock and metal on stage you need a dependable amp head. Yo get that with the Orange Crush pro CR120H amplifier for guitar. It provided 120 watts of crushing power for even the biggest shows. This is one of the best pro amps with tons of features.
One thing about this amplifier that is unique is that it is a 120-watt solid-state amplifier. There are no tubes involved with the Crush Pro. You get a high-wattage amplifier that is suitable for many different tasks. Through the dirty Channel, you get four stages of gain. This amp can tackle any type of rock or heavy metal, as well as other styles. There is a three-band equalizer to help you sculpt and round out your sound. There is not much that this amplifier can’t do once you pair it with a couple of great cabinets. The clean channel will give you an excellent clean tone, and when you crank up the channel, it begins to break up a bit so you can get some warm overdrive tones. There is a loop for your effects so you can plug in all of your favorite pedals. The amp head comes complete with a digital Reverb, which will give you excellent plate, hall, or spring reverb sounds. The Crush Pro is a superior amp head for live performances.
6. Fender '57 Custom Twin 40W 2x12 – Best Vintage Style Amp
If you’re looking for an amplifier that recreates the classic sounds from amplifiers of the 1950s and 60s, you should look at the Fender 57 Custom Twin. This is an excellent recreation of the classic Fender Twin.
This app gives you 40 watts of power. This amplifier is powered by 2″ Eminence Special Design speakers which help to improve the amp’s tone. You have several tubes, including one 2AY7, three 12AX7, and two 6L6s. The cabinet for the amplifier features a classic grill cloth. You also get vintage-looking hardware and knobs. The amp is hand-wired and will generate an excellent clean tone. When you turn it up, you will get a natural overdrive and distortion. It has a loop for your effects, so you can easily hook up your guitar pedals to this amp. The tubes from the amplifier produce rich and vibrant tones for all styles of music. The 40 watts of power gives you enough volume for small clubs and bars. You’ll cut through the mix easily with this amplifier.
7. Fluid Audio Strum Buddy – Best Unique Guitar Amp
If you’re looking for a unique way to play, you might want to look at the Strum Buddy from Fluid Audio. This product is a small amplifier that attaches to your instrument. It gives you a well-rounded sound and is perfect for taking with you wherever you go.
This amp sits on the top of your guitar near your input jack. The amp comes with a suction cup and a rechargeable battery. The suction cup attaches to your guitar. There are effects that come with the amp and EQ settings, so you have several ways to round out your sound. The effects of this amplifier include phaser, reverb, and chorus. You have all the tools you need to make excellent tones with this amp. This amplifier has oversaturated overdrive so you can get excellent rock and metal sounds out of it. You can use it for practice, rehearsals, or forgetting ready prior to going on stage. This is the ultimate portable guitar amp and a unique product that you’re going to want to check out. It only weighs 6 lbs and comes with a lithium-ion battery for long life.
8. EVH 5150III 50W EL34 – Best Artist Series Amp
As guitar players, we all want to recreate the sounds of our favorite guitar players. The EVH 5150 III gives you all the tools you need to recreate the famous Eddie Van Halen “brown sound.” This make it one of the best guitar amps on our list.
The fire is powered by EL34 tubes. The chassis for the amp head is lightweight so it’s easy to take with you. You get excellent to tone out of the amplifier and greet volume with 50 watts of power. The power section for the amplifier gives you a nice vintage style British tone. It can cover everything from simple strumming to high gain distortion. The amp comes complete with three channels so you have many ways to sculpt your sound. You can use the included footswitch can move between the channels and play clean as well as distorted tones. You can pair this unit with your favorite cabinets Or you can use cabinets from EVH. channels 1 and 2 have a shared three-band equalizer well channel 3 has an independent equalizer setting. Each channel can be customized with both volume and gain controls. There is also a global presence control and resonance knob Or even more tonal variety. You can use the Loop to hook up your favorite effects pedals with this unit crude if you’ve ever wanted to sound like Van Halen, this app will get you there.
You will find a wide range of amps for every need possible. The amp you buy will be determined by what you intend to do with it.
For those just getting into practice, I recommend the Fender Frontman 10G. This amp has everything you need for any practice session. Those looking to get into amp modeling and using digital effects, the Yamaha THR 10 II has everything you need. Clothes that need a large amp head look to the Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H 120W Head as this puts out a tremendous amount of power if you have an acoustic guitar try the Marshall Acoustic Soloist AS50D.
The best guitar amp from our list is the Fender '57 Custom Twin 40W. This has everything that you need to sound great. The amp is powered by tubes, and it has that warm invented sound that many players crave. You’ll get years of enjoyment out of this amplifier. All the other ones on the list are also excellent choices, but this one stands out as one of the best guitar amps you can buy.